Monthly Archives: July 2013

Turning errands into adventure and fun with littles

Often people say that there’s not much to do when the kids are home on vacation unless they organize major outings.  I want to share about a day I recently had with the younger boys, since it’s an example of how easily regular errands can be turned into fun with just a small shift in perspective!

For the day in question, I had the following scheduled: a visit to the naturopath first thing in the morning and an appointment in the afternoon with an ENT for ds4 and ds5 to an ENT.  In addition, I needed to get paperwork from my health clinic (in one outlying neighborhood) and more paperwork from National Insurance (in a different neighborhood).   I turned all of this into an opportunity for fun and adventure with the kids, while getting everything needed done!

As I was dashing out the door in the morning to go to the naturopath, ds7 asked me if he could come along.  I hesitated for a second, then told him to quickly get on shoes and come!  We took a bus to the naturopath, where he played with Legos in her living room during Yirmiyahu’s session. When we finished, rather than take the bus I suggested we walk to the health clinic to pick up the paperwork.  (Walks are a great because you can see things you don’t see when you’re driving.)

On the way, we passed the home of someone who was apparently decluttering since a number of things were outside being given away.  With the dearth of thrift stores here, our enjoyment at finding bargains finds an outlet with opportunities like this :), and ds7 had a good time going through the boxes, coming away with a number of things (including a small set of Knex and pickup sticks).  I didn’t know how we’d carry everything home, since I was wearing Yirmiyahu and was carrying a purse, and then in the things being given away we found bags!  Perfect.

I had never walked to the clinic before and didn’t know quite how to get there, so ds suggested we cross at a certain place.  I was willing to go along with that, and we came out to a park where we found grapes growing wild.  Ds picked a bunch of these (putting them in one of the containers we had found) and snacked on them as we continued to the clinic, We got the paperwork and headed home, him happy with his adventures and acquisitions, along with having me to himself for the morning.  None of this was planned; it was what we happened upon during our spontaneous walk to the clinic.

When we got home, ds4 and ds5 were disappointed that they missed out on the fun!  I reassured them that I’d take them on a special adventure later in the day when we went to the doctor.  (The week before I had been in that area and noticed a couple of things they would enjoy.)

When getting ready to go, I told them to put on their bathing suits and swim shirts – like this they would be ready for water play and still be dressed in clothes that looked normal for traveling on public transportation.  We went to the appointment, then stopped at the National Insurance office to get our paperwork but rather than just hop on the bus home after finishing our scheduled errands, I told them we were going to have an adventure!

We walked through the pedestrian mall and I told them to keep their eyes out for fun.  They shouted with excitement when they came across fountains bubbling out of the sidewalk.  Of course this is why I had them put their bathing suits on earlier, and they spent an hour playing there.  Since the height and patterns of the fountains was constantly changing, it was very fun for them.

When it was time to go, I suggested they run a little further along the pedestrian mall and see what else they could find.  They ran until they found a large and beautiful parrot outside a pet store, as well as a cage with a ferret and another cage with baby hamsters.  They spent another hour playing with these (the ferret and hamsters through the cage bars), and had a wonderful time.

Finally I said we needed to head home.  They asked if we could go to the library.  I rarely take them to the library because the hours they are open didn’t work well with their school schedules and energy levels.  I told them that if we walked home, we would pass the library on the way and could stop in there. Did they think they could walk that far?  Yes, they all wanted to do that.  So we went to the library, spent some time choosing books, then continued walking….all the way home.  Going from the ENT to our home was a substantial walk (a couple of miles) and for our tired boys to do this at the end of a long day was very impressive.  Ds4 was literally sleepwalking while holding my hand when we got to our street.

Here are my two tips for finding fun in your every day life:

1) Look at the things around you through a child’s eyes.  Anything unusual or different can become something for them to explore.  There were playgrounds we passed on our walk that could become potential fun outings for another day.

2) Leave extra room in your schedule when you go somewhere with your kids – as our boys were playing in the fountains, I watched as most of the other children who passed longingly watched them as they were hurried by with their parents.  The reality is that we are busy people who often have to rush from one thing to another – this is often how it is for me.  But the irony is that sometimes we rush by the things right in front of us, thinking that we have to take our kids special places in order to have fun.  Even things that aren’t

Kids can have fun anywhere they’re given the opportunity!  So open up your eyes and be open to possibilities!

Avivah

Questioning reasons for giving up baby with Down syndrome

Yesterday I saw a post on a Jewish women’s board that a healthy baby boy with T21 was available for fostering.  I said if he was in Israel we would be willing to take him, but it turned out that he’s in Brooklyn, NY so another lucky family will get the privilege of raising him.

