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.