Monthly Archives: October 2014

Learning to play native American flute

grandcanyon1[1]I’ve begun learning to play the flute!  The native American flute, to be specific.  Are you wondering how I chose that?

Honestly, it’s not the first instrument that came to mind when I mentally went through a list of instruments I might be interested in.   In fact, it wasn’t anywhere on my list!

I wanted an instrument that wouldn’t be too loud, that would sound reasonably good from the beginning, something that would be relaxing and enjoyable to learn to play. That eliminated most instruments. (When I was in fourth and part of fifth grade, I played the clarinet – I still remember the well-justified jokes in my family about it sounding like a lovesick moose. :))

I love the mellow music of a saxophone but felt it would be a long, long time until I could play the kind of music I’d want to listen to.  Plus it’s loud and sounds horrible until you get decent.  I live in an apartment building and the thinking of my very sound-sensitive neighbors made this a stressful thought.

I then learned about the harp.  Just the solution I was looking for!  Soothing, relaxing, and not too loud. Yes, the harp would be just right!  I even found a used midsized harp for a reasonable sum of money – in the US.  Here in Israel, I found one used full-sized harp for 5500 shekels (over $1500). Not what I want or need to start off before I know if I’ll enjoy it or not.  Someone told me she knew someone who gives lessons and would bring a harp for the lesson, but I don’t want to be limited to playing an instrument only during lessons.

I mentioned my dilemma to dh, and he suggested I learn the native American flute.  It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind, but I didn’t want to wait months or longer until a harp at the right price came into my life to begin to play an instrument.  My mother has a couple of flutes so I called to ask her if I could borrow one.  Not only did she agree to let me borrow one, she gifted it to me!

I went online to search for tips for beginners.  I started practicing fingering right away, and within a few minutes, I loved it!  I love the resonant, meditative, soulful sound.

Something that has struck me is that this is an organic instrument and the approach to playing this is similarly organic (ie not linear/Western).  Online video instructors have said things like, “Let the music play through you, let your soul speak”.  “It’s about expressing who you are, what you do and how you do it, you’re not performing, you’re just enjoying it.  It’s just fun.  Allow it to flow.”  Of course you can use this flute to play standard music but they encourage you to find the voice of your soul before starting sheet music.

I’m just starting out and I’m finding this advice helpful.  When I close my eyes and drop any expectations of what it should sound like, I really enjoy playing.  When I don’t, I feel impatient with myself, that I need some sheet music, something to follow by the book so that there’s some guarantee that what I’m playing will sound ‘right’.  (I’m also beginning with sheet music which is a different way of playing and also nice.)

Rabbi Lazer Brody writes that the native American flute seems to be the same as the flute played in the Holy Temple.  It was described in the Talmud as a simple five or six hole flute made of bamboo, bone or wood – strikingly similar to the native American flute.

I don’t have ambitious goals – I’m picking it up when the mood strikes me and playing for as long or as little as I like.  Of course I love the idea of being able to play anything and sound amazing but I don’t need to put that kind of pressure on myself for an activity that is intended to be relaxing and enjoyable!


Easy Onion Kugel

At the potluck community event I attended on Sukkos, I received a lot of compliments (and a few requests for the recipe) on the dish I brought.

It’s super easy and delicious.  I don’t know where it originated but this isn’t a recipe that I made up!

Easy Onion Kugel

  • 5 large onions, finely diced (very important that the pieces are small)
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 5 eggs
  • a sprinkle of pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together.  Pour the mixed batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly browned, approximately 30 – 35 minutes.

And that’s really all there is to it!  Enjoy!


Sukkos roundup and getting back to routine

sukka 1Another beautiful yom tov has come and gone!

It’s been two years since all of our children have been home for Sukkos.    I loved sitting around the table with everyone and particularly cherish our family time spent singing together.  I love, love, love this!

On Sukkos we celebrated dd13’s birthday, which means she’s now 14.  She was five when I started this blog.  How time flies, hmm?

Last week we also participated in a Sukkos lunch/chagiga for the English speaking families here in Karmiel.  We’ve had several of these type of events together with the goal of developing a sense of community: one person hosts and everyone brings a dish to share.  This time about ten families participated.  The food was wonderful, the company was wonderful, and the music and singing was wonderful!  Karmiel attracts really, really nice people.

On Simchas Torah, our older boys (ds21 surprised us by staying home instead of going back to yeshiva) danced up a storm.  Yirmiyahu (2) charmed the womens’ section by smiling, waving and blowing kisses each time he passed by in the arms or on the shoulders of yet another dancing brother.   Ds15 performed a feat that will leave people talking for a long time to come and caused my heart to go faint made me very nervous.  He told me afterward that when I was signalling him with my eyes to stop that my eyes were almost popping out.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration but maybe not.  :)  He danced with someone much heavier than him on his shoulders – that sounds much less dramatic than it was.   All’s well that ends well.

Dh was honored with Chassan Bereishis on Simchas Torah and since here in Israel we only have one day yom tov, that meant that Friday we got busy baking for the kiddush on Shabbos!  My girls did a great job doing a lot of baking in a very short span of time while ds21 took down the sukka and got everything put away with ds12 (and a couple of younger boys to help, too)!  We hosted the kiddush with a friend whose husband was honored with Chassan Torah.  It was really nice.

Today was our first day back to our normal schedule.  As much as I loved the holidays, there’s something very grounding about getting back to a routine!  I started a new chore chart for this year but there wasn’t much time to get everyone used to it before the holidays.  So the excessive complaints this morning were predictable – as if they’ve never been asked to do these jobs before!  For me, I’m busy tackling Mount Washmore.  :)

I’ve been thinking lots about our homeschooling focus for the coming year and determining what I want to adjust for each of the five kids who are homeschooling this year.  You might think that after so many years of homeschooling that I run on automatic but for me, running on automatic for an extended period isn’t a good thing.  It feels dry and uninspired.  It’s been very helpful and energizing for me to think through what I want to accomplish this year, what are my specific goals for each person and why.  The big picture always stays the same for me but the details of how to get to that goal often shift.