I wish people were given accurate information and support after the birth of a child with T21; it would make such a huge difference in the decisions that are made about their futures before they’ve hardly made it into the world.  I understand people being afraid of the unknown and overwhelmed at what they think is going to be involved in raising a child with T21.  Feelings aren’t facts and fear is a very powerful motivator.  Unfortunately the difficulties in raising a child with Down syndrome is in most cases dramatically overstated.  I’m not going to blithely tell you that there are no challenges – but every biological and foster parent I’ve spoken to with a child with T21 has said the reality was much better than they had been led to believe.

My anguish over the post that I read wasn’t over the need for a foster family.  Sometimes people are overwhelmed and don’t have the resources to meet a child’s needs.  What made me really sad were the comments following the post with the request for a foster family.  This was a board of religious Jewish women, and the overwhelming sentiment I came away with was that giving your child up because of a disability like this is understandable.  What difficulties do they think are involved in raising a child with Down syndrome?

Yirmiyahu, 1 year

Yirmiyahu, 1 year

In this case, the baby was healthy.  In about half the babies born, there are heart problems.  Ten percent of babies have transient leukemia (Yirmiyahu was one of these), which means there are highly elevated white blood cells at birth and is treated with antibiotics.  Fortunately, we live in a time in which heart problems like these are able to be taken care of surgically.  Yes, it’s hard to have a child who undergoes surgery or needs to be taken regularly to medical specialists.  Many babies who don’t have Down syndrome have medical issues that include needing heart surgery- but I don’t see parents being advised to give them up for other families to raise.

People point to medical issues when they say that it’s so hard to raise a child with Down syndrome (I’ve seen this a LOT on a support board for those who have aborted babies with T21 – less than 10% of babies with this diagnosis get a chance at life).  In my opinion, this is a straw man.  It’s an acceptable reason for giving up a child though the medical issues aren’t really the problem.  If they were, you’d see people commonly giving up babies with medical issues, but you don’t, even when the issues are much more serious than what children with T21 may face.   Giving this reason keeps us from looking a little deeper and a little harder at our beliefs about parenting, the purpose of life and our roles as  human beings in this world.

Our family summer 2013 050

1) We’re afraid to be different.  We’ve been conditioned to think that if everyone else is doing something/has something, we want to do or have something similar. We want to fit in. We want to be socially comfortable and we think that means being just like the people around us.   We don’t want a child who looks or acts differently than most of the kids on the playground because of our desire to fit in.  We want a child who will make us proud in ways that are typically assumed to be valuable or at least not cause people to look at us differently.  As a speaker known for her depth and insight once said, there are three main factors in every decision we make: what will others say, what will others say, and what will others say.

So we have to ask ourselves: does a meaningful and impactful life comes from trying to blend in and be like everyone else?  What kind of life do you want to have?  A life that matters or a life of following the crowd, blocking out your inner voice and ignoring your potential to impact the world in your unique way?  If we want to live a life we love, we’ve got to stop being afraid of what everyone else says and thinks.  As I tell my kids, people don’t think about you nearly as much as you think – they’re too busy thinking about themselves.

2) We’re afraid to have difficulties.  In our generation we expect life to be smooth and when there are bumps we feel we’ve been ‘unfaired’ against.  Life really isn’t like that.  Life is filled with daily difficulties, small and large.  We’re meant to be challenged so that we can grow and develop our inherent potential that would remain latent if we were untested.  It’s not always pleasant but it’s good.  Hard and good aren’t mutually exclusive.

3) What is your role as a parent?  Is it to nurture to the best of your ability the child that is born to you, to help him actualize the seed of potential inside of him?  Is it to bask in the approval of others or turn him into a nachas machine?  If it’s to nurture him and love him for who he is, then parenting a child with T21 is pretty much the same as raising any other child.  Every child will require you to stretch yourself to find ways to meet their unique needs.

Our family summer 2013 051

Some needs truly demand a lot more time and energy than others, and parents really need more resources than they have.  However, I believe that if parents were given a more accurate picture of the reality of living with Down syndrome in addition to letting go of some limiting beliefs, we would see requests like the above seeking a home for an infant with T21 dramatically drop.

Avivah

Family trip to Kfar Kedem

When  I lived in the States, I took my kids on a lot of trips.  A lot.  Nature centers, zoos, aquariums, dance performances, plays, historical reenactments, library programs – there were so many outings over the years.  That’s because I enjoy taking my kids to places that I think they’ll enjoy, and since usually there’s generally learning value in just about anything, it fit into my educational philosophy regarding integrating life and learning and fun.

