Popcorn, Yomim Tovim, Yomim Tovim and More Yomim Tovim!

Rosh Hashanah has come, Yom Kippur will be here in less than 24 hours.  I have been trying to think of something to write, but nothing popped into mind.

Baruch Hashem we have been busy.  Our annual Scout popcorn fundraiser is in full swing now, with $4000 worth of popcorn already bought – and that does not include the chocolate flavors that we could not purchase this round (the chocolate melts too easily we are told.)  I am told the popcorn is much better than last year and not to mention it is in tins again.  (All popcorn is OU-D, with the plain unpopped kernels OU-Parve – anyone interested? 😉  )

This is the best and worst time of the year.  The best time for the boys to work on their socialization skills and go door-to-door and talk to all sorts of people – from young to old, from cranky to nice, from English speakers to non-English speakers.  They also get lots of exercise for they do a lot of walking!  It is the worst time for Daddy and Mommy have to go and take them all over, not just once, but twice when we have to deliver to the wonderful places that bought.  But soon it will be over and we are hoping that the older two will have earned enough to go to one week of Jewish Scout camp in the summer (the number 3 boy has one more year before he can go!)

We sure hit our new year off to a good start with missing the first 1.5 days of Room613!  Several boys thought they read there will be no classes the ENTIRE week, not just for Rosh Hashanah.  But after talking to my sister and a friend on the second day after Rosh Hashanah, I found out they were wrong.  Lesson learned: Read my emails more closely… It was not a total loss, I tried to add more secular work into the 2 days that would have been missed because of Rosh Hashanah.

We did not delve into Yom Kippur last week too much, probably should have, though I had other unrelated things on my mind.  Sometimes I find it hard to balance personal learning and introspection with teaching the boys and helping them out with the same things.  We did talk about some of the basic prayers and their meanings.  I also found some nice Kol Nidre songs on Youtube to help get us in the mood.  One thing I told the boys is that they should read the davening in English – especially the Al Chets.  Since all the davening we do is for us, not Hashem, how are we supposed to put ourselves in the correct frame of mind if we do not even know what we are saying?

This week we worked on Yonah and the Whale.  I found some nice one page versions for preschoolers and a cute song for the little one, as well as a translation of the Vilna Gaon’s work on sefer Yonah.  That is set for high school, however, my older boys are getting some of it.  They just had chapter 1 on chinuch.org, however, I was able to find the full English version at the  Daf Yomi Review website.  We are not going to finish what we have, but that is fine, that leaves more to learn another time. My youngest wanted stuff to color today, but the computer we use for printing was being used, so I will hopefully print out a copy of Yonah and the whale for him to color tomorrow while we sing our song or I’m working with the older boys.

Sukkos is right around the corner, and it is always tough to do Sukkos learning with very few days – I feel I should spend several days on Yom Kippur, and not just rush through it to start Sukkos material, but then I feel Sukkos gets jipped!  I did buy nice 8.5 x 11 charts from Torah U’Mesorah on Sukkos many years ago.  I do not always go over them with the boys, but I think it is time to do them again.  When the older boys were younger, I did manage to do several projects such as a styrofoam esrog and foam/feathered lulav, however, lately we have been focusing on getting the sukkah all up and set that we do not do very many crafts for we are also still doing school work.  We are fortunate for the front entrance to the house has three walls already and all we need to do is add schach on top.  We have most of the schach (about 70 individual bamboo sticks), but it is not quite enough, and we always have to figure out where to find more!  I think I will need to come up with one nice decoration they can each do, the previous ones are getting old.  Oh, and I think I have one more styrofoam ball the youngest can paint as well as some green foam.  I think an older brother might like to spend some quality time with his youngest bro. 🙂

I am going to finish up, drink more liquid, and try to finish getting myself ready for tomorrow night.  Wishing everyone a Gemar Chasima Tovah and an easy fast!

Our “First Day” Take Two!

Today was our first “real” day of school.  Yes, we did do school last week, however, Room613 did not start until today so it was our first day with a full schedule.  I was very impressed in how the day turned out.

We started the day with our davening.  It was cool today so most of us wore a sweater.  I thought it was a beautiful morning to daven outside.  My youngest has been into wearing at least his lion hat costume all day.  I have told him he needs to wear a kippah or hat for he is a Jewish boy.  Once he found out his lion hat worked, he has turned into a lion, only taking it off for nap times.  My Lion loves to daven.  He has his favorite siddur and loves to sit and stand and daven.  He is not upset in the above picture, he is putting his whole neshama into davening.  It is just that no sound comes out of his mouth.  He was so into davening this morning.  He is my inspiration. 🙂

Instead of Parsha, this week we are learning about Rosh Hashanah.  I did not want to do the same kind of thing as we have done in the past.  We have learned about Rosh Hashanah for years now, printing off various workbooks from chinuch.org.  I went online to chinuch.org last night to see what I could find.  I found some nice learning sheets, however, they were one to two page sheets.   So, I decided I was going to choose something different to learn about each day.  Today we learned about the 10 reasons we blow the shofar during Elul and on Rosh Hashanah. At the bottom was the option to re-write each reason in the child’s own words.  Unfortunately, I had only ink in the printer for the one paper, so we just talked a bit about Rosh Hashanah and then talked about the 10 reasons.

