The wedding was beautiful!!! (pics included)

What a beautiful evening our son’s wedding was!

We are still floating with joy at the joining of these two wonderful souls. What a special and beautiful couple they make!

I was so touched by the presence of friends from different stages in our lives – Beitar, Seattle, Baltimore, Karmiel and Ramat Beit Shemesh.  There were a couple of women who even knew me from high school, as well as a friend who I met at 16 and several others who came for the bride’s side but turns out also knew me from when I was in seminary (age 17/18).  It was very special to have friends share this milestone event with us and I can’t describe how much it meant to me to have each person there.

I don’t have official wedding photos yet;  what I have are some pictures taken by people on the sidelines when the photographer wasn’t looking (he didn’t allow pics taken at the same time he was shooting). Though they are the same poses by the photographer you’ll see that some of these are obviously in between moments and hopefully my family will forgive me posting these.

First, me and my husband.

Me and my husband

I had some angst about my gown after it arrived.  A blog-reader-turned-friend-turned-seamstress-for-the-wedding asked me what my concern was. I told her I was concerned the color was too much.

She responded, “This gown is to the ‘mother-of-the-groom black-gown’ phenomena what homeschooling is to the ‘keep your kid in an unhealthy schooling situation’ phenomena. It’s so in-line with Avivah Werner……”

So I wore it. :)

Next, a family picture.  Baby Rafael wasn’t feeling well and unfortunately was screaming for the few minutes we took a family photo.  :(    We put our desire for him to be in the pictures on the back burner since it was clear he needed calming, which is why he doesn’t appear in later photos.

Our entire family

Below: siblings picture (minus Rafael). Back l- r: ds11, ds9, dd16, dd20, dd22; front l- r: ds18, ds23, ds4, ds15, ds8

All the siblings except Rafael

Below: my three lovely girls, l – r, dd16, dd20, dd22.

(Edited -sorry, they requested I remove this.)Below: seven of our eight wonderful sons. Back l- r: ds9, ds18, ds23, ds15; front l- r: ds4, ds8, ds11.

wedding brothers

Below: Rafael (six months) later in the evening with his Bubby, wearing his protective ear gear (sound protection for loud music).

Rafael and his Bubby

The family pictures together with the bride were taken later in the evening and sadly only two pictures were taken even then. It’s very sad. In any case I don’t have any of those yet.  I hate to leave the bride out of the wedding post but I only have one picture and it’s not a good one.

I also don’t have any wedding pictures of the bride and groom yet, so I’ll instead share a picture taken two nights later at the sheva brachos we hosted in our home.

Aren't they the cutest couple?

Aren’t they the cutest couple?

When I used to think about marrying off a child, I imagined it would be a time with a lot of tension (since I’ve heard people talk about it in that way), but it wasn’t like that at all. It has been a wonderful experience all around and we are SO happy to have a new member of the family!

Avivah

Beautiful fireworks on the black sky background

Our son’s wedding – if you’re local you’re invited!!!

The gowns have been fitted, the boys shoes are shines, each one’s clothing purchased and organized in the closet, bow ties sewn for Yirmi and Rafael (will finish putting on the elastic tonight).  Most of the numerous behind the scenes details are taken care of…

We are rejoicing in this happy season of life and welcome you to join us in person!

The wedding will be this week in Jerusalem.  If you are local and would like to come for the chupa (wedding ceremony) or later for dancing, please email me for details of where and when (introduce yourself if we haven’t been in touch in the past)!

I always love meeting my blog readers and would be delighted to have you share as we celebrate the marriage of the amazing young man so many of you have ‘known’ for almost eleven years.

Avivah

 

wedding graphic

Wedding plans, post high school plans, birthdays…busy, busy!

Yesterday someone asked me how I find time to write so often.  Funny how others can look at the same situation completely differently than me – I feel like I hardly am able to find time to write!  It was good to be reminded that there are always two ways to view a situation and that I can choose a more positive interpretation.

It’s a busy, busy season of life right now!

First of all, the wedding!  Less than a week to go with a list of things still to do, but it’s all getting done calmly and without stress.  After seeing friends whose tension level was seriously racheted up when their children were engaged, my goal for this engagement period was to be emotionally present, calm, and to enjoy the joy of this time.  Thankfully that has been the reality and we are so grateful and excited as we prepare for our first wedding.  So often I’ve wondered who our children will marry, and it’s beautiful to see how perfectly our daugher-in-love complements ds23; they are a lovely couple!

