Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Car Insurance

Did you know that if our car had been parked at a friend's house when it got crunched, it probably would not have been covered by our insurance? Our wise neighbor took all the pictures for us early in the morning that it happened (including pictures of our house and car together) knowing that that was the case. On the other hand, how did they know that picture was our house??? Hmmm....

How To Help

The situation in Israel is not good. How can we help?

1. Learn torah, daven (pray), say tehillim (psalms), learn Torah, or dedicate some other good work to the good of Israel and the wisdom of her armed forces.

2. Contact local and national politicians to express your support for Israel.

3. There is a program called Operation "Take a Break" that is giving those families under threat of rocket attacks a recreational trip to a safe area. This totals 700,000 people now that rockets have landed near Beer Sheva. Go to Connections Israel to donate.

4. Send care packages to Israeli soldiers through Friends of the Israel Defense Forces or pizza to soldiers and threatened families at Pizza IDF.

5. Donate to the organizations that supply vitally needed medical care to victims of terror attacks, rockets, and other violence: Magen David Adom, Hatzolah Israel, Zaka, Yad Sarah.

AIPAC Statement

From AIPAC, and much more eloquent than I could ever be:

December 30, 2008

Israel Forced to Defend Citizens After Years of Attacks

Israel began forceful action this past weekend to quell Hamas’ terrorist threat to Israeli civilians. Since Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has indiscriminately fired more than 6,300 rockets and mortars—including 600 in the past six weeks—at Israeli population centers. Last spring, Israel tested whether Hamas would move toward peace by accepting Egypt’s proposal for a six-month lull in the fighting. Instead, Hamas significantly enhanced its arsenal, and ultimately resumed its rocket assaults. Despite Hamas’ aggression, Israel continues to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and is acting to limit civilian casualties in Gaza.

Israel demonstrated extreme restraint in the face of years of attacks on its citizens after it fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Israel fully withdrew all of its soldiers and settlements from Gaza in 2005, a move designed to reduce violence and create better conditions for improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Instead of seizing this historic opportunity to build a better life for the people of Gaza, Hamas and other terrorist groups have turned the area into a launching pad for more than 6,300 rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, killing more than a dozen Israelis and wounding and traumatizing countless others.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza continue to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities.

As Hamas abandoned a sixth-month lull in fighting with Israel, the Iranian-backed terrorist group fired more than 600 rockets and mortars into Israel.

Like every other sovereign nation, Israel has the right and duty to defend its citizens from attack. Hamas’ actions left Israel no choice but to take stronger measures to defend its citizens.

Hamas used the six-month calm to increase its rocket and other weapons capabilities by smuggling arms into Gaza from Egypt.

Hamas used the lull to double its stockpile of rockets—today an estimated 8,000 to 10,000—and to acquire rockets with longer range capabilities, including Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets.

An estimated 500,000 Israelis are now within range of Hamas’ rocket arsenal, including Ashdod—Israel’s fifth largest city and home to 200,000 people and Israel’s largest port. An Israeli woman was killed yesterday by shrapnel from a rocket that hit the city, which is 23 miles from Gaza.

Hamas has been engaged in the “Hizballization” of Gaza. Hamas terrorists are now using underground Qassam launch silos to make it more difficult for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to find and destroy them. The launchers, similar to those used by Hizballah, can also be operated by remote control to allow Hamas to fire more rockets at one time.

With assistance from Iran, according to Israeli security officials, Hamas has developed special rockets that can be broken down into small parts to make them easier to smuggle into Gaza. The rockets can easily be reassembled to launch attacks against Israel.

Hamas is using advanced propellants that allow rockets to be stockpiled for longer durations and terrorists to fire a larger number of rockets in a single barrage.

Hamas has been transforming itself from a terrorist group into a terrorist army like Hizballah with a force of 15,000 armed-men. Many of the leaders of this force have been sent to camps in Iran and Lebanon to receive training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In addition to increasing its rocket capabilities, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza from Egypt shoulder-fired RPG anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles, high-quality explosives and anti-aircraft missiles, according to Israeli security officials.

Israel is taking steps to limit civilian casualties while facilitating humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Israel’s actions have specifically targeted Hamas command centers, security installations, rocket-launching sites, weapons stockpiles and weapons smuggling tunnels.

The vast majority of Palestinians killed have been Hamas forces, as Israel seeks to limit civilian casualties. Indeed, Israel has transmitted specific warnings to Gazans within the immediate vicinity of an impending pinpoint air strike allowing them to clear the area before a Hamas target is attacked.

Unfortunately, Hamas locates its terrorist infrastructure in civilian population centers to make it more difficult for Israel to target and to increase the likelihood of civilian casualties when Israel takes action.

Hamas was using labs at the Islamic University—which Israel targeted on Sunday—to develop sophisticated explosives and mortars, while rockets and mortars were stored in campus buildings.

Israel is working closely with the U.N., Red Cross, and World Health Organization to ensure the humanitarian assistance reaches Palestinian civilians in Gaza. On Dec. 28 and 29, as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel, more than 60 truckloads of humanitarian supplies and 105,000 gallons of fuel were transferred to Gaza. Israel also continues to provide 70 percent of Gaza’s electricity.

During the six-month calm, Israel facilitated the transfer into Gaza of more than 14,000 trucks, 185,000 tons of foods and other supplies, more than 7,000 tons of heating gas and more than 10 million gallons of fuel.

American leaders on a bipartisan basis and other world leaders are voicing critical support for Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza. Israel responded strongly this weekend to Hamas’ abandonment of a six-month lull in fighting and its resumption of large-scale rocket barrages on Israeli civilians. Egyptian and Palestinian leaders also have squarely placed the blame on Hamas, which has cynically used its grip over Gaza to attack Israel rather than see after the needs of its own people.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Would You Do?

If Mexicans in Ensenada were continually lobbing kassam rockets into the living rooms of people living in San Diego, wouldn't you HOPE the United States would respond???

8-year-old girls there would have little lists in their pocket of how may seconds it takes to get to the bomb shelter from each room in the house, and from their classroom at school, and any other place they regularly go to. This is what they do in Israel! And every house is conveniently equipped with a safe room, including food, water, and gas masks. Can you imagine living like that?

Sorry, but the regular news venues are really ticking me off. Hopefully, I'll have something more constructive to say about it later.

Math Games

Just had to post that the math games have been a huge hit around here. In one game, you're trying to get your piece through a maze while your opponent is going in the opposite direction and there are some rules about how many spaces you can move and in which direction.

This week's game has a grid of x's and o's, slightly off-set from each other. The x player tries to make a bridge from side to side and the o player tries to make a bridge from top to bottom by connecting o's. You have to find the optimal place to both build your bridge and block your opponent.

Both of these games were in the original Family Math book. Every week we'll try a new one! Great workouts for spatial reasoning, forethought, and logic. Really simple too. I just make a copy of the page, cut it out and off we go!

And in mancala...

Mama: "Oh, Miri, why are you doing...? Oh. I see. You just won."
Amirah: "Strategy, mama, strategy."

And so it went 13-35. OY!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Quite a Hole

DH just sent this to me. I thought it was pretty impressive! Today, the pipes get fixed, BE"H, and later this week, the car. OY.

Last Night of Channukah

Tomorrow is the end of Channukah. It has been very nice. Tonight we had a delicious elk stew, some latkes, and homemade applesauce. Yum. It was a sweet week.

Ready to light.
(BACK: papa, Eli, Raizel, mama; FRONT: Avi, Amirah)


Amirah watching the candles.
I think six menorahs is a very nice number indeed. And, yes, Avi's menorah is a t-square. We only got one new menorah this year for Raizel. Avi will upgrade next year.

I drove our car for the first time since December 11. It was actually pretty nice to not drive for 17 days (except the rental in Milwaukee). Not that we do that many miles anyway. The van is going in this week, hopefully on Tuesday, to get the window/rear end fixed. We just need to wait for the part to come from California. The back has a lot of glass in it so we can't really use that part right now. Dean drove into the repair shop to get an estimate and as soon as the van stopped, the entire window crashed onto the parking lot behind him. That got a bit of a laugh. It has a lovely plastic and tape window for now. They offered us a free loaner car, and Dean asked if we could fit four kids in the back seat. No? Oh, well... We'll take it anyway. At least we can do evening trips to the grocery store and the library (where we just returned 150 books). But I guess we have another week or more of not really driving anywhere.

We had a great learning time today. Dean is going to be working six-day weeks for a while to catch up. He's pretty behind at work, and OHSU classes are resuming earlier than usual this year. So, if he works, we learn! It was nice to be back on track and we had a good time. But not having much of a voice is awful. It is better, though. Here's to a snow-free week!

Colored Pencils

Amirah has been having a lot of fun drawing with colored pencils lately. She worked especially hard on the crocodile and gave it to her papa for a present for the last night of Channukah. We have been doing countless art projects over the last few weeks!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Funny Joke

This came from a Jewish homeschooling list I'm on and I thought it was funny...

