Thursday, April 29, 2010

Acrobatic Davening

Yesterday, we were starting the amidah. On the first word of the first brachah, one bends one's knees, and on the second word one bows. Eli made it a little fancier. He bent his knees then, instead of bowing, he did a full somersault and sailed back up onto his feet. It was very, very, very funny and I think it will take us a long time to recover our decorum. Today, the amidah was a bit, well, wiggily.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pictures, Pictures

I finally downloaded all the pictures off of the camera. They go back quite a few weeks!

Here are some recent pictures of each of the kids...

Avi is the most agile of the bunch. Definitely our biggest climber ever!
(And a funny note - we got these bunk beds before pesach, but the safety rail was missing on top;
turns out that an alef-beis board we made when Amirah was born was exactly the right fit!)

And here's a bonus picture of Eli on his new bike (thanks, grandma and grandpa!).

We're really enjoying the surrounding fauna. The chorus of birds in the morning is astounding, and they're even pretty busy in the middle of the night! On Sunday we went to a little green space a couple of blocks away. There are canals everywhere to channel all the rain and water. This canal was lovely, and chock full of dozens (probably hundreds) of diamondback terrapins and some kind of frog or toad (probably multiple species!).

We also have many, many kinds of butterflies floating around. We took this picture outside of Dean's office, and they are also all over the back yard.

And the green anole is a frequent visitor...

Today, I looked for a walking trail for us to explore, and we ended up at the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal. It was a lovely .5 mile walk through swamp forest to the Ogeechee River. Rain was threatening the whole time, so the darkness added to the lovely eeriness of the scenery. We loved the walk, and it was the perfect length for little Avi legs. We spent about a little over an hour there. A perfect afternoon outing.

And finally... we had our first t-ball game last week. They're having a lot of fun!

The Purple Player

Pink helmet and pink bat made her day!

Eli's unique style

Avi really wants to play too

About to leave for our first game


Monday, April 26, 2010

New Judaics Curriculum

This new curriculum could be very interesting! It's the first published complete orthodox Jewish curriculum, as far as I know. Of course, it's not complete yet, but I'm sure that's the intent! I'm looking forward to seeing samples and maybe even using one day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Menu

Eating, learning, cleaning, eating, cooking, cleaning, eating, cleaning, cleaning. That's today!

And for dinner...

stewed chicken
w/stewed potatoes
steamed corn
carrot ginger pureé
creamed cabbage (tofu sour cream)
bok choi sauté
chocolate cake

And tomorrow we're out...

Good shabbos, all!

Catching Up

Time has been moving steadily along, and life here is good, B"H. Here are a few highlights from the last couple of weeks:

•New bikes for Amirah and Eli (thanks grandma and grandpa!!). HUGE hit, and we've toodled around a number of parks already.

•First t-ball game. All three are on the same team, and having a great time (although Eli did get whacked on the side of his head with a bat; lots of blood but all superficial, thank G-d).

•Picked 40+ pounds of strawberries at Ottawa Farms. All are in the freezer awaiting the arrival of a 10-pound bucket of pectin. It wasn't wild and wooly u-pick like in Oregon. This place had incredibly (almost eerily) neat, straight rows with soaker hoses hiding beneath the dark plastic mulch. Thousands of huge strawberries were just neatly presenting themselves for picking. It was a bit odd, but they did taste good! I also bought some non-homogenized milk and cream (no additives!) from a local dairy and we had a lovely snack later.

•Made a stab at getting on the menu planning wagon again, brought on by the fact that May is our last kosher co-op order until August (!). So... I started working on a plan to last through August! Oy! I usually prefer to just buy what's on sale and improvise, but lately improvising seems to be taking too much time and it has felt stressful. So back to a menu plan I go. I ordered plenty of ground beef and leg quarters to last us, plus I got a case of white wine vinegar (none at the grocery store) and spring roll wrappers (looked forever to find them kosher and here they are! YIPPEE!).