That’s something that has changed since we moved here.  We get out quite a bit within Karmiel, going to local parks together regularly.  But when it came to leaving Karmiel for a family trip, it didn’t happen – until today.

Today we attended an NBN event held at Kfar Kedem, a place in which activities are all done as they were in ancient times.  This is just the kind of place that I love to take take the kids to, and thanks to NBN, there was no entrance fee (it’s usually on the pricey side).

We just managed to get a family photo before Yirmiyahu pulled his headgear off

We started off with donkey riding.  This was much more labor intensive for me than I anticipated, since the rules are that you can have only one rider on a donkey at a time, and each donkey has to be led by someone who is at least a teenager. I had thirteen children there with me (I took five of my friend’s children along), and of those only my oldest three were allowed to lead a donkey.  So we had thirteen people wanting to ride a donkey, and four of us able to lead.  It’s good I brought the wrap, so I could hold Yirmiyahu in it while leading a donkey and holding the hand of one of my younger boys simultaneously!  Everyone got a turn or two, it just took some time and patience on the parts of everyone waiting.

Ds7 with ds14

Ds7 with ds14

Ds4

Ds4

Ds5 with dd16

Ds5 with dd16

Yirmiyahu (1 year) fascinated with a donkey

Yirmiyahu (1 year) fascinated with a donkey

Then we went to a demonstration about goat milking and cheese making.  Each child had a chance to milk the goat for one squeeze.

Ds11 milking goat

Ds11 milking goat

Our family summer 2013 038

To make the cheese, the goat milk was mixed with a few drops of the whitish sap squeezed from freshly picked figs, then stirred with the peeled twig of a fig tree.  After a half hour this cheese was available for tasting; the kids who got some said it was tasty.

Stirring goat milk with stem of fig leaf

Stirring goat milk with stem of fig leaf

The next activity was learning about the planting/harvesting process for wheat.  We were shown a plow, yoke and a thresher, as the person leading the activity explained each of the stages involved in harvesting wheat.  One thing that was really nice about the demonstrations was something that made me very aware that we were in Israel – all of the history quoted was biblical, the figures discussed were biblical figures and when talking about different aspects of making bread or planting or whatever else, God’s role in all of this was talked about matter of factly.

Demonstrating traditional plowing techniques

Demonstrating traditional plowing techniques

The kids were then given balls of dough and patted out their own flatbread, which was then put on a rounded piece of metal over a fire and baked very rapidly. After it was finished they had the option of topping it with zaatar sauce.

Watching pitas baking

Watching pitas baking

Pitas baking over fire

Pitas baking over fire

Our kids then discovered the olive press; this is a seasonal activity which isn’t running now, but ds7 in particular still had fun here.

Our family summer 2013 047

Ds7 on arm of olive press

I was pleasantly surprised to find five other homeschooling families there!  Someone I met almost two years ago at my first NBN picnic introduced me to someone else and mentioned that someone else (who I’ve known online for about six or seven years) was there.  I found my online friend in my last half hour there but we didn’t have more than a couple of minutes to talk. And then right as I was gathering everyone to go to the bus – an announcement had just made that our bus was leaving in five minutes – I met another homeschooling mom who said she had heard I was there and was looking for me the entire time!  (We met briefly three years ago when she came to the second Torah Home Education conference in Baltimore.)  She wanted our twelve year old daughters to meet, which they did – for about one minute.  She’s a lovely girl and hopefully they’ll have a chance to get together in the near future.

Dd16 and dd12

Dd16 and dd12

It was such a nice day – all of the kids enjoyed themselves and so did I.  I miss having outings like this with everyone, and was especially appreciative that everything feel into place in order for this to happen.

Avivah

Vehicular heat stroke – summer safety video

Every summer, children all over the world die after being forgotten in cars.  The two year old son of a close friend of ours almost died several years ago when a friend who was doing carpool for the parents that day forgot he was in the car.  She wasn’t used to having him with her and locked the door behind her when she went into a store to do her shopping.  That’s how easily a responsible and caring person can forget a little child and put their life in danger.   She found him unconscious when she opened the back door to put her shopping bags in the car and started screaming for help.  He was immediately taken to the hospital, and though his situation was very serious, thank God he survived with no lasting injuries – but even a couple of minutes more would have been fatal.

A car gets very hot, very fast on a sunny day.  A young child can die on a hot day in as little as fifteen minutes in a closed car.  Please be super careful with your children!  And be aware of other little children who may have been left behind.  If you see a young child in a closed car, don’t assume that they’ll be okay or their mother will be back in a minute.  Do something!  Get help immediately, break the window – every minute counts and can be a matter of life or death.