We had two young Mormons come to our front door. I answered and after saying hello, I pointed to our mezuzah. "We're Jewish," I said. "Huh," he replied, looking perplexed at the mezuzah. I'm not sure he'd ever actually seen one before and at the very least, it caught him off guard. "It's a mezuzah. We're Jewish. They'll let us live anywhere now," I replied. He stammered something like "have a nice day" and I've never seen anyone leave my porch so quickly.

I would only add, "They let us live ALMOST anywhere now." There are many Arab countries where were Jews are not allowed entry.

Our WEEKS of Learning

I haven't posted about our learning time since the end of November! It has been an unusual few weeks. In early December, Amirah and Eli had their bad colds so they weren't up to snuff. Then our trip to Milwaukee, and everything that has happened in the last couple of weeks including everyone else getting sick and being more or less snowbound put everything else off kilter.

We stuck mostly to the basics (maintaining our Hebrew, lots of torah, and reading/writing/math). Amirah finished being a Penguin in swimming class and was very happy about that! She'll be an Otter in January (the 3rd level of preK/K swimming). Eli will continue being a Penguin. They're looking forward to starting again in a couple of weeks.

I'm hoping this week will again be back to normal. We love the Migdalor Hebrew reading book. It's perfect for us. Amirah is reading sentences in Hebrew like "Papa returns home. Papa is at home for shabbat. Papa eats fish on shabbat." It's really good. We also are starting Level 2 of Shalom Ivrit that we're using for oral Hebrew. That's where our puppets, Tzemi, Zevi, and Achbar help us out. They love that!

This week we'll be starting the next to last reading for Bereishit (Genesis). Amirah hated finishing up this week's parsha. It ended with a real cliffhanger, with Yosef's son showing (falsely) that Binyamin had stolen the cup from Yosef. It was actually all a setup. And now Yosef says that Binyamin has to stay and be Yosef's slave! And all his brothers still don't know that Yosef is Yosef! Amirah can hardly stand it. She did NOT want to read any Laura Ingalls Wilder today, just torah, torah, torah. I didn't mind hearing that! :) But we don't read ahead, so we consoled ourselves with 8 chapters of These Happy Golden Years. And Almanzo just proposed to Laura! We're all very excited. It has been a long time coming.

For reading, Amirah started to burn out on 100 Easy Lessons, so we're taking a little break and reading various little books from Hooked on Phonics and Bob Books, reviewing what we've learned so far. For writing this week, I picked out some easy (or simplified) sentences from These Happy Golden Years. I hope she enjoys doing this. For the first time she spontaneously wrote some sentences, including "Eli and Amirah like to play." and "Some sharks like plankton." It's nice to see. Before that she'd only done various single words or the names of the family. She was pretty happy with it.

For math, we're continuing in Singapore Kindergarten Math B. I've also added some books from my past... I spent 1989-1997 working at the wonderful Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. In addition to being a science museum, they have a truly impressive curriculum development program. I wanted to spice up our math a little, so I bought Frog Math, Family Math, and Family Math for Young Children. I'm going to pick a new math game to play each week. There are many, many great ideas in these books. I bought them used for about $5 each on ebay. They have many other guides for math and science activities that I plan to take advantage of over the years. They even have an entire set of curriculum guides for preK/K on various science topics. And the people writing them were so wonderful to work with. A couple of times a year I have a dream that I'm back there working again. Just a nice visit! :)

That's about it for now. I really just love this and the hours easily evaporate as I'm planning our week (as in now it's already 2:30!). And I spend too much time daydreaming about what we can do in first grade. We are having such a good time and I am so much enjoying watching Amirah and the others grow as each month passes. The rewards of being a parent are eternal and more spiritual than any other endeavour I can think of. No, there is no extrinsic kudos from the world at large, but the shine in their eyes and the leaps of understanding have no measure and are the greatest reward I know.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Interesting new statistic!

The National Center for Education Statistics just released a brief that estimates 1.5 million students were homeschooled in the United States in spring of 2007 - that's 2.9 percent of the student population, up 74% since 1999 and 36% since 2003. You can read the entire paper here:

I haven't yet read the whole report, but have printed it off to read over shabbat.

And that branch that broke the car window? Turns out it actually smashed a lot more than that, but it was covered with snow and ice - $2,200 and 5 days later (hopefully next week) it should be fixed. Guess our time at home will extend into next week. At least our part is only $750! And plumber bill yet to come. Guess we're part of those storm damage/costs statistics now. :)

Shabbat shalom!

The Menu

Here 'tis:

mushroom soup
white bean tomato spread
jerk chicken
coconut rice
sweet potato latkes
winter squash puree
roasted zucchini and red peppers
cranberry almond pie

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I slept! I slept! I slept and slept and slept!
We learned! We learned! We learned and learned and learned!

It feels so good, even though I could easily fall asleep again right now. I think I'll put Avi and Raizel down for simultaneous naps and set the bigs up with a dvd so I can take a nap later this afternoon, but B"H I feel so much better having actually slept.

And the jerry-rigged pipe is holding, and we have a message into our favorite plumber. And I'm not being silly - he is really so nice and it makes the fact that we need him from time to time all that much easier!

The snow should be melting. Hopefully tomorrow we'll get the car window replaced then we'll get this household back to normal. Well, normal for this household anyway. This household is anything but normal! :)

Thank G-d for health. I can't imagine being a mother of young children and getting seriously ill, G-d forbid. Ten days out of commission was ten days too many. B"H for husbands who take vacation/sick leave despite horrendous deadlines at work. We'll be making those hours up over the next couple of weeks, I'm sure! He'll have 70+ hours to make up before classes start January 5. Yeah, right. Oh, well...




At about 11:00 this morning I heard the sound of a rainstorm, but oddly enough no rain was falling on the back deck. Impossible for it to be raining in the front, but not the back. Then I realized the entire rainstorm was coming from the garage. A pipe in the far corner by the garage door had apparently burst and the ice was now thawing. The geyser that greeted me was rather, well, astonishing. I'd only slept 3-4 hours the night before, thanks to this dreadful cough, so I was a bit hazy in my thinking. I managed to call Dean at work, but he didn't answer. I called our neighbor and managed to sputter something like, "Doug (her husband)? Garage... flooded! Ack... oof." Doug was not home. She offered to come over and take the kids while I sorted this out. The burst pipe was just above the cement hole that houses the shut-off valve. I dove in to the gushing spout, reached into the murky water, and after several attempts got the shut-off valve turned. Then I changed clothes.

I got a hold of Dean at work. He had been there a whole 30 minutes already. He finished up and came home. Seven hours and three trips out and after consultations with the neighbor, who was now home, Dean got it jerry-rigged well enough that we could turn the water back on and (please, hashem) have it hold until a plumber can come out. Which will probably be Friday given that it's a holiday.

At last we proceeded with channukah lights and beignets. We're all exhausted. I really hope I get to sleep tonight before 5:00. I really don't like having our whole routine messed up. It's been a weird couple of weeks with the trip to Milwaukee, the snow storms, then many of us coughing and coughing. I've been really out of it. I have no voice, so we can't even do our readaloud learning (torah, Hebrew, stories). I'm hoping, hoping, hoping I'm better by Monday. There are so many things I want to do with the kids. Here's to a better Thursday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Record Snowfall

This is the most snow accumulation Portland has had since 1968! We've had 11.5 inches this month, which is a new record. It has really been amazing. A bit of a break tomorrow, then big winds and more snow later in the week. This is something.

Dean is going back to work in the morning. I finally started to feel a little better this afternoon, after a whole week. Very unusual to be feeling so wiped out for so long. I am so very grateful that Dean took the week plus a day off. Usually I can depend on those many immunities developed while teaching 200+ kids per week. The trip really left me vulnerable to those bugs. Hopefully tomorrow is even better and we can get a good day of learning in. It would be nice to get back on our regular schedule. I'll have to see about getting the van window fixed too. Oy.

Hope everyone is staying warm and cozy out there!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quotes of the Week

Raizel: Mama, I want ketchup.
Mama: Raizel, you don't have anything to put your ketchup on.
Raizel: On my foot!


Raizel, after burping: Oh, goodness! I boop!


Here are some pictures of our snow, snow, snow.

Our back deck

The streets by us

The branch that crunched our rear window... utterly.

Our van, after being dug out with help from neighbors
to moveit away from the heavy branches

The view from our upstairs bedroom.

It is really beautiful here. I just wish I had more oomph to enjoy it. DH stayed home again today. I slept until noon again today. Still feel like I could fall asleep again just 2-1/2 hours later. OY. We could be doing all kinds of projects. Makes me really chomp at the bit when I read about parents complaining about being bored, and about having to spend 3+ weeks with their children instead of two. HUH?!?!?!?!?!?! Oh, well. Looking forward to getting my oomph back.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Channukah I

Through ice and snow
Our neighbor did go
To bring us potatoes and apples.

So latkes we made
And games we played
And snowflakes on windows made dapples.