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Ds18 will be graduating soon, and has spent the last few months considering his post high school plans.  Since he’s in a yeshiva high school (that includes a full secular curriculum versus yeshiva ketana where no secular subjects are taught) people say it makes it harder (and even impossible) to get into the selective post high school yeshiva he’s interested in, but I don’t believe that these kind of things need to be issues – yes, it sets the bar to jump over higher but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

He went to visit several yeshivas and it was clear to him that this particular yeshiva was the best fit for him.  But they didn’t get back to him quickly about setting up an interview and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  (They extensively check out the student before inviting them to interview.)  It was very exciting when he was invited to test there – they’ve never interviewed a student from his high school and it was significant to be invited.  The interview seemed to go well but he was told there was more testing to follow.

I was in the supermarket two days ago when he called. When he told me he was accepted, I got choked up and couldn’t respond.  After a minute of silence and no sound on my part he was sure I didn’t hear what he said.   “Mommy, did you hear what I said?  I was accepted to ‘Blank’ Yeshiva!”

I managed to get out a congratulations through teary eyes.  It’s a huge accomplishment and it happened because of the person he’s built himself into and the efforts he’s made day after day.  Oh, my, so much emotion.  I’d better get some bulletproof makeup for the wedding.  :)

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Dd16 has been considering her plans for the coming year, and last week told me she’d like to go to seminary next year.  While it’s not something we had talked about previously, I completely support her and told her it sounded like it could be a very good choice for her.  She has a specific seminary in mind, and called them two days ago for an application – and was told that day was the deadline!  She sent it in and went to visit and sat in classes yesterday, which she very much enjoyed.  She needs to interview there and it’s preferred that parents come, but I simply can’t go to an interview with her until after the wedding.  They have hesitations about accepting a student her age so we’ll see how that goes.

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Since Rafael joined the family three months ago, I’ve been busy working my way through a list of medical appointments for him.  Yesterday I spent hours in Jerusalem at a hospital having his hearing tested.  It was a very unpleasant test for him and he screamed for 45 minutes before falling asleep when his response to sound stimulation could finally be monitored, but I was very grateful to learn that his hearing is good!

Another project that has taken ongoing effort is getting mother’s milk for him.  I am so grateful to the many women who have donated to him!  He was obviously reacting badly to dairy formula when in the hospital and mother’s milk has been very important in building up his immune system. He’s been almost exclusively on mother’s milk for the last 14 weeks, which is a huge amount of donor milk that we’ve had to get.  For the times that we’ve run out, we’re fortunate that our pediatrician generously gave us sample boxes of a hypoallergenic formula.  I’m in the process of having him officially approved for a different formula (since he’s reacting even to the hypoallergenic formula he’s been getting) and once that happens we’ll be able to purchase it ourselves; hopefully that will be completed this week.

I’ve also been in the process of getting Rafael evaluated for early child development Ds9 and Rafaelservices.  My experience in Karmiel with this for Yirmi wasn’t pleasant and I was dreading going through this process again.  Just reading through paperwork for Yirmi (which I needed because we are opening a new file for him here and they needed it) gave me a sick feeling in my stomach.

The meeting with the physical therapist and social worker was very pleasant, completely different than my past experience.  The physical therapist said Rafael’s development is impressive said it’s obvious that we’ve been working with him.  Yes, we do invest time and effort into supporting his development but in line with my educational approach, it’s integrated into daily living rather than therapies that we stop our lives to do.  Rafael is a little cutie pie and we just love him to pieces!

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Can you believe Yirmi will be turning five soon!?  He’s doing wonderfully and I’ll update on him closer to his birthday.  We’ve been given an appointment with a developmental doctor so he can be evaluated comprehensively as part of the process to get speech therapy services.  Since he has apraxia, a clear and obvious speech delay, I hope services will be easily approved.  We’ve worked on his speech extensively at home and it’s exciting to see how beautifully it’s coming along.  He’s such a cute and smart little guy!

