Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jewish Book Reviews

You know that saying, 'too much of something is never good'?
Well, I must disagree.
In my humble opinion, you can have too many toys, too many games, too much nosh and too much stuff. 
But there is one thing I think you can never have too much of: 
Books. Good books.

If you are going to make one investment into your kids homeschooling journey, I say buy books, books and more books. A home filled with books is a gorgeous home.

Having said that, Feldheim has sent me 4 adorable books to enjoy, review and share with you- enjoy:


Shuki's Upside-Down Dream
By Yaffa Ganz

           Did you ever have a funny dream? How about a topsy-turvy, upside-down dream? After Shuki protests elderly Aunt Esther's upcoming visit, he has a very strange dream that helps him see things in a whole new way. This important "wake-up call" turns Aunt Esther's visit into a special time. This classic book by Yaffa Ganz has been reprinted with new illustrations to help children of today's generation with the mitzvah of respecting the elderly.


We Can Do Mitzvos Around the Jewish Year
By Yael Zoldan

            Jewish children can be part of the action as they join their parents and get involved in the holidays! With lively rhymes and vivid illustrations, We Can Do Mitzvos Around the Jewish Year tells what each Yom Tov is all about, showing mitzvos that kids can do on each of these special days.


Around the Clock: A Jewish Child Learns to Tell Time
By Aviva Werner

            When a child becomes curious about clocks and time-telling, Around the Clock is the perfect place to start! In this beautifully illustrated book, author Aviva Werner and artist Avi Katz team up to capture the essence of a day in the life of a Jewish child. Page by page, children will love learning to recognize the hour hand on the clock and how it relates to their own day.


Good Shabbos, Benny!: A Young Boy's Countdown to Shabbos
By Chani Fischman

          What's Benny counting? His Shabbos clothes, of course! Benny can't wait to get dressed for Shabbos. Join him as he hangs an additional piece of clothing on his bed each night. And when the most special day of the week finally arrives, you can be the very first one to wish Benny, "Good Shabbos"!

My kids absolutely LOVED these books, we read all four before bedtime tonight and I could not recommend them enough.

Your kids deserve a home filled with good Jewish books, it is worth every penny. Get started!

Good Shabbos,
Always,

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

From Frazzled Mom to Super Mom... How we transform as Mothers


5 years ago I had 5 kids under the age of 4.

I was so overwhelmed, sleep deprived, exhausted, emotional and terrified, but I was so busy taking care of my kids that I didn't really get a chance to truly get in touch with how I was feeling. I was in survival mode.

Interestingly enough, one of the biggest difficulties for me was the comments and looks I would get from strangers when I was out with the kids. This irked me to my inner core.

'Wow, you have your hands full!' Really? Thanks so much for letting me know, all this time I thought my life was so easy, but now that you have notified me that my hands are full, I will be able to move on with my day. And the whole response of 'Oh you should see my heart'- I really don't need to justify to you, perfect stranger, how full my heart is. My hands are full and I'm overwhelmed. Stop rubbing it in. I would politely smile and go,'I know, right?'

'Are they all yours?' No, I found some stray kids in the parking lot, threw them into my shopping cart and asked a friend if I could bring a few of her kids with me to the super market cos theres nothing better then shopping with lots of kids, especially if some of them arn't even yours.

'How do you do it?' Well, you see I have this manual that tells me exactly what to do and how to do it. So its pretty simple. I just follow the instructions.

People would actually count out loud, as if I had no idea how many kids I had brought with me.

These experiences and comments really bothered me. I blamed society and how judgmental people are of moms with lots of kids. Everywhere I went I felt like I was being judged as an overwhelmed mom who had no control over her life.

But- in actual truth, that's how I felt. I was overwhelmed and I often felt like I had no control of what was going on around me. And that is what I thought the world thought of me because little did I know it, but that is what I was projecting.

Fast forward a few years. The kids are growing up, and so am I. I have learned so much about life as a mother, a wife and as a human being in general.

Granted, I have more time for myself and after many difficult and guilt ridden years, I finally realized how much my family gains when I truly take care of myself in all areas of my life.

I read the most gorgeous quote on Instagram today by a fellow mom with lots of little ones:

The way you feel is projected onto those around you. Even newborn babies can sense when we are stressed.

***

My older kids had some birthday and Chanukah money they had saved up and we decided to go to the store today so they can all get something.