There are always those who can’t imagine how anyone could forget their child, but don’t think that it’s beyond you.  Things happen and people can become distracted.  Some tips to help you remember to make checking for your child a habit (I saw these on the comments below the film) include:

– put your purse next to or with the strap through the car seat  – for moms I think this is the very best idea

– strap in a stuffed animal in the front seat next to you every time you travel with a child, as a reminder to check for the child

– make it a habit after getting out of the car and taking a few steps, to turn around and check if your child is still there

Please watch the short clip above, and take this message to heart. There are too many horrible deaths in this way every summer and with the increased awareness of us all, we can prevent some of these tragedies.

Avivah

Tisha B’Av – Reigniting our connection to Yerushalayim

I find it challenging on Tisha B’Av to create a home environment that is in tune with the somber spirit of the day. In synagogue it’s easier but at home, with children needing to be taken care of and fed, it’s easy to lose sight of the messages of the day. For this reason, I find it helpful to watch suitable videos with the kids to help us soak in a message that is in line with the spirit of the day. Last year and the year before I shared several links which are still relevant for this year; today I’m sharing the video presentation that I watched together with our older children this afternoon that we enjoyed.

Tisha B’Av: Reigniting our Connection to Yerushalayim 2013

We watched this while ds11 was at the park with ds7, ds5 and ds4.  I have another presentation that I’m planning to watch with them when they get back. I’m guessing it won’t be suitable for ds4 and ds5 is a question mark, but I’ll show it to all of them and see.  Rabbi Fischel Schachter is an entertaining speaker who always has a good message, and as a rebbe for teenage boys and also as someone who often speaks at camps, he knows how to target his message to the younger set.  Here’s the link for this talk.

Torahanytime.com has a great lineup of speakers who are sharing about different aspects of Tisha B’Av.

May this year be the last that Tisha B’Av is a day of national mourning, and may it be turned into a day of celebration next year!

Avivah

 

How to help your teeth remineralize

Did you know that your teeth are a vibrant, living part of your body that reflect the state of your general health?  What is exciting about this is that it means you can do something to improve the state of your dental health – and I’m not referring to brushing two or three times a day.  Teeth can heal – remineralize – when given the opportunity.

Recently I shared about ds5’s many cavities.  I also wrote about my plan to give the kids xylitol water to drink five times a day, after every time they eat, to alkalinize their mouth bacteria.  (By the way, since then ds4 and ds11 have had dental check ups – no cavities for either one.  Ds5 is our outlier!)  Too much oral acid is the cause of all cavities, regardless of any other factors – brushing really isn’t a critical factor in preventing tooth decay.  Bacteria can’t survive in an alkaline environment, so this is the first step – kill the bad bacteria.  Also, teeth can’t remineralize in an acidic mouth, so the ph needs to be changed to alkaline so that your teeth can absorb all the good nutrients you’re eating.

Next I’ll share about some other things that can be done to help teeth heal naturally.

The first thing is some information that was totally new to me!  If you’re familiar with Dr. Weston Price’s work,  Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (post with link to free online copy is here), you know that Activator X is the powerful factor that he identified as being responsible for dental health in traditional societies, and this is what we need to have for dental healing. Usually high vitamin butter oil combined with fermented cod liver oil is recommended for your Activator X fix.  But guess what I just learned?  That Activator X has been identified as Vitamin K2 – Mk4, which is available as a vitamin supplement.  Now, doing a little more research showed that although this is the best form to get in your Activator X from food, it’s not the best form to get it from supplements.  As far as supplements go, K2 – mk7 seems to be a better choice.  (There’s a disagreement on this but I prefer the position found here and you can read up on it if it interests you.)  This is something I can order online and have mailed directly to me in Israel, something I can’t do with the fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, so this is a much more doable option for me.

That doesn’t mean that your child won’t still benefit from cod liver oil and butter oil  – they will!  They both are beneficial in many ways, and if you can afford this, then go for it!  Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, among other things, which is important for strengthening teeth.

The next thing I’d like to do is cut down on our bread intake.  Since the kids took sandwiches to school every day, bread has become an integral part of their daily diet, and I don’t mean homemade sourdough from freshly ground organic wheat kernels!  Far, far from it. For quite some time I’ve been thinking how nice it will be nutritionally once the kids aren’t in school because they can have a higher quality diet than they do now. That begins with dramatically cutting down on bread.  The reason for this is that nutrients are absorbed directly through your teeth, so you want to cut out foods that are high in phytic acid at the same time that you increase your intake of high quality foods.  (For general guidelines on beneficial nutritional changes to make to benefit your teeth, see my post about how to improve dental health.)