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We are in the middle of birthday season here.  We started the season with ds11 in April, followed by ds8 and then dh in May.  Ds14 will have a birthday the day after the wedding, then Yirmi two weeks later opens July, ds23 two days after that, dd20 a month later and now our lovely daughter-in-love joins the birthday line-up for August!

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Everyone is growing up so quickly!  Time seems to speed up more as the years go by.  As I feel the days flying by I have such a strong desire to be emotionally present for every moment  (which isn’t possible but it’s a direction to shoot for!).  Life is so full and it’s easy to get caught up in what needs to be done on a daily basis, so it’s really a conscious choice that I’m trying to make each day.

Avivah

kids outdoors

Kids enjoying outdoor time without gadgets

Over three years after first hearing about it, I’ve just read the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

There were a number of points made, but the overall message that I appreciated being reminded of was that nature is an important contributor to the quality of life to a child, and something to consciously nurture.

I also appreciated when the author pointed out that being in nature isn’t about taking your kids to a distant national park or walking through a forest, which is what you might mentally picture when reading the title (I did!). Nature is all around us, every day and everywhere we go.

My kids who were raised in the US had different opportunities than my children do now, but they’ve all had a lot of nature/outdoor experiences in their lives.  Volunteering at a sheep farm for several years, trips and classes at the nature center, hikes with a naturalist, enrollment in Junior Rangers summer programs at a state park, sailing lessons, bee keeping, treehouse building…

When I got into gardening, my kids joined in.  We incubated duck eggs and raised the ducks.  We did family projects that were mostly done by the kids  – outdoor renovations like building a platform deck, a brick patio, raised garden beds and a wooden six foot security fence.  They participated in 4H activities for years.

Our yearly family camping trips were such special times for us all – activities included hiking, fishing and boating but mostly was about just enjoying being in nature together.  There is something so centering about being outdoors, hearing the birds begin to chirp as the sun rises, sitting around a campfire at night…

Even our monthly shopping trips were an opportunity to experience nature, as we shopped in Amish and Mennonite farming communities.  At one supermarket I would park our van right next to the horses in the field, and when we bought our raw milk from the farmer we would sometimes go into the barn to see the cows. When I got our free range eggs, we visited yet another farm where we got to see their horses, dogs, turkeys, chickens and ducks.

When they went to sleepaway summer camps, we sent to programs with an outdoor focus where they learned canoeing and archery along with other activities.  Membership in Girl Scouts included hiking the Appalachian Trail (and coming upon a rattlesnake) and a yearly group camping trip.

Now we’re living in a different part of the world with different opportunities.  The specifics look different – we don’t have a car and that has drastically cut down on going places like national parks and campgrounds.  But wherever we’ve lived there have been opportunities to get outside.

Something I really appreciate about living here in Israel is that  It’s a culture in which it’s safer and more accepted for kids to be out without adult supervision. In the US I closely supervised my kids when they were outside, and wouldn’t have been comfortable with things that I now routinely allow.

Our boys spend lots of time riding bikes and scooters, rollerblading, creating hideouts in bushes in the public parks, and playing with friends outside.  Two of our boys participate in a weekly survival/fire/knives/hiking group and that allows them to explore areas beyond our residential neighborhood.

I still love gardening and am grateful to have a yard (albeit much, much smaller than in the US!) where my kids plant alongside me.

We don’t have family camping trips (due to not having a car to get there) but for the last two summers, we’ve set up our large family sized tent on our porch and the kids spent weeks sleeping there in the summer.  My husband has found some local hikes that are accessible by bus and has taken the kids there – one of their favorite hikes happened when they didn’t quite find the place they set out to get to.  But on the way they found animal bones and picked almonds from trees they discovered and had a great time – they plan to go back this year when the almonds are in season and do some serious picking!

It’s really about awareness and looking for opportunities even in the small moments – seeing the interesting bug or bird and taking the time to observe it, sitting quietly on the grass together and listening to the trees rustle in the wind…you don’t have to go far from home for your child to be able to experience nature.

While parents will sometimes say that kids need to invest in their technological skills so that they aren’t left behind, I feel that’s very overrated.  Kids today are inside much more than in the past, on screens and devices and that takes away from the time that they’re outdoors.  Kids need to be outside, to move their bodies, to feel sun on their faces.

