Thursday, May 31, 2012

The simple part of simple living, and it really is simple!

What started this latest bout of DIY activity was a trip to a local health food store.   I wanted to see if they had some castile soap that I thought I've seen there before and I needed some for a concoction I wanted to try out.  As it happens, they didn't have any, which was just as well because the reason I've passed on the said soap in the past was the price tag, which was significant.  Soon after, I was reading up on soap making (something I also wanted to try out for a while) in a book I've recently acquired called Making It -- Radical Home Ec for the Post Consumer World, a compendium of sorts of all kinds of interesting DIY projects for the house for people like me:)  So, there I was, reading about a simple soap making recipe that only involved 3 ingredients and a blender (so far so good, at this stage in my life I only have time for quick and simple anyway) and it mentioned that this recipe is what is known as castile soap- the most basic, gentlest of soaps.  I read that again. You mean, that's it?  And sure enough.  That was it -- water, lye + olive oil = castile soap, only a whole lot less expensive and incidentally as far as soap making is concerned the lower grade oil is preferable, who would have thought! I am really looking forward to trying this out, I just need to find a blender that comes with a glass pitcher because the chemical reaction just might melt down my plastic one, but I digress. I have had many occasions in recent weeks to reexperience this "you mean this is all there is to it?" reaction.  Now, dozens of yogurt batches, sourdough breads, salve, jam, kombucha and citrus cleaner experiments later, I could safely say -- it really is very simple.  Very simple as far as just a few basic ingredients and even simpler as far as the actual process.  The hardest part about some of these is the waiting time and for some it's pretty much instant gratification.  I will revisit each one of these in separate posts with the notes on the particulars.  But frankly I was shocked at how easy it was to make these things and how much of a price, both figuratively and literally we pay as a society for not doing these things ourselves. This has been a very rewarding series of experiments, but I also see it as a sort of a spiritual martial arts program to detox oneself from all kinds of unwholesome notions that modern living has hoisted upon mankind.  It takes discipline, but it really is simple and even when practiced minimally  enriches one's life with goodness and a whole lot of delight.  So these days, when inspiration strikes, I first look up if I could make it myself and it's amazing how many things could be made at home, often easily, more healthfully and at a considerable discount.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A little inside view into Israel

So much of what is written today about Israel is negative, false, worrisome, distorted or worse.  So this video made me very happy and I always find Shlomo Katz's music very inspirational.  So here is something really, really beautiful from the recent Yom Yerushalaim (Jerusalem reunification day).  The song is Od Yishama (see words and translation at this link), that is sung at every Jewish wedding and speaks of the fulfillment of the prophesy of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and particularly to Jerusalem.

Friday, May 25, 2012

These days

There is so much to write and so little time to write it in, so I decided to do this post a la Soulemama style.

These days I am :
- bouncing two fat mostly smiley babies
- chasing an almost two year old who thinks there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING he cannot do
-enjoying the sight of happy children with wind blown hair on their bicycles, scooters and other riding implements or swinging or sitting on a fence
-appreciating having a husband who comes along for the ride in all our educational adventures, even though it's hard for him and he has many other things he would rather be doing, but does it anyway because he believes it's important
-contemplating the law of conservation of messes in our home, where the mess is neither created or destroyed but only changes in form despite my best efforts
-observing interesting and beautiful birds, plants and flowers all around me and realizing how even the most common of them is incredibly beautiful
-making yogurt, sourdough bread and kombucha, still being amazed at how simple they are to make and how miraculous these processes are ( I have to write a separate post or posts on the subject)and being inspired to do more of these DIY projects
-rethinking various food preparations and how to streamline them, also revisiting some topics I was interested in years ago like once a month cooking and dusting off some old books and to help with the above
-dreaming of growing something in our real life garden but also of some ideal future gardens, edible forests, etc.  Spending many happy hours browsing through gardening books, making lists and learning about different plants.
-looking forward to a lighter, less regimented learning schedule
-thinking of yom tov cooking and creative challah baking, decorated for shavuos
-hoping and praying for better days in the Land of Israel that I love. Days with no Arab violence against the Jews.  Days of building instead of destruction.  Days without lies and misinformation.  The end of injustices towards the Jewish people and politically motivated decision making. For our leaders to have the wisdom and courage to do the right thing  and for the actualization of living our life as a nation in our land as G-d has intended when He gave us the Torah
-wishing you all a happy and meaningful Shavuos