Cutting down on other grains isn’t too hard, since we don’t use that many.  We occasionally have pasta, kasha and most often, rice.  But we can use more potatoes and squash in place of these starches.  My goal isn’t to totally go grain free, just to have a better ration of higher nutrient foods. Although it’s recommended to totally cut out all foods with phytic acid, that basically leaves organic vegetables, meat and eggs  and I don’t think that’s financially realistic for most people – definitely not for us at this time.

There are some good nutritional habits that I had for years that I slowly got out of the habit of.  It’s so easy to get out of good habits!  But to be very fair, not just to myself but to all you moms out there, these are things that take head space and conscious thought as well as time, and often none of those factors are in overabundance.  I’ve had way more things that I’ve wanted to do than the physical ability to do them!   Not only that, once we moved overseas everything got harder – I spent years finding sources for all the different foods I used, and suddenly was back to square one, with a different language, no car and different product availability to boot!  But some of the good habits are just as easy to integrate here as in the US, it’s just a matter of making the effort again.

One of these habits to get back to is regularly fermenting vegetables.  I stopped since I don’t have a food processor and when I make a big batch (2 – 4 gallons) of kimchi, it’s a serious time investment.  The easy ferments like pickles stopped turning out well (a couple of weeks ago week they turned out too salty, before that they were too mushy) and until recently I didn’t consider it a priority to take the time to figure out what factors had changed and experiment – the time and energy issue again! This is very important for your digestive health, since pathogenic gut bacteria will affect your mouth bacteria and probiotic foods and supplements are a critical part of building up your healthy gut bacteria.  (Edited to add: a blog reader emailed me to share that K2 is present in lactofermented sauerkraut, and that adequate K2 lessens the need for supplemental calcium – thanks, Iris!)

Another habit is making bone broth.  I stopped with that pretty recently when the weather got hot, but that’s an easy thing to reinstate.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare, but it’s filled with minerals and then you can use the broth in anything you cook that calls for liquid to boost the nutritional value.

Something else I’d like to do is give ds5 specific homeopathic cell salts for dental health.  Though I purchased these while living in the US and they made the move along with us, giving it to the kids never became part of our daily routine.  (Anything that requires me to do something 3 – 5 times a day, and can’t be done at the same time as meals is very challenging to integrate into my daily routine.)  The dosage is two pellets, four times a day.  As with all homeopathics it’s important not to touch the pellets.  Just shake how many you need into the lid and pop them in your mouth.  Here are the  cell salts that are most beneficial for strengthening teeth:

Calcium Phos 6X – bone health, gives solidity to bones and assists in building strong teeth.

Calcium Fluor 6X – assists with improving enamel of teeth and strengthening bones.

Magnesium Phos 6X – bone development & quick pain relief associated with toothaches.

Silica 6X – assists in building strong connective tissue to support deficient assimilation.

For now I’m not making any appointments to have ds5’s cavities filled (I was told he’ll probably need at least six appointments to take care of them all).  It’s possible that it may eventually be necessary to have them filled – I already point blank refused to use amalgam when the dentist brought it up (why in the world are they still using toxic metals to fill cavities when we know so much about how problematic it is???) but there are other reasons that I’d like to avoid fillings if possible.  Fortunately with school over I’ll have much more control over what kind of foods everyone is eating.

My goal is to to alkalanize the saliva in ds5’s mouth so that the cavities can heal while at the same time changing the oral conditions that have previously led to cavities for him.  The main challenge isn’t knowing what to do, but being able to consistently apply what I know!  My life is always very full, but I’m hopeful that I can apply enough of these strategies frequently enough to see positive changes.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)

Avivah

Karmiel homeschool gathering – Weds. July 24, 10 am – 1 pm

The summer is already upon us, and it’s the perfect time to get together with your fellow homeschoolers in northern Israel! (Not yet homeschooling? Not homeschooling any more? That’s fine, we’d still love to have you!)

Get out your calendars and schedule in a relaxing summer park date!

Join us in Karmiel on July 24 from 10 am – 1 pm at the Rabin Park (on the corner of the Nesiei Yisrael and Derech Hashalom streets- you can get directions from googlemaps). This lovely park has swings for toddlers as well as older kids, a playground for littles, a playground for older kids, exercise equipment – all within easy eyesight of one another to make it easy to keep track of kids of different ages!  There’s also a skateboarding/biking/rollerblading section of the park (further down so not in easy sight of everything else, but still close).