I enjoyed these photos taken by a mom of four children who has chosen to limit her children’s access to television and electronic gadgets – she beautifully captured the ability of kids to just be in the moment, to entertain themselves, to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

You know what motivated me to buy this book?  I wanted to read something inspiring, something affirming, something that focused on something that isn’t achievement oriented but is about letting your kids have room to grow and just be.

That’s a big value for me – to give our children the space and time to be kids, to grow at their own pace, to have a sane and enjoyable pace of life.  It’s something that I sometimes feel is getting lost in our society’s ever increasing pace of life, the drive to accomplish and get things done…as people are getting more disconnected from one another and from themselves.

Nature and outdoor time is part of the answer to shifting away from that driving pace and getting recentered with yourself and your family.  It can be intimidating for parents to get their kids away from screens but it’s worth the effort – there are so many benefits to the individual and to the family!

Avivah

 

 

dyslexia

Helping the child with dyslexia learn to read

I was recently discussing homeschooling with a couple of my oldest children, when one commented that he doesn’t see our younger boys doing as much academic work as he remembers doing at that age.

I would have to agree that I’m more relaxed and less structured at this point then I was in the earlier years.  I have more trust in the developmental process as well as each child’s inherent desire to learn, and don’t feel I have to make learning happen.

But let me not get into a philosophical discourse!  While my older kids had to do 30 – 60 minutes of reading daily, the younger children don’t.  The reason for that is that those who are good readers do more than that without it being requested, and those that aren’t good readers can’t do that much without a lot of stress and anxiety.

For one child in particular, reading hasn’t come easily.  I’ve been pretty patient about waiting for readiness but at the same time, felt that more was needed than patience. While I didn’t have an official assessment done, I was pretty convinced that dyslexia was the issue.

Children with dyslexia tend to be very talented in a number of areas.  When I read the profile of a child with dyslexia, I was taken aback at how obviously it was describing one particular son.  A child who is good at so many things – the athlete, the engineer, the artist.  Ds is physically dexterous/athletic, bright, creative, great at math, building, spatial skills – good at just about everything.  Except reading.

Children with dyslexia have brains that work a bit differently.  Doing more and more reading drills (sometimes referred to as ‘drill and kill’) doesn’t help because it’s only looking at the symptoms.  He doesn’t need more of the same.  If it was working, it would work without endless repetitions.  What he needs is a different approach.

Strengthening the brain connections between the right and left brain is critical because the child with dyslexia tends to do most of his processing on the right side of the brain, but reading is a left brain activity.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to build a strong foundation for reading success:

  1. I bought several sets of activity books from Dyslexia Games and the boys do two pages each day.  I really liked the idea behind these and it made a lot of sense to me.  Basically, it turns reading into a right brain activity.
  2. Sequential processing activities – each of the younger boys does these for ten minutes daily.  This builds their auditory processing skills and increases their digit spans, which means that it increases the amount of information they can hold on to.  (To read English, you need to be processing at a digit span of 5 – 6.  It’s extremely difficult and time consuming to try to teach reading to a child who isn’t processing in this range. ) Right now I’m focused mostly on auditory processing but also do visual processing activities with them.
  3. Brain Gym exercises – I would love to say that I start every day with a five minute routine but that would be a lie.  :)  But I do try to include these regularly.  Whoever is in the house does them together.
  4. Swimming – I can’t help it, even when my kids do activities like these I’m thinking about the importance of the cross patterning motions and how it benefits the brain! The boys are all taking swimming lessons and I just bought an above ground pool to give them regular swimming practice – swimming is a very therapeutic activity that builds right/left brain connections.
  5. Audio books – my boys listen to a lot of read alouds and audio recordings of books, usually daily.  This strengthens their auditory processing and also is a pathway for them to input information through other channels than reading.  (Their comprehension as a result of this is excellent and they can understand more complex plots and storylines.  We’re currently reading Robinson Crusoe, which I thought was way too verbose and long winded for them to enjoy.  I was wrong.  They were hooked after one chapter and begged me to continue!)
  6. Crawling – crawling on hands and knees is another wonderful cross patterning activity.  I try to encourage the boys to do this by integrating it into a game but sometimes I’ll ask them to go around the garden perimeter a few times.  If two of them do it at a time they race and it’s more fun.  I bought the younger three boys sports knee pads to make this more comfortable and enjoyable for them.
  7. I recently purchased a five volume set of Hebrew readers from Torah4Children based on the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approach.  I haven’t yet used them so I can’t give feedback other than to say that they look good.
  8. I also recently purchased a couple of English readers based on the Orton-Gillingham method.  Blast Off To Reading is for beginning readers, and A Workbook For Dylexics is for teens and up.  We decided to put English reading aside for the time being since we want to put more focus on Hebrew reading.  Living in Israel, Hebrew is more critical for the boys to read well at this point; we’ll come back to English once the Hebrew reading is solid.
  9. Flashcards – my husband has his own ideas that he makes up and then implements that are very effective with our kids.  He did lots of flashing aleph bais letters until the recognition was automatic.  Then he followed these with single words on an index card.  His thought was that it gives more of a tangible feeling of success to have a pile of cards that you read correctly in your hand, and then can review the ones that were missed.
  10. Notes on the fridge – again, this is my husband’s idea!  He writes simple notes and leaves them on the fridge to encourage reading success.