Thanks to our dear neighbor, who trudged through all the snow and ice to the closest little store, we were able to make latkes and applesauce tonight. Having colds in the head (and elsewhere) there was not much room for forethought, so, no, we didn't think of laying in Channukah supplies on Friday. Oh, well! We managed quite nicely. I felt like I was living in a shtetl trying to scrape up a potato or two and an apple for our first night of channukah. Dean tried to go to the grocery store but realized after 1-1/2 blocks that that was not going to happen.

We croaked our way through the candle blessings and croaked out a song. No dancing to be had. But we did manage a story. Tonight we'll play games and read out loud. Dean and I can probably each manage reading a chapter out loud. Not exactly fully festive, but we pulled off a first night of sorts.

I can't believe how piled with snow we are. I've never seen it like this, and I've been here for 11 years. It's supposed to keep snowing through next week too! Dean has missed a lot of work at a very busy time. He's going to stay home for a little while in the morning so I can sleep late (bless his heart 100x!), then he'll go in and see what's what.

I sure hope we're all feeling better tomorrow. There are so many Channukah projects and learning things I've wanted to do and we haven't had much of a chance yet. Fortunately we did some the week before last. Oh, well. I really hope to get a good night's sleep and have a little more energy tomorrow.

I hope anyone traveling now gets to where they're going!

A Sweet Dream

Two nights ago I dreamed that I asked Eli, "What is the best trip you've ever taken?" And he replied, "The trip to come get you at the airport!" Awwwwwwww... And it probably was too. :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Menu

Here 'tis:

gefilte fish
roasted potatoes
braised elk (1st time... I'll report back!)
roasted cauliflower (slightly, er, carmelized)
roasted mixed vegges (also slightly, er, carmelized)
pumpkin cake

Kind of a little menu, but we're just all feeling pretty little around here today. We're calling it The Lost Week. Oh, well! Next week should be quite normal, especially since dh will work Christmas Day to make up some of the lost time. And channukah is coming... ah... sweet, easy, simple channukah. Light a few candles, fry up some latkes and beignets, sing and dance, and eat chocolate. Ahhhhhh...

Baruch Hashem - What Does It Mean?

(Thanks, Jodi!)

Baruch ("bah-ROOCH" with a German "ch" sound at the end)
Hashem ("ha-SHEM")

"Baruch" means "blessed."
"Hashem" means "the name."

It's a way of saying "thank G-d."

Hashem is the word we use to refer to G-d in everyday normal speech, as opposed to the many names he has that we use during prayer. Since we are mere mortals, and can't really bless Hashem, the word "baruch" when used to refer to Hashem usually means that Hashem is the source of all blessings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baruch Hashem, Part 2

Baruch hashem, the ladder that flew off of the truck just ahead of my husband narrowly missed crashing into our van when he went to collect our luggage this morning.

Baruch hashem, our luggage had arrived only one hour before he got to the airport. We (sillies) hadn't even thought of calling ahead to see if it was there.

Baruch hashem, the gasket that holds all the oil in the car and that had become frozen and then mis-shapen from the cold, and then allowed (nearly) the entire amount of oil to dribble all the way as far as the catalytic converter did not catch on fire and did not destroy the engine.

Baruch hashem, the amount of the repairs to said van was pretty much equal to what we saved by not flying the other three members of the family out to Milwaukee with us.

Baruch hashem, Raizel is sounding much better now after steroids, anitbiotics, and albuterol inhalers.

Baruch hashem, I only slept half as much as yesterday. Only 12 hours so far.

Baruch hashem, dear husband is taking the entire week off despite this being one of the busiest weeks for him as they get ready for the winter term at school.

Baruch hashem, same dear husband has left one sleeping child and taken the other three to the library (which is hopefully open) and to work to collect a projector so we can all watch a movie tonight. And Saturday night. And probably Sunday night too if we're all still feeling BLEAH.

Baruch hashem, we declared this week Al Pi Darko Academy's Art Week. We did nothing but art projects yesterday and today. It's been lots of fun. We drew oil pastel snowmen and made little matchboxes out of turquoise and purple card stock today.

Baruch hashem, Dean's mother has postponed her trip so they don't risk driving through the snow and ice to drop her at the bus station.

Baruch hashem, the county court sent me a "you're excused" notice for jury duty. I was afraid I would be required to do it simply because I turned it in two days after I was supposed to be there. Phew!

Baruch hashem, we're all going to have a nice hot meal of tofu macaroni and cheese and call it good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baruch Hashem

Baruch hashem, we're back from Milwaukee. Mission accomplished, and Raizel and Avi are 100% Jewish. And we used a court with an impeccable reputation so their status and that of their descendents will never be in question.

Baruch hashem, they fixed the cockpit problem on flight #1 and we were able to take off after only an hour delay.

Baruch hashem, the second flight was able to take off with only an hour delay.

Baruch hashem, I found a nice security guard in a parking lot at 1:00 in the morning who explained to me that even thought that great big hotel said Hyatt on the front, the back entrance was Amerisuites, where we had a reservation. (Huh?) Yes, the Hyatt was Amerisuites. Hm.

Baruch hashem, I got 2 hours of sleep instead of 0 when we had to get up and go meet the beit din (court).

Baruch hashem for google maps. I got to the beit din without getting lost and I got there exactly on time.

Baruch hashem, Avi laughed when he got dipped in the mikveh.

Baruch hashem, Raizel had her mama waiting right there to wrap her up in a towel after her dunking.

Baruch hashem, I only got my sense of direction mixed up for about 30 minutes (total; many mixups!) going back to the hotel. I had to go off my map and pick up the legal document from the kollel. Uh oh. That's not part of the map plan. Uh oh.

Baruch hashem, we got back to the hotel in time to pack our bags.

Baruch hashem, it took us 3 minutes to drive to the airport.

Baruch hashem, I got to the airport at 12:15 and they booked me on an earlier flight to Chicago.

Baruch hashem, I got to the boarding area of my airplane 15 minutes before boarding.

Baruch hashem, we were only delayed one hour in boarding, then two hours waiting for a de-icing machine to wash down the plane, then one hour to taxi since only two runways were open due to snow accumulation.

Baruch hashem, the emergency alarm went off and we had an aborted takeoff. Something was wrong with one of the emergency doors and it wasn't sealed properly.

Baruch hashem, this flight getting canceled probably avoided some other disaster.

Baruch hashem, I got re-booked onto a flight that left Chicago at 10:00. I wasn't supposed to be able to get onto that flight, but I went to the counter anyway. He offered me back to back seats. I thought GREAT someone else can deal with Raizel who was about fit to be tied at this point, understandably. But no, I told him it would be better if we had seats together, and somehow he found 2 seats on an overbooked flight (?). Maybe sometimes in this pc world, people do give consideration to women and children.

Baruch hashem, WE GOT HOME!!!!!!!!! At 1:00 in the morning. On the only flight that made it from Milwaukee to Portland that day. No luggage, no car seats, but who cares? And Dean (!) and Eli (!) and Amirah (!) were all there to meet us jumping up and down. It has never felt so good to hug all my loved ones.

Raizel is not doing so well. Her bronchial condition got pretty bad last night. We gave her albuterol (thanks to Amirah's former (please, hashem) asthma we have a supply on hand. It didn't seem to help though. She's at the doctor right now.

That was by far the roughest bout of air travel I have ever had. A good reminder why I always used to avoid O'Hare when I had more occasion to travel that way and why United is not my airlines of choice, my latest reason being that they do not provide pre-boarding to families with young children, or any consideration at all, for that matter. And being stuck on a not-moving (mostly) plane for 5 hours, with no offer of even a beverage is horrible. And non-potable water in the bathroom. Ugh. Anyway....


Monday, December 15, 2008

2 Duds, Snow, and Up and Out

First, we saw two really bad movies Sunday night and one so-so (well... I fell asleep 15 minutes into the first one and saw the last 15 minutes, then we watched 10 minutes of the second one, and 30 minutes of the third one). Horton Hears a Who was, well, awful. Bad. Really bad. Then we watched a few minutes of Amazing Planet. Ugh. Like a video game on steroids. It made us all seasick with its relentless 2-second shots and trying to wow the viewer with, well, what I don't know. Then we got to a special on Snow Tigers. Mediocre. Very light on facts. We're going to back to anything with Richard Attenborough. Fact rich, and not trying to wow the viewer or work too hard to convince us that science is COOL, COOL, AWESOME. Or Blue Planet. All of the ones we're enjoying so much are BBC.

And SNOW. Lots of it. And what did we do this afternoon? Go shopping! Of all things, Raizel really needed a really warm jacket since we're going to cold, snowy Milwaukee tomorrow and she didn't really have a good one. I had visions of all the jackets being sold out at Fred Meyer, but B"H there were a lot left on their 50% off rack. Got one for Eli too. And stocked up on food for the trip. If we get stuck in an airport somewhere, I do NOT want to try to survive on soda and chips (reliably kosher airport snacks). And got chains so we can actually GET to the airport tomorrow! Also managed to (almost) chase down a written statement we need from the beis din (Jewish court) here stating that the bris had been observed and performed halachically, etc., etc., etc. OY.