There are plenty of grassy areas and trees for shade even during the heat of the day, and there’s a wonderful breeze to keep us all cool in spite of the July heat! Bring jump ropes, balls, bikes, scooters or whatever else your children enjoy; also plenty of water (if there’s a fountain there I didn’t see it) and snacks to keep your kids happy. I’ll be there with our youngest six children (ages 12, 11, 7, 5, 4 and infant), possibly a couple older kids as well.  Let’s start off near the playground for older kids, which is between the swings and the little playground.

Questions? Feel free to ask me and hopefully I’ll have an answer!

Looking forward to seeing you then!

Avivah

Living Inspired class series – beginning soon in Karmiel

After an eight month hiatus, I’ve finally made time in my life to begin giving Torah classes locally again, and am excited about the opportunity to share thoughts with others that have been helpful for me!  I had some ambivalence regarding some aspects of teaching that had to be overcome in order to give classes again.  These included logistics of time and location, deciding on the subject matter and making time for class preparation.  As with so many things, it required being honest about my needs and limitations, but once I did was able to find solutions to all of the concerns.

I find that sharing with others helps keep me in a state of mind that is spiritually and emotionally upwardly mobile, and I credit getting through the last year of crises as well as I did to applying ideas I shared in classes  in the past.  There’s a real power in consistently keeping connected to higher thoughts that help you uncover and stay in touch with your higher self, and preparing classes to share with others pushes me to keep my spiritual growth a priority.  Details of the Living Inspired class series are below.

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Preparing for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur begins with the preparations for the Nine Days (beginning this week), and in our workshops we will explore the unique spiritual power of this time period. We will develop practical applications to maximize personal growth, so that we go into the holidays with a clear sense of purpose and connection to the spirit and potential of these days! Start the new year off right by getting into the right mindset now!

Life today is one filled with pressures that obscure what our purpose is. What should we be doing? How can we do what we’re meant to do? How can we find meaning in day to day living, or grow through times of challenge? We will begin discussing these topics now, and after the holidays will continue to systematically cover topics that include developing personal direction, uncovering your inner light, identifying pitfalls that keep you from accessing your potential, developing inner calm and confidence, happiness, transcending challenges and more! All of these classes are based on the timeless wisdom of the Torah, which is filled with directions for living a life of meaning every day.

The classes will be given in English, and are geared towards women of all ages and all religious backgrounds. There will be no cost for the classes, which are being sponsored as a merit for complete healing for Yonatan Simcha ben Leah Rivka.

The Living Inspired series will be held on Wednesdays evenings and the first class will be Wednesday July 10 at my home. (Email me privately for the address if you need it.) The first class will be “Beating the Heat! – The Unique Spiritual Opportunity of the Nine Days”. We will begin on time so that we can finish on time and people can get home before it gets too late! There will be time for discussion after the class for those who are able to stay longer.

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I’m not a person who enjoys dealing technology at all, but if I can find someone more savvy than me to help work out the logistics, I’m willing to record the classes to post here if there is interest.  If this is something that you know something about and would like to assist with, please contact me!  If technology isn’t your thing but you’re interested in hearing the classes, let me know so I can gauge if there’s enough interest to make the effort.
Avivah

Modifications to our family cheer by the littles :)

The last time we sat in our van as a family and chanted our family cheer that we traditionally said for years before setting our on an outing, I felt sad knowing that family trips like this wouldn’t be taking place any more since we were selling our van (and everything else!), and moving to Israel where we planned to do without a family vehicle.  The older kids probably didn’t mind the passing of this family ritual since they felt self-conscious when friends came on trips were us and at those times they definitely endured our cheer more than enjoyed it.  But it became a part of our family history and was a nice part of our routine even when the older ones felt they’d outgrown it.

After almost two years, our family resurrected our family cheer last week.  I was taking a walk with five of the boys, and I began to spontaneously chant our cheer, slightly adapting it for our new circumstances.  (I basically lifted this from something in one of Steven Covey’s books.)  Here it is:

We’re the Werner family,

Walking (used to be’ driving’) down the street

When we stick together

We can’t be beat!

(Said together enthusiastically three times, the first time followed by ‘Again!’, the second time followed by ‘One more time!”, finishing up with a loud ‘yay!’)

Tonight I was walking home with the three youngest boys, and ds4 and ds5 began to sing our cheer together.  After they finished, ds5 asked me, “Why do we say we can’t be a beet?  Because we’re not purple?”  It’s so cute when you hear things through their ears!  I explained what the saying ‘we can’t be beat’ means.