So you might come to my home and see my kids starting their day with a swim, then do some art pages and run off to listen to read alouds and conclude that I don’t have any structure for my kids and I’m not actively facilitating their learning.  But hopefully now you can see a little bit behind why I do what I do.

I want to stress that I feel it’s really important for a child who is challenged in some way to have the opportunity to feel successful and develop a positive identity – not to see himself as the ‘kid who can’t read’.  Reading is just one skill and being a good reader doesn’t make you successful in life.  In the end, it’s the person who feels competent and good about himself who is best able to tackle the challenges that will come his way.

Right now we’re feeling very encouraged by the progress we’ve seen since we began implementing the above activities.  It’s quite exciting to see a child who has always struggled suddenly be able to read words around them (in English and Hebrew) that were a mystery before.  I’m not going to predict how long it will take to become a fluent reader and it’s okay if it takes time.  We’re on a good path and learning is happening!

Avivah

overcoming-inadequacy

Feeling inadequate as a parent? Get realigned with your true values!

Tonight there was an informational meeting for a school opening in our area for the coming year.  There were aspects of the school that sounded interesting, enough for me to write in the details of the meeting into my planner.

And then I asked myself, WHY am I thinking about this???

Is there something that isn’t working in our homeschooling life right now?  Are any of the kids unhappy or asking to go to school?  Do they not have friends?  Is it too hard for me to be around them, or for them to be around each other?

No, no, and no.

My kids have lots of time to explore and play.  They have plenty of time for friendships and ‘extracurricular interests’.  They get along (mostly!) with each other. They’re bright and interested in the world around them, calm and settled inside themselves.

So after sixteen years of successfully homeschooling and seeing the short and long term benefits to our children, why was I thinking for even a minute about school?

comparisons

This happens to me periodically. This time it was because reading this lovely description of the school had me mentally comparing what I do and feeling that I was coming up short.  I began to fixate on adult-led activities rather than the long term process of supporting the natural development of children and their inherent learning process.  I felt the weight of the responsiblity of educating our children and it felt like an easy solution to send them to someone else who would take responsibility for their education.

No matter if that’s true or not!  What matters is that it felt true in the moment.   I was temporarily losing the comparison war and that triggered those pesky thoughts that periodically circle around – do I give my kids enough, do I do enough?

That’s what happens when I minimize the value of the things that are a natural part of our lives.  In one fell swoop I manage to take all the positives about our lifestyle and our children’s development for granted and with a mental flick deflect it to the sidelines as if all those things are insignificant.

Have you noticed how easy it is to downplay your successes and overly value what you aren’t doing? We all do this!  And the next thing you know, you’re feeling inadequate and looking to someone or something outside of you for different answers.  Sometimes I think that feeling inadequate is a pervasive theme for mothers.

At times like these I’ve found it helpful to stand back and consciously validate yourself.  You have to remind yourself of the value of what you do, to remind yourself about what your goals and vision are.  I took some time to think about what my short and long term vision is for our family, which was  really helpful in regrounding myself.

In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t end up attending the informational meeting about the school!

Avivah

swimming lessons

Musings while waiting at the pool

Five of my boys started swimming lessons last week.  Yes, five.

Their lessons were staggered throughout the afternoon, and I sat next to the pool for several hours and watched each one have his first lesson.  One of the swimming teachers looked over at me at some point and said, “You’re spending your whole day here!”