I was just contacted today by a writer for the Hebrew language Mishpacha magazine about doing an interview with them about homeschooling.  I always have a million and one thoughts on education and child raising, so we’ll see in what direction it goes!  I’d love suggestions from you about what kind of questions you’d want answered if you were reading this article.

I’m now looking forward to hunkering down in the long stretch between now and the spring and moving towards our homeschooling goals!


A lovely Sukkos so far

I love Sukkos so much!! It’s such a special time of disconnecting from the outside world and tuning into things that matter more – for an entire week.

We were building our sukka until the last minute this year!  First of all we had a delay since the owner of an expensive sports car parked in our parking space.

sukka 1 - car


Message one of the kids sent me while waiting to find owner of car

Message one of the kids sent me while waiting to find owner of car :)

Dh didn’t want to take a chance of scratching it by building in the space next to it, and unsuccessfully went around to lots of neighbors to find out who it belonged to.  In the end the driver responded with a text message to the note dh left on his windshield and moved his car into the space opposite the sukka.

That meant we couldn’t start building the sukka until the day before Sukkos, and then ds15 spent hours getting the wiring for lights in the sukka taken care of.

After working it all out, the person who had agreed to let us hook up to their home electricity wasn’t home before the holiday began so after all of his work, we weren’t able to have electric lights for the sukka.

Ds8 welcomes you to our sukka!

Ds8 welcomes you to our sukka!

Finally we thought everything was finally finished and ready (other than the neighbor putting the plug in their socket), and there was a thunderstorm that began 90 minutes before Sukkos that almost blew our sukka away!

As the rain poured down and it seemed obvious we wouldn’t be able to eat in the sukka that evening, one of the older kids told me with dismay, “Oh, no, Hashem doesn’t want our mitzvos!”  With the sky heavily overcast and the rain pouring down, there didn’t seem to be much room for optimism.  Ds15 moved schach from the big sukka to our porch so we’d be able to make kiddush there instead.  Even as we were preparing for a change in plans, I told the kids, let’s not be so sure that we won’t be able to sit in the sukka – let’s assume it’s going to be good.

sukka 1

And it was. The thunderstorm ended about thirty minutes before Sukkos began, and when it was over, it was so beautiful outside, so clean and fresh – there was a tangible feeling that the thunderstorm had been a gift to prepare the city for Sukkos! Dh, ds21 and ds15 worked hard in the pouring rain to reinforce the sukka so it was extra sturdy and stable; when strong gusting winds blew on the first night of Sukkos, we were so happy that our sukka had been reinforced before the holiday began!

sukka 2

On Friday night heavy black clouds gathered, there was intense lighting and thunder, and the rain began to patter down.  Our Shabbos candles blew out, and as we prepared mentally to make a sudden run for the house when the expected torrents came down, we continued to sit there together.  There was a such a relaxed feeling of being all snug together, secure and protected.  Before long the inky black storm clouds blew away and not only were we able to finish our meal without making a mad dash for cover, but dh and all the boys (and our guest) were able to sleep in the sukka as planned.

About sleeping in the sukka – on the actual holiday or Shabbos night, all of the boys except Yirmiyahu (age 2) sleep in the sukka.  During chol hamoed, the younger boys sleep inside, either in their own beds or on the porch sukka.  During the days of the holiday and Shabbos, almost all of us rest in the sukka – most of us spend the entire day there just hanging out.  We have a bunch of thin foam mattesses we use on Sukkos that we pile up in a corner until they’re needed, then we spread them out.  We have room for about eight people to stretch out at the same time, along with a loveseat so those who want to read while others are resting can do so.

I hope those of you celebrating are also enjoying your holiday!



Letting go of what others think of you

Over a week ago I had the opportunity to travel with a group of women to the graves of several Jewish sages in northern Israel.  (This is an amazing blessing about living in Israel, where you can have ‘field trips’ like these!)

I went to Amuka, where many pray to merit to meet their spouses – I was at Amuka only once, when I was seventeen and praying for my own shidduch!  The drive there isn’t easy, with hairpin turns and a steep descent.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to return (or when I’ll be ready to repeat that drive!), so I took the opportunity to pray for the future spouses for all of my children (all the way down to two year old Yirmiyahu :)) and for continued marital harmony for me and my husband.

Afterwards we traveled to Tzfat to the grave of the Ari HaKadosh, and from there to Meron, to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  At Meron, there were several people collecting for charity but I didn’t know they’d be there and didn’t have money ready to give.  After I finished my prayers inside, I took out money to give each of the collectors on the way out.

The last woman I gave to looked at the coins I placed in her hand and as I walked away, began yelling after me: “What am I supposed to buy with this money?  I can’t even buy flowers for the holiday with this!”  As she was yelling about my stinginess, I was thinking how much easier it is to deal with someone’s displeasure when they aren’t close to you.  I didn’t like that she was annoyed at me when I was trying to be helpful but I was able to accept that was her feeling and let of it.

This remains a lesson for myself at this particular time – to maintain an appropriate emotional distance from those who return acts of good will with hostility, to feel compassion for their troubled state rather than blaming myself for not having done enough or been enough.

Gmar chasima tova to you all – may you have a meaningful, cleansing, powerful Yom Kippur as you let go of the limitations that keep you from forgiveness of yourself and others.  May you see yourself accurately, with all of the flaws that need work and teshuva, and appreciate all the beauty and strength that you mistakenly tell yourself isn’t enough.