Monthly Archives: May 2011

Torah Home Education conference….next year?

>>I am sure yo do not want to think about this now, but what about next year? It would be such a shame to lose the momentum you have built up.<<

I’ve been asked a number of times if there will be a conference next year, and I’ve vacillated within myself about if I would continue organizing it from a distance (most of the arrangements I do online or by phone anyway) for the future and then have a couple of people do the hands-on aspect for the day of the conference itself.

I feel that it’s really important that there be a venue in the Orthodox world for accurate information and support with regards to homeschooling (which is sorely missing), and know how much people appreciate it (some have told me it was life changing for them).   At the same time, it requires a substantial effort on my part, and every one of us has to choose where to invest her time and energy.  I finally decided to make it strictly about numbers and not about my feelings: if there were a given number of people (I predetermined this) in attendance this year, that would justify the continued effort.

The first year of the conference, we had about 50 people, which was quite good considering that it was the very first time, and I began organizing it only six weeks before it took place (and my baby was four weeks old at the conference!).  The second year we had about 100 people, which was wonderful, as I felt like the interest and awareness of homeschooling as a reality was growing.

This year, my hope was that there would be a significant increase from last year’s turnout, which I felt was reasonable for a number of reasons.  However, I decided that even if we didn’t increase the numbers from last year, I’d be willing to continue organizing the conference if there were close to 100 people.

Well, fortunately for me but maybe unfortunately for those who would like this to continue, the attendance wasn’t enough to make it something I’d have to rethink.  I believe part of the lowered attendance is due to the crunch many are feeling economically, combined with the rising gas prices – it makes it hard to spend the money driving even a few hours away.

And part of it is that people take what they have for granted until they don’t have it.  They are so pressured by all that they have to do, that they don’t make time for things that aren’t urgent – even if those options would create better possibilities for them. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to say they want something but when it comes down to it, not follow through.

My kids asked me how I felt about the attendance.  And my honest answer is, I felt somewhat disappointed that more people didn’t avail themselves of this resource. Though I downplay how much time and effort I put into the conference, it’s honestly a lot of work;  I don’t think without doing something like this yourself you have an idea of how much is involved in it.  The effort that I put in is the same regardless of how many people come, and when I know how great the need is and then see how relatively few people actually make the effort to be there, it’s disheartening.  Also, when I extend myself to accommodate people who make specific requests and then don’t even show up, it’s disappointing.  I understand it, though.

So I finished the conference with a lovely sense of completion and closure.  I’ll continue to support people one on one, and to make the recordings available (I’ll let you know when the ones from this year are ready), and I’m very grateful for the clarity that this isn’t something for me to continue.

Interestingly (to me, anyway!), someone in Israel has taken the initiative to arrange a monthly homeschool gathering in the north of Israel – in Karmiel, actually! (the city we’re moving to) – and the first gathering was held on the same day as the conference.  When one door closes, another opens!   So as the door on my active advocacy for homeschooling in the Orthodox world in the US swings shut (though I suspect that it will never totally close), it is very, very nice to feel that there are others where we are going who are making the effort to create a framework that we can participate in.

Avivah

A day of rest

Today I had a nice, relaxing day.

I spent the most of the day in bed, sleeping on and off after being really sick last night – the kids came up to see me, but I didn’t go downstairs until the mid afternoon.  While I was in bed, dd16 was preparing the birthday party for ds5.  (His birthday was before Pesach and though we had a couple of very minor family ‘celebrations’, dd wanted to do something special for him.)

Personally, I had no interest in having an official party for him – parties aren’t something that I especially enjoy, and I’ve had so much going on that I had absolutely no head space for this.  Actually, I didn’t even have head space for dd to do it and told her so.  But she wanted to do it – she told me that it’s his last (actually, his only) party in America and it should be special – and I reluctantly agreed.

She did a great job on the baseball themed party – from the invitations, which had a photo of ds5 in his baseball uniform, which she added a digital word bubble to inviting friends to his party along with a cute baseball themed poem inside, to the party games, pinata, and two birthday cakes she baked (baseballs, of course!).  Ds12 and his best friend led the games, and the eight boys along with ds5 (and our kids) had a great time.  Ds5 was loving it!

She really thought of every detail, down to matching themed signs and paper goods, and food!  She’ll make a great party planner.  She did a great job and I think it’s really special that ds5 has a sister and brother who care enough to plan and execute such a nice party for him.

After the party was over, I took dd16 with her friend to the pool of a friend for a short swim. From there, they walked directly to her evening appointment at her chiro (her last one, since she’s returning to Israel tomorrow), and I headed to the lake to sit and relax while I waited until it was time to pick her up.  When I approached my car to leave, someone who was at my talk at the conference was there, and on seeing that I was by myself, asked if I was bird watching! (During my workshop on burnout, I mentioned that I was planning this week to take some time for myself to go birdwatching one day either early in the morning or at dusk with an experienced friend.)  I don’t consider myself an especially public person, but it’s interesting how often situations like this happen; as someone at the conference who reads my blog said, she feels like she knows all our family!