Friday, May 18, 2012

Visions of summer

We have gotten back on track academically since Pesach.  More or less anyway.  We finished the fractions unit from Math Mammoth and are now doing some geometry with the big boys for a change of pace.  It's much easier conceptually I think so we go a whole lot faster.  I got them some fancy notebooks to write down their copywork assignments( Beautiful Italics for Children) into and that usually gets them more motivated.  We started doing the world map memorization program from here that uses various mnemonic sentences to to step by step draw and label the world map from memory.  We really like it and dh often fleshes things out for the kids by telling them interesting facts and  bits of history associated with different places.  Prince and Pauper was a great success as a read aloud.  We are continuing more or less with hebrew writing, grammar and such a few times a week.  I have worked oral narration into our studies once in a while.  I have been doing more projects like cooking, baking and easy crafts with the younger set and some more formal stuff but a lot more sporadically with my six year old.  It's certainly summer here already weather wise and the kids are spending a lot of time outside.  Ds10 usually does a lot of independent reading, mostly adventures and suspense.  We are trying to encourage him towards classics but we'll see.  Both of them need to work on their english reading, but most days we get to it on a very minimal level at best.  I don't have a problem with that as long as we continue to read to them on regular basis which some time is hard to do.  With the little ones I usually read to them quite a lot every day but the stuff that is interesting to them. There is plenty of informal learning of course, discussions, doing things together in a regular course of life, but some things we just chronically don't get to.  And besides, often it takes a tremendous amount of effort  to get them to settle down,  even more so to keep things positive and to keep the momentum going.  I feel we could all use a break and a change.  So.... I've been thinking of going on a summer schedule for the next few months.  Reserve one day for formal school work just to keep in practice for math and  geography, may be.  But otherwise just read lots of books together, finally do some of the projects I wanted to do with them,  pick a few things that we never get to and do them,  spend some time in the garden together, etc.  Come to think of it, a very Charlotte Mason type summer.   I am hoping it will help us recharge and  hopefully help us restart in the fall in more positive frame of mind.  So in the next few weeks, I hope to make some plans, draw up some book lists and project ideas, gather the supplies we need for various projects so we could proceed and make some of these summer visions into a reality.   I am really looking forward to this.  I hope it works out and we'll just play it by ear and see what develops.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I got an unexpected break today when dh took the crew out for a Lag B'Omer outing to see some family. He took everyone except the Mommy and the babies, who are still not big on outings.  I had some doubts myself but it ended up being a delightful day for my fluffy roly poly companions and I.  I really enjoyed these two and their company. They were full of gorgeous smiles, we ate and played and cuddled.  They are up to new tricks of trying to roll or grabbing their toes or each other's hands. So many possibilities.  Such wonderful, simple pleasures. And while they napped, I got to listen to music, think, dream, read and even write, finally.  The weather was cooler today, even though we are now on the upward summer temperature swing. So we enjoyd the breeze and he clear skies, surrounded by greenery, pomegranate blossoms, white and red hibiscus flowers and such.  The chinaberry blossoms are gone but the tree is still a beauty even without them. I didn't cook but had some homemade yogurt and sourdough bread - my latest culinary adventures.  I really neeed this quiet time to regroup mentally. I don't get this kind of mini-vacations often but perhaps I need to make time for them in my life, because this was surprisingly refreshing and helped me get past some of that burnt out exhaustion I've been feeling lately.  Thanks G-d, for such lovely days.

On his tenth birthday!