They got their shoes, grabbed a snack and buckled themselves into the car. I grabbed my ice tea and fig bar and off we went, everyone bopping to the music as they were all discussing what they hoped to find at the store. Even the little ones were in on the conversation.

We got to the store, I immediately stuck the little ones in the shopping cart and we headed straight to the toy section. The older kids were all busy looking through the Legos and My Little Ponies while I grabbed a few flashy singing toys for the little ones to play with to keep them busy.

Everyone found something, all smiles, and we headed to the checkout. My 5 year old grabbed a candy bar and asked if he could have it. I told him if he found a Kosher sign on it then we could discuss it. He didn't find the sign so he put it right back, no questions asked. The lady behind me complimented me on my well behaved kids. And no, my kids are no more well behaved then yours, but my kids know that we only eat Kosher so its really no big deal to put it back.

Then a lady in the next isle looks over and goes, 'are you the nanny or the mom cos you don't look a day over 25!' Ha! I gave her a smile and told her I was the very proud mom.

You see, we all go through that overwhelming stage. Where we wonder how on earth we will ever get through  this.


But guess what? We NEED to go through that because that's the only way we can turn into the strong and awesome moms that we become.

I don't remember exactly when the shift happened, but one day I realized that when I go out with my kids, I am just SO proud to be the mom of these awesome people! I walk onto the playground with my camera ready to capture these kiddos in action. I thank Hashem everyday that they are so close in age and everywhere we go they have each other to keep company. And I guess that pride shows because the comments I get show it.

The comments I get now are more like, 'They're so lucky they have each other!' 'Its so nice to have a big family' 'Whats your secret to making it look so easy?' 'How are you so calm?'

People are in awe. Not pity.

So while I am sure there are many of you with lots of little ones who get those pitiful looks and annoying comments, hang in there! We have all been there and we get how annoying it is- and things will change. Things will get so much better that not only will you feel great but the people around you will feel it too.

Wishing you a wonderful week,
Always, 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Alef is for Apple- Hebrew Reading Curriculum Review


I am in love with this Curriculum.
My kids absolutely love doing it.
If you do not have an early childhood Alef Beis Curriculum, Click Here and get Alef is for Apple right now.


You will receive a 55 page workbook where each Hebrew letter is connected to English words that begin with that sound. Alef is for Apple. Beis is for Box. Gimmel is for Glasses etc. 

The reason I love this idea is that as much as I would love my kids to learn Hebrew at a young age, my four year old simply does not relate to the fact that a house in Hebrew is a Bayit, so coloring a house on a page with a Beis does not really do much for them.

On the other hand, if you look at the example page above, my 5 year old can literally zoom through the book on his own and loves the independence.

And that is just the beginning.


You will receive a bag filed with miniatures that are connected to each letter. On the previous photo we have a small bag of Glitter to glue on the Gimmel. A bag of Buttons for Beis, Ducks for Daled, Crayons for Kaf and so on.

This all makes sense to the little ones and its hands on as they get to glue each bag of goodies onto each letter as they learn it.

And this all comes together in one package. The book and bag of miniatures.

I cannot recommend this enough.

Here is their website- http://www.alefisforapple.com and the prices are amazing.

Have fun!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SPD- Sensory Processing Disorder: An Eye Opener

All of my kids have electric toothbrushes. Except my 7 year old daughter. Lets call her Munchkin. Munchkin refuses to use an electric toothbrush and has opted for a manual one with a picture of Hello Kitty on it. Okay, to each his own, right?

Now Munchkin has always had an issue with clothing. Anything with a tag, lace, zippers, buttons, hard fabrics, tight fitting clothes, these have always been absolute no-no's. On the other hand, she has always slept with her extra soft blanky, loves fabrics like silks and velvets, and the looser the outfit, the better. I have always thought that this was 'her style' of dressing.

She seemed to get angry very easily. If you sat in her chair at dinner, it was the end of the world. If one of her siblings cut her off or spoke while she was speaking, life as we knew it was over. I figured she is just 'really sensitive' and is just 'an angry child.' There are actually articles about 'angry children.' I read them all.

At birthday parties and social gatherings, she will hang around for the first 10 ten minutes but after that she quietly retreats to her bedroom. I always thought that she was just an introvert, like her mom, and just longed for and enjoyed the silence and tranquility of her own company.