Tomorrow we are going to look at the worksheet talking about the explanation of Yamim Noraim Prayers.  This one is geared towards 6th and 7th grade, but I think all three older boys can appreciate it to an extent.  The explanation booklet can be reduced in size to fit into a machzor so the students have a handy guide to make their davening more meaningful.  Our new ink should be coming in this week so I will be able to print it out for each boy.  I am not sure how long it will take us to go through this book, it is only 9 pages long.  If needed, I will find something else to do on Thursday.  Oh, and I cannot forgot the little one!  Yes, I almost forgot, he is more than big enough to make projects and sing songs that my older ones are too “old” for!

The school day worked out well.  At lunch time, I was thinking that, ” Wow, I was still so relaxed!”  I remember how busy and full the days were last year.  This year our schedule seems more relaxed – longer, more to do, but relaxed.  I finally learned not to stuff the time to the hilt.  I scheduled a lot of time for each subject.  I will say, it does help that the boys have a set schedule on Room613.net.  Rabbi Resnick has 30 minutes classes with 15 minute breaks in between each class.  Altogether, that is 45 minutes from the beginning of one of his classes to the beginning of the next class.  I purposely limit the amount of time spent for each lesson – 15-20 minutes for the younger ones and 30-40 minutes for the oldest (though often times it takes less time for him.)  I added extra time so that I would have time to give attention to our 3 year old.  This, I believe, was one of the best things I have done for our schooling this year.  I had time to spend with the youngest, and I did not have to harass the older ones to get out the books for the next thing, or get going to Room613.  I could see how each of the older boys looked at their boards and they seemed so much more relaxed.  I do not know if this more relaxed atmosphere had anything to do with how my one boy did in math, but my tantrum prone boy had not a single tantrum today – not even during math when he kept getting one question wrong.  He just sat there and said, “hmm….” and tried again!

This afternoon I was reminded how vulnerable we all are.  Actually, I think there were many, many people who found out.  We have a few websites that are hosted on Godaddy.com.  Godaddy is a company that you can register domain names on as well as provides hosting and other related services.  It is fairly large.  This afternoon, there was a hacker that shut down all of Godaddy’s sites – at least thousands of sites were down starting after lunch.  The individual who was apparently responsible took sole responsibility shortly afterwards on Twitter.  There were many people who rely on websites hosted by Godaddy for work.  I too was wanting to do some stuff.  However, I realized that everything that happens, Hashem makes happen for a reason.  I then realized that I needed to do some paperwork to send into our school district.  If my website was not down, I would have forgotten yet again about the paperwork.

Coincidence? Of course not!  However, I do not think thousands or millions of people needed to be affected just for me…at least I would hope not.  I also know that this person I cannot really be mad at for this person was just the messenger.  Yes, he had the option of doing good or doing not good, it was his choice – as I like to tell my children, but Hashem wanted Godaddy to go down, it would have gone down in a different way if this person decided to use his amazing talents for a better use.  All afternoon I tried seeing if the websites were up yet, but it did not get me anxious, I was not too overly bothered by it.  At least not the 3 hours it took from when I learned about it to the time my websites were back up and running.

In the end, all my paperwork got done, I just need the ink to arrive at my doorstep to print it out and I realized how my mind’s perspective had an amazing effect on me and how I handled a situation.  Perhaps this is something that I need to try keep in mind when we have little situations arise at home.  There are things that happen that are out of my control, even if I try.  If I remember that Hashem is ultimately in control, there is no reason to get upset at individuals.  There are things that are supposed to happen and these are tests for me.  I know, that is much easier said than done, however, perhaps if I try to keep that in mind, there might be a few times where I can look at my beautiful boys and say “that is what they are supposed to be doing.  How am I supposed to react, how do I get what I need done the proper way?”  Perhaps my stress level will keep down a little bit (and stave those grey hairs away a little bit longer! 😉  )

I definitely know that how we feel definitely rubs off on others.  Was it that I was in a calm mood today that helped my son get through his math in such a wonderful way?  Was it all the time in between classes?  I am sure they both had a lot to do with it.  I definitely would prefer how today’s lesson went over any other day we have had.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 🙂  As I am trying to get myself ready for the coming year, I hope that I can grow just a little bit.  In the meantime, I need to read to my Lion for he tells me he cannot read yet.

Wishing everyone a sweet year – A L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu – May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life!  Have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah!

First Day of School

Well, today is the first day of school and my children have been given the privilege of sleeping in.  Yes, so now you are believing the stereotype of homeschoolers sleeping in and going to school in their pajamas, etc.  I will tell you that is not how I run my school.  Normally.  But today is not a normal day.