In a few short weeks my oldest will turn ten, G-d willing.   Yes, ten years have flown by and there are many, many things I still have to figure out about this mothering business.  But I remember that wonderful spring day very well, when this long awaited beautiful boy was born.  Ah, the hazel, sometimes almost amber eyes, the curly hair (his nemesis since he was about five), the suntanned face, the impish grin, the keen intelligence, the quick wit and  at times too quick tongue.  He wanted to be in control of everything since the moment he came into the world.  The son who is so like me on the outside and on many days such a mystery to me on the inside.  He with whom my mothering journey has started.  He is full of surprises, this spirited child.  So often he is a ball of contradictions. In many ways, he is a typical oldest child- responsible and mature and in many ways he really struggles to harmonize the many disparate parts of him.   Despite his considerable talents, he finds (and makes) so many things challenging.  He is so aware of everything and everyone around him.  He finds transitions difficult.  He is growing up in so many ways.  Just today, for the umpteenth time he points out how he is almost as tall as I am.  He amazes me with his insights and out of the left field remarks.  He's got his way with words.  He loves to read.  He has his dreams.  He has a million plans.  He is dipping his toes into the world of adulthood.  I remember myself at this age.  It was definitely a transition year.  Once he wanted to be a teacher.  Once he dabbled in doing business.  Today, it's the military that beckons to him.  I was at first surprised ( he who was once so uncoordinated, he who likes his creature comforts) but the more I think about it, the more I see how it could really suit his personality.  Only time will tell.  Yes, ten years old.  In ten more, G-d willing, he'll be a grown man, a husband, a father perhaps !  I have a hard time sometimes conveying adequately to him just how fantastic I think he is, that my love for him has just grown since the time he was an intense and sweet little bundle.   So many times these days I keep thinking how I don't want the love and sweetness and closeness to be lost in the sea of growing pains and struggles.  I need to remember to convey the approval that he so much seeks.   This wonderful (if sometimes difficult) boy is turning into a man faster than I could have imagined.  Some days, the frustrations are many for both of us, at the end of the day, I feel drained and exhausted as I cross another finish line in another day of demanding parenting.  But then, as I give him his goodnight kiss and we chat a bit as I sit by his bedside, he says " You know, I love YOU mommy. It's the work I don't like".  And I know that with all the creative endeavors that are waiting for me out there, nothing will ever equal in creativity or importance to this gargantuan task of helping a child to traverse this terrain of childhood, in uncovering and developing the person he or she was meant to become.  Happy birthday, dear boy, may Hashem bless you and guide you in all your ways, today and always.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The lists that make a life

I am a woman of many lists.  I regularly make "to do" lists.  I have a list of projects I'd like to get to,  lists of things to do with the kids, lists of blog post ideas, lists of books to explore.   I used to have a list of books I read and liked.  I have a list of plants I'd love to have in my future dream garden, lists of plants I think should be able to grow in this climate.  There is also a list of topics to research and lately, when I am able to find a pen, I keep a list of my Google searches so I can retrace my steps on any given topic of interest.  For years,  I've kept various journals on and off. When I started this blog it largely took over as my regular journal.  So when I was recently reading about commonplace books, a type of journal, that was popular once upon a time, an intellectual record of sorts, where a person would write down bits of wisdom from other people that he or she would find of interest or significance, I was thinking that as much as I would like to do something like that, after all it's certainly interesting to be able to trace one's intellectual evolution, at this point in my life,  it would be too time consuming and labor intensive.  And then I came across this idea, where the woman had a notebook, beautifully decorated, where she kept a list of things to do, projects she was working on, gardening tasks.  It sounded much like my motley collection of lists, currently jotted down on various scraps of paper, always in jeopardy of disappearing or being misplaced just as I was looking for that important something.  It's always exciting to find an old list and try and remember what it was I've been doing or thinking on any given day.  Now, here is an idea I could see myself using and incidentally, it's another great way to recycle those old magazines,  old children's books that are missing too many pages, old gardening books or cookbooks, old calendars, etc.  Yes, a book of lists sounds doable.  I think, I'll add this to my list:)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yom Hazikaron

