Nachamu, Nachamu – Comfort

KIMG0964***I’m a week late in posting this – it was ready before Tisha B’Av, but I was having computer issues with inserting the pictures and then I was about to upload the pictures and come to find out it erased most of my blog. Guess it was not meant to be. Here is try 2!***

Time flies when your having fun, or just too busy to sit down and write. 😉 Between the 100 degree heat, adventures in Big Bend National Park, cooling down at the Macdonald Observatory to view the Moon, Saturn, as well as Jupiter and Venus, back to the 100 degree heat, staying cool inside, doing some cleaning and (finally) some organizing, and finding nice places to go walking in nature, I have felt constantly busy.

It has been a long time since we started our adventure to our new place with moving four times in about 4 months, unpacking an entire house in the few weeks before Pesach,KIMG0893 trying to finish up schooling, or what was called schooling for this year, and trying to figure out why things are just not settling down. It’s been about 3 months since Pesach finished, I thought we would be more than settled into a routine and start to feel “at home.” After all, when there are no boxes left in the house, it starts to “look” like it might be home, even if it does not feel like home. There really is nothing from stopping us from at least acting like we are at home. What we think should happen is often times different that what really happens. Reality was that I felt I have been treading water for the last 10 months, starting from the few weeks before we moved. I have been forgetting about appointments the last month, among other things, and we really have not been doing much schooling, so what has been going on?

No schedule. Oh, we have tried various schedules at different times over the months, and we can seem to stick with it for the most part, until the next change in our live (ie KIMG0813move) and then we go through a phase of what feels like chaos for we are not really doing school but we are busy doing needed things. Every month or two that is what has happened. After Pesach, when we finally were able to breath for a few minutes and realize that “this is it,” I tried to do schooling for a month or so to finish up the year, but I never could really get into a routine and always felt I was just treading water, never going anywhere. Yes, the boys went camping one week with Grandpa, we all went with Grandpa a few weeks later and last week I had one with the yearly-taking-of one-boy-out-with-Grandpa now. (Yes, I think Grandpa is happy we moved down here!) But still, I should be able to keep a schedule!

Then it dawned on me. What I am feeling is the lack of grounding. We are in a new place with new friends and Daddy has a new job with new hours, and there is nothing that is familiar for us (me) to hang on to when things change. Before, when our schedule would change, Daddy’s hours were fairly constant, and if his hours were crazy for a while, we had our daily school routine that was constant. There was always something to fall back on. Here, it’s been almost 10 months of all newness. However, over the last couple of weeks I think I finally figured it out.

It is summer and we can do our summer schedule, and really should do our summer schedule. Which is…basically nothing. We daven, do our chitas and are supposed to do our mishnayos and that is about it. It may not seem like a schedule, but we schedule in all2015-06-29_17-47-18 the nothingness, which when you schedule it in, it really is a schedule. It is something that we know, something that we do every summer, it is our grounding. We might be in a new city, a new house, have new friends and need to figure out Daddy’s new work schedule, but we have our familiar summer schedule. It has been such a relief and has felt like a huge load has been taken off my shoulders. I have been able to do some organizing and even gotten most of the way to organizing our new year. We have our new homeschool cabinet – the wet bar area that has been refitted with a bookcase (should not be surprising. 😉  ) I have decided on what books we will be reading this year and have purchased most of them. I have completed a first draft of the secular learning schedule (I do not feel quite comfortable with it but it is a really good start and I’ll mull it over for a few days.) I am starting to feel like I am standing on my feet on solid ground again.

Mr. Little has turned 6 and has lost his first tooth! He is so big that he planned for himself a birthday party and invited all his friends over. The only issue is that he did this all by himself without my knowledge! Baruch Hashem he did let me know on his plans the day before his birthday and so when I got phone calls from the children themselves asking if they were invited over for his birthday party, I was mentally prepared and told them that we were just having cake and they were welcome to join us in half an hour. 🙂

We just came from a very low time in the Jewish year, Tisha B’Av, the time when we 2015-06-29_17-46-47mourn our loss, not only of the Bais Hamikdash, but of the loss of our closeness to our Creator, our King, our Father. The good part is that once we are low, the only way to go is up. After all our moves and all the changes and challenges, I am finally feeling that our home is on the up as well. We have hit bottom. The elevator only goes up from here.