This last weekend was a 4 day weekend for Daddy.  He got Friday off as well as Monday off.  The boys had fun making a 10 meter antenna for Amateur Radio (Ham Radio for short,) watching Daddy climb high up in the tree to hang it, and I think they even tested it a little bit.  The antenna is not finished, but almost.  On Sunday, the boys went flying in a private airplane with the Scouts and had a wonderful time, and then we all went camping.

The car was packed and we headed straight out to Ossian State Forest.  We found our way to Evergreen Pond where there was supposed to be a primitive camping spot available on a first come first serve basis.  The camping area was right off the road, and we sat down at the picnic table and decided to stay.  We even saw a lot of road kill, just in case we were hungry. (See picture of frog) 😉  After hearing a shotgun and my husband actually SEEING the hunter and yelling at him to be careful and the hunter very recklessly swinging the gun around and apologizing, we decided it was not the place for us.  So, with strict orders to the older boys to sit at the table and not move, we took the younger one and off we went to find another spot.  It was not long before we found a nicer spot – off the main road, down a path, with a fire pit and wood available for us to use.  (You are not permitted to bring wood into the forest for potential of invasive insects coming and destroying the forest, but you are permitted to use wood found in the forest.)

We had a blast!  Two tents were put up, fire was started and the boys had fun roasting potatoes and having baked beans for supper.  We put the fire out and went to bed.  The boys went to bed really good – almost immediately!  The next morning the boys got up quite early surprisingly, however, that did not help them in packing up their tent!  They just could not get it done in less than 2.5 hours!  (Don’t really blame them, I hate packing up as well, but it needs to get done!)  To try to help them out I said no breakfast until it was finished.   Not sure it helped 😉  but we finally got everything packed up, a new fire made for coffee that was accidentally left on the counter, davened and ate.

We finished and packed up the few remaining items around 12:30.  Nothing had gone the way my husband wanted it to that morning (and it did not help that I forgot the coffee!)  However, we left, got some coffee and spent some time walking around a Lowes that we found in the area.  We decided we were just looking at ladders (for the antenna!) and we had no set time to leave.  I made lunch before we took off again.  We were going to try to do a geocache before going home.  We went to Hemlock Lake – that is the lake where we get our water from.  Unfortunately, there were a few grumpy people, and when grumpy people are in the same vehicle, it affects everyone for there is no room to go and hide.

We ended driving around to the west side of the lake and finding a trail down the forest.  The plan was for the four big boys to hike in the old growth forest around the lake to a meeting point on the other side.  The littlest boy and I were going to meet them over there in the van.  DH took his phone with the GPS on it and a Ham radio for the phone did not have a signal very reliably.  This was around 4:45pm.

Everything went fine until they had traveled a long ways, the trail ended and they went bush wacking.  Then the phone decided it was going to get ready to die.  I was given a few location coordinates before the phone died.  The area was very marshy and full of thickets and wild roses, making it extremely difficult to walk through.  It was not until about 7:30 that I started to get really worried.  It was almost sunset.  It was going to be getting dark very soon.  I told them to turn their radio off for a while to make sure they would continue to have battery when needed.  8:20 I called 9-1-1.  The lady dispatcher was very nice and helpful.  She dispatched the sheriff who was a few towns over, so it took a few minutes to get to where I was.  She stayed on the phone with me and we kept tabs on what was happening to the boys.  As we were trying to narrow down their location, the sheriff came and we drove to where he thought everyone might be.  He shined his light in the forest and yes, boys saw it!  By this  time there were more police cars driving around at various spots, that I only found out later.  It was not that much longer before they were on their way and close to coming out of the forest.

They came out at a different place to where I was at the moment and the sheriff and I drove to them.  Around 9:30 they finally made it out! As they climbed out one at a time, you can be sure that each one got a hug!  My oldest was a great trooper, never complaining, just chugging along in the bush.  Another boy was almost in tears – he was scared and was just so glad to be out!  The third boy did not say much other than smile and say he was glad to be out.  The biggest boy?  I think he was a bit dazed.  I do not think it really hit him fully until this morning.

There were almost a dozen police cars, fire trucks and ambulances over there.  I want to thank the Livingston County Sheriff department and the Springwater volunteer ambulance and everyone else that came.  Obviously they were just Hashem’s messengers and even though we need to thank them, it was ultimately Hashem’s doing that they were found that quickly.  I also thank Hashem that the batteries in the radio lasted the entire time, for without the radio it would have required a whole lot more time and energy to find them!

We finally got home around 11pm.  We had not eaten supper, but I made everyone hot chocolate and they got as much orange juice as they wanted.  Other than being smoked out from our camp fires, they needed to get clean from their hike!  After getting clean and filling the tummies a little bit, they were all tucked into bed.  It was then that I told them they could sleep in on the first day of school.  I finally woke them up at 10 am to say brachos, eat and clean the table.

So now, the biggest brave boy is at work, and the others are in Room613 for the open house.  The little one who did not have a bath last night just washed himself and is getting dressed.  The day will involve our math like we have done in the summer, and the afternoon is going to involve emptying the van and perhaps washing it (if it does not rain!)

So that, my friends, is why my boys got to sleep in on our first day of school.