Avivah

Third Torah Home Education Conference finished!

Well, the third Annual Torah Home Education Conference has come to a close.  It was BH a wonderful day – great speakers, great attendees – and I want to thank Alisa Mandel for all of her help.  When I was considering if I would be able to run the conference again or not this year in light of the other things going on in my life, it was her stepping in and making herself available to help that made me decide to go ahead with it.  Thanks, Alisa!!

After the conference, I had two regrets, one of which was familiar to me each year: that I didn’t have more time to speak to the people who were attending.  The other I’ll write about another time.

There are so many great people who were there and because I get interrupted in the middle of conversations pretty often throughout the day, I often don’t get to speak to people for more than a couple of minutes, and then worry that people might feel slighted by me.  I used to have this same worry when I was the president of a large Neshei (women’s organization) at the big events we had – I tried to greet every person there, but obviously couldn’t speak to each person much.

I’m grateful that the day went so well, in spite of how I was feeling physically.  I was feeling pretty tired from the time I started my day, and was hoping to shake it off.  (I know, if you were there, you probably thought I looked fine!  I hide it well.)  Being so tired meant that though I usually remember faces and names well, yesterday I was having a hard time keeping the faces and names put together. On the positive side, being so tired made it easier to stay calm about things like the last minute cancellation of one of the speakers or the person who was supposed to watch my children for the day not showing up  – I had no extra energy to get worked up about it!

I’ve spoken the last couple of years at the conference, and usually take whatever slot is left after I give the speakers the times they prefer.  In the past this was the afternoon, but this year I spoke in the morning, and I was especially glad that I did.  I don’t think I physically could have managed it after lunchtime (though I did facilitate the teen panel towards the end of the day).  Though I managed to hold myself together until the conference was over – it was just barely.

By the time I was in the lobby exiting the building I was feeling so dizzy that mid-sentence I stopped the person I was speaking to and told her we’d have to talk at a different time.   I got home a few minutes later but by then the combination of being so tired and not drinking enough had led to being dehydrated.  At home, I immediately drank as much as I could, until I felt I couldn’t drink anymore, but it was too late to avoid the discomfort of an advancing stage of dehydration (intense headaches, nausea, etc).

I spent a couple of hours throwing up (I rarely throw up, and nothing like this), and was thinking afterward that I was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of what it was like so that I can be more understanding of my children (dd10 gets easily dehydrated and dd16 recently had a lot of throwing up).  It wasn’t fun – it was quite horrible, actually – and I spent a good part of today in bed recovering – but at least I gained something from it. :)

To those of you who attended the conference – thank you.  To those of you who expressed your thanks – thank you!  It’s so nice to feel my efforts have been appreciated.  Here are a few emails that I received since yesterday:

“Thank you for a wonderful conference, yet again!  Although I couldn’t stay the whole time I got chizuk out of your speech and getting a (brief) chance to talk with and see such a diverse group of Torah committed homeschoolers.  “

“I had the most AMAZING time – thank you SOooooo much for pulling it together!  It was fantastic to have a face to put with your name – you are even more of a presence in person, if such a thing is possible.”

“Thank you, and yasher koach for arranging such an excellent conference once again. Much of what I heard from other speakers mamash moved me.”

I want to thank you for arranging this wonderful conference. My husband and I greatly enjoyed the day – meeting like minded people, sharing information and gaining chizuk and encouragement. I especially enjoyed your talk – I wondered how you knew exactly what was going on in my head!

“I’m sure there were days you felt like canceling the conference after you decided to move and I, among so many others, are grateful that you didn’t and that you have given such a visibility to Jewish homeschooling.”

Avivah

Friends, embassy, and homers

This morning dd16 and I started our day by going downtown to pick up two friends of hers arriving from Michigan, who are coming for the conference.  Though I left the house and allowed extra time to get there, there was a huge delay with traffic and I got there almost an hour after I had planned.  Fortunately, their bus had arrived late so they hadn’t been waiting long.

I had planned to go directly from picking them up to the Israeli embassy; one thing I wanted to take care of was extending dd16’s passport.  She got an Israeli passport at the beginning of the year that expires when she turns 17 – this is because Israeli teens who reach the age of 17 have to get permission from the army before leaving the country or entering for more than a certain amount of time.  The Jewish Agency representative here had suggested that it would be easier for us to deal with it here than in Israel, and since I needed to go there anyway to sign a power of attorney for someone to sign paperwork on my behalf in Israel, it wasn’t any extra effort to take dd along.