We have a house full of kids and while my kids are far from angels, the noise level is healthy. Yes, there are plenty of fights, yelling, crying, but I wouldnt say its the majority of the time. Yet when these fights or tantrums occur, Munchkin cannot handle it. She tells me she is moving in with her best friend next door where its quiet and peaceful. I always thought she was just my little drama queen.

I have written about 'Homeschooling the Anxious Child' referring to Munchkin and how she needs her day layed out in front of her. She needs to be in control of what is happening and what she does. I always thought she just has a strong personality with a high amount of anxiety to go along with it.

But over Chanukah, we had lots of parties almost every night. I noticed Munchkin would have a complete melt down at the end of each party. It seemed that each night the melt downs seemed to escalate and get more and more intense. I kept complaining to my husband what a difficult child we have. The last melt down she had I honestly thought the windows would shatter she screamed so loud.

In the mornings though, when things were quiet, she was the perfect angel.

Something was not quite right. I mean, academically she is doing great. She has very healthy social skills, her fine and gross motor skills seem normal for her age, so what on earth could be the problem?

I decided to call my aunt as I remember as a child my cousin would have these crazy melt downs at all family functions. I figured maybe she could give me some advice on how to handle 'my difficult child.'

Within 2 minutes of the conversation, she said these magic words that changed everything.

"Your Munchkin sounds like she has Sensory Processing Disorder. Contact an Occupational Therapist as soon as you can and both your life and her life with be transformed."

This is what her daughter had, and with the right therapy and early intervention, she will be okay.

I started doing crazy research on this and the more and more I learnt, the more everything made sense.

I have tears in my eyes just writing this.

My Munchkin is not a 'difficult child.' Her body just does not process things like the rest of us.

At a birthday party with 10 kids, to her it feels like being in a room with 100 people, its almost hard to breathe.

When using an electric toothbrush, the nerves in her body are so highly sensitive its like having a full on power tool racing around her mouth.

When she wears clothing that are too fitted, with tags or not soft, to her little body it feels like she is wearing a shirt made out of sandpaper rubbing against her skin.

When her younger sister has a tantrum, while the rest of the family are happy to ignore it, to her body, it feels like her sister has taken a megaphone and is screaming directly into her ear while scraping her nails along a chalk board.

My sweet Munchkin is not a 'difficult child.' She just needs the tools to deal with life the way she is experiencing it.

Now that we know this, its like a whole new world.  I now understand my sweet child. And when I see a possible trigger, I do my best to help her work through it. We will be starting OT after the Holidays and between our wonderful Occupational Therapist and our working with her at home, I know she will be okay.

But for any of you moms out there that can relate to any part of this post, there is an amazing amount of hope out there.

I will keep you all posted as we embark on this new journey!

Wishing you all a wonderful week,
Always,



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Keeping Up with Ourselves- A Chanukah Lesson

My son recently received a sweatshirt as a gift from my mom. He thought it was the absolute coolest sweatshirt ever. It has a hood, lots of shades of green (his favorite color) and it zips all the way up with some mesh pieces over his face which is just super cool.

Being that we live in the tropics, he doesn't get to wear his new favorite sweatshirt that often but the second it is remotely chilly he has it on with a smile from ear to ear. He really loves his new sweatshirt!

Every Wednesday he takes an art class at the local elementary school down the road. A few weeks ago it was raining really hard and strangely chilly, so he was super excited to be able to wear his awesome sweatshirt to his art class.

As he got there, I noticed a bunch of boys standing around him and commenting on how cool his sweatshirt was. Apparently its a cool sweatshirt among boys his age (9) and he was just made aware of this as being homeschooled, he really has no clue what clothes are considered 'cool'. He just knows what HE likes. And he likes this sweatshirt because of the colors and the hood and the cool way it zips up. Not because it is considered cool.

We have a young lady who comes over once a week to play, she just turned 12 and loves coming over. She does these amazing projects with my kids, makes music videos with them, directs plays, make up dances, she is so creative and my kids are her perfect little actors and performers whom she can direct and bring out her talent. She loves it, they love it, I love it, its a win win.

A few nights ago we had a Chanukah party and she asked if she could bring a friend from school. I told her of course and that night there were a bunch of kids at the party. After we lit the Menorah, we put on music and brought all the kids to the grass to dance.

We made a huge circle holding hands and started dancing around. the next thing I know, her friend started running really fast, dragging the kid next to her, which was a ripple effect and suddenly the kids were running really fast in this circle and all the kids came toppling on top of each other. Some little ones