The siren screams its plaintive heartrending dirge. "Mommy, what is that noise? Is it an emergency?" No, the air raid siren is up and down, this siren is to honor the soldiers that died fighting for Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). Perhaps you should say tehillim or learn something in their memory".  Today was Yom Hazikaron - Israel's Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers and victims of terror.  Pain, memories and hope for a better tomorrow.  May we only know joy from now on and celebrate good things together as a united nation! Here are a few articles that are particularly moving.
To cry, mourn, to remember
Seated among heroes and watching faces
Who can count the dust of Jacob

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mothers of little boys

Long time ago, I saw a cute wall sign in some catalogue, that said that "Mothers of little boys work from son up till son down."  Today, it is a very apt description of my life.  It very much revolves around my sons' goings and comings.  I am sitting now, admiring a new thrifted curtain on my window, white with lilacs, very me and completely belying  the maelstrom of activity that was going on around me just a few short hours ago.  The sons were very much up.  Different sons at different times. Today, he helped the handy man ( he is my budding handyman!), he finished yet another adventure story.  So, often these days, I am amazed at how grown up he is becoming.  He likes to reason and argue and use big words.  He has an opinion about everything so occasionally we lock horns.  But I tell him that stubborness is a good thing in right situations and one has to be strong and stand up for what one believes in. We might disagree on occasion but I know he is listening, at least some of the time:) "Could you make yogurt tonight, Mommy? I have all kinds of ideas for different flavors."  I said that if he only settles down to sleep maybe then I'll get to that yogurt:)  We both settled on trying to make a coffee flavored one.  Soon he was back.  He had an abscess on his foot that hurt.  We discussed what one should do with wounds so they don't get infected.  Then I remembered that I read that raw beets are good for drawing an abscess out, so I cut him a slice and stuck it in his sock.  He found the whole thing very humorous, so humorous that it necessitated waking up his brother to inform him of this hilarious fact.  The brother was duly amused and now they continued to horse around.  "What will you make me instead of yogurt?" said the second son up( he is allergic to milk).  I am not a fan of soy.  It's always such a challenge to think of something for this child to eat.  This son is usually on the go when he is up.  Today he was zipping around the house on his scooter.  He is the one who likes to ponder and construct and deconstruct, a bit too often?  I keep telling him that curiosity has to be balanced with responsibility.  "I love you" he says" Now can I have those privileges back? that boy!He continued to dance around me.  I was thinking of trying to make kombucha, which he liked or some drinking vinegar recipes I've seen around but all of these need more time than the yogurt.  Will it be potato flavored, he asks.  I guess they have a vegetable theme going, these two.  He enjoys his own joke, more hilarity.  Suddenly all is quiet again.  Before that another son spends the whole day trying to make himself understood without too many words, getting frustrated, screaming, rejoicing when he gets to his goal.  Getting to as many of his goals as possible, is his overall objective these days, that's the stage he is at and because he is so much younger, his older siblings indulge his eccentricities and delight in his cuteness.  Finally, his bottle is found yet again, he has his favorite book, he's been kissed and covered to his liking.  Son down.  Before that, two littlest sons have smiled and cried and cooed and screamed and ate and were changed and were cuddled and rocked and held until they too(two?) sank into their soft blankets and angelic dreams. Milky sweet baby smell and fluffiness and yummy toes and delicious baby sounds from these newest of sons.  From son to son, from son up to son down.  The daughters are also down at last:) Quiet and peaceful.   It's now my down time, that of the curtains with lilacs quiet, until it will be up time again. Yes, sons -suns?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The goings on

