Lately as I was bemoaning the fact that still under the influence of a newborn and with everyone's ever busier schedules I don't get to do as much with the kids as I would like. However, when I started to analyze in my mind all the various things that have been going on around here lately, to my great delight I've discovered that actually quite a lot of learning has been taking place here lately just in the course of regular living. Today, when the almost 3 year old and the four year old were playing house, I heard the almost three year old say repeatedly and insistently - " This is not a competition". So I guess their vocabulary is improving. We read aloud to the kids, so even as they play apparently all of them are picking up on their language skills. The 8 year old has finally discovered reading so that occupies a lot of his leasure time. There has been a lot of creative play going on here as well a lot of dress up games. I finally decided to make all the Purim costumes available all year around so they could play. So at any given time one can find brides, princesses, soldiers, kings and other interesting characters in and out of costume parading, skipping and flying around the house. Unexpectedly my dream of making a play kitchen for the kids has materialized out of an old table support, a drawer, sink drains and closet doorknobs as well as other miscelaneous perafernalia. So the kids have been quite busy with that. There was a lot of interior decorating of various nooks going on by the artistic crowd and some loud altercations over artistic differences to go with it. The new big map of the world on our wall has everyone, even the younger set very interested in geography all of a sudden. So everyone is memorizing continents and countries and generally talking about geographic stuff. My husband loves maps so he is more than happy to share his love and knowledge with all of us. I've wanted to try out wood staining with food coloring for a while and so we did with the kids. I had them round up their old plain wooden blocks and Kapala and we dyed them. It was a great success, the results were beautiful muted earthy toned colors. So I am already looking forward to experimenting with other colors, etc. Today everyone suddenly decided to make houses out of old cardboard boxes. That is usually a multi-day or even a multi-week project, when everyone is into painting, decorating and discussing various construction and design alternatives ad infinitum. I am happy to supply them with materials and tools they might need. Then there is the gardening. This past year I discoverd that one can grow shrubs and other plants from cuttings, I experimented and was overjoyed to discover that it actually worked and is not too difficult. So when the local city lanscaping crew showed up to do some pruning and then threw out a ton of branches from all the flowering shrubs of various sorts. I picked up a few of those discards and planted them in my yard. I also planted some hadasim and aravos from succos for good measure. As the rain season should be upon us, I am hoping at least some of these cutting will take root so that is very exciting. Of course the kids were very enthusiastic, some like to participate in my gardening adventures and some just like the idea of growing our own aravos. Then there were numerous conversations on the importance of order, hard work, standing up and doing the right thing against peer pressure, the importance of good communication, etc, etc, etc. Everyone is excited about the new piano, so there is a lot of listening to music, experimenting with the playing and looking forward to lessons by some. There is Torah learning and all kinds of theological discussions, sometimes of an unexpected out of the left field sort. There is a lot of noise, a lot of dreaming and a lot of activity even when nothing much is taking place. We are experimenting with various new routines and techniques to make life better and more efficient for all concerned. These are just a few of the hilights, so clearly things are not as bad as I thought. They are all growing up. The big ones are getting more mature(at least some of the time), more independent in thought and action. The little ones are suddenly morphing into the bigger ones. Some babies are no longer babies and even the littlest one is changing all the time encouraged by the whole family. More and more I find that I force myself to take a backseat and cede some control so they can all in their individual ways break out on their own. It's sweet, exciting, awe inspiring and sometimes scary and painful. But over all I am filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude to Hashem for giving me this gift to participate and often preside over these crazy, wild and unpredictable goings on.