Unfortunately, I forgot to tell her to take her passport with her, so she couldn’t get it taken care of!  However, when we got there, I picked up ds17’s new passport – we had to take care of the army issue before his could be issued when the rest of us got ours – and learned that he’ll still have to go to the enlistment office in Israel when he arrives to take care of some other aspects of his deferment of the mandatory army service.  So dd16 will go along with him and take care of hers at the same time at that point.

It took a couple of hours there to get the power of attorney signed, but it’s done.  Now I have to send it off to Israel so it can be used!

After this we took my husband to work, then had lunch since I hadn’t had anything to eat and neither had dd’s friends.  Or dd16 for that matter, but she still can’t eat much because of the oral surgery.  From there we headed home, stopping on the way at the library and finally getting home at 6 pm.  When I left my house at 9:35 in the morning, I had no idea that it would take all day to do what we needed to do!

(It was funny that both these friends came last year for a few days, and we went to DC (to the National Zoo) when they were here, as well as stopping at this same restuarant to eat and going to the same library – but these aren’t things that we usually do!  It must have felt like it was a replay of their visit last time!)

When we got home, it was so nice to walk into a sparkling clean house with  the table set and ready for dinner, with a yummy dinner prepared.  All thanks to dd14.  We ate and then headed out to catch the end of ds12’s baseball game – we got there just as he got up to bat and hit a home run!  And then he hit another one right before the game ended, and since he hit one before we got there, he’s now earned the distinction of being the only player in the league for the last two years to have hit three home runs in one game.  He’s the top hitter in the league for home runs for the season (you know how they have stats on all this stuff!), and he’s hoping in the last game of the season this Sunday to up his average even more by hitting some more homers.  :)  I haven’t been to many of his games this season – I usually drive him there and pick him up, but can’t stay to watch – and was so glad that at the game I happened to come to I was able to view some of his accomplishments.

He and ds17 are excellent baseball players (ds17 was also the top hitter in the league), and I know it’s something ds12 will miss when we go to Israel,(since it’s not played much there.  I’m glad they’ve both enjoyed the opportunity during their years here to play regularly.  But we plan on taking baseball equipment with us anyway, and perhaps we’ll find the opportunity to play.  After our family game of baseball on Pesach, we realized that even without anyone else, we have enough people to have lots of fun on our own!

Avivah

Appointments winding down

Today I got up nice and early to whip my house into shape in time for the photographer to come (for pictures to post along with the online listing).  That wasn’t incredibly relaxing because you know the feeling of knowing there’s no way you can do what you need to do in the amount of time you have?   This is an area I tend to feel very uptight about (people coming into my private space and looking around), but somehow today, in spite of 4.5 hours of sleep (had to stay up late to take care of some conference stuff while the house was quiet), I was able to do what I needed to without getting emotional or tense about the situation.

The photographer came ten minutes early, right before I walked out with ds8 to his dental appointment, so I got to meet him and then introduced him to all of the kids.  Since ds3 had a pre-op physical scheduled right after ds8’s dentist visit, I took him along, and on my way out, took ds2 (he just had a birthday a few days ago – doesn’t time fly?!?).  He wasn’t feeling good and was out of sorts – maybe in part because he woke up at midnight and wanted to spend time with me during my ‘get work done while it’s quiet time’.  That’s why I didn’t finish until 2:30 am!

Anyway, I thought I’d take him with me so that the older kids would be able to do what they needed to without having to watch him.  That was more noble of me than I anticipated- it was an hour long dental visit, followed by an hour long visit with the pediatrician.  Ds3 and ds2 quickly got bored in the very small waiting area during the first appointment and thought it was amusing to play with the front door. Redirecting them repeatedly took a lot of energy on this particular day – I could have used a nap before I left the house!

The good news is – as of today, all of the dental visits for the family are finished!  (With the exception of ds3’s extensive work that will be done under general in a month, and dd10, who won’t see a dentist until after we move.)  21 trips to the dentist later, everyone’s mouth is in good shape.  Yes, 21.

That doesn’t include 2 trips to the orthodontist, 2 trips to the oral surgeon, 2 trips to the lab for blood work, one day at the emergency room, two trips to the osteopath, three trips to the chiropractor, and four trips to the gastroenterologist.  Or the visits to the Jewish Agency for interviews and then again for more paperwork, or to the Israeli embassy twice (tomorrow morning will be the third time), or two trips to get our US passports processed.  Or the pediatrician today, or the oral surgeon on Friday.  Or Pesach.  Or preparing for the conference.    Or getting our house ready to sell, or trying to find a place to live in Israel.  I don’t think I want to add all of that up, but I know it’s a lot.  :)  I suppose it’s good that I’m waiting to take dd10 to the dentist after we move, or the total would be higher.