Pesach is over and  it's time to get back to a routine.  I have many grand plans as usual:)  Since we've started Pesach cleaning, I've been on a decluttering, simplification and healthification compaign.  I am really trying to get rid of all the things that we don't need, don't like, don't use, etc. and replace the things that need replacing with healthier choices.   This site has been very helpful to me in aiding me with the ideas for the process.  I am hoping to get back to our regular learning schedule and add some things like history-probably using some older in the public domain living books, geography - map drills, possibly using Geography Trails, more read alouds for big kids, more projects of the concocting type, more art- still have to figure out the best way to do it, basically getting back to a more Charlotte Mason like mode.  The weather is getting more and more summerlike.  The kids have been spending  A LOT of time outside, whether playing, riding scooters and bicycles, jumping rope, swinging or just sitting on the fence socializing or observing.  Our tree turned out to be a chinaberry.  It's currently in bloom, looks absolutely lovely and makes the whole yard smell like perfume. There are so many different flowering trees and shrubs around the neighbourhood, as well as lots of different interesting plants both wild and cultivated, so we've been doing some nature study.  It's hard not to.  I've been reading up on medicinal properties of various local native plants, a subject I find fascinating, and pointing some of them out to the kids.  The little ones just enjoy the flowers and the birds and the sunshine.  I've spotted some interesting birds around here too.  I really should start a nature journal like I've wanted to do for a long time, there is just so much material that would we very interesting to record and perhaps it will inspire the children to do the same. I really enjoyed this book by Claire Walker Leslie about nature journal keeping.  I wanted to do some sort of chemistry with the big kids this year, it didn't happen though but I think I will change the focus somewhat and try out different things with them in the kitchen like making sourdough, growing a kombucha scoby, infusing vinegars and making salves and healthy probiotic drinks.  Hopefully there will be posts to follow up on these soon.  All of them sound like great, practical projects to try out and are something that kids can easily participate in.  We have some birthdays coming up, so I would really like to make at least something for the birthday kids, we will see.  Dh has been doing a great job with his usual casual history, geography, and general, anything under the sun informal lessons.  He is really good at that.  I am better at more sructured lessons, but the art and the language and life lesson type of thing comes to me more naturally and spontaneously.  Also, I am trying to do something every day, one thing to do or to make from my very long list.  We are slowly catching up on all the things that have waited for the past year.  I also need to keep on with all the basics, work with the older ones on some areas of weakness in their studies, spend more quality time with the smaller ones and give the smallest ones what they need too.  A tall order. B"H, it's a very full and busy life that we lead.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Slow down, construction ahead!

It  feels like in the recent past everything in my day to day life, no matter what I do, is about slowing down.  I think it's probably true for any parent of young children.  Some things just can't be hurried, one has to take them as they come, when they come.  But there is always a part of me that is screaming to do everything NOW, teach the kids EVERYTHING TODAY, finish every project on the list IMMEDIATELY, write everyhting that I want to write RIGHT NOW or the inner naysayer continues, it will NEVER happen, it will NEVER get done,  do it all and do it now, now,now, right now...   I think Someone is trying to teach me something.  I have no choice but to slow down and the truth be told, that pace suits me much better and suits the children much better.  One has to take time to construct lives, to shape personalities one step, one conversation, one kindness, one battle, one struggle, one right choice or action at a time.  I am reminded of the epic meeting between Yakov (Jacob) and his brother Eisav (Esau).  Travel with me, says Eisav, let us go together, but Yakov answers, that he can't.   Go ahead, I'll catch up with you later, I have to move slower, for the children are small and tender.  Don't worry we'll meet up at the end.  How profound!  Slow down, there is construction to be done ahead.  Don't rush, you'll get there at the right time.  Slow down, do the necessary painstaking work now. Maybe that's another way to understand that there are those that acquire their World (to come) in one moment,  for some perhaps it's one moment and then another one moment.   Good things in life require patience and perseverence and hard work.  There is no free lunch.  Sometimes one has to sow with tears in order to eventually reap with joy.  One tends to forget sometimes.  The western culture of today is very much about getting everything now, instant gratification or else.  Isn't everything I am trying to do in my life and to teach to my children the exact opposite of that message.  But how often do I find myself falling into the NOW trap anyway? So much in our daily lives is about this  message to slow down but it is also so true about Jewish history, about Israel today, about the Geula (Redemption).  Slow down, do what needs to be done, don't worry, there is construction ahead, even if it doesn't feel like it at all, even when things seemed to be turned on their heads, even when the going is slow and painful, maddeningly so, even when it feels more like a destruction, there is construction ahead.  I have no desire to wish these moments away, I just have to keep reminding myself to try and rise up to the occasion again and again, reassure myself that I will get where I need to go, gradually and that's the way it was meant to be.  Slow and steady, that's the secret to G-dliness.  Simple and yet so difficult.  Good, now it's time to get to the hard and slow work of constructing.  It just occured to me, that actually, it's a very timely message for the sefira period, which is all about incremental growth leading up to the acceptance of the Torah on Shavuos.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pesach cereal and other Pesach related stuff