•Found Avi's birth certificate (temporarily misplaced) so at last I can go down with all of his correct birthday information (we had to replace all the documents that disagreed with his birth certificate birth date) and get his social security taxes and refile our 2008 taxes and get done with our 2009 taxes. Woohoo! And in three more months we can go re-adopt our dear children in the Georgia courts (where I guess they'll be getting a Georgia birth certificate????????). THEN we can finally go through the citizenship process. Oy yoy yoy. Supposedly a lawyer is required in Georgia, but fortunately someone in the local ET adoption group got all the paperwork together and it is accessible online so we can file it ourselves.

•Shuffled furniture. My favorite hobby, since it usually involves decluttering along the way. I have a couple of blogs I like to read about living in small spaces, and one of them did a post on chests and how they can really serve in any room of the house. CLICK. Our bedroom chest (2 drawers long, 3 drawers tall) is now our new dining room buffet. And it matches the china cabinet perfectly! Makes the table look a bit shabby, though. Oh, well! Our bedroom is a good bit less squishy now, and our nightstands have very generous drawers which works perfectly for what I had in the chest drawers. Half of the chest held curriculum materials anyway (and still does). The silverware, linens, etc. fit much better in the chest drawers, and the china cabinet drawers are our new game shelves. I love reorganizing and decluttering and making things more space efficient and accessible. I'm on a roll right now, and I hope I can keep it up. Okay, that was a lot more than a lowly bullet point.

•CLOSED on our Portland house. I hope the new people are enjoying the place as much as we did. Despite the $6,500 Obama giveaway, we're delaying the purchase of a house. We want to wait and make sure we are here permanently (as sure as one ever can be, that is) and to let things settle. The $6,500 is both tempting and revolting. But that's another topic...

•Had an impromptu birthday party at our house last week. We met a lovely couple (J&RF doppelgängers!!!!) that is thinking of moving here. It was her 60th birthday, so we had a lot of fun making a little party here. We hope they move here!

And in learning time some of the recent highlights are...

•Finished a unit on ants, termites, wasps, and bees, and have now moved on to beetles. We should have plenty of live specimens available in our back yard!

•Finished our 2nd grade manuscript book, and Amirah is begging to start cursive...

•Counted spare change up to $1.00 in our heads and used that to "buy" things and we also practiced "saving up" for things.

•Readalouds: The Classic Tales (4,000 years of Jewish stories), Favorite Tales of Shalom Aleichem, several Sherlock Holmes stories, and we bemoaned having finished all of the Happy Hollister books in our possession. They're not in the library (really not much is; I have searched for countless things that haven't been there...), but maybe we can try interlibrary loan. And Amirah has been reading Frog and Toad to us every night too. :)

•Proceeding through our grammar and composition books. We're in the home stretch!

•Speeding up in our phonics book, often doing double lessons. She's really on a roll with the reading right now.

•Reading various Jewish history books to cover the very beginning through the time of the Roman Empire from a wholly Jewish perspective.

•Really enjoying Wheeler's Elementary Speller from 1901. It suits us much better than our previous spelling book. Nice variety of activities, most of which we do orally. The words she needs to really practice do get some written attention.

•In kodesh we are continuing our usual davening, parsha study, and biblical Hebrew, plus putting together a nice Pirkei Avos workbook. For pesach they each did their own haggadahs, but the cutting and pasting got to be a bit much. We like that in small doses, but it really doesn't teach anything as effectively as other methods. So this time, we are making the book collaboratively and it is going SO much better. We do a cumulative review, then look at the new material. They have 10-15 minutes to color, cut, and paste their different pages simultaneously, then we put it all together and go over it once more. It's worked out really well, and I'm starting to hear little phrases from Pirkei Avos dancing around the house. It's been a long time since our puppets, Tzemi and Zevi, taught Hebrew here so I think we need to revive them and take some of our lessons "out of the book."