We just had Shabbos Nachamu, which is a special Shabbos for us personally, not just the comforting Shabbos after Tisha B’Av. (Okay, okay, DH and I got married Erev Shabbos Nachamu. 🙂  ) This year we also had dear friends surprise us and came over to spend it with us. It was so nice to visit with familiar faces. A beautiful family with a girl, and boys who were aged in between all our boys. It was a blast and also a comfort. How befitting. Nothing is coincidence. 😀 I feel refreshed and excited about our new year. I feel there are a lot of wonderful things in store for us this year. Wishing “y’all” all the best in your preparations for the coming school year!

It’s Summer Vacation… I Guess

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Week of the Year

KIMG0585Most years I get a few days after our school year is finished where most kids are out of the house, at least during the day. Yesterday started my yearly “week.” Well, almost 4 days, but that is close to 5 days, so close to a business week. Grandpa took the three older boys along with a cousin to go camping. I am left with a beautiful almost 6 year old (though if you ask him, he is actually 5, and will very quickly correct you if you try to say he is 5 and a half or something similar,) which is a good thing for I am not sure what I would do if he was gone as well! I am not sure I would do well to go cold turkey for an entire week. A day, yes, maybe even a night, but a week? I just got my husband off to work and am now sitting in the living room with a sleeping boy across from me on the couch. He was too lonely to sleep upstairs all by himself so I said he could sleep on the couch downstairs, for we were also downstairs.

I did have BIG plans for the week, but I quickly saw that I would have to change plans to make the week feel worthwhile. I was going to start by organizing the books in the house- the living room, family room, dining room and upstairs on the landing. We have a lot. 5 built in book cases and 8 that we brought into the house. A Jewish, Homeschooling family isKIMG0588 (1) the worst for books for not only do we have the requisite homeschooling books, which is the gathering-of-as-many-books-that-we-find-interesting-as-we-can-get, but it means the in-gathering-of-as-many-Judaic-books-we-can-get as well. So, I guess we are getting close to being able to open up our own library. I did start by collecting all our sefarim into the dining room, but that took me about 10 minutes for they were basically there anyways. Then I got stuck for I was not quite sure what I wanted to do from there. I have a variety of actual school books that we use – some as books and some books in 3-ring binders. We were talking about putting school books in our converted wet bar area (we had someone take out the sink and make a built in book case there for we just needed more book shelves!) It seems the best place for school books like binders for there are doors to close off any mess. I’m just not sure.

I did not have to worry about things too much though yesterday, for after gathering in all the sefarim, Mr. Little wanted a freezie which I bought the day before.  I said yes and before I could get my shoes on and get myself ready to go outside, he was done. I told him he needed to get a second one then. I did not get any complaints from him. It is definitely summer time now, and has been for about a week. The weather has been in the mid 90’s and it is staying. It is funny how you can just tell. Spring can have a day here and there that is hot but you know it is not summer yet, but when the first day or two of summer heat comes, you know. There is something different about spring heat and summer heat.

I let him choose where to go, and he decided to go towards the creek that is the next block over. He told me we were to walk until he finished half his freezie and then we were going to turn

Find the school of fish!
Find the school of fish!

around. We walked a little and we talked a little. He asked some questions and then it was time to turn around. We stopped off on the bridge crossing the creek and enjoyed looking down at it. With all the rain and storms last month, the creek really did overflow and last week we saw the bent grasses and the sticks, logs and other debris that water leaves on the banks of the creek. Yesterday it was all back to normal, the debris had all been cleared away and the grasses were standing nice and tall again. Last Sunday we took a walk along a bridge downtown and the river that is usually almost dry was still flooded.You could not see the trunks of the trees and the stop sign was covered up to the red octagon. There was damage 45-60 minutes west of us and then south through Houston, but we were just fine though. BaruchKIMG0564 Hashem. I realized that it does not just rain, or dribble here, it storms. That means that lots of water comes down at once. It is hard to go from the car to the house door without getting drenched, unless you have a rain jacket and boots. So, I decided to use our school money to get everyone rain boots and rain jackets and 2 nice umbrellas. All were extremely useful this year and everyone loved to walk through the water and rain. Even Mr. Big was caught walking to and from shul using the path that had the water draining on the side of the roads. Definitely CM style learning and I’m sticking to it.