We are scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee at 11:15, pick up a car, and drive the 1/4 mile (B"H!) to our hotel in wintery, snowy Milwaukee. Oh, joy. Then there's the 7:00 (i.e. 5:00) wakeup to get to the shul on time for our 1-hour (max) meeting and pool dip with the Jewish court. At least Milwaukee is flat and the weather is cold (none of that freezing-refreezing business!) so driving shouldn't be too bad... I hope. We will all be glad to be home Tuesday night, g-d willing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mommy Brain Doozie

Like a bolt of lightning, a thought entered my head a few minutes ago that I had never turned in my "please excuse me from jury duty" letter. I frantically searched for the jury duty notice, found it in 30 seconds (WOW!!!) and noticed that I was supposed to report this morning. Good grief. So, I wrote my note begging off jury duty for the next 18, er, 17 years (just changed the date and added two more kids from last year's summons). I'll mail it in tomorrow. I guess they won't charge me for being in contempt of court quite yet. OY! Glad the thought entered my head just now. Todah, Hashem!

The Menu

There hasn't been much time for posting, but there's always a menu!

Chopped liver
Stewed cabbage
Steamed corn
Oven-fried chicken
Acorn squash with apple stuffing
Roasted zucchini and carrots
Apple cake

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Hero

This will make you cry.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Menu

Chicken coconut lemongrass soup
Jasmine rice
Pad Thai
Thai Eggplant with Basil
Broiled lime chicken
Cucumber jalapeno salad
Apple Cake

Miso Soup

What can I say? We haven't exactly been culinary traditionalists lately. But then we don't really eat most kugels (high carb), fish is a splurge for us, cholent, well, if you haven't had it then let's just say it's just not the dish that makes my heart go pitter-pat. Of course there can be very good cholent, and I've made it on occasion, but really the best part of cholent is that it's one of those dishes that can survive forever in a hot oven (we often leave food in the oven/crockpot overnight so we can have hot food on shabbat).

We've decided to declare the first shabbat of every (secular) month a Sushi Lunch Shabbat. So, here we are.

Now, about sleep... I should be getting some instead of kvetching about cholent.


Miss Razzle Dazzle. Miss Chiff. Her two nicknames say it all. Dear husband says she is like a deluxe box of fireworks that all goes off at once. Snap. Crackle. Sizzle. Pop. Boom. In a good way. She's very passionate. She can go from very serious and focused to hysterically giggling to crying in moments. Like a dramatic spring thundershower.

She recites her brachos (blessings) with great passion. She knows her alef bet pretty well, though sometimes the order is a bit random! She sings the order of the first 7 parshas of Bereishis (Genesis). She gives the most enthusiastic "amens" every time she hears someone else make a bracha. She loves anything we say in Hebrew and the words roll around on her tongue as if she is relishing every sound. She always wants a bencher when we do the after-eating brachos and will sit there "reading" the entire time too. It is also important to her that she be on the right page.

She has an intense curiosity for everything, which can lead both to a lot of mischief and a lot of creative experiments. Her feet dance wherever she goes. She likes Amirah to give her sweet, long hugs when she's gotten in trouble with mama because she was naughty. (Her sister gladly obliges...) She loves the "I want it, I don't want it, I want it, I don't want it" game and is quite miffed when we believe that she doesn't want it and we (gasp!) put it away.

Her face can make a hundred different expressions. She loves to play with Eli. She and Eli will disappear upstairs and play with trains, legos, and blocks for over an hour. When she first came home six months ago, she had no idea what a book was for. Now she would gladly be read to endlessly about anything. Every night, she loves to give Avi a hug, sing shema to him, and be the one to close his bedroom door.

She does not like to have her hair done, but she loves how nice it looks afterwards. She likes to feel squishy-mooshy things between her hands - kleenex soaked in the sink, soup, yogurt, lotion. The messier, the better. Her language ability is as good as a child who was born here. She speaks volumes of full sentences every day. I love her little arms wrapped around my neck. She mixes the kapow of Eli with the snuggle of Amirah for a unique mix that is all Raizel. Like Eli, she really likes to make everyone laugh.

Why hashem had our dear daughter's precious soul end up halfway around the world, I don't know. But I do know that she is our daughter through-and-through. She brings a vivaciousness that is so fun to be around. She adds so much to our family and she is so clearly the daughter and sister we were meant to have. I am very thankful to be her mother.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Fast Meal

On Tuesdays, I teach my family of piano students (3 brothers) at their house - great piano, quiet house, much better than doing it at home these days! So I'm out of the house (picking up Dean, driving everyone home, driving to teach, teaching, driving home) from 3:30-6:45. This is my favorite teaching day dinner:

3 lbs frozen chicken
1 cup of rice
2 cups of water
1/4 cup lemon juice

Put the rice, water and lemon juice in first, then rest the whole wad of frozen chicken (I use leg quarters) on top. Cook it on high for 3 hours (or low for 6). Comes out great every time. The rice is really creamy and the chicken is very tender. I need to find a couple more reliable crock pot recipes. It seems that most crock pot recipes I come across use all kinds of weird processed ingredients! I'll have to do a little more research to have a repertoire of dishes. We do chili in the crock pot fairly often. And frozen beef with onions, enchilada sauce, and black beans works pretty well too. Hmmmmmm....


So many of these posts have focused on our learning, that I haven't posted that much about their day-to-day not-learning stuff! So tonight I thought I would write a little bit about Eli.

Eli was named after Dean's stepfather (Chaim; Eli's name is Chaim Eliyahu) who, by all reports, was a real comedian. Eli loves to be funny. He likes to take cold baths, and complains when I try to mix in some warm water. He weighs one pound more than Raizel who is almost exactly one year younger. He loves to wash windows. The most often heard phrase downstairs (in a high-pitched, very earnest voice) is, "Raizel, do you want to come upstairs and play with me?" He likes to talk in Avi and Raizel voices. On the telephone he definitely never uses his own voice. He thinks it is hilarious when Avi walks across the room. He likes to kiss Avi good night on his big toe.

He wakes up every morning asking if we can work on the alef bet. He's learned the first 9 of 22 letters and when I run out of projects he clamors, "More, more!" I think he's going to know his alef bet long before he knows his alphabet. He needs a lot more snuggle time than he asks for. He does not like the sounds of airplanes flying over the house (they're very distant). We tossed his very raggedy, long-loved blanket into the garage a while ago, and he only mentioned it once or twice after that.

Every time he puts on his swimsuit he says in a little squeaky voice, "Did someone GIVE this to me???" (Yes, someone did... in June!) All summer, he loved his swimming lessons. This fall he moved up into Amirah's class and suddenly he didn't want to go. Every day before class he says he doesn't want to go, then he goes and laughs and splashes and swims. Today he said he would go, but only if he could just do back floats. I reassured him that he could do back floats, and he might like trying to kick hard enough to splash me too! He thought that was a good idea.

Every very once in a while (like tonight), he'll give his mama a nice long hug and several kisses on the shoulder and chin. These keep mama humming for quite a long time. Long enough to make it to the next installment. Eli's favorite food? Air. He's all muscle and very, very quick. His brain works really fast too. He loves to make his food brachos (blessings). It's quite a din of brachos at our table every meal since Amirah makes hers and Raizel does hers with just a couple of word prompts and Eli does his. Every time you make a bracha, an angel is created and goes off on a mission. If you think about it ahead of time you can send those angels on specific missions, like making someone feel better. I think there must be a very crowded sky above our house at dinner time! :)

His favorite color? Red. His favorite toy? Boxes and laundry baskets. His favorite subject in a book? Trucks. His eyes really light up when I let him bring the big box of books that lives by his bed and I say I'll read every one of them. He likes it when I ask him "important" questions like, "Which is more important - to have food or a place to live? Which is more important - to have lots and lots of toys or one good toy that you love very much?"

He is my sweet, feisty, spicy, yummy, speedy, high-wattage, twinkly boy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Lovely Tribute

Here is a lovely tribute to Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg. The Portland Jewish community is holding a memorial service on Monday at 7 pm. Our family will be going, BE"H. Why, for a couple that lived thousands of miles away? In the Jewish community we do not have six degrees of separation; it is rarely more than two. An event like this truly shakes the community to the core. May we never again know such sorrow.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our Week of Learning

Our week of learning was a bit abbreviated...

Early Monday morning, Raizel came in and swiped my glasses before I was fully conscious and before I knew it they were utterly broken. It took until 11:00 that morning to find a somewhat-functioning second pair that allowed me to drive us all to the m-m-m-mall (I call it getting "malled") so I could get a replacement pair at one of those one-hour places. The insurance had just paid for the last pair a few months ago, so first had to go get a copy of my prescription.

We had a delightfully unexpected visitor call on Sunday to say that she was driving up on a whim from the Bay Area. JK stayed for two nights and got to meet Avi and Raizel for the first time. It was a fun, if brief, visit.