We are a family that loves matza, not just tolerates it.  As dh likes to point out that one of the ma nishtanah questions at the seder states that on all other nights we eat chometz and matza, for that to be true one actually has to eat matza during the rest of the year as well, but I digress.  So we have been eating a lot of matza in various guises - matza brie, matza balls, matza pilaf, matza kugel- you get the picture. But here is one that really amazed me in its ingenuity and simple brilliance - my sister-in-law's Pesach cereal.  It was one of those things that make you wonder why you haven't thought of it yourself.  So here is a non-recipe from when my sister in-law was small - take 3/4 of one matza break it into pieces, add sugar and cinnamon and milk to taste, and voila, you have yourself a truly brilliant Pesach breakfast or lunch or snack.  Another simple recipe the kids really enjoyed this Pesach was an old standby - Cranberry Apple Ices.  Take 2 cups of cranberry sauce, 2 cups of apple sauce and one cup of some liquid, I used grape juice, the original recipe called for a lemon soda, mix it all together, freeze and enjoy! And speaking of genius, not really Pesach related, I've been listening to a great new series of lectures by Rebbitzen Tzipora Heller on  called the Builder of Her Home which were absolutely fantastic and just what I needed to hear.  And finally here is a very inspirational and timely message from the Chief Rabbi of South Africa.  Have a great rest of yom tov!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A very long short Pesach update

Sometimes it takes many years for some ideas to take root and become actualized.  I think that this year I caught a little bit of the Pesach liberating spirit, touched that breaking out of our self -imposed limitations feeling,  came to terms with the idea that setbacks are also part and parcel of the ultimate redemption.  Cleaning and organizing and crashing and coming back again to enjoy the seder.  Somehow, over the years despite the lack of time for in depth study, the words of the Haggadah itself became more meaningful and more immediate. Spending time with kids, going on outings, realizing it's just too much right now and we really need to rethink our Chol Hamoed family outing policy.  Beautiful vistas, stretches of azure skies and hills and trees and happy muddy children.   So idyllic in many ways, I've got pictures to prove it, but tired and irritable mother and an exhausted father. Sigh.  But tomorrow is another day.  So for today -happy, energetic, ready to go children.  We decided to implement a different strategy.  Dh took the bigger four on a trip and I stayed home with the babies.  Dh and the bigger ones really enjoyed the outing minus the difficulties of juggling infants and a very energetic headstrong toddler.  And I, I was a little sad to not be able to go but I really appreciated the time just with the little ones, finally getting some relatively undivided attention.  So, sunny skies, birds overhead, babies swinging in a hammock in a gentle breeze, a toddler collecting twigs and riding around me, a sweet, almost heady smell of some blossoms from as of yet unidentified tree (looks like some sort of an ash) and some sure knowledge of being where one should be.  It's been a marathon of cooking and trying to balance everyone's needs and wants and still get that special feeling that each holiday brings and not lose that special something that each holiday brings.   Yes, I think I've got some of that liberating Pesach spirit, by slowly changing things to shape a life I should really be living.  Thank G-d.  And tomorrow is another day with its' ups and downs,  its' joys and disappointments, its infinite potential for something special and holy and meaningful, something too good to lose to crankiness and pettiness.  So I'll try to pass that part over and skip into the day that I'd like it to be, one little change at a time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making it