But back to our walk. Mr. Little and I were talking about how the water was making the various lines in the sand and the water when I spotted fish! We both ran down to the KIMG0551bank and sure enough there were lots of little fish. And then we saw even smaller fish, all swimming around in a school. Mr. Little when further down where the water was a little deeper and we found bigger fish over there. We enjoyed watching them. He has a fascination for dragon flies so he had to take my phone several times to take pictures and videos of the dragon flies. With his freezie long gone, we went back home for lunch. On the way home he told me this was the first time he took someone out for a walk and he was proud of the fact and had lots of fun. And here I was thinking I was the one taking him for a walk. I was not going to argue with him and decided to let myself feel honored.

Instead of book organizing today, I think I need to do boys’ rooms organizing instead. It definitely will take the two of us all day to do it, at the minimum, but will give the most feelings of satisfaction of actually having accomplished something this week if nothing

Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.
Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.

else, so I think that is what we should do. Books can wait until tomorrow, or even when boys come back. School is basically done, at least I have officially thought so. We still have a book or two that we will be finishing up over the summer, but since it is an audio we are listening to, it makes it feel less like school. And my plans for the summer? Since I don’t even know myself, I just need to say I have written too much today and I’ll save it for another posting. 😉

OH! I promised last time to tell you about our project. Well, since there are multiple

Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!
Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!

Amateur Radio Operators in the house, and more in the works, we put up an antenna – it goes up about 45 feet. We finally got the coax fixed nicely (that is the wire that connects the antenna to the radio in the house,) and contact have been made. They even talked to someone from our old city in NYS! Kind of cool.  Mr. Little is making some movements now, he might be ready to get up soon. I wonder where he is going to take me today. 😀

Glancing Back at Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing everyone the best in their new school year!

Life Goes On For He’s Fully 5!

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

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

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

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

My Quiet, Lazy Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Has Started!

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

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

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

My Vacation

20130707_081408I have been so excited for this week to come! It is one week in the entire year that I have for me; the older boys are off at camp and I get this week to myself! And then on Shabbos it hit me. My almost 4 year old will be home with just me. Me and no brothers to keep him busy. Just me. He has been so looking forward to Mommy time. Don’t get me wrong, that is a very nice thing except that I realized that Mommy time is going to take up his entire waking hours. You see, with 3 older brothers who are home all day, who needs to learn to play by himself? Ok, so I do not have much of just me time and I can’t go out for a walk or a bike ride by myself for no one is there to look after a 3 year old and I can’t go out to the store to get the things we need when we are out when he is sleeping, but yeah, there are still lots of wonderful things about having just the one boy around.

The older boys left yesterday morning to go to scout camp. Daddy took them. I was supposed to go along except a little 3 year old was sick and throwing up20130707_151518. This put a crink into the day if only because of one thing – my boys do not get sick! Baruch Hashem, and let it stay that way. A loving Daddy bought some ginger ale before leaving for with our only vehicle gone and with a sick boy, it does not make for a day to be able to even walk to the neighborhood 7-11 to get some. We made it. After a nice needed nap he was allowed to do what sick boys get to do to keep them occupied so they can rest in bed and not be as antsy – nice educational videos. Baruch Hashem he feels good as new today. He is even learning to sleep in a big room all by himself.

Someone told me to take this time and do something for myself, so I heeded that advice. I started cleaning the house. It is amazing how much I can get done when I am doing all the work – and how clean things actually get! Living room and library were both cleaned to my satisfaction, swept and mopped, except for 1 pile of papers in each room. Not bad. Today was the garage and the cleaning of the kitchen cabinet doors. Oh, and I stumbled upon an amazing thing today – when the boys are not home it is great to clean for I can actually not only leave the room for a moment and expect it to stay the way I left it, I can even go to sleep for several hours and it will still stay the same! It feels pretty good to be able to have a few moments when the house will stay the way I want it.

Today we cleaned the garage in anticipation of our new instrument! I finally got an organ! Bonus – it was free and so was the transportation to my garage where it is now being stored until the bigger boys come home to help me move it into the house. My husband is so excited about it, almost as much as I am. He says I need to find a place for it. I tell him, it will fit in the house and that I have ideas. I have a few weeks until I need to have the answer.