What’s really nice is that it’s finally winding down!  I looked at my planner today to schedule a date for a check-up for ds2 with the pediatrician, and I had wide open weeks to choose from.  Well, maybe not wide-open, but it looks like it since I haven’t yet written in all the appointments to conduct reviews for local homeschooling families filing their end of the year paperwork.  But I told the director of the umbrella program that I could only meet with seven families, so that’s a finite amount of meetings.  Though I know there will be a lot more to do in preparation for our move, it’s nice to feel like a good bit of things have been taken care of.

You know, until this week I haven’t wanted to write or talk about a lot of what I’ve been doing.  I felt when I did, my carefully kept in-check energy would start shifting and speeding up in a negative way, and I didn’t want to stress out others or myself by describing what I’ve been doing – there’s been a lot of life to live in between the highlighted appointments above.  But this week I realized I had shifted my perspective back into a better place because I was able to talk about what I’ve been doing, and not feel myself talking faster to keep up with my thoughts.  I wasn’t stressed out before, but now I feel calm inside, whereas before I was really working to keep that calm.  Part of this shift came after someone I spoke to suggested that I needed to stop being so attached to the outcomes I desired and let go – not an easy thing to do, to be working to accomplish things and simultaneously not be emotionally attached to if they get done in the way I want or not.

But she was right, and it was a powerful reminder than I can do what I do, but I have to remember that Hashem runs the world, and I can only do the footwork for my little part in the world.  And how it ends up isn’t dependent on me.  It’s a good head space to be in now, and I’m glad to be here.

Avivah

My daughter is a trooper!

I know every parent thinks her child is wonderful, but I’m so taken by my sixteen year old daughter’s ability to choose a good attitude even in the face of discomfort.

Last Sunday she spent hours in agonizing pain, throwing up 80 times in less than 24 hours.  The doctor on call at the gastroenterology clinic we had taken her to a few days before told us there was nothing they could do for her if we brought her to the ER since they didn’t know what was causing the pain (the clinic is part of the same hospital), and after asking a neighbor who is a nurse to check for appendicitis, decided not to take her in.  The ER isn’t a good place to be when you don’t have a doctor looking out for you and you have something not easily identifiably treatable that you’re suffering with.

As a doula, I’ve been with a number of women in labor.  You know how during the last stage of labor, it’s so intense?  But even then there are breaks between contractions, and being at that stage means you’re close to the end and will soon be holding your baby in your arms.  Dd was experiencing that kind of intense sensation, but there was no pause and no comfort that it would come to an end – it just went on and on for hours.

It’s really, really hard to see your child in so much pain and not be able to do anything.  By this time, it was late afternoon, and gratefully, someone I knew was able to do a long distance hour long reiki treatment on her as soon literally two minutes after I emailed her. Right after that concluded, our amazing chiropractor (who also does energy work) called and made space in her schedule to see dd16 a couple of hours later. Dd16 was so out of it – I hated to take her out of the house when she could hardly move – but I felt it was really important.

The next morning she had an appointment for a consultation with the oral surgeon about her wisdom teeth.  When she woke up in the morning, she still felt horrible but her pain level had gone from a 10 (on a scale of 1 – 10) to an 8.  I made this appointment 7 weeks ago and it really was important to take her, so although I wished it wasn’t necessary, we went.  All he did was briefly glance in her mouth and tell us what the procedure would entail, so it wasn’t physically difficult for her, it was getting there that was hard – we walked very slowly, but she still threw up a few times in the hallway of the office building.

From the waiting room of the oral surgeon, I called her gastroenterologist to let her know what was happening.  The GI was very upset to learn what the doctor the day before had told us, and told us to go to the ER immediately.  I asked her to send over the test requests and paperwork for dd – it helps get things done, and that really made a big difference once we got there.  Because telling them your stomach hurts isn’t something they really pay much attention to, but if you tell them your GI told you to come in, then they realize you have something going on.

We spent all day in the ER, while they did more blood work and dd prepared for an MRI.  As the day went on, dd felt increasingly better – I felt like the energy work that had been done the night before was clearing out some stuff in her system.  Preparing for the MRI required drinking a solution, but the problem was that she hadn’t been able to eat or even drink anything for over 28 hours by that point – if she even sucked on an ice cube, the pain of the liquid entering her system caused her to vomit.  Fortunately, as the pain decreased throughout the day, she was finally able to drink the solution, even though it took her two hours to drink it.  (There’s no way she ould have done that the day before.)