Despite what might have looked like inconvenience to others, I really enjoyed being there. I felt nostalgic.

It’s been about 17 years since our oldest three children took swimming lessons.  That was followed by years of many other activities and lessons, with me sitting at the sidelines watching and usually supervising younger siblings at the same time.

There were years of going shopping and to the dentist and everywhere else with all of the kids in tow.  Many years.  I didn’t get out alone too often, but while there were times that I longed for more ‘me’ time, lots of togetherness was the reality of our lives.  It was necessary and appropriate and something I really enjoyed.

Time moves on.  The children referred to for so long on this blog as ‘the littles’ are now almost 8, 9.5 and 11.  They’re old enough and independent enough that they don’t need me to set up play dates .  Ds9 and ds11 both can get to their extracurricular activities without me accompanying them; ds7 can go to his friends’ homes without me walking him there hand in hand.

As I sat by the pool, I felt wistful for those days of going everywhere with the kids.  Yes, I very much appreciate that it’s now possible for me to take naps and go places on my own without too much wrangling of my schedule.  I appreciate that Israel has safe public transportation and that has created opportunities for independence that our children in the US didn’t have.  But I kind of miss those years of everyone piling into the car and just being there with them – those times created lots of warm memories.

Someone said to me at the second lesson, “You’re not going to watch your seven year old every time, are you?  He just needs you to be here the first time.”  Sure, I could send him in on his own now that I facilitated the first lesson.  It’s not that he needs me to be there, but that he wants me to be there.  I want to be there for him.

I’m so glad to have this opportunity to sit and watch my boys as they do something new, watching them overcoming their hesitations and then seeing the flashing smiles appear on their faces.

Our kids grow up so quickly – enjoy every moment!

Avivah

Why we chose foster care rather than adoption

Can you believe it’s only been six weeks since R joined our family?!?  He so quickly became an integral part of the family that my younger boys told me they can hardly remember him not being part of our lives!

R - 10 weeks old (photography by Chani Ceitlin)

R – 10 weeks old (photography by Chani Ceitlin)

During this period, we’ve constantly been asked (literally in almost every conversation): “Why did you choose foster care rather than adoption?”   

The answer is simple, not based on idealism or preferences but need.  Here in Israel, babies with Trisomy 21 who are given up aren’t usually available for adoption – they go into the long term foster care system. And so we went where the babies who needed families were.

I have been very pained seeing babies with T21 being given up because of their diagnosis.  According to the placement social worker, they are the only children voluntarily given up as newborns – not those with much more complicated medical diagnoses or those with a more limited long term prognosis.

R - 10 weeks old

R – 10 weeks old

It was a combination of our strong family values and the desire to be part of the solution rather than complaining about the situation that prompted us to begin the qualification process to be foster parents specifically for an infant with T21.

“Practically speaking, what does it mean to foster?”

Our intention is to raise R as a member of our family in every way and unless his foster care status changes, he will be with us until he is an adult (age 21).  While in many ways this is very similar to an open adoption-  regardless of how we feel or what our intentions are, R is not legally our child.

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That means that we will have social workers coming into our home at least monthly to check on him for the next two decades.  It means he has a different last name than my other children.  It means visits from the birth parents.  It means significant decisions for him have to made in conjunction with his birth parents and social workers, and my personal preferences regarding his care can be overridden. (It also means that I needed signed permission before posting any of these pictures!)

Most significantly, if his birth parents were to change their minds they could at any time take him back.  Though it’s unusual for children who were given up because of their special needs to later be taken back, it does happen.

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I can’t lightly skip over this possibility because it has created a pervasive sense of unease within me that I didn’t anticipate.   I’ve shared this feeling with our social worker, and her answer is to sympathize but say, “This is the reality of foster care,” and to remind me that it’s the birth parents’ right to take him back whenever they want.

“Will R be able to be adopted at some point?”

When we were shown R’s file, we were asked if we were willing adopt him if his status changed.  We immediately said ‘yes’.  However, based on what was explained to us about why and when children are transferred to the adoption track, it seems to me the likelihood of him being placed for adoption is extremely low.

We didn’t go into fostering without a great deal of thought and discussion as a family.  We knew there would be challenges and we decided that letting fear of the unknown keep us from offering our home to a child in need wasn’t the right choice.

