Cheesecake, Mud, Sticks and Being Happy

KIMG0489We are almost there! Mr. Little and I have almost finished filling in our Sefiras HaOmer chart. He is very proud of himself. I think he missed one day (though I am not telling him that,) with just a couple of stickers left to put on. (I found a chart off of and put packing tape over it to make it stronger and put our stickers on each day.)

Over the past week I have been thinking about how nice it would be to sit down and write more on my blog. Lately, after my husband is sent off to work, I take up to an hour to do “nothing” and then exercise and shower before getting the boys out of bed. I really feel good, physically, about doing that. Mentally, it takes me the 1.5-2 hours to wipe the cobwebs away from the night, so havingKIMG0403 to get up at 5:30 am 6 or 7 days a week is really good for me (though I still do not really like doing it, it is one of those love-hate relationships.) This morning, when I was thinking how nice it would be to write a little bit to y’all, that little voice in my head turned around and said, “and so, what are you doing about that?” That little voice reminded me that thinking about something will not produce it. That, in turn, reminded me of the mann that we received in the midbar (desert); we just had to *think* about what we wanted it to taste like and it happened. Which was the reason why we had to think about the tastes we wanted on Friday before Shabbos, for for us, at that time, since our thinking created something, it was forbidden to do on Shabbos. Our thinking was our cooking and baking, both forbidden to us on Shabbos. Unfortunately, I am not on that level yet. Baruch Hashem I still have a couple more days of the omer to work on myself!

I am sitting here, trying to ponder on the last two weeks, which is another reason why I should blog more frequently again, for two weeks full of “stuff” is a long time to remember. We have been busy, and yet we have not. The “stuff” we have done you might call it KIMG0417something like “unstuff” for there was a lot of stuff not done, which was the purpose. Mr. Big was doing solely his online college classes this semester. We noticed a change in him about half way through the course. He was not as happy and outgoing as he used to be, and less energetic. Much more of an introvert. We knew the answer as to why – sitting all day on the computer and mostly by himself – but there was not much we could think of doing until his classes were finished. He was finally finished with everything last week, and I had my “plan.” I was so excited about it and talked to my husband about it for several weeks. I was pumped. And then last Monday, he was sick. Sigh. After feeling a bit depressed, I dusted myself off and continued my plan with the other boys while he slept and got better.

I came up with my plan for I am reading The Secret Garden to Mr. Little. At first he did not want me to read, but he was excited to see if Mary ever found the key and found the garden, that he let me read. Now, he tries to get me to read two chapters a night. As weKIMG0446 were reading about a sickly, lethargic, cross little girl, and how she started to transform into a real thinking, happy person, I remembered all my Charlotte Mason readings (I have not read all 6 volumes, but maybe enough to say one whole book? But, I have read the important parts and the rest is really just commentary,) and how she states that children should be outside (ideally) for 4-6 hours a day, being with nature, playing and just absorbing all the fresh air, sunshine and elements. I do try to keep that in mind, even though I don’t seem to be able to take that advice much, but I do keep trying. So, after starting to read The Secret Garden, my mind opened up.

My plan was to basically not do any school work. Mr. Big (and the rest of us, but him in particular) really needed to get back outside and playing in dirt, mud, with sticks, getting dirty, etc. We needed the sunshine to wipe all those cobwebs and dirt away to make our minds sparkle again. My biggest hurdle was knowing where to go. Being still new here, I did not know where there were any good parks nearby. I did not want the regular parks with slides and swings, I wanted a forest park. It took a few minutes of online work, but I found one that seemed like it would be near (in the suburb right next to us, so I just assumed…..) and off the rest of us went. I was relieved to find out that the GPS said it was only about 15 minutes away. It was the most amazing place for us to be. It was exactly what we were looking for and needed. There was a water fountain if needed, bathrooms, yes, a small playground set, and a few signs telling about the place. But most importantly, it had walking trails through the trees, dirt, sticks, and to our surprise, a little creek that was just perfect for boys to walk in with their shoes and pants and shirts….and get thoroughly wet. It was not raining that day, but we have had a lot of rain (15 inches in two weeks kind of rain,) and as I write, we are in the midst of another storm (it really storms here mostly, not just rain.)

So, in short, we all had fun. I did not venture into the water like they did, but I so enjoyed the sunshine, smells of nature, and just sitting there watching the boys…well…be boys. It KIMG0460was such a hit that on Tuesday, when Mr. Big did feel better, and I told the boys we were not doing school work yet again, and we were going out, there were shouts and yells and pleading about going back to the same place, which was the plan. The first day, it was mud and water, which surprised me for I thought there would be sticks as well. We did some math though and found out this math equation: Mud+Water=Shoesstuckandfallingoff. However, they did not disappoint me on day two and they found the sticks and the skipping rocks as well. Even though Mr. Big thought he was too big to play in the water and get thoroughly wet, like his brothers, he roamed, got his shoes all wet by walking in the water, and I even caught him with his hands all full of mud. Yes, deep down inside, he is still a boy, and I was so happy to see that!