Finally we got the report back on the MRI, and they told us she had a ruptured ovarian cyst.  They were happy they found the problem – that definitely would have been very painful – but I wasn’t convinced that was the root of the issue since the area she would have had pain in didn’t match up with where she was experiencing it.  So we finally went home – just in time for the home buyers tour that took place a half hour later.  By this point, dd was at only a 4 on the pain scale, and she was downright chipper – she kept saying she couldn’t believe the difference from the day before (when she “felt like she was dying” – she’s not given to exaggeration or complaining) to then.  I took the kids out to the lake and we had a picnic dinner there, and I was so grateful that she was feeling better.  It was very emotionally draining for both of us.

But even though the unusual sharp pains had passed, she was still experiencing her regular stabbing stomach pains, so off we went on Thursday for an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  She felt pretty lousy after that, and spent the day in bed afterward.  We were hoping for answers but after meeting with the GI and looking at all the pictures from the procedures, I wasn’t feeling encouraged.

We had the follow up appointment with the GI Monday morning, but when we got there, the secretary had accidentally cancelled our appointment, and after waiting 45 minutes, it was clear we weren’t going to be able to get to dd’s next appointment on time – having her wisdom teeth removed – unless we rescheduled the GI for the next day.

So off we went to have her wisdom teeth out – I chose a different oral surgeon than the one who took care of ds17, because even though he was technically a good doctor, his bedside manner was very…lacking.  I was especially grateful that I found a different doctor for dd when the morning of our first appointment arrived and she was in such bad shape- in addition to being highly competent, he was very pleasant, which was particularly important right then.

With her wisdom teeth freshly removed, she was feeling pretty good even though her mouth was bleeding quite a bit, and right after we finished she went shopping with her grandmother to buy supplies for the birthday party she’s planning for ds5. (I discouraged her from this, but she insisted she was fine.)  But as she was in the store, the pain medication started to wear off and her face began to swell, and she was feeling really horrible by the time she got home.  Fortunately, I had filled her prescriptions while she was out, including one for pain killer (which she’s never taken in her life).

The first one didn’t help, and a few hours later I suggested she take two.  She spent the rest of that day in bed, too.  Then I took her out to our chiropractor for another visit that evening (I had scheduled it the week before, when the oral surgery had been scheduled for later in the week; it was moved up the morning after we saw the chiro).  That was wonderful – our chiro is very gifted and I feel very fortunate that she cares so much about dd and went out of her way to accommodate her – she didn’t have any availability for three weeks and arranged for dd to come in three times before she goes back to Israel by taking her on her free evenings.

This morning when she woke up she told me she was so dizzy that the room was spinning – we then learned this was a side effect of the pain killer.  She told me if she had known this would be the side effect, she would have rathered have the pain.  Sigh.

So today, off we went again to the GI, 24 hours after she had all four wisdom teeth out, dizzy, with her face swollen and feeling like a chipmunk.  The GI wants me to call her tomorrow – there’s one more thing they’re checking – but suspects it’s some form of gastritis that is causing the stomach pain.  I hope she’s right – she gave us another prescription to fill (it was strange at the pharmacy to fill 5 prescriptions for dd – 3 for the oral surgery, 2 for her stomach pains- who has never had any medication at all before this).  I have some ambivalence about all of this but told dd that she should take the recommended medication once she finishes with the wisdom tooth pain.  We’ll continue addressing the issue on the energetic level, as well.  She’s also taking some homeopathic remedies that her chiropractor gave her, has another appointment scheduled for energy work the night before she leaves (next week), and is listening to relaxation and positive imagery cds to relax and focus on good things.

I told dd that I was sorry that so much of her time at home has been spent going to doctors and being in pain.  And she told me that it wasn’t so bad, and she was glad that she was home when all of this happened.  In spite of all of this, she downplays all of it and finds a positive way to look at it.

I love that girl.

Avivah

Putting house on the market

There’s been a lot to do around here lately, but some things just can’t be pushed off any longer, and one of those things is getting our house on the market.  I had a secret dream that someone would hear that our house was for sale and sign a purchase contract before we officially put it on the market, sparing me from strangers coming into my house and looking around.  It’s not exactly an easy thing to keep a house in showcase condition with 10 people using it all day long

But as our moving date got closer and the dreamed about scenario didn’t materialize, it was clear that Hashem had a better plan for us.  So on Sunday we had a meeting with a real estate agent to discuss working with us, and then today he came by to sign the paperwork.  A photographer will be coming in the morning to take pictures of the house – which I find a little daunting.  Not because my house isn’t wonderful – it is!  But I don’t know how well it will photograph- the house is in good condition, we’ve done a lot of work, and it’s perfectly set up for a family to enjoy – but pictures of bedrooms with double bunkbeds aren’t typically what I think buyers find appealing.  :)  It’s definitely better seen in person.