Then papa had Thursday and Friday off. Thursday we went to the zoo with 25,000 other people who thought it was a great thing to do on a rainy day. We thought it would be empty, but it was packed. Didn't realize it was free admission day! A&E were very excited because, since there was no parking, that meant we got to take the big yellow school bus from the satellite parking lot. I hadn't packed lunch, just a few meager snacks, and everything took longer than expected. We came home really hungry!

Friday, I finished cooking (but I got most of it done earlier in the week... YAY!), and papa did a run to the dump and Good Will. He was also going to take 4 boxes and 3 bags of kid clothing to the resale shop, but it hadn't occurred to us that they would be closed. Oh, well. It was a nice try!

So....... our learning!

We did tefillos and parsha. Amirah's new Hebrew books arrived, so we eagerly dove into the first few pages of those. It's exactly what I hoped it would be. We did one morning of alef bet with Eli and Raizel. Our mitzvah of the week was derech eretz (basically, good manners) and we will continue that this coming week since it's a biggie and we only spent one session on it. The melacha of the week was m'amer (gathering, i.e. sheaves of wheat). We only got to that once, and it really needs to be studied daily for a week to get into (our!) brain. Amirah finished four reading lessons. I think we did writing one day and math one day. We have finished Little Town on the Prairie and couldn't find the next book, which I'm almost certain I already got from the library... have to check.

On Monday for art, we did print-making. This is a GREAT activity that we've done before. You take a hard surface (cookie sheet or, in our case, shoe boxes) and paint a very light coat of black paint on the box. With a finger you draw a picture or design in the paint then you press a piece of construction paper or card stock onto the paint and lift the image off. If you do several, you can tape them together into a big poster. Eli loved this one, and Amirah's friend N joined us too. They had a good time. After that we did music class with Amirah's friends N and L. It was great fun. I'm so glad we're doing this. Avi loves playing the drums, and he even keeps a steady beat! The other kids seemed to enjoy it a lot. It's going to be great having this every week.

That's about it for now! I spent Friday night reading The Well-Trained Mind and daydreaming about 1st grade materials. I'm also starting to think how to fit everything in (Jewish studies and secular) and not get overwhelmed! Learning is such a smorgasbord. :) It's also nice to get into my head we're we are headed to next year. What a ride.

Heavy Heart

The rabbi and his wife were murdered. This is an event of unspeakable evil. The horror they must have felt in their last moments is unimaginable. B"H their 2-year-old son, Moshe, escaped in the arms of his nanny. This young couple was in India to do nothing but bring Jews back to Judaism (Jews do not proselytize to non-Jews) and provide hospitality to any Jew traveling in India. The building they had for this purpose was a pre-selected target by these most evil of rashaim. Here is a link to more details about the horror.

When a horrible event like this occurs, it is a traditional practice to make a new commitment to a mitzvah. I have decided on a couple of things.

1) BE"H, I will learn to recite tehillim (psalms) with pirush hamilos (knowing the translation of the words being said). Tehillim are said daily, and many tehillim are said in times of distress. I have started with psalm 1 and psalm 20. I will recite them and study the words until I really know them. And BE"H study more after that!

2) I have started to learn to read Rashi. Rashi is an 11th-century commentator on the torah, and it is the first commentary that students learn. He brilliantly elucidates the basic meaning of the text and fills in some blanks that are answered in the oral torah. Fortunately, I have 3 years before Amirah begins to study Rashi! Our rebbetzin has started a text-based torah study class (harder to find in Portland than one might think!!), and while the other three are working on the torah text, I'm going to work on the Rashi. Rashi script is different from Hebrew script. Six or seven of the letters are utterly different, and the rest are different but pretty close. The script was not actually used by Rashi himself, but rather was used by typesetters to ensure that his comments were not confused with the text of the torah itself. His commentary is printed in almost all chumashim (the first 5 books of torah). But not with vowels! I need to get an edition that includes vowels. Traditionally, Hebrew is not printed with vowels, unless you're a student just learning to read or it's a newspaper for non-native speakers!

May the memory of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg be for a blessing, and may we know no more sorrow. And may we all perform acts of chesed/kindness that will make this world a better place.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Menu

Herring beet walnut salad
Chicken noodle soup
Mashed potatoes
Roasted sesame cabbage
Green salad
Mixed roasted vegetables
Apple cake

100% comfort food. Kind of like Thanksgiving food. :)

We don't really do anything for Thanksgiving. There's nothing in orthodox Jewish law that prohibits it, though many orthodox Jews simply don't celebrate non-Jewish holidays. Three years ago we were traveling on Thanksgiving and had Chinese take-out and thought it was one of the best Thanksgivings we had ever had, largely because of the total novelty of getting kosher Chinese takeout. It also felt really odd to have a big meal the night before shabbat. Usually, in anticipation of all the delicious delicacies that enhance our enjoyment of shabbat, we have a very simple Thursday night meal. Thursday is usually breakfast night - pancakes, eggs, waffles, omelets. I just don't like the feeling of shabbat getting upstaged by a different meal the night before.

What's the purpose of Thanksgiving? Why was it declared in the first place? Here are excerpts from what George Washington declared when he proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day:

It will be "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

That this day "be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks..."

It is a day to be thankful for God's care and protection; for tranquility, union, and plenty; for our national government; for civil and religious liberty; and for all of God's favors.

These are all very Jewish notions that are present in our daily tefillos (prayers) and thoughts, and most especially during the holiest time of shabbat. We are, I hope, continually thankful and grateful for all that we have. To have a day set aside for this just feels odd to me, when our religion already has so much of it built into our daily lives. Shabbat really is the ultimate Thanksgiving.

So, we had Eggs Benedict tonight, and it was yummy. And tomorrow we will have our thanksgiving feast as we do every week. We will take a pause in our normal stream of time, set aside prayers for things we lack just as we do every shabbat, and thank God for the incredible abundance that we have in this place and time in which we are living.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Prayers Needed

We are all davening for the Jews and British and American citizens that have been targeted in the horrible terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Many of us in the west cannot comprehend this kind of hatred. As far as is known, there are currently eight Jewish hostages being held, including a rabbi and his wife. Please daven for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis. B"H today is a national holiday so that Jews everywhere can pray for the safety of these families.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quote of the Week

Mama: Eli, what would you really like to do today?
Eli: Learning!!!!!

So we did, just Eli and me, for a half-hour on the couch. He was a real sweetie today, going out of his way to do nice things for his siblings, giving his mama those much-treasured boy hugs and kisses (rarer than the girl hugs and kisses!), using all his best manners and just being a yummy little boy. It was really cute.

Tomorrow, we are the lucky recipients of a surprise visit from JK, who will be visiting for a few days. We're looking forward to that!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This Week's Art Projects

We did a lot of little projects this week. This one was fun. We made 4 vertical lines and 4 horizontal lines, then erased and added random straight lines to create many different rectangles and squares. We went over the lines in heavy black crayons, then filled in the shapes with primary colors (red, blue, yellow). It was really fun to watch Eli carefully fill in his squares. He really liked this project.



On a different day I printed off simple outlines of a dove and a fish. We filled them in with paper mosaic tiles.





I'm not sure what made us decide to do an Israeli flag, but Amirah decided this would be a fun project...

A while ago we made several of these but I didn't post it. We took coffee filters and folded them many times. Then we dipped the point and edges into food coloring diluted with water. These turned out beautiful!

That's the week of art!

Our Week of Learning

I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. There. Just had to get it out of my system. :)

We had a nicely busy week, just humming along. The S Family came over one night and we did a slide show of their recent trip to Israel. Very fun to see pictures of their trip and share in the adventure. It was also lovely to daydream about taking our whole family some day, BE"H. After the Israel slides, we screened one of the episodes from Blue Planet. Breathtaking. We love this whole series. Did you know a coral reef releases its eggs and sperm in one big orchestrated evening every year? The closeup video they had of the eggs being released really took our breath away. Now for the nitty-gritty.

Still just status quo, same as the last two weeks. Last week and in the coming week (and probably the next!) we'll have a focused effort put into the words of Een Kelokeinu - understanding the text and memorizing the verses at least well enough to follow my lead.

Each week we sing a little sing-song verse to memorize the names of the parshas in sefer Bereishit (genesis). We've started the sixth parsha of twelve tonight, and so far Amirah (and Raizel!) can sing all the parshas in order. I wonder if we can make it to twelve? We read My First Parsha book as soon as shabbat was over and sang our little song. It's nice to start the week right away with a taste of the new week's parsha. We've also started having very lively parsha quizzes on Friday nights and Saturdays, and it's a real pleasure to actually be having more involved parsha discussions at the table with the kids. I love this, and look forward to more and more.

