Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sparse Posts Be Gone!

I've had my hands full lately...

After 5 weeks on the market, we took the house off the market today. We had lots of visits (nearly 30), and for our realtor it was his #2 house in terms of sheer numbers of showings. (And it felt like it too, with the 20 hours per week it took to keep the house "showroom ready.") The average is 12 viewings for 1 offer. We didn't get any offers, even after lowering the price by 4%.

We had mostly pretty positive feedback from realtors, except for one thing that was noted several times. People think the layout is a little problematic. The master bedroom is upstairs, and the other two bedrooms are downstairs. People with young children don't like the separation. (We solved that by turning the lovely, sunny upstairs living room into a gigantic kid bedroom... but then our kids go to bed late and sleep like rocks, so noises drifting up the stairs from mama don't matter.) We love the non-traditional arrangement, but I suppose others wouldn't. With all the kids (except the baby) sleeping in one room it frees up one of the bedrooms for an office area/exercise room. And Avi has his own room since he can be a bit noisy (he likes to thump his feet really loudly in the middle of the night).

Also, from the house you can't keep an eye on the back yard. There is a deck with stairs going down just off the kitchen which can be blocked off, so that's what we did, but now Avi is old enough and Amirah is old enough that if she's out there playing with him I'm not worried. The yard itself is danger-free. Our street is also the main thoroughfare for the neighborhood, so somewhat busy. That makes the unfenced front yard not all that suitable for a play area either.

So... we realized we'll have to drop the price quite a bit more than we thought/hoped in order to sell it. When all is said and done we'll likely (please, Hashem!) just get back our pretty good-sized downpayment. (So many people are NOT in this fortunate situation and instead are upside-down in their mortgage, so I am grateful, if a little wistful.) Since that's the case, we'll just wait until DH has a firm job offer in hand and we'll put it back on the market when we move out of it. Whenever that may be! I'm quite relieved, though I really had enjoyed the thought of perhaps experimenting with farm life for a few months while we were in between houses. Oh, well. It was so nice not to worry about every single mess today. We also took out the long-stored learning table and put it on the back deck and spent the whole day learning outside. It was really lovely. We can do big art projects again now too. And messy science. Yay. And I don't have to clean the house from top to bottom every time I want to step out for a little while. It's good.

In other news, my mom has come down with a mysterious illness. Symptoms have been going on for 4-1/2 weeks. They're not sure yet whether it is a tropical bug she picked up in Hawaii, or some kind of ailment. We should know more on Friday after some test results come in. It's awful to just wait and wait. She's experienced quite a lot of pain, and I have never heard my mother complain about pain. I feel terrible that she has to go through this and hope that we will get answers soon, BE"H.

Other than that, Amirah has LOVED her ponyback riding lessons. She doesn't care if she's actually on the pony, cleaning out his hooves, or shoveling poop. It's all equally good. She's all ready to marry a farmer and call it good. And Eli says he wants to be a farmer too and drive a tractor. Hmmmmmm... family business? :)

Our learning is going really well, even if it was a bit minimized these past few weeks due to house showing constraints and not wanting to make a mess. Now we can go at it. We pretty much learn year-round. I think of our new year starting July 1, with July, August, and the fall holidays maybe being at 75% speed. So... I'm actually on the brink of assembling all of our learning materials in front of my eyeballs ("just" 4 more packages to arrive!) and sketching out the coming year, with more detailed plans for the summer. I think I've made virtually all the purchases I need to. So far I have not made a purchase I regretted, B"H.

I've been cogitating quite a bit on one thought... what are the essential formal skills we must transmit to our children in order to educate them? What activities and experiences are merely reinforcing or somewhat peripheral to those essential nuggets? I feel more and more like that truly essential core is much smaller than I ever realized. So much they get from life experience. And when you teach 1-on-1 you can get it down to just the right "dose" for that exact child. Formal education can almost be distilled down to several nutrient-rich little "pills" for lack of a better word. Of course, there are myriad ways to spin out all that learning to flesh it out. And with modelling the inspiration and teaching a love of learning, their education eventually becomes self-propelled, especially once they are beyond the elementary years. These thoughts of mine are not fully formed, but I'm so eager to observe the learning process and see where things go.

The kids have all been doing great, B"H. Amirah has really picked up with the reading and writing skills. I have completely allowed her to set the pace and have never pushed her in these areas. She's doing really well and broadening her skills. She's started spontaneously writing notes that include words like "astronaut" (spelled "astronot") and expert (spelled "exprt"). I switched to the Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, and that has been working out much better for us. And we're using Explode the Code too as a supplement, but skipping the writing parts. Instead I use them for oral spelling practice. She tells me how to spell the word and I write it down. It's worked really well to reinforce her more advanced reading skills. And we still love First Language Lessons! And Singapore Math is still just the right program for us too. She is very, very happy to have her very own all-Hebrew siddur and her eyes shine now that she can find all the tefillos (prayers) that we do each morning in it. Hebrew reading is clicking along, and she could listen to torah and torah stories all day long. In history we started studying the period around when Avram was born, leading up to when the Jews were in Egypt. It's very interesting to juxtapose this with what we've learned about Egypt so far.

Eli has been doing great with his Hebrew studies. He also loves math and alphabet. Not into writing at all (not surprising, at barely 4). He enjoys hearing torah stories. He doesn't do much of his davening out loud, but if I practice with them and leave out a word he can fill it in every time. So like a lot of preschoolers he knows it inside, but just doesn't quite want to spit it back out. :)

Raizel. Wow. Intensely curious and, I'm pretty sure, really, really, really smart. Which spells trouble. :) She loves to take things apart and see how they go back together (or not). She loves to experiment with things. She has full conversations on an imaginary telephone, with the other conversation happening only in her head. She puts ideas together in new ways with a vivid imagination. Applies new concepts to different situations with alacrity. Her mind just seems to constantly crackle. She is one sharp cookie. When all of that gets harnessed, watch out! She will do amazing things with that.

And Avi just rolls around the house and makes us laugh. He has a ready smile. Very physically active. Climbs up and down anything he can find. Jumps all over. Adores his oldest sister, and it's mutual. She hauls him around the house like he's her favorite doll. When he gets hurt, he'll just as happily go to her as me. She cuddles and coos over him just like a little mama. It's very, very sweet. They definitely have an especially tender bond.

So life here is good, B"H, and I'm glad we can relax into the beginning of summer. I'd been saying all along that I really wanted to have one more summer in Oregon because the summers here are just about picture (and temperature) perfect. And I'm almost out of last season's jam, so time to start making more. And we have just enough grape juice to make it through to the fall harvest, so I actually hope we're here for that too. We picked 150 pounds last year. We were able to give away a few quarts as gifts. Might be we need to pick a few more pounds this coming year with the kids getting bigger. We used to go through 2 quarts every 3 shabboses, but now it's more like a quart per shabbos. At first we thought we were (horror!) going to run out before the next harvest, then I discovered one more batch of jars. Phew!

So, with that, good night!

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