Be that as it may, my job is to make my effort, not to think that I can control the process or orchestrate the desired outcome.  I have two appointments tomorrow morning one after another – one for ds8 to have his final dental work, then immediately afterward I’ll take ds3 for his pre-op physical for the dental work he’ll be getting in June (under general anesthesia).  The best time for the photographer was at the same time as my first appointment, so I told them to come and one of my teens will let them in.

We should have the sign up in front by Friday, and he asked about having a showing this Sunday, but I told him it will have to wait until Monday.  Since Sunday is the Torah Home Education Conference (if you haven’t yet made plans to be there – make them – it’s going to be awesome!), and my mom will be watching our kids here, I won’t ask her to take everyone out for a few hours.  I made up a regular time every day that I’ll be out of the house with the kids to give both the realtor and myself some structure to work with – this was a suggestion a wonderful woman I spoke with Sunday night made to me that I thought was a great idea.

With Hashem’s help, our house will sell quickly and easily to a wonderful buyer who will love our house as much as we do and be an asset to the neighborhood!

Avivah

Israel preparations moving along

Today I did my last shopping trip before we move to Israel – when thinking about doing the trip, I wasn’t even sure it was worth it since I wasn’t getting anywhere near as much as usual.  But I really needed eggs, so in the end, we went, and were all glad we did.  I’ve been shopping in this particular area for over 5 years (and a year or two before that in an area an hour away from there), and it’s been an enjoyable thing for me and my family to make part of our regular routine. I’ve watched the children of our dairy farmer grow up (and they’ve seen my kids growing up, too), and though I can’t say that I have deep and meaningful connections with any of those where I shop, I do have a nice warm feeling toward them.  It was only at the last store that I realized that I wouldn’t be back again, and had a chance to say goodbye to a couple of the women I usually see – the woman in the frozen produce section (she’s used to getting cases of vegetables for me) gave me a big hug and lots of warm wishes, and the cashier who I usually chat with about gluten free cooking and other stuff also gave me a very warm goodbye.  I was sorry not to have said goodbye to others at the other places I was at, but it was good to have closure in whatever way I did.  I really enjoy my life here and even when you have something positive to move toward, it doesn’t take away from the fact that so much of what we’ve enjoyed here is ending.  I have this poignant kind of feeling pretty often lately.

I hope to move in ten weeks (some big factors regarding selling our house and finding a place to live are still up in the air, so this isn’t definite), and shopped with that in mind.  At this point, I need to focus on using up the staples that I have, and minimize the food I’m buying so that I’m forced to use what I have.  This will require some additional menu planning and thought, like using up your chometz before Pesach.  In January (before we decided to move) I cut my food budget down to $400 a month (which was really challenging for Pesach and I didn’t manage to stick to – it went up to $500 that month).  So I’ve been steadily using up staples, but I think I need to focus on it more to whittle it down.

So what did I get?

  • 60 dozen eggs
  • 40 lb. yams
  • 50 lb potatoes
  • 50 lb onions
  • romaine hearts (6 pkg of 3 each)
  • 3 gallons raw milk (just because it was our last trip and Shavuos is coming – otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten any since I don’t have the extra space in the fridge)
  • lots of dairy for Shavuos – pumpkin cheesecakes (4), sour cream (6), Greek yogurt (6), organic blueberry yogurts (12 small), plain yogurt (8 – 32 oz)
  • ten gallon container of ice cream (Shavuos, you know :))
  • a few packages of tempe and Gimme Lean (soy-based meat substitute – not something I usually buy, but I’m considering it a treat food that will add some nice flavor to the beans and grains I need to use up, and the price was amazing)
  • a case of pizza sauce

Hmm.  I’m looking at that list and wondering what else I got that cost $200.  Other odds and ends, I guess.

I need to buy chicken for this month and will round out what I have with some fresh vegetables for Shabbos, plus some stuff for ds5’s birthday party the day after the conference.  But otherwise we’ll be working our way through our home-canned and store bought fruits and vegetables (though the canned pickled vegetables I made aren’t going to get used – my girls and I were discussing if I should throw the food away and then sell the empty jars or if people would want the food for the same price.  The food is fine, it’s just that when I started canning I made lots of interesting things that we don’t really eat – fancy apple and pear chutneys, zucchini relish, and other pickled dishes.  Once I had more experience canning, I thought more about what we’d really want to eat, not just what recipes looked fun to try!)

As far as canning jars go, I’ve sold loads – I sold about 20 – 30 dozen about 8 months ago to one person who was moving to Alaska after many years in the Coast Guard to her home she was building by herself.  Now with this move in the works, I’m selling the rest, but this time it’s been a few dozen here, a few dozen there.  I probably have about ten dozen jars left, not including the jars that currently have food in them.  It’s no problem selling them, though – there’s plenty of interest.  Funny, though, my storage area doesn’t seem noticeably emptier, though obviously it is!  I think I haven’t yet reached the tipping point in that particular area, which is pretty small and with my freezer and some other things still stored there, it doesn’t yet look empty.