MITZVA OF THE WEEK: burying the dead
In this week's parsha, Avraham buys the cave of Machpelah for Sarah's grave. We talked about the chevra kadisha, the group of men or women that stays with the body from the moment of death until the body is buried. They guard the body, wash it, dress the body in a white shroud, and recite tehillim. The body is placed in a plain wooden coffin (unless they are buried in Israel in which case no casket is used at all). All Jews, rich or poor, are buried alike in this manner. No fancy caskets, no fancy outfits, no flowers. We go out as we came in. We don't burn bodies because that was the tradition of the pagan religions that surrounded us in our beginnings. And since World War II that thought has become even more abhorrent (though that was not part of our discussion this week!). The chevra kaddisha is considered to perform one of the greatest acts of chesed (kindness) because it is a favor that cannot be returned.

MELACHA OF THE WEEK: kotzer (reap)
We had a lot of fun acting out plowing our field (choresh), planting our field (zoreah), and reaping our crop (kotzer). We have these three melachot down pretty well. We learned that we don't cut down flowers or plants or trees on shabbat. We also may not smell a flower that is growing for we might be tempted to cut it. If the flowers are already cut, then it is okay. We also can't climb a tree because we might break a branch.

We continued our study of chesed because it is so much a part of the last parsha and this one. Eliezer goes in search of a wife for Yitzchak, and decides that whichever girl offers water to both him and his camels will make a suitable wife for Yitzchak. Yitzchak, like Avraham, will be doing a lot of kiruv (outreach) and will need a wife who is kind and hospitable (more discussions of hachnasat orchim!). He is successful in his search, and brings home Rivka. She enters the tent of Sarah, and, like for Sarah, her shabbat candles stayed lit for a week, her challah miraculously multiplied, and the cloud of the shechinah (divine presence) hovered over their tent.

Swimming along here. We're on lesson 70 of 100! Eli loves doing Get Ready for the Code. He loves figuring out words that begin with the letters we're studying and doing a couple of pages in his book as it suits him. I always let him say yes or no to doing it.

HWOT has been a nice little book, but I think it wasn't really necessary to buy it. I could have easily produced practice sheets for her. On the other hand, it was only $7 or so, so I guess it saves me quite a bit of time! I've really been using a more Charlotte Mason approach - short writing assignments with a focus on producing beautifully formed letters. I really think this is the way to do it, instead of practicing a bunch of letters that get increasingly poor. Also, we always stop after writing 4 or 5 letters or words and circle the one that was the most accurately written so she really recognizes what looks good. I only ask for a page per day, and sometimes she does more than this.

Amirah loves math. She's been doing at least twice as much as I think we "ought" to do. Right now we're doing addition with numbers 1-10, including doing things like 5 + ? = 8. Getting ready for subtraction! We're also working on number lines and counting up, i.e. when you have 5+3 you say "5" then count "6, 7, 8" instead of counting from 1 to 8. She gets a kick out of it. Eli is working on recognizing the numbers 1 to 5 and counting objects.

We're about 2/3 through Little Town on the Prairie. Laura just got to go for a first ride in Almanzo's buggy, and Nellie Olsen showed up in town (and school). We've also added a few other companions. I've decided to read one Jewish folk tale every day. Right now we're reading My Grandmother's Stories. Really well-told, and many of the stories have charming twists and details that are not quite expected.

In our geography book, we reviewed chapter one, and started in on chapter two. We learned about the atmosphere, and how Hashem created the waters below (water) and the waters above (atmosphere). In Hebrew the words are mayim (water) and shamayim (heavens, lit. "fire waters"). Fire water is a really interesting image to use in thinking of the gases in the atmosphere. We had fun with that. We'll continue Chapter 2 this week. There are 11 chapters, and we're wandering through it slowly, doing a chapter every 2 or 3 weeks.

Amirah has a huge interest in the deep sea ecosystem, so we're doing some extra study of that. We're reading an interesting book aptly called The Deep Sea and we have many other books from the library for us to explore. We read about a species of jelly that is longer than a blue whale. We have decided to do a mini-unit on jellies this week.

We had a friend of Amirah's over on Monday, and I decided to do an impromptu music class. Everyone had a really great time. So did I! It's been fun to think about, and I don't associate any feeling of stress with it so I know it will be a good thing. Another friend of Amirah's will be joining us on Monday too. This week we did a Hebrew counting game, a game where the children demonstrated different physical responses (running, jumping, arms swinging, standing still, etc.) to different sounds on the drum, and a rhyme with changes in voice inflection and some hand motions. We also took out many different rhythm instruments and explored their sounds (and silence!). Students were introduced to the alto xylophone and learned proper mallet technique and how to do a simple repeating pattern to accompany a name song we did. The music teaching I've done so many years of (more than two decades!) so it's very easy to do the lesson planning. The fun part is getting to add in songs that relate to the torah/parsha/Hebrew. I'm really excited about adding this and seeing that it doesn't add stress to the week - just pleasure!

PHEW! I think that sums up the week. It was very rich and the kids are all doing great. I just love doing this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Menu

Here 'tis:

Harira (lamb, tomato, lentil soup)
Carrot salad
Beet salad
Green salad with oranges and walnuts
Spinach tagine
Brown rice
Morrocan apricot chicken
Apple cake

Morrocan feast tonight. Ditto tomorrow. :)

It's been a great week!!!! So much happening, so little time to post. Lots of great educational adventures. Amirah decided she wanted to do a little research project on a strange sea creature that is longer than a blue whale and disintegrates into a million pieces if it is taken out of the water. Some kind of jelly or snake, I'm not sure, but I'll know more by next week! We've been studying all about deep-sea life. Amazing what they've discovered just in the past few years. We've also been reading a Jewish folk tale every day which has been a really nice addition to our routine. And Amirah has enjoyed watching three shiurim at - a great online torah-learning site that has hundreds of free classes. One was all about the melachah of koshair (tying and untying knots - a melacha we haven't yet studied). You would have thought she was watching a comedy show from the sounds of it! The rabbi's assistant was pulling out all kinds of examples of knots that one might (or might not) encounter on shabbat - shoes, rain coats, twist-ties, scarves... she thought it was really funny. And she remembers nearly verbatim what the rabbi said several days later! This will be another great resource to integrate into our week. Great for me too! The truth is I homeschool for utterly selfish reasons - I get to learn right along with them! It's been fun, and I've gone on way too long.

Shabbat is imminent. Regular time is retreating and we're entering the shabbat zone. All worries cease. All time pressure ceases. The candles get lit. The grape juice is drunk. The challah - YUM. The feasting. Enjoying each other's company. Lots of reading and naps. Reviewing the parsha of the week. What a glorious, brilliant day. A weekly pinnacle of thanksgiving. Ahhhhhh....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

TEFILLAH (prayer)
Same as last week. It will take a few weeks to get these all under our belt. It's been great! We've really gotten into the tefillah routine.

IVRIT (Hebrew)
We pretty much finished up with Shalom Ivrit, book 1. We'll just be doing some vocabulary and grammar review while we're waiting for our new books to come. Rosetta Stone is going very well. Amirah is really enjoying it. Eli has learned the first four letters (and so has Raizel!) of the alef bet. Amirah has been a great "assistant teacher." We had fun going on an alef-bet-gimmel-dalet hunt around the living room I taped letters up all over the room and they had to run to whichever letter I called out. They thought this was hilarious. Raizel is one smart cookie. :)

MITZVA (commandment) OF THE WEEK: hachnasat orchim (hospitality) In honor of this mitzvah-of-the-week, we invited LOTS of shabbat guests and did we have a great time! It really is not much more trouble to cook for 12 rather than 6 (or 7 or 8). Just a few more logistics to get the tables together. What a *great* time we had today with a full house - lots of ruach, singing, great drashes, and good friends. It was really, really nice to have the house so full for shabbat.

MELACHA (work prohibited on shabbat) OF THE WEEK: zoreah (planting). Again, we got to see plenty of examples of this in The Long Winter (well, as soon as that long winter was over, anyway!).

MIDDAH (character trait) OF THE WEEK: chesed (kindness). We learned that there are two kinds of chesed. The basic form is to see someone in trouble or in need and helping them out. In this case, the impetus comes from the other person. The higher form of chesed is to do a chesed without seeing a need in someone else, but simply for the sake of doing a chesed. I thought this was a very interesting distinction. Avraham, of course, was a master of this middah.

What an exciting torah reading this week!! From Avraham and Sarah learning they would have a child (ha, ha), the destruction of Sodom and Amora, the kidnapping of Sarah by Avimelech, and the birth and later near-sacrifice of Yitzchak, and Hagar and Yishmael getting the boot. WOW. It was high drama. Amirah remembered every detail. We quizzed her on Friday and Saturday on nearly every detail of the parsha and she remembered it all. It was quite riveting.

We're on lesson 67 of 100!

Got a few pages done in Handwriting Without Tears. I want to finish the book by late spring or so, and if we only do one page per day we'll easily get there. She's doing great. Eli is really liking his writing book too, and learned to form F and E with the wooden letter pieces we have. Then he wrote some Es and Fs too and thought it was funny.