•Eli is plugging away in kriyah (Hebrew reading), writing, phonics, and math. Raizel is enthusiastically working on her letters. Her fine-motor control is startling, especially compared to her big sister at that age! She can color in tiny details, and her letters have such precision. The Pirkei Avos page she did looked so nice that Eli saw it and actually regretted scribbling colors all over his. He said that tomorrow he wanted to do a nicer job on his. :) (His mama is just fine with scribbles, or neat little circles, or polka dots, or coloring in the lines...)

And tomorrow it's shabbos again already! Hard to believe. I decided to do a simple dinner, and Saturday we're going elsewhere for lunch (thank you, ML!!!!). I really want to do a little more organizing, especially in those places we haven't gone to much since unpacking (so what are those things doing there, anyway??). There are many more things I will quite gleefully pack off to Good Will. Didn't think it was possible after the Year of the Great Declutter!

Good shabbos, all!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Menu

There is none! :) We're going to friends for dinner and to friends for lunch. So I got caught up on a lot of housecleaning, B"H! I did make dulce de leche cinnamon rolls (plenty of white flour and white sugar!), and I will be making a sushi platter to take to our lunch friends' house. Good shabbos!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

OU Conference on Online Education

Just in case someone out there might be interested, the OU is having a conference in Virginia about online learning alternatives in the context of day school. And don't forget the Torah Home Education Conference in Baltimore in June!

Saving Money (Again)

After several delays, our house is finally going to close as soon as the papers I signed hit Portland. Baruch hashem! The amount leftover is not exactly what we hoped, but in times like these we're only relieved to not have done worse.

Once the buyer's mortgage papers were finally in hand, there was a big rush to get the papers to us to get them signed. We learned that in Georgia one can't simply get a notary for the paper signing. Rather, one must hire a full-blown lawyer/notary. This applies to real estate transactions only. I was informed this by the Portland title company that is processing the paperwork. They put in a request for a lawyer to meet with us through some kind of state clearinghouse. On Sunday afternoon I got a phone call from someone I literally could not understand, other than to figure out it was about signing the closing papers and something about an appointment at noon. It was a very heavy Georgia accent plus his fuzzy cell phone connection that really did me in.

Fortunately, his secretary called me in the morning to confirm the appointment. I said that first I wanted to ask how much we would be charged for this service. She said she couldn't tell me without seeing the paperwork first.

"Not even an estimate?" I asked.

"Well, you won't have to pay for it though," she said, brightly.

"I won't? Does the buyer pay for it?" I asked, figuring maybe that was the case.

"No, the title company will send a check to us."

"From the proceeds of the house sale?"

"Well, yes."

"Then we are paying for it, and I would like to know what the fee is before I agree to the service."

She promised to call back.

Meanwhile, I called the title company and they let me know that they had been told the fee would be $350. With that information, I called a different lawyer who referred me somewhere else. In five minutes I had a new quote of $200, which suited me very well. The other lawyer was due at my house in 20 minutes. Fortunately, he called to say he was running late, and I told him I needed to cancel the appointment because his office would not tell me the fee in advance.

The next day I went in to the new lawyer, had the paperwork signed in 45 minutes, and he even reduced his fee to $150. This may have been because while I was there I also asked about the fees for doing a real estate contract, should we buy this property sometime soon. When I went to check out, the told me they didn't accept credit or debit cards and I had no checkbook with me. The secretary said, "Oh, don't worry about it. You can just send it in when you get a chance." (We did stop there this morning to take care of that!).

So, finally got that all taken care of. It would have been easy, in the midst of caring for and teaching four children, to just say "Oh, whatever" and get those forms signed with Mr. Expensive, but with a little bit of effort I saved $200. In the grand scheme of a real estate transaction, that may seem like small potatoes, but in the little scheme of our personal finances, it's big potatoes.

