To An Absolutely Amazing Weekend!

20130527_152537Yael – here is the post you were waiting for! The conference has come and gone, but where to start? As the rain is pouring outside, and the boys are getting ready for bed so they can get ready for more tomorrow, I have a few minutes to write. What started out as a short trip and back to the conference, turned into something more. Oh, so much more!

My husband called me up and informed that he had a vacation day that he had to use or loose. We decided that driving 6 hours from Motzei Shabbos until Sunday morning at 9am was too much in the summer time, so we decided to use it on Friday and drive to our friends’ house in Virginia to spend Shabbos. That way the trip into Baltimore would be short and we would actually be awake. My husband had Monday off for Memorial Day and we were going to find something nice and educational for the boys that day and then drive home. That was the plan!

What I need to say here is that this new plan was thought of and decided within an hour or two late on Thursday afternoon – meaning I had just a few hours to pack for a departure of early Friday morning! Not to mention we had scouts and challah baking that night as well. Somehow everything got packed and we had a very nice drive to Virginia. We arrived at our destination on time and were pretty pleased with ourselves…that is until our friends’ daughter asked if we could just move our van over just a bit. The van would not start. I thought perhaps it was the battery in our key (it is one of those fob keys,) and our friend had replacement batteries. Nope. We thought ahead and had purchased AAA. I honestly thought it was the key – the battery was replaced about a year ago, lights came on, etc. Just the car did not turn on when I turned the key. AAA sent out a locksmith. He could not figure out the problem, and with Shabbos just minutes away, we had to let him go. (Fob keys are usually only able to be made at the dealership…)

Shabbos was wonderful! To wonderful friends, to meeting new friends, to boys having lots of fun! It was really nice. But then reality kicked in and that key issue just did not go away during Shabbos. Tried calling AAA again, but the locksmith I talked too said they could not give me a new 20130527_161928key until several days after the weekend. 😐 Never mind, it’s too late, time for bed, I cannot think. Sunday morning – what to do? How to get to the conference? Never fear – friends are here! After convincing us that they really did intend to drive into Baltimore that day, we had our ride. So, we were a little late, that was fine, we made it late in the morning, but we made it! Baruch Hashem. What were we to do afterwards? Once step at a time, worrying would come later. Boys were sent to be babysitters or to be babysat, and the parents were free! My oldest was one of the boys watching the other sort of older boys. He was shocked that about 28 bottles of juice was finished up by 15 boys (including the teenagers) in 4 hours. Those are boys for you! You put it out, it will be gone! 🙂 Baruch Hashem!

It was wonderful. So many people, so many vendors! It was so nice to be amongst so many fellow homeschoolers. It really felt like one big family with everyone out there to help other people out. It was a place where one could just walk up to anyone else and ask questions or help give answers. There were many wonderful speakers, an amazing binder full of chizuk to everyone, and yes, enough food to fill everyone’s tummy. I think the big thing that I got out of it all was the connections. Over the last year or so I have met many people online, and this weekend was a time where I seemed to have met many of those people in person! It was so nice to put a face to a name and to connect in person. I am really a quiet person, but since I have “known” these people already, when we finally met, it was not a new friend feeling and I enjoyed every bit of it! I wish we had more time to chat with everyone, even with our friends we have met several times before, there was just so much to do and so many people to talk too that we did not get to chat with any one person.

When the conference was about ready to end, our dear friend was just finishing up her trip and was there to pick us up. She drove us to the airport so we could pick up our rental van that AAA is supposed to pay for (we purchased the highest AAA membership – 200 miles towing and up to $1500 in a car rental OR food and lodging on a trip interruption.) After taking forever to pick up the van, driving back, waiting several hours for a tow truck, we were finally ready to drive all the way back to Baltimore to our prepaid hotel. We had the man tow our truck 189 miles towards home to the car dealership. At after midnight, we were ready for bed. We were NOT going to set any alarm for the next morning.

Monday was a nice lazy start. After getting up late, driving next door to Target to get a carseat that we left at the conference and food to eat, we were ready to find a place to eat our food. It was really lunch time. We ended up going out to eat instead! The perks of being in such a huge Jewish population – we just drove up and down the street and saw restaurant upon restaurant that was available to eat at. After filling up our bellies, we decided that we should do some learning, and we headed on over to Fort McHenry for an amazing adventure!

20130527_162346It was a beautiful day to be outside. We walked around and found ourselves near some canons and a Park Ranger. After standing there admiring the canons for a few minutes, the Park Ranger started giving the crowd some information about the canons. One of them was an original that was found in France, and the others were replicas. He was funny, entertaining, and educational all in one. Apparently it took over 20 people per canon to man it. He started taking children and positioning them in different places, at the same time, telling them what their job was. The canon was “shot” 3 times in total. It was wonderful! We also took a tour of the Star Fort and saw the barracks, prison and other rooms. Back in the main building, we watched a movie about the battle at the fort in September 1814. It was an awesome film! Even though we all knew the outcome, we were kept in “suspense” anxious to find out the ending. It was also wonderful that we saw the canons and how they worked first before seeing the movie, we understood more of what was going on and it was more meaningful to us. I will not give away the ending – it was a wonderful surprise! The whole movie was only about 10-15 minutes long and so worth every minute of it. I would recommend 1.5-2 hours for a nice visit and tour.