About a half hour later, I heard ds5 chanting to himself the cheer again, finishing with “We can’t be cornflakes!”

Then he and ds7 started coming up with a few other variations – one that I remember is instead of ‘walking down the street’, they turned it into ‘walking down a treat’, which turned into ‘walking down the chocolate’ – there seems to be a food focus, doesn’t there?!  They were having fun making up their own modifications!

It’s a really nice feeling to have brought our family cheer back into existence to the enthusiastic participation of our younger set!  Each little thing like this is a step towards reclaiming the cohesive quality of family life that we’ve missed with the kids in school.

Avivah

Kitchen renovation almost finished – pictures

Our kitchen has been coming along beautifully – most of the work was finished in the first week.

To recap, here’s the kitchen before:

kitchen before

Below, the top cabinets have all been taken out, and the first new cabinets going up.

The first cabinet going up

kitchen 2

There were a number of features I liked about our new cabinets, but a couple I really disliked.  One was that the cabinets were all hung at staggered heights in the original kitchen.  I had them all rehung to be at the same height since I find that more visually appealing.

The next thing was the amount of display cabinets.  I’m not really a display kind of person, and certainly not in the kitchen.  I want it to be functional and look neat.  I thought the large open display cabinet to the left and the clear glass cabinet doors on the right made the kitchen look too busy.

kitchen 3

After the entire kitchen was installed, I looked around at the pieces left over.  In order to make room for the built in oven – the original kitchen seemed to have had just a microwave or toaster – I asked them to take off a door in the standing unit and then move the shelving to fit it.    When I looked at the now unneeded door, it occurred to me that it might be the right size for the non-standard sized open shelf.  I held it up, and voila!  A perfect fit!  Really amazing since this is the only door in the entire kitchen that would have fit, and when I had it taken off I didn’t have it in mind to use it at all.  In order to install it, I had to order special hinges that open wider than 90 degrees since it’s a corner cabinet, but the guys who put the kitchen in bought them for me at their supply place so it was cheaper than if I had bought them retail, and installed the door when they came with the hinges.  (Then we used the original hinges from that door to replace a set of hinges over the sink that were rusty.)  You can see the now closed cabinet it in the picture below.

kitchen 5

As far as the clear glass display doors, I’m planning to take them into a glass place downtown and have them replaced with frosted glass to match the other doors.   First I want to see if I can find the right shade of contact paper, since that will be a cheaper and easier solution.  Though I don’t love how it looks right now, it’s not urgent so whenever I get around to this I’ll do it.

The original kitchen had the sink installed in the corner, a feature that I thought was fantastic since the corner tends to be mostly dead space.  While it was an excellent use of space, this meant an extra cost for new plumbing, so I went back and forth about if this was worth it.  I decided if we were going to make the investment in having all a new kitchen installed, then it was foolish not to spend a bit more when it would make the kitchen so much more usable.

It totally was worth every penny!  I really like how functional the set up is now.  Not only that, the cabinet above the sink has a built in drying rack for dishes, so it’s easy to wash dishes and keep things looking neat.  I just shut the cabinet door and let things drip dry; the counter stays neat and no one’s the wiser.  :)  Before I had a drying rack on the counter and no matter how clean the kitchen was, the counter always looked cluttered with clean dishes stacked up.

kitchen 7.

The area below is the one that has delayed my posting!  Between the built in oven on the left and the burners on the right, there’s a cabinet.  When the kitchen was originally installed, there was nothing.  To me it looked unfinished and I deliberated about what to do about this.  Since we have to retile the backsplash – you can see the tiles that were torn off below when the old countertop was removed – I was thinking about tiling all the way down to the ground, then hanging a towel rack against one of the cabinets. The advantage of doing this was it was a cheap solution and it would have looked fine.

However, I had another idea that I thought would look better, though it was more work and an additional cost.  We had one bottom cabinet left over because we didn’t have enough space to put it in, and I thought that perhaps it could be cut down to fit the remaining space.  This would also mean an additional cost of having the remaining piece of granite countertop cut down to fit, and I was reluctant to spend more money than I already had.  However, not to do it would be pennywise and pound foolish – again, it would be a shame to spend so much to have the kitchen done, and then for a relatively small sum not finish it off.  I had already paid the crew and the job was officially finished, so it wasn’t fair to call them back to do more work, even though in our original agreement we had included that they would cut down one top cabinet and one bottom cabinet (which they didn’t end up doing) so technically I wasn’t asking for anything beyond what we had agreed upon.