Wednesday, one of the first things was, “Can we go back to the water?!?!?!?!” No, we found a different place. We didn’t have much time for it was raining on and off, and I did not want to get tired of such a fun place too quickly. As we were driving around and around and around, trying to find the entrance of the walking trail (it ended up being a biking/walking trail opposed to a nice forest park, but it went through trees and under bridges so we had fun walking,) I decided it was time to purchase rain boots and rain jackets and umbrellas.

Thursday started out with, “where are we going today, Mommy?”. It was really hot and humid and we found another park, though we had to stay on the paved trail for theKIMG0424 unpaved area, where I wanted to go, was all rained out. Only 1 boy was smart enough to bring his new rain boots, and he got to go through the little “lakes” on the grass (some were knee deep!)

My initial plan was to be somewhere for 3-4 hours, but we never stayed more than 1.5 hours, but it definitely was worth it. It did not take much, and by Sunday we saw the fruits of the (oh so hard 😉 ) labour. Mr. Big started smiling more, he looked a bit more happy than he was. Yes, just the fact that he did not have school helped, and yes, even the fact that I took him off of almost all computer time helped, but I think things moved faster with our outings. Monday morning, after he came home from shul, he told me he was helping the rabbi with the shul’s renovations and needed a tape measure and that he is going to Lowes with the rabbi to get stuff. He was in the house, talked to me, got what he wanted and was gone again in abut 45 seconds. I stood there and smiled. *THIS* is what I remembered him being like. We did not go out to forests this week, but he has spent most of his week going to Lowes with the rabbi and changing faucets and whatnot at the shul (all by himself (and he is only 14!)) He is confident, smiley, teaseable, and is interested in his amateur radio again. *happy tears*

Lesson learned: Mr. Big needs his online college classes, that is how we are getting him into university to be able to get him what he wants. We do not want him in a classroom there yet, we feel the college atmosphere is not good for him, at least not right now. But, instead of 4-5 classes at a time, we will focus on 1 class. The rest of the learning will be with me, which is what I want (and miss…) so that way he is with people most of the day.

I’m off, I need to finish getting myself ready and wake up the rest of the beautiful boys. Mr. Big is supposed to be studying for his General Class license, but he is busy playing with his radio…. need to bug him to find his book. Next time, I’ll be able to tell you all about our family project we are in the middle of!

KIMG0466Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuos, and I’m reminded that means the giving of the cheesecake, which we already made this week (yum!) I am thinking I will wake boys up with their favorite song of the season; Stay Up All Night. And since we are just a few days away, I won’t mind them playing it many times over the next few days.

Chag Sameach!

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!

2012 Conference Videos Are Here!

Chodesh Tov!

For those that were waiting, the 2012 Torah Home Education Conference videos are now available to purchase. 😀

They can be purchased off of Mind Bites.  There was a wide range of topics, from Financial Literacy in Your Homeschooling, to teaching Bar/Bas Mitzvah and Beyond, to Technology in the Home (**I like this one, hint hint 😉 **)  They can all be purchased individually for $2.97 with each talk being about 40 minutes long.  You can also purchase the entire series for $19.80 by clicking on the link for “Series” with over 7 hours of enjoyable listening time!  The audio and video quality of the talks I have watched or sampled have been very good.

I was hoping to post this last night, however, there was just so much to do, and I did not feel that I even got half of it done! Not that I didn’t do anything, it was just that life happens sometimes, and with children life happens often ;), as well as regular stuff to deal with. I think the only thing on the list that I got done (and one could argue it was the most important thing to do last night,) was calling to say hi to my 91 year old grandfather, who not only answered the phone before the answering machine (he screens his calls from telemarketers), told me he was happy to hear about the conference and the fact that we learned a lot from it, asked me a lot of questions about our homeschooling and was very impressed with that and other things – all within the course of the 10min 52sec phone call – which might actually be a record for him!

One big bonus of homeschooling is that I have learned to be more organized.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a LOOONG way to go, but I am sure a lot further along than I was when we started!  I have learned that I need to prepare my Yom Tov meals several days in advance so I know what I need in the house, and not the night before.   Now I am happy that I was only able to do a partial shopping on Sunday, for that means I can actually make things that I would like to have because there is still money left for the week to buy stuff!  There is positive in everything.

I’m going to finish up today, short and sweet.  Tuesdays are a short day, which will allow me to finish up my Shavuos plans.  Right now I know that we’re eating pizza and ice cream at shul on Sunday, and IY”H we will be making homemade ice cream, yum!  I guess that is the important part, right? 😉  Wishing everyone a wonderful Yom Tov (and Shabbos) this weekend!