20130708_125931This last week or so my husband and I have been trying to figure out what we should do next year for Judaics. We have spent the last 4 years with Room613.net and it has worked out really well. However, we decided our oldest, who is going to be bar mitzvah in a few short months (how did that happen?) was ready to move on. My husband and I are ones who do not mind thinking outside the box. Hey, the fact that we have been homeschooling for 8 years now proves it! What started out as an exercise in trying to figure out Judaics for one boy, ended up with something for all boys – that’s one bonus in having children close in age. (The other is being able to send them all to the same camp at the same time!) We have spent the last week mulling it over in our minds, bouncing it off the minds of different individuals to get thoughts and reactions and have finally decided we are going to do it. The boys are going to do Rambam’s Mishneh Torah next year. We chose that for it encompasses all aspects of our lives. We do not necessarily follow all that the Rambam says, but he does cover everything from each of the 613 mitzvos to davening, shmita year, maaser and other topics that do not necessarily apply to us today, but we should know about them.

Now, this seems fine until I mention that we are not going to do the 3 year cycle where you do one chapter a day for 3 years before completing – there are 31 sefarim in the set. No, we are doing the 1 year cycle – doing 3 chapters a day and finishing it off in about a year. Yes, I know exactly what that entails and what we are getting ourselves into. Each chapter is going to take, on average, 35-45 minutes to do. And yes, everyone that we have mentioned it to has looked at us as if we were crazy. However, since that is basically all they are going to do for Judaics, it should be more than reasonable. Children in schools spend the entire morning on Judaics, and so are we. Of course the boys are also going to do parsha/Yomim Tovim as well as continue on with their mishnayos. We are not expecting them to learn it inside and out, that will only happen by going through things multiple times. My goal is to get them to go through it. They will pick up according to each of their abilities, which is amazingly more than most of us would imagine. People learn through time. Our minds will take something we have learned or something we are thinking about and put it in the subconscious. The subconscious thinks about it and over time we get new ideas and thoughts about it. Then we can go back and learn more on the topic.

I found these wonderful videos on Chabad.org by Rabbi Gordon. He has a wonderful video for each and every chapter of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. He reads and translates as well as explains very nicely what is going on. My idea is to listen to 2 of his videos a day with the other chapter being read and then translated by boys. This is to help boys with their personal reading. Two birds with one stone. We would obviously take breaks in between each video and not do it all at once. And, I might even stagger the times throughout the day so that one little then-to-be 4 year old is not left hanging by himself for hours on end and being bored. And yes, this is a very rigorous feat we are going to do. We were told something on Shabbos – if you start this goal, do not quit, do not alter it, do not make the goal easier. Even if you get behind 1 day, 2 days, 3 days or more. Each day is a new day. Start fresh and continue on. The only thing that should change, if needed, is the end date. I liked this.

Today I ordered 3 sets of Mishneh Torah. One for each boy. They will be theirs to keep when they move out. The only condition is that we get to use them when we want/need to, even when they move out. Where we are going to put them, I do not know. As any homeschooling family knows, bookshelves are sacred – second only to the Torah and sefarim which are held on them. I have ideas. I have time before they come in. 😉

In the meantime, I miss my boys, even with the cleaner house.

It’s Not Summer Yet

20130602_091100Well, I made it to Monday! I actually did enjoy myself camping despite the fact that my arms and legs look and feel like I have the chickenpox. It was as if those mosquitoes were starved and no one had come to visit them in days (or hours)! Even though it was hot and mosquito free in the sun and cool and mosquito infested in the forest and we were lucky to be included in a storm on Saturday evening that went through the night, I had a good time. It is always nice to be away in nature and to be able to enjoy and appreciate Hashem’s creations. No phones, no internet, very few cars. The only noises were the various birds that sang some gorgeous music starting at 4:30 in the morning. Our boys enjoyed it as well. They even got up at 4:30 in the morning on Shabbos morning to play frizbee in the field (we constructed an eruv as well.) Showers were had by all when we got back on Sunday to clean up and remove any lingering insects that thought our home would be better than their home. And yes, I was told of some of interesting places where those lingering bugs were found, I just won’t mention them here!

Monday was a day where I got little done, on purpose. The boys emptied most of the car, the tents and sleeping bags were opened up in the backyard and aired out and dried the day before, and eventually they all got rolled up again Monday. We davened, did parsha and math. I just would not do much more other than laundry and some basic cleaning up of the kitchen. we listened to Mishnayos in the evening and then the big surprise came when I realized the boys were in bed ON TIME; and not the “new usual” since Daddy’s accident, it was the real bedtime! If nothing else, that did put a nice smile on my face since I was annoyed that it took almost 4 hours to pack up all the tents in the backyard and there were only 5 of them.