The rest of the house is emptying out, though, and it’s finally noticeable at this point – my mil was emotional when she walked into the living room yesterday; it’s a visible reminder that we’re moving, a topic which hasn’t even slightly been alluded to in conversation with me since we told them we’re moving over two months ago.  I know that it’s hard for them and I suppose not talking about it makes it easier to not think about it.  But it’s hard to have something so major in your life – something that is relevant to most of the things that I do every day – that I can’t mention anything about.

Anyway, in the living room, we sold our wood climber, took our pull-out couch to the dump, and gave away our piano to a frat house.  So there’s just an end table and love seat left.  We refinished the hardwood floors on Sunday (unlike lots of jobs that I delegate, I did most of this job – very fun and rewarding) and they look great.   It’s very nice, actually – it feels more spacious and it’s so much easier to keep clean!

I’ve given away dozens of bags of clothing, toys, boxes of books to the book exchange, sold our dressers – so what’s left in the bedrooms for the most part is just beds, with clothes stored in the closet and underbed boxes.  Even though I’ve whittled and whittled away at our clothing, we’re going to need more downsizing once we have to fit all of our stuff into the suitcases.  We’re not taking a lift so our limit will be our limit;  though if I knew of anyone in this city making a lift to the north of Israel, I’d buy space for sefarim, homeschooling supplies and the electric grain grinder.

On the home repair side of things, we had a funny situation.  A week and a half ago we noticed the smell of mold getting very strong over a period of about three days from the powder room (has a sink and toilet) on the main floor.  We’ve done a lot of work on our home to make it nice and keep it nice, and neither dh and I were comfortable selling a house that might have mold.  Dh noticed there was some moisture in one of the walls in that room close to the base, so he pulled out the walls.  To pull out one of the walls, he had to pull out the toilet, which then cracked.  And as he removed the toilet, the tiles on the floor broke.  And after taking out all the old walls and tiles and throwing it away, we could still smell mold.  Guess what we finally found?  The source of the smell – a wet roll of toilet paper at the bottom of the garbage can in the powder room – there wasn’t mold in the bathroom at all!  So dh ended up totally renovating the bathroom, which wasn’t what he was planning.  But it looks great – it has new walls, new tiled floor (done by dd14 while I was sanding the hardwood floors – I literally would have gone crazy doing a job that tedious and precise, and she told me it was the first home repair job of all she’s done that she really enjoyed!), and a new light fixture that is newly wired.  He’s a trooper and did all this extra work with a great attitude even though his time is at a premium and it ended up being a much more intensive project than he envisioned.

Ds17 put in new light fixtures in the living room and the boys’ bedroom (though the other ones were fine, they were more dated) and did some painting while he was here.  All the kids did a lot, not just the jobs I’m mentioning or the people I’m mentioning, and thanks to the work of us all, on Monday night our house was ready when there was a neighborhood home buyers tour (and that was despite me being in the emergency room all day with dd16 and getting home a half hour before it started).

Dd16 had a friend for Shabbos, another friend over for Saturday night, then another friend scheduled to come this Shabbos.  Then after that two more friends are coming to spend a few days with us in time for the conference.  She’s trying to spend time with her closest friends before she leaves on May 31, since she’ll stay in Israel until we get there and won’t be coming back.  And she and I have been busy with appointments – blood work, doctor appointments (osteopath and gastroenterologist), dentist, oral surgeon, energy work, and still more appointments (had an MRI on Monday in the emergency room, endoscopy of upper and lower GI scheduled for tomorrow). We’re doing what we can to figure out what is going on.

So that’s a very shortened version of some of what we’ve been busy with lately. :)

Avivah

To blog or not to blog, that is the question!

>>i am trying to decide if blogging is something i want to try.  to try or not to try?  is it beneficial?  are there any downsides?<<

When I started blogging almost five years ago, it wasn’t something as common or popular as it is now.  As hard as it is to imagine now, many people didn’t know what a blog was at that time!  My only goal was to be able to offer help or perspective to moms who might not have real life support, since I would have appreciated that as a young mother trying to figure everything out from scratch.   As readers began to ask more questions about other areas, and I was finding it hard to respond to the private emails with questions as well as to write for the blog, it gradually evolved to writing about a number of other topics.

While I started off blogging to help others, I found taking the time to write created ‘me time’ at the end of a busy day, and as more and more people began to comment, it became more personally rewarding.  That made it something I wanted to do for myself.  However, there was a point that the readership numbers got very high and many new people were reading, that  blogging stopped feeling relaxing and started to feel stressful.  Some people welcome controversy for the increased number of hits it will get their blog, and will try to stimulate it, but that wasn’t my goal and I wasn’t really interested in negative energy.