We mostly learned about different ways to add up to a specific number, i.e. 0 + 5 and 1 + 4 and 2 + 3 and 3 + 2 and 4 + 1 and 5+ 0 all equal 5. We did adding like this up to 10. Amirah picks up on it all pretty quickly.

Eli is learning to identify the numbers 1 to 5 and apply them to groups of objects. Amirah and I help Eli and Raizel count to 20 and they are both putting their counting skills to good use playing Hide and Seek, accompanied by gales of laughter when Raizel triumphantly shouts out TWENTY at the top of her lungs.

We didn't do anything formally, but she has been very interested in animals and fish that live in polar seas, so we talked about the geographical locations of the Antarctic and Arctic - how one usually appears at the bottom of the map (south) and the other at the top (north). We also looked at the shape of North America and the United States and where Oregon was and our city inside that.

We finished The Long Winter, and are a few chapters into Little Town on the Prairie. Our enthusiasm for the series has not waned one little bit. I'm kind of sad there are only two more books after this one!!

What a satisfying job this is. There is a lot of prep work to do, but really the bigger challenge is managing all four children with two of them so very little. In two more years this should really be a piece of cake, and at least once I become more familiar with a variety of materials it's just a matter of adapting to different learning styles. I'm really curious to see how different they are. What an adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Menu

In honor of this week's parsha, we have been studying the middah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests). Avraham displayed this middah par excellence. And that in turn has inspired us to invite a whole bunch of guests for shabbat lunch. I know at least six are coming, and maybe a couple of others. I'm really looking forward to it. We've had one or two guests here and there but it's been a while since we had a really full shabbat table.

So, here's the menu!!

Chick pea tomato rice soup with rye croutons*
Poached salmon with aioli
Rosemary Garlic Lamb
Green salad
Steamed cracked wheat
Baked squash
Apple cake

same as above, but no lamb, and:
Pineapple kugel
Hazelnut apple chicken wraps
Sun-dried tomato puff pastry pinwheels
Chocolate cake with (tofu) frosting

*I bought three HUGE loaves of day-old bread at the local kosher bagel store. Much to my dismay, when I got home I discovered that I had bought rye bread. Rye bread??? I like rye bread fine, but three HUGE loaves??? What would I do with it all? Well, tonight I made croutons, and let me tell you those were surprisingly some of the best croutons I'd ever had. I thought they would be okay, but they're scrumptious - better than rye bread itself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peanuts for the Peanut

Courtesy of my microbiologist husband who always thought that keeping peanuts away from the peanut was a bad idea. Here's an article about the latest research.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our Week of Learning

We had another really good week (I don't think there is such a thing as a bad week!). Here's a synopsis of what we did:

TEFILLAH (prayer)
We are now up to doing modeh ani, negel vasser, reishit chochmah, tzitzit, torah tziva, mah tovu, adon olam, torah berachos, shema, een kelokeinu. The last two weeks, we did a special focus on clearly enunciating the words of mah tovu.

IVRIT (Hebrew)
We're cranking away on Rosetta Stone. We're in the last chapter of Shalom Ivrit. Eli is doing a set of books called Otiyot Step by Step and loves doing it. Amirah helps him out and we do it together. We also read at least one short story each day in Hebrew. This past week we also had our first Amirah-initiated conversation in Hebrew that was outside our usual Hebrew time. She looked outside and said (in Hebrew), "It's cold outside. It's raining." Mama: "Do you want your hat?" Amirah: "Yes, mama I want my hat." She was thrilled to use it this way. I'm looking forward to more and more of this.

MITZVA (commandment) OF THE WEEK: brit milah (Abraham circumcised himself and the members of his household in this week's parsha). That one was an interesting discussion!

MELACHA (work prohibited on shabbat) OF THE WEEK: choresh (plowing). A melacha is something we can't do on shabbat. Everything connected to building the mishkan are the things we can't do on shabbat. Plowing is the first step towards making bread, so plowing is issur (prohibited). Fun to talk about plowing, in light of all the plowing we've been reading about in the Little House books! We were already quite familiar with the idea. :)

MIDDAH (character trait) OF THE WEEK: bitachon. There is faith in Hashem (emunah) and there is bitachon. Bitachon goes much deeper than just believing God exists and that he is omnipotent. A person with bitachon has absolute certainty that God is actively protecting us from harm and seeking out what is in our best interest. This trust itself is what generates God's protection. In other words, "Think good, and it will become good." Abraham is one of our best examples of bitachon, especially when he challenged the norms of his day and did not question God when God told him to leave that place and go to a not-yet-disclosed location, with all of his family in tow.

We start with reading My First Parsha Reader to get an overview (and for the sake of the littles!). Then we read directly from the torah in a mixture of Hebrew and English one aliyah per day (one-seventh of the parsha for the week), along with the appropriate commentary from The Little Midrash Says. I started to become concerned that Amirah would not realize which stories were from the chumash (five books of torah) and what stories were midrash (oral rabbinic tradition passed on by Moshe, but equally binding). Dean suggested doing them in different locations. So I think we'll read the chumash at the learning table, and then read the midrash stories on the couch. I think that was a great suggestion.

We're on lesson 63 of 100! We should finish the book around Channukah.

We got the first grade book for Handwriting Without Tears. She wasn't into writing too much last week, so we only did a couple of pages. Good enough! :) We are doing a lot of oral spelling and she likes that a lot. I'm also giving her a word or two per day based on what sound combinations we've learned in our reading lesson. That has worked pretty well too.

She loves math. We're doing addition and subtraction with all numbers between 0 and 10. I just love the way Singapore Math teaches concepts. I hope we continue to enjoy it this much. Eli is really liking his math book too. The one challenge is having them do math at the same time. Since they're so young, they both need a lot of help. Sometimes I feel like a corner of each mouth belongs to each child and sometimes I have to talk out of two corners at once. Not sure how to do it differently. I don't want to stretch out our day at all.

We read about how the earth is our home, and our house is our home, and how not everyone actually has a house (or something) for a home. Then we talked about our house, our street, our city, our state, our country, our continent, our planet, our solar system, and our galaxy. That was fun! We spent quite a bit of time poring over maps. Then Amirah asked me to show her where Poor Knights Island was. I had no idea, but we found it off the coast of New Zealand. She said they have special warm currents there that bring in all kinds of food from the ocean and many, many different species live there. I learn something new every day! Then she wanted to know if her aunt and uncle and cousins had gone there when they lived in New Zealand. (So did you, SE?) :)

Didn't do too much other stuff. We were distracted in the afternoons by doctor appointments (Avi, 1-year-appt; then later all of us for flu shots). Eli had an awful experience with shots to numb his thumb a couple of months ago. He was so anxious about his flu shot that he threw up all over the floor. :( He's supposed to get two shots, but I'm not going to do that to him again. At least he'll get partial immunity. I'll take Avi and Raizel back for their second shot, though.

The rest of the afternoons were taken by thinking (freaking) about the house and decluttering. We got a LOT done on Friday and Monday. Still a lot to do, but we've made a substantial dent. Hoping to have that all done in a couple more weeks so we can move on to fixing up the house. I don't have a spare moment so we're going to pay someone to help us sell stuff. The kids have been great during this fury of decluttering, so I want to make tomorrow afternoon all play.

Oh, and don't worry, JY, the bookshelves still have plenty of books. We just got rid of the riff-raff. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mussar from Farmer Boy

This is a brief synopsis of my favorite scene to date in the Little House series. It's from somewhere in the middle of Farmer Boy.

Almanzo is at the 4th of July celebration in town. His cousin brags that he has a nickel that his dad gave him and he uses it to buy lemonade. He dares Almanzo to go to his dad and ask for a nickel. Almanzo claims that of course his dad would give him a nickel (but he doesn't really know since he's never asked). His cousin does not believe him. So he goes over to his dad to ask, reluctantly, for a nickel. His dad pulls out a fifty-cent piece and asks him what it is. Almanzo answers correctly, but then his dad says he wants to know what it really is. He talks about all the work it took to make $0.50 worth of potatoes - the harrowing, fertilizing, plowing, planting, re-plowing, hoeing, digging, and storing. Half a bushel of those potatoes brings in $0.50. That's the real meaning of the fifty-cent piece. He gives the money to Almanzo, and tells him to buy a pig and raise it and have it raise a litter of pigs worth $5.00, or go and buy a bunch of lemonade and drink up that $0.50. Of course, Almanzo chooses not to buy the lemonade.

Some of the reasons I loved this scene...

His dad gave the lesson but left the choice up to Almanzo.

Almanzo has the chance to really impress his cousin, but he foregoes that opportunity.

It makes one really pause and think about the true value of money.

I think this was just one of those often-elusive Perfect Parenting Moments. :)

(Mussar, at its most simple level, means "ethical teaching.")

Parallel Lives

Just had to mention two funny encounters with other Jewish families adopting children from Ethiopia...

Family #1 - lives less than a mile away, has two children already, is adopting two young children from Ethiopia, AND they homeschool their children!