And though it would be understandable to hold back a tiny piece of one’s heart for self-protection, we’re not letting fear keep us from unreservedly loving our newest addition.

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Though the external circumstances aren’t perfectly smooth,  we’re so happy and grateful he’s part of our family!

Avivah

**Thank you to the wonderfully talented, patient and sensitive Chani Ceitlin for her photography!**

bin borsalina

Our boys are in the new Borsalino ad

While many people are busy scrubbing their homes for Pesach and enlisting their children to work with them, instead three of my boys recently participated in the filming of an ad for a hat company.

Our neighbor was responsible for casting and that’s how we were contacted – it’s not the kind of thing we would have gone out of our way to be part of.  The boys were paid a token amount but the real gain was to be part of an interesting learning opportunity and it was with that intention that I agreed they could be part of it.

The video briefly showcases three major life events: the bris of a newborn baby boy, a bar mitzva celebration and a wedding.

Ds11 and ds9 are hard to find unless you’re looking for them but they’re there in the background scenes of the bris.  They were considering casting ds11 as the bar mitzva boy but the filming for the bar mitzva portion was done at the end of the day – it was a verrrry long day – and ds11 and ds9 came home before that so they only participated in the bris portion.

A fun surprise was that ds18 was cast as the bridegroom at the last minute so he ended up with a main part.  Initially they said they wanted someone with a lighter complexion, but once he was there they decided he was more suitable than the person they had chosen.  So he’s the easiest of our three boys to find.

Here’s the video:

Enjoy!

Avivah

Purim 2017 – teaching children to be givers, great read aloud

Another Purim has come and gone, and it was lovely!

We enjoyed our Purim seuda with our family and guests. If you’re wondering why there seem to be no pictures of some family members, it’s because the pictures of them were together with guests and I’m not including pictures of our guests.

L to r: Ds9, ds7, ds10

L to r: Ds9, ds7, ds10

Dd22 and dd16

Dd22 and dd16

L to r: ds7, ds18, ds23

L to r: ds7, ds18, ds23

This beautifully arranged fruit platter was a surprise delivery prepared by our soon to be daughter-in-love!  (Do you notice two of our younger boys ogling it below? :))  It was so thoughtful and unexpected.  We and our guests completely enjoyed it and almost completely finished it by the time our Purim meal ended!

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After the excitement of Purim day, that evening we eased into a different focus by putting out a box next to our front door for people to donate their excess treats.  We were one of a number of drop off locations in the RBS area.  These would be packaged into mishloach manot and distributed to disadvantaged children in Jerusalem the next day.  (In Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated a day later than everywhere else, so they received these packages on Purim day.)

The next morning I went with three of the kids to bring the donations that came to us to the central packaging area.  We stayed for 3.5 hours to help package the items; the kids helped sort and package the treats for the kids. 1600 packages were prepared for children from snacks that were donated post-Purim in RBS.  I was involved in organizing packages for needy families; over a hundred packages went out for families in an economically depressed area.  We all felt we had contributed in a valuable way to others and enjoyed it at the same time, and look forward to being involved next year!

It was really nice for me to do this with our children.  Purim can so easily become about getting instead of giving (particularly for kids excited about the treats they get from friends), and I was happy to have the opportunity to shift the focus onto doing for others.

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Though Purim is over, I’m still working my way through our 300+ page pre-Purim readaloud!  The book is called, Let My Nation Live by Yosef Deutsch, and it’s just the kind of books I love to read with the kids.  It’s a non-fiction version of the Purim story that integrates so many commentaries, but has been written as a story and the kids have soaked in so much knowledge.  It’s well-written, well researched and really fascinating – the older kids ended up listening in when they were home because it was so interesting.

There is another book by the same author called Let My Nation Go, about the Pesach story, written in the same style.  I borrowed a copy of the Little Medrash Says Pesach Hagada but I’m hoping I can get a copy of Let My Nation Go to read with them instead.  Then that will be our primary reading in the coming month leading up to Pesach.

Note: this  is written for adults but our younger boys (7,9,10) have good vocabularies as well as good auditory attentions spans so they easily followed this.  I did sometimes need to explain the meaning of a word.  I’d say to give it a try if you’re hesitant and see how your kids respond.

Avivah