So if you should blog or not really depends on what your reason for considering it is.  If you want to make money, there are those who do very well, but you have to put a lot of time and effort into it.  There are a lot of blogs on the internet, and people will only read yours if they can find you and if they appreciate your content.  I personally wasn’t that invested in the numbers of daily hits I got (though it was fun to watch the numbers of visitors climbing and know people in many countries were reading), and this kept it low-key and low-pressure for me.   If you want to make money, you  need to be focused and treat it like a business – don’t underestimate the time this takes.  I can easily spend an hour+ on a blog post; it’s not the writing but the clarifying so you won’t be misunderstood that takes so much time.

If your life is already very full and busy, consider if you really want one more thing on your ‘to do’ list.  Blogging should be enjoyable, not something you make yourself do because your readers expect it.  If you want to make money, be realistic about how much time and work it will take before you are earning an income, and consider if there is other work that you could more easily do that is more reliable for many fewer hours of your time.

I try to make restrictions for myself on screen time, since the computer can too easily pull someone away from what is going on around them with the real life people who need them.  (Note the recent absence of posts, despite many, many things to share about.)  If you think it will be fun and don’t care if anyone reads what you write, go ahead.  If you have lots to do and hardly find time for yourself as it is, be careful that blogging will enhance your personal rejuvenation time, not take away from it.

Avivah

Yom Haatzmaut event

This evening I took the kids to a community event in honor of Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day).  It wouldn’t have been on my radar if I hadn’t been contacted by two different organizers and asked to participate.  Towards the end of the program, there is a segment in which people in the community who will be learning in Israel for the year or moving to Israel are asked to come up and light a candle.  We were contacted to be part of that segment.

Yesterday I told one organizer that my kids might be able to attend, but dh was working and I had a consult followed by an interview (for an article about homeschooling) scheduled for that time, so as much as I would have liked to participate, it wasn’t realistic for me to be there.  Then this afternoon, the person who had wanted the consultation had a sore throat and couldn’t talk, so we cancelled for this evening.  What was really nice about this was it allowed me to go with the kids for the event, though I told them I’d still have to leave early to go to the interview and they could walk home themselves.

I didn’t know what to expect, but the event was very nicely done.  It was a nice blend of memorial/somber and celebration/joy, and the kids were for the most part interested throughout the entire 2 hour presentation (the littles were a bit restless toward the end, but were great for the most part).  I myself felt very emotional about the Yom Hazikaron part -I  particularly as my children get older, I really feel how young the soldiers in the army actually are, just 18, and how many of them have died to protect their fellow Jews.  And I think of their mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses…

The Yom Hazikaron section was followed by the Yom Haatzmaut section – it was very appropriate to organize the evening like this, which led to me to think about how appropriate it is to have the two days as national holidays in Israel one after the other.  Honoring the sacrifices before celebrating what they sacrificed for.

At about 8:35, I realized that if I pushed off the interview for 10 or 15 minutes (until 9:10), I could stay with the kids for when they went on stage and then take them home.  The only challenge was I didn’t have the number for the woman I was supposed to meet with me and couldn’t find a phone book in the building, and the only thing I could think of was to drive home, call her, and drive back (about a ten minute process). The challenge was that I didn’t know exactly when our family was supposed to get called up, and by leaving for ten minutes at that point, I wouldn’t be able to go up with the kids (though the kids had been planning to go on stage without me, we all preferred that I be with them).

Just as I told the kids I had to leave, I suddenly heard them announce our name – I hadn’t expected to be the first ones called up for this portion of the evening!  The reason they highlight this is an encouragement to the families making this choice, as well as to the families here to see that people are making this move.  I was especially glad we agreed to be there, since we ended up being the only family moving to Israel who was able to participate – usually there are a number of families who participate in this part of the program, but this year, everyone else either wasn’t available, was uncomfortable being on stage, or isn’t yet ready to be public about their plans to move.

So it worked out perfectly: we were introduced, went on stage, lit a candle, and then zipped out to the van. While the kids strapped in, I called the woman to tell her I’d be ten minutes late (I forgot that I had asked one of the kids to bring the local phone list to the van right before we left home – had I remembered, I would have spared myself some mental pressure), and then dropped the kids off at home before zooming off to my appointment.  (And with all of my worrying about being late, I made it there just 4 minutes after our originally scheduled time.)

We had scheduled from 9 – 10 pm to talk, but I ended up being there until 11:20; it was very comfortable chatting with her.  You never know how people perceive you so it will be interesting to see the article when the magazine comes out (it should be in the next three weeks, before the conference).

Avivah