It reminds me of a book I read on behavioral economics that was talking about how people would go across town with a coupon to get $10 off a $20 item, but would never dream about going across town to pay $195 for a gadget instead of $205. It's the same $10, but a 50% savings seems much bigger than a 5% savings. Might as well just go around the corner and pay $205 and not bother with the longer trip.

Anyway....... in our little world, these amounts add up very quickly. It really irked the title company that we took 48 hours to handle this, but it is our money and we have the right to spend it carefully and not be rushed into doing things. So we exercised that right!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Quote of the Week

Amirah: My mama was bitten by a hundred midgets!

(AKA midges/gnats/no see ums, and it was at LEAST 100! But the other image had me laughing for quite a long while!)

The Menu

Hashem did it again, because I was busy moving heavy furniture (with bare feet - not a good idea!). I'm still in the mood for the simpler foods of pesach, and I'll probably stay in that mood for a while with spring veggies starting to ripen!

Here 'tis...

chicken w/bbq sauce
baked potatoes with green onions and tofu sour cream
roasted cabbage wedges
roasted zucchini with thyme
tomato salad
lemon coconut bars (experimental recipe!)

And ditto for lunch, except maybe we'll put the chicken on sandwiches and add more bbq sauce.

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Almost Forgot!

We had one very exciting outing today to the Savannah State Farmers Market. It's only fifteen minutes away and is open every day, so we decided to tootle over and check it out this afternoon. Right now, there's not much activity, but next month there's a large covered area that fills up every day with farmers and "pinhookers" (a new word I learned today). Pinhookers are produce vendors that purchase their produce from other farmers. The market has two sections, one for pinhookers and one for local farmers. Since none of the farmers are there yet, we visited the one retail produce store that is there year-round. (There are other wholesalers in the compound as well, including Nlaws, a Jewish-owned produce company from which you can buy things by the case.)

First we watched 100+-year-old machines cracking pecans (I have to get used to saying that word with a short "a"!). These ancient machines cost $5,000 to purchase today! We bought some raw honey, a bag of pecans, tomatoes, zucchini (50% cheaper than at the grocery store), cucumbers, cabbage, and apples for snacks (not local). They were offering tastes of all kinds of things (pecans - YES! pork rinds - NO!). When we were all done exploring, tasting, and purchasing, an older gentleman sitting by the tomatoes gave each of the children a $1 gold coin (!). It was very sweet, and the kids were very excited. We are really looking forward to visiting again when the farmers are in business there. Finding good produce at a good price has been a bit challenging. I'm looking forward to more options as spring really takes off!

The Pesach Holiday

Between preparing for pesach, celebrating pesach, and the aftermath of pesach, it's been a busy few weeks. Now life slowly returns to (nearly) normal. Sandwich bread was baked yesterday, and hamburger/sandwich buns and challah dough are rising in the refrigerator overnight. Shabbos food, however, is still theoretical...

We mostly took a learning vacation starting a few days before pesach through the end of pesach. We did enjoy reading from our zoology text about insect life cycles and defense mechanisms, and from our history text about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Next week we'll finish up ancient world history. We'll spend the rest of April/May/June focusing on ancient Jewish history specifically. We've done it in bits and pieces throughout the year as it tied in to whatever subject we were studying at the time. I'm looking forward to going through it exclusively!

Some highlights of the pesach holiday:

•A one-week visit from savta!!
•A quiet seder at home and another lovely seder with another family
•A dolphin tour on one of the tidal rivers
•A night tour of historical Savannah with savta and Amirah
•An afternoon playing in the waves at the beach
•Watching spring unfold all over
•Yummy food!

Good shabbos!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Menu

Here 'tis...

matza (yum...)
mushroom walnut spread
butternut soup
cabbage salad
jumbo fries (so they don't dry out in the oven... just quartered potatoes)
slow-baked sweet potatoes
Morrocan carrot salad
lemon cake

And for a havdalah treat...

strawberry mousse!

Good shabbos!