When my older children were small,  we used to do a lot of craft projects together.  Nothing fancy but it was a regular and generally enjoyable feature of our days.  These days, there is a lot of free style coloring, drawing, painting, cutting and pasting, clay modeling, etc. Eventually, I do hope to get more organized art lessons but for now this model works for us.  What I do want to focus on right now with the kids, are more practical DIY type projects.  I really like those type of projects myself and children take great pride in making useful things for themselves or for the family.  For example, we made this liquid soap together the other day.  It was a relatively short and easy project with something for everyone to do.  Everyone four years old and up participated by either grating the soap, pouring and/or mixing and now usually when given a choice they hands down prefer to use "their" soap.  We also experimented with making jello flavored with ices (based on this recipe) and again the kids participated in the making, the eating and brainstorming for future improvements. So why do I favor these practical projects other than some unrequited nesting instinct still left over from this past pregnancy or the fact that quite a few educational philosophies such as Charlotte Mason and Montessori recommend purposeful activities?  A few reasons really.  One, this is a good way to teach practical skills.  Two, it helps kids and adults to snap out of today's consumerism oriented mentality and into a more producing oriented one.  Three, it teaches appreciation of the simple things in life and the simple ways one can enrich his life and that of others.  It teaches resourcefulness and creativity with what one has and gives one a sense of true accomplishment based on doing rather than owning.  It helps one to reconnect with one's humanity as creative beings we were meant to be. Something that I feel, our great dependence on gadgetry and convenience deprives us of.  And besides everything else, it allows us to do things as a family, further increasing the family cohesiveness and creating a life that is uniquely our own.  So I am really hoping we will be making things here, simple things that don't require too much time necessarily or extravagant ingredients.  These days when everything tends to be commercialized including the simple living and healthy choices, it's really amazing what one can make at home with just a few basic skills.  I think it's a gift I would very much want to give our children, the ability and the privilege to be a producer, to make and to make do, to not be excessively influenced by the world around them to their detriment.  I thinks, especially with Pesach(Passover) coming up, a holiday of freedom, this is an important lesson that will make them free in a higher sense.   G-d willing, I'll write about specific projects I have in mind in the near future.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The goings on

It was an odd kind of a week.  The big kids just didn't seem to be able to settle down to doing their work but we got some basics done. Lots of informal learning though.   I am finally getting to spend some good quality time with the younger kids.   Ds1.5 is really into books all of a sudden.  It is so sweet to watch him play and grow.  Come to think of it, I had some good individual quality times with the older ones as well.  The big boys had their Tae Kwan Do test for the next belt.  It's been very good for them on so many levels - coordination, discipline, etc.  They have a great teacher who really coaches the kids and helps them succeed and learn important life skills like respect, discipline and self defense.  The weather was beautiful and we got to spend some lovely times outside.  We got a little bit of nature study in, when we identified some plants from my medicinal local plants guide in our yard, but more on that later.  There were a few very foggy overwhelming exhausting days.  We made some lists and started getting things for Pesach(Passover).  We are looking forward to the holiday.   The news from Toulouse, France where four innocent Jews, including three children HY"D were murdered was horrifying.  Whenever I hear the word Jew in the same sentence as France,  I just want to scream LEAVE!!! Alas, Europe hasn't changed much.  It's sad, this growing antisemitism, sad but not shocking.  Then, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg passed away,  a really great person, and while he is undoubtedly in a very good place, it's very sad for those left behind.  Otherwise, the kids had a great time collecting most of the remaining lemons from our tree.  Those lemons smell like heaven.   I see a lot of lemonade in our future and perhaps this citrus cleaner.  Some day when we have a garden of our own, I really hope we'll plant some more fruit trees.  I got some dry erase markers and the kids ( everyone above the age of 1) had a wonderful time writing and drawing on our glass doors, no need for a white board.  I am thinking that using the same idea, one can use a picture frame with glass, insert a page of writing or a picture for tracing and have the little ones practice.   I could never figure out what makes any given Erev Shabbos either wonderful or terrible.  But this one was a dream, B"H.   The babies slept, so we didn't have to juggle crying babies with the frenzied  preparations. Everyone got to help make something.  We baked.  We made mayonnaise again - a recent DIY successful experiment.  I have a long list( too many) of different DIY projects to do with the kids in the coming weeks,  I really hope we'll get to at least some of them.  And so it goes - lots going on, too little writing, perhaps too much planning, hopefully more actual doing and just taking it one day at a time.  Thank G-d!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the way to Tel Aviv