I asked a neighbor who is a carpenter if he thought the cabinet door would look right if it was cut down, and in response, he took apart the cabinet and told me he’d resize the entire thing for us (I was planning to cut down the cabinet ourselves to save on costs and just have a professional cut the door).  After he finished the job he told me he wasn’t going to charge me anything!  Not only that, he has a friend who cuts countertops, and he had his friend cut the piece for us as a favor to him (he said he’s done a lot of favors for this person), so my concern about the added cost ended up being a non-issue!  This made the kitchen look more finished, gives us more cabinet space and it’s a perfect place to put hot pans when they come out of the oven!

kitchen 6

When we retile, I’d like to create some kind of subtle framed design between the above top cabinets, and also plan to add a matching length of wood as a sort of bridge between these two so that there will be a better visual flow.  Right now it’s a bit choppy and disconnected.  I might wait until my husband comes back to do this part of the project.  I didn’t want to leave any work for him but he said that we did all the hard work and he’d be happy to do the tiling.  :)

I miss the ease of hopping in the van, driving to Home Depot, buying the tiles, supplies and any tools needed for the job in one place, and coming home.  Now I have to go to one store for tiles, another for supplies (without a car) and find someone who can cut the tiles for me (since there’s nowhere to rent a wet saw and I’m not going to buy one for just this project), which means premeasuring and prefitting them all and then keeping track of what’s what.   It makes a not so complicated tiling project more involved than I feel like dealing with right now.  Another reason that I’m lagging a bit on this is that the design consultant at the tile store was very abrupt and told me that it’s a terrible idea to have any kind of design in the tiling; she was very impatient and I don’t think she understood what I was describing so I’m not sure how much weight to give her opinion.  I also don’t really like the tiles that are popular now.  They’ll probably look great but it’s not what I was picturing and it’s hard for me to figure out how to make a design out of them.  So I haven’t decided about this.  

Due to the color of the granite countertops (dark reddish streaked with grey) and the frosted glass doors, there’s already a lot going on visually so I have to do something very simple and understated for the tiles.  It could be I’ll have to forget about any kind of design.  That would definitely make for a straightforward tiling job.  But doesn’t it seem like a picture or some kind of visual accent would add a nice touch?   The original kitchen had a stainless steel thing that looked like a round chimney for a venting fan above this area, but when we put it up it didn’t look as nice as I expected (it had two glass shelves on it that we couldn’t hang since we moved everything around, so that also detracted from the look of it), so we took it down.  I don’t need a fan there, so the only reason we put it up was to fill the space.  (If you have ideas or thoughts on this, please share them – I’m open to suggestions!)  

Here’s a picture of the almost finished kitchen – in the foreground you can see the matching kitchen table.  It’s nice to have another surface to eat or work on, which will be particularly nice when we’re homeschooling but helpful at any time.  With the fridge moved to the place where it is now, it feels bigger and more light in the kitchen than it did before.

kitchen 8

Below is a picture in the evening.  I appreciate the built-in lights below the upper cabinets so I don’t have to keep on the bright ceiling lights at night; it’s a softer feeling that matches the quieter evening mood in the house.

kitchen 9

Although the kitchen isn’t yet fully finished, I’m so happy with it!  The countertops are slightly higher than my old kitchen, which is nice for a tall family like us.  The sink is deeper and wider.  The top cabinets are slightly deeper and taller than the old ones so they’re more spacious, and bottom cabinets are all drawers.  I love drawers for the way they maximize space and make it easier to keep things well -organized.  There’s so much more storage space than I had before!  Two bottom cabinets are still empty in addition to the display top cabinets mostly being empty.  It’s a nice thing to have more space than what I need.  The space is well designed and it’s a pleasure to work in the kitchen; everything is just a step or two away and it’s easy to find what I need.  I was concerned about losing counter space but there’s actually more usable space.

I’ve heard the sayings that I’m sure that you’ve all heard, that when you get a quote for home improvement work, double the cost and double the time they say it will take, and it will be close to on target.  I had a good bit of anxiety about this, particularly when they pulled out the cabinets and discovered that the way the plumbing was would necessitate changes.  I was concerned they were going to tell me that they hadn’t bargained on this and it’s more work than we agreed on, so they need to charge more.  I did several relaxation and visualization exercises before I went to sleep the night this happened to release the tension I was feeling and kept picturing everything going smoothly.  Everyone was feeling tension about this situation because it had potential to get complicated and the solution that was worked out required flexibility on all of our parts but was something we were all happy with it.  The crew we worked with was a pleasure to deal with, and I called the head a couple of days after they finished the job to thank them again and told them they’re welcome to use my name and number as a reference.  It’s so nice to work with people with a good work ethic who honor their word.

Avivah