After too long of a visit to the gift store, we were on our way to find our car. We arrived in Lewisburg, PA just after suppertime – that breakfast we bought in the morning sure came in handy! We went into our motel room (and I think we were the only guests there!) ate supper, did mishnayos and finally went into bed. We were exhausted from the weekend, and it was not over. Up early again to get to the dealer about the time they opened. Long story short – it was something under the dashboard that went out and it would take a day or so to fix, so on our way home we went. Made it back to do the afternoon classes in Room613 and send Daddy to work a full day.

It is now Wednesday morning. Clothes from the trip have been washed and dried. Counters have been cleaned and food for the rest of the week bought. In about an hour we are off again to drive back to Lewisburg to pick up the car and get one of the two keys we have rekeyed. We are now down to only one key. New keys cost $225. That’s a fob key for you. Tomorrow, Thursday, I make challah, have scouts and go shopping for the boy scouts. Why? Because Friday is the beginning of the boy scout campout and us two parents are the adults. I am so not interested in camping at the moment, but we cannot disappoint those beautiful boys! It should be fun, really. Monday. I think my extended weekend will be over then. Bonus? I don’t have to make any food for Shabbos (except for challah which I volunteered,)- the Boy Scouts are doing the food making, cleaning, and most importantly, the tent raising and lowering!

Reviewing the Past Year

20130519_152820Today is the 54th day of the omer, which is 7 weeks and 5 days! Yes, that is what my boys are in to. Actually, I think they forgot to mention that today so please, do not tell them! 😉 The last couple of years they have increased the counting by about week and I think they have petered off with their counting now. Hope you all had a great Shavuos. We did. The weather was gorgeous and the three older boys even went to shul and stayed up all night. I had two boys who were awake until 6:30 the following evening. They ended up crashing (in the rooms that had a light blaring all night) and not waking up until the morning. Cheesecake was delicious and so were both of our homemade ice cream flavours – vanilla and chocolate mint. Tomorrow starts school though, the home stretch! We have started davening outside again a few weeks ago. Not every day yet, but several times a week.

The last 5 weeks of school always seems to be the hardest to complete. I know I said the same thing last year, but yes, it is still true. I am not sure why. I thought perhaps this year would be different for Pesach came early and we were able to get back onto a routine almost immediately, and usually I cannot get back into a routine after Pesach. I am thinking it is just that time of year.

Boys are finishing up books and with just a few weeks left; I do not really want to start them on something new. For my oldest, I have just told him to do something that is left so he gets certain subjects done twice in a week. For the middle two boys I have taken the past 2 weeks or so and worked on their Weeblos scout awards. Number 2 boys is aging out of Cub Scouts and we are working hard on finishing up the famed Arrow of Light that he can carry over to the Boy Scouts uniform. Actually, I am having Number 3 boy (who has one year left in Cub Scouts) finish it up as well. That way I do not have to worry about his stuff next year. They have just finished their second (and final) Jewish award for Cub Scouts and we will be handing in their completed forms this week.

Number 4 boy, well, just as we are finishing up the school year, he is just getting revved up – “Mommy, when is MY schooling?” and “What can I do?” No longer is playing with his blocks, cars or legos good enough to occupy him for the day! He is growing up. Baruch Hashem.  The only problem is that I am not really ready for him yet and was not planning on it until the fall. When he came to see me in bed this morning (today is Sunday), I asked him what he wanted to do today. His response? “Do my school work!” He bugged me this morning until we got it done.

I think this past year went fairly well considering Daddy’s accident turned everything around for a long time, and even then, we all 20130519_152834learned a lot and still got most of our schooling done that needed to get done. The one thing that did not go as planned is math. Other than not getting to it when Daddy was home recovering, I had a different math goal this year than I had in the past. Instead of just giving them the work and after the work was done to move on, I made the boys all get proficient in an area before we moved on. Not only does this mean they have to do many questions sometimes in one area, they have spend a month on one section perfecting it. We did have plans for the oldest boy to be ready for algebra this past December, but he is still not finished his math. We did not have a realistic goal in mind. I am glad I did what I did though. I am hoping that in the next month or so he will be done and he will be ready to start on algebra in the summer. As far as scheduling goes, next year is going to different, I know that already. Room613 is going to change around when classes are, being done mostly in the morning, which gives us the afternoon to do our secular studies or other things we would like to do. That means that Number 4 will get all my attention in the morning! I am just worried what to do with him in the afternoons. Still have some time to think about that one.