Today went much better. We got off to a late start but managed to pack in outside davening, not just one but two sessions of math, piano practicing, merit 20130602_085044badge completion including the required counselor signature, dropping off camp forms to be filled out by the boys’ doctor, mishnayos and even some cleaning by boys on their own! It started off by one beautiful boy waking up and being dressed before the parents got out of bed, him helping make his father’s lunch, doing his breakfast job before I could even finish eating, davening with his father, and not to mention coming over, on his own accord, to massage my shoulders. I was not sure what he wanted from me, but with nicely massaged shoulders I was most likely going to say yes to whatever it was. To thank him to the punch, I handed him a new treat I bought that was supposed to have been for fast helpers in rolling up the tents but never happened for the fast helpers were replaced with snails. A little brother wanted an extra special treat as well, however, I blurted out that extra special treats go to boys to do extra, extra special chores all on their own. Smile. So, while davening, the already davened boy cleaned up the front yard, including picking up lots of trash, did lots of work in my kitchen by being proactive and putting away the remaining bags of groceries from the previous day and meriting himself a second extra special treat. The youngest also wanted to help and so he kept asking me for chores and so that is how I got my kitchen and dining room swept AND mopped as only a 3 year old can do and earned himself an extra, extra special treat as well. 🙂 Unfortunately none of the others took the bait. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take what I can get!

As I started to feel good about myself with regards to how nice the day went I remembered something: It was not summer time yet and we still have school work to finish. Minor details. 😐 So, tomorrow morning is going to start by figuring out what each boy has left to do and making a short schedule on how to finish it.  Technically we have 1.5 weeks of school before the end of the year, and I think we can get it all in except math. Thank goodness for summer!

20130602_091037In some of my down time, which I actually had today, I was excited about the summer. I thought of all sorts of stuff for the boys to do that we just do not get to do during the year because of time; more math, typing practice (we started last summer), dik duk, Hebrew, more piano practice and lessons, chemistry from Khan Academy by request from boy #3, and the list went on. Hmm. Perhaps I need to rethink our summer? I *had* been thinking about just a couple of classes a day for the summer, but there is just so much I want to do! Perhaps Camp Harper is going to be more than just playing like planned. I am wondering if I can make a Camp Harper that is more of an educational camp that lasts through lunch. Can I make it fun as well? There is going to be one week of Scout camp for three boys – overnight sleeping in tents through rain and shine which overlaps a bit with a visit from Grandpa, but can I really pull off putting in a lot of good learning in the summer AND keeping it fun? I will have to mull that over in my mind. It will, most likely, have to include a field trip of some sort somewhere most weeks to help liven it up; picnics to various places near us, one20130602_085218 or two trips to the zoo, maybe even a walk down the Erie Canal to visit some neat shops that are down the path. What ever the case is, I think I will have much better luck if we start off the summer by making camp shirts. The boys always liked doing that in the past when we did do it.

I still have a few weeks to think about the summer, and not to mention look for next year’s books that I need to order so I can read them (hopefully) before school starts, and don’t forget to figure out what school work to do with a newly 4 year old; though he has taken to Readingeggs.com for beginning ABC’s and especially their new math program. I’m about ready to find La La Land now, there is a lot to do tomorrow morning and just the fact that when I’m there I don’t itch is a good reason to go! Oh, and yes, the boys got into bed within a few minutes of the real bedtime again tonight. We might be on a roll. 🙂

Learning From Everything

We had an amazingly wonderful weekend – both Shabbos as well as Sunday.  Friday afternoon was rather wet.  It not only rained, but it poured.  However, since rain brings brachos, I definitely look back and see various brachos that we had the entire weekend.  It started out with two wonderful and amazing guests that we had, which made our entire Shabbos just wonderful, and it continued through Sunday and our afternoon in a park.

