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.