Last week we had to go to Tel Aviv to take care of some business.   I love watching the scenery out the window.  It's just amazing.  We were in a bit of a hurry and I forgot my camera but I'll describe what I saw.  I have taken this same trip quite a few times and yet every time, it's an experience.  What one sees is a tapestry of very different things juxtaposed next to each other.  Bucolic scenery next to industrial type structures, archeological digs right in the middle of very ordinary surroundings, beautiful untouched wild spaces next to modern architecture and cultivated agricultural fields.   Orchards next to railroads,  ancient ruins next to modern buildings,  very Middle Eastern next to very Western.  And once one gets to Tel Aviv- old dilapidated buildings next to snazzy slick modern ones, religious and secular, old and new, tightly packed spaces and industrial architecture on one side and the gorgeous blue sea with sailboats placidly gliding in the sun on the other.  I looked up for a second, we were on Kibbutz Galiyot (Ingathering of Exiles) Blvd.  And it got me thinking that this kind of hodgepodge of very different elements in a small space reminds me of the current state of modern Israel.  Different people from different places, yet part of the same nation and with plenty in common. So much already built and so much that remains to be done.   All this in just a few years on the place where sand dunes used to be, amazing!  The Jewish people had come home.  Some things so beautiful and so perfect and some so far from perfection that it makes one's heart ache, some things so clear and some really perplexing.  Will it ever be fixed, will it ever get better, how much more and how much longer can the Jewish nation take it.    And then I remember, we are indeed on the Kibbutz Galiot Blvd.  It will be made right and beautiful and perfect and harmonious in the end.  G-d has His plan and He will get us where we need to go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The goings on

It's been a very long while. I've been wanting to get back to writing here for so long.  B"H, we are settling into a rythm of sorts. We kept our home learning on the low burner, but kept with it all along, albeit on a very basic level -math, copywork, hebrew reading, writing, grammar and lots of informal learning.  I hope we'll be adding more things on as we get more into the swing of things, like history, geography and art for example.  When the weather is warm, the kids spend lots of time outside.  We are managing to fit in little projects here and there when we can.  We made liquid soap, baked hamantashen twice, made cute little bags out of old t-shirts among others.  I'll try to post some links for these when I can.  I have a year's worth (at least) backlog of things to write about, a very long list of projects to attempt, books to read, a house to organize, etc.  Thank G-d, a lot going on and so much to be grateful for. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seeing double

And so on one fine candle lit Friday night they arrived - two beautiful baby boys! Identical twins! After all the waiting and praying and hoping, here they were.  Two beautiful infants with starry eyes.  Two sweet heart shaped faces looking up at me. Two more babies to nurse, to cuddle and to rock.  Two voices calling for my attention.  Two new holy souls entering this world on a holy day.  Two new lights to illuminate our life.  These days my arms and my days are very,very full.  So much love, so much joy, yes, so much work.  Juggling these babies and all their siblings in graduated sizes and all the other things on the to do list:)  I really feel a whole lot more than doubly blessed.