Family #2 (hi, MH) - is looking for a new community like we are, is adopting one (or two) young children from Ethiopia (or perhaps another country...), is a ger (convert) like me (and took 8 years to accomplish that, like me), went to the same university as me, and was raised Lutheran (like me). That was the funniest encounter of the YEAR, I think.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Menu

Here 'tis:

broiled chicken in barbecue sauce
mashed potatoes
sauteed spinach and chick peas
celery anchovy salad
mixed roasted vegetables
apple cake

There are so many things I want to write about!!! It's been a bit busy here this week. Stay tuned for stories about Farmer Boy and parallel lives (bli neder). :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mussar in the Little House books

One of my favorite bloggers has written about finding mussar in the Little House books. Fun to read about since we're discovering the same things! I still will, bli neder, blog about my favorite ethical/instructional chapter to date. But not tonight... tired mommy!


Major decluttering has begun. The numbers of tops and bottoms in my closet is now equal to my husband's. That's quite an accomplishment. I still have plenty of clothes to last 10 days. I also went through the upstairs toy bins and donated HALF of our toys and stuffed animals to Good Will. Anything that I thought just got dumped but never really played with went into a giant trash bag while they all watched a puppet show downstairs. I also - knowing some may think this sacrilegious - donated a LOT of our secular fiction books. We're only planning to keep really special books, reference books, hard-to-find books, and, of course, all of our Jewish books. Anything that can easily be requested from the library isn't staying here. I have yet to go through the games closet, but I'm sure there will be a few donations there too. We've definitely bought a few dud games over the years. It's been four days now, and none of the kids have said one word about any of the missing toys, books, or stuffed animals.

We are hoping to move in 2009, BE"H. Tonight we met with our realtor and found out what our house was probably worth, and I was surprised to find out it has dropped more drastically than I thought. A year ago, our house was worth about 60% more than when we bought it five years before that. Today we found out it's probably only worth about 24% more than when we bought it. Just slightly more than inflation. OY. Oh, well. So it goes. I'm just glad we bought when we did, and not later! B"H.

So, on to high-speed decluttering, extraneous object-selling, and repairing. 5769 (2008-2009) should prove to be an interesting year.

Good Article

A friend that I have communicated with on and off about homeschooling matters and seeking out a Jewish community has written a pretty good article on torah-observant homeschoolers here. I would love to think that we're at the forefront of a trend, and that eventually there will be scores of families truly teaching their children al pi darko (according to their way) instead of according to the "derech" of the middle. I honestly believe that being personally responsible for our children's education, as the torah COMMANDS us, is what we ought to be doing. Hiring a shaliach (representative) to perform most mitzvos (commandments) is considered second-best to performing them yourselves. Jewish day schools were created for orphans in the time of the Second Temple, as the article points out. Anyway... I truly feel I have the best, and the most holy, job one can have—passing on our precious mesorah to our children.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Duck for President

It was tempting. Very tempting. That long blank line. Perfect for four letters: D-U-C-K. But I didn't duck the issue. I voted. Before 8:00 pm even.

Monday, November 3, 2008


We've been doing a lot of yummy projects around here lately...

Making bagels

Making cookies for shabbat dessert

And eating cottage cheese!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fun Family Movie

Tonight we watched Candleshoe, starring Jodie Foster when she was a young teenager. We thought it was a very fun family movie. Everyone enjoyed watching it.

Our Week of Learning

It was really nice to have a wonderful, normal week this week! The holidays are over. Shabbat was lovely. The time change has come. We did a lot of really good learning this week. I treasured each of those "aha" moments I saw on Amirah's and Eli's faces. What a privilege to partake in those many times a day. If they were at school I would be missing so many of them! Before kids, I really treasured those moments with students. I loved bringing a student along bit by bit, and shared in their joy when they really GOT something. Now those students are my own children and the pleasure is immeasurable. We are all really enjoying this journey.

For Hebrew, we've been working on Unit 10 (of 14) in Shalom Ivrit. This is focused on body parts and colors. We'll probably continue to work on this and learn a few more obscure colors. Amirah is still really enjoying doing Rosetta Stone Hebrew. I let her do this at will, and she generally does about 30 minutes per day. Eli is having fun with body part names because they all sound hilarious to him. :) Kriyah (reading) and ksivah (writing) is on hold for now while we're waiting for our new books to arrive, hopefully in a week or so. We've also been reading "Tale Tales in Biblical Hebrew" which has been a great supplement. Right now we're reading The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I'm excited because I pretty much understand everything in the stories. We'll be doing the same story for a week or two, I think. We also got some comic books in Biblical Hebrew called Ag Harasha. Cute little stories, and great vocabulary. Perfect for us right now.

Singapore Math has been TERRIFIC. I'm very happy with it. Amirah really enjoys it so far. We did all of unit 17, the first unit in Book B. It incorporates many little drawing activities, which is great practice for Amirah and her still-developing small-motor skills. Her math is getting pretty good! A couple of days ago I was telling her about something she did when she was two. She looked at me and without missing a beat said, "So that was three years ago and you were 37." Wow! She also figured out that to put 1-1/2 cups of flour into our sugar cookies on Thursday she could also do 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2, because 1/2 + 1/2 makes a whole. We haven't been doing fractions at all, but we sure do bake a lot! It was funny. Eli is having fun with the Kindergarten A book and so far he's keeping up with the concepts just fine. I think I'll just stretch the activities out a little and see if it keeps working for him. He's thrilled!

Handwriting has been going really well too. Amirah got a fire lit under her and charged through a bunch of the book on her own. We should finish it this week or next, and I've gone ahead and ordered the 1st grade writing book. Eli started writing his own name on his drawing projects. The letters aren't always in order, but they're all there!

Reading has been very good too. We're on lesson 60 of 100 Easy Lessons. Eli is also really interested in letters and reading, so I'm going to start giving him more alphabet activities to do so we can actually learn the names of all the letters. Raizel will go along for the ride. She's already heavily into counting and wants to know what the letters are too. Pretty cute!

We also started a once (or so) per week geography lesson using A Child's Geography. It's extremely well written by a religious Christian, but it requires only very minimal editing to be useful to us Jews too. :) We'll mostly use it as a read-aloud and do any of the activities that are interesting (and that we have time for!).

We read lots of parsha stories too, finished Farmer Boy and started The Long Winter. Amirah practically swooned this afternoon while saying, "I LOVE these books. I don't want them to ever end!!!!!"

Next week our new adventures will include learning a melacha per week (the melachos are those types of "work" that are prohbited on shabbat; there are many things that we would consider work that are not prohibited on shabbat, and many things that are not usually considered work that ARE prohibited on shabbat; I'll report week-by-week what we learned.)

I also hope to add music instruction time 1-2x per week. Not instrumental - I really don't see the need until they're 7 or 8 (unless they're begging for lessons before that). The most important things that a young child can learn at this age is to be able to keep a steady beat, develop a very good ear for music (possible for virtually everyone), and learn to sing in tune (also possible for virtually everyone unless not exposed at an early age). I splurged a while back and got a music curriculum that we're going to use that wasn't published yet while I was teaching, but I knew that when it was I would love it. It looks great. I'm going to use it to guide our concept development, and substitute many Jewish songs and verses for the usual stuff in there. Here's a link for anyone who is interested. We'll be doing lots of rhythmic work, movement, rhythm instruments (xylophones, glockenspiels, drums, sticks, rattles, etc... I have boxes and boxes of instruments!), and plenty of singing. I just have to fit it in somehow!

And another good thing... cleaning up! Charlotte Mason goes into great details in her books about developing habits and that much learning (and living) depends on the development of simple habits. We have a routine now of always cleaning up upstairs right before storytime/bedtime. Eli is really especially good at this, Raizel does the best a 2-year-old could possibly do, and Amirah sometimes fades out on us. We go fast and it really takes less than 10 minutes. This week we're going to start faithfully doing a 5-minute pickup downstairs before lunch and dinner. I set the timer, and we run around like crazy as fast as we can. It's really great when papa can walk into a warm, cozy, clean house!

All of the above really sounds like we spend a lot of time with our noses in books, but actually each lesson is pretty quick. I would say we end up with 90 minutes of academic learning + reading stories, art projects, whatever Amirah feels like doing with Rosetta Stone, and adventures. When you only have 1 or 2 students, you can do things pretty darn efficiently. Generally we learn from 10:00-1:00, and this includes snacktime, younger sibiling, interruptions, art projects, time for just Eli, time for just Amirah, etc. It has an open and relaxed feeling.

Other than learning, we've been making plans to declutter the house. We're hoping to move this year to another city and want to really weed out everything that is not worth taking with us. Sell a lot on craig's list, take lots to Good Will, pare down our clothing collection (especially me and Amirah), keep only the kitchen stuff that gets used regularly or is impossible to be without. Having fewer clothes also prevents huge mountains of laundry from piling up. We really don't have all that much "stuff" but I really want to have even less. I won't be packing all of our clothes into two carpetbags, like ma, but I sure would like to do the contemporary equivalent (whatever that is...)