As some of you remember, we had the opportunity to attend the Jewish Homeschooling Conference in Baltimore at the beginning of May.  While there, our older boys became friends with 2 brothers.  When part of this particular family had to spend Shabbos in our town, on their way to camp, the 2 brothers asked to stay with us opposed to where the rest of the family was staying.  I had only briefly met the boys in May, but when they arrived on Friday afternoon, soaked from the walk from the car to the house, I looked at them and at their smiles and their eyes, I could tell they were really good boys.  I am not quite sure what any of the 6 boys did until Shabbos, but I do know they all were very excited and had a great time together.

You can usually tell a homeschool child from their peers, and these boys were no exception.  As my husband and I talked to them during the Shabbos meal, they felt very comfortable and very willingly engaged into the conversations.  The younger one (10 yrs) was the chattier one, but even with the older one (12 yrs) it was almost like talking to an adult.  Almost…There was still something very kid like about them, but it was all in a good way. 🙂

It was amazing the knowledge these boys had – about almost every subject that was brought up. My husband loves maps and can keep his nose looking at one for hours – the same one.  We have huge laminated maps of both the United States as well as the world on the wall around our table.  It is referenced very regularly.  However, this night, my husband finally met his match.  Apparently these boys also love maps and they were able to teach the rest of us, including my husband, a very interesting fact about our own country.  We found out that there is a tiny part of the state of Kentucky that is totally separated from the rest of the state – it is called an exclave and it is surrounded by the states of Tennessee and Missouri.  This piece of Kentucky is called Kentucky Bend.  Not to be outdone by a 10 year old, my husband was able to use this new vocabulary word to point out what he learned before going on his business trip to Spain.  Spain has exclaves as well in the northern tip of Morocco.  (It turns out, as I researched this now, there is yet another exclave of Spain just to the north, in France –Llívia.)

I enjoyed the visit, I know my boys did, and I think the guests did as well for as their mother picked them up after Shabbos, they were trying to convience their mother into making plans to come back home the same way so they could again stop off at our house.  In the meantime, I had to purchase plastic lacing for my boys have learned a new hobby!

On Sunday we took a drive to Oatka Creek Park, NY.  It was our first time there.  We were not sure about it at first, but it turned out to be just what we needed.  We found a little spot just off the path, but out of the way, right by the creek.  We brought our portable BBQ

and reheated some leftover chicken and potatoes.  After a nice hot lunch, the boys spent the next several hours in the creek, playing with seaweed, throwing stones, climbing trees.  In other words, just have a blast!  While the big boys waded in the creek (some barefoots, one with shoes!) the little one and I spent time observing an inch worm walk up the magnificent tree.

They say we can learn from everything and everyone.  As I look back at our guests, I’m in awe.  It was wonderful to hear different facts about Indians, geography, as well as meet others who know about the Crusades and other historical facts.  (Some of our boys have learned about the Crusades, so that is a bonus for us!)  Granted the mother has been homeschooling more than twice as long as I have, however, I think we can create that wealth of information in our children as well.  The tricky part is the how.  I have wanted to go next door to the library and bring home books for several years now, but I just do not have the time to go through the various books they have there and choose. I have also tried going in with a list of books (like about 20), but I usually only come out with 2 of them.  So, I think I will try to send the boys to the library and tell them to pick out books about a subject they are interested in.  They can choose a different subject each time, that way it widens their knowledge base.  This way, I hope to limit the books read to learning books, non-fiction and historical fiction books, and not all the other junk that is there.

I also would like to spend more time with nature, just observing.  I always liked hands-on stuff myself.  I remember in high school physics, one class my teacher would bring in magnets, and he would pass them around for all of us to feel and observe.  The next year, I had a different teacher, and this teacher was not in the habit of passing things around.  One time I did ask to take a look at whatever he was teaching about.  I think he was taken off guard.  He did give the items to me though to look at.

It was exciting for me (never mind my 3 year old) to watch that little inch worm.  It would occasionally stick out straight as a little twig on the tree branch when it felt it need to camouflage itself.  It was wonderful to listen to where a 3 year old thinks the tiny inch worm sleeps at night – under the huge hole in the ground by the base of the tree – a hole big enough for a 3 year old!  It was also fun just watching the older boys spend hours in the creek, exploring, observing, finding little shrimps and fish, throwing rocks, getting their pants wet, enjoying themselves to pieces and not realizing they are actually doing schoolwork!

So, as I am finalizing my schedule for the coming year, I am taking the inspiration from our guests and their mother and beautifulness of our Sunday afternoon and trying to put all of that into our year as well.