I have had several people ask me what I plan on doing in the summer. We do take off most of the summer, for we all need it, however, even though I am a laid back person, I notice that if we do not have any sort of schedule at all during the summer, then I feel the day was just wasted away. So, how to combine both a vacation but yet some sort of schedule to make us all happy is the question. Last year I did a very small schedule in the morning – davening, parsha and then 1 hour of math and typing skills. After that, everyone was free to do what they choose to do. With only 1.75-2 hours of work in the morning, it was just enough to feel like we accomplished something and enough time in the day to feel like we all had free time. I am thinking of adding a few minutes of dik duk a couple times a week and alternating it with something else – the stuff that we cannot seem to get done during the year.

There is one week where the three older boys are going to the Jewish contingency of the Boy Scout camp. Grandpa will be coming about that time and will have a few days with just Number 4 before we all go on a trip with him. This is what all that popcorn selling has done for them! 😀

20130519_152239Well, we finished off the afternoon with a spontaneous trip to the famous Lilac Festival. I love lilacs, they are one of my favorite flowers, if not the favorite and the smell of the flowers are just amazing. We have one outside in our front yard that bloomed amazingly this year. I wanted to walk around more, but because we were not planning on it, we just happened to be there for we found a nice shtender on the side of the road for taking, my Mr. 3 year old almost 4 year old kept telling me that his feet hurt and he did not want to walk anymore. Yes, it was nap time, I did not have to look at the clock to know that.

Next weekend is the conference! We are so excited and hyped to go and meet everyone. I hear there are going to be about 300 people there – almost triple what it was last year! Hope everyone has a wonderful week and hope to see many of you next weekend!

What to Write?

kd2amySo it has happened; writer’s block. I would love to sit down and write about all the things I think about when I am not at the computer to write, and then those amazing thoughts just go and elude me. All of them. I had so many wonderful things I wanted to write about. Perhaps I need to tell them that it is not very nice of them and at least a few of them need to come back! Or, perhaps it is just that I am trying to get everything in and I just do not seem to have time to sit down and do it all.

It has been an interesting week. Even with 4 very busy boys to keep me company, it is lonely without DH. I see it in the boys as well. Even though they do not say much, and even though they do not normally see Daddy during the day, when he has to go away on his business trips, it is felt by everyone. It seems like it is harder on all of us. Shabbos is the worst I think. Right before Shabbos, a boy mentioned (more than once) that it was going to be weird without Daddy. It was. It was quiet. We did not sing, we just had our meal, cleaned up and went to bed. (So, Daddy, just in case you were wondering, we all do miss you!)

However, there is always that little silver lining that we can find if we look for it. I did not take the boys to shul on Friday night. I am not on the weekly email list for shul times and when we tried to look before lighting, we could not find out if there was early davening or not. And anyways, it was too late to go and take the little one and walk back with him and eat. At least it was for me. So, the boys davened at home. And WOW, did they daven! Out loud, with hardly any bickering, and if I was not in the mood beforehand, that was just the start! Shalom Aleichem was sung with feeling and with all voices heard (and I can never get my boys to really sing with us.) Mommy had to give them brachos this week, and each one came over, without any cues, right on time to get theirs. Even Aishes Chayil was sung so much better than usual.

The next morning I went with them to shul, instead of coming later with the littlest one. Dvar Torahs were said at breakfast, table cleaned, and off we went. I did tell them sternly to daven, there was no one to watch them and yes, I was more than just a little worried, I was stuck on the other side of the mechitza! But they did not need watching this week. All three of the older boys sat next to each other, very mentchlich like and davened! Much better than I have ever seen them do before. I think somehow they just knew. They instinctively knew they had to do better than usual and they lived up to the task. Children tend to do that to us when we least expect it. I think that maybe, just maybe, they will get there.

I have started davening a bit later a few of the days and sometimes we have missed parsha over the past week for that is the time that Daddy has available to call and talk for a few minutes. It is hard with the huge time zone change. The nice thing is that we have done several video chats and the boys have been able to see Daddy and Daddy saw all of us. The boys have been able to show off some of their show and tell wares and feel proud. That does seem to help a little bit. I have even remembered (to my great surprise) to have the boys do their Mishnah Yomit every day.

With no one to make me go to bed, I have stayed up late every night. I have tried to be productive. I do have a new project that I just started, and I have tried to listen to shiurim while I work, but it is not really the best I know. It is just hard to stay on track like we should. Even though Daddy does not stay home and learn with us during the day, it is amazing how our entire day is affected. Is that why I had a boy come up to me and for the first time ever come and massage my shoulders today – and do it twice today at that? I am not sure, however, as I remember how good of a massager he is, I smile and think to myself that yes, he is a keeper!

And now, it is time to turn the internet back on (for it is so late that the timer has turned if off for the night!) so I can post and then go straight to bed before I remember that I was proof reading my book for errors instead of doing my new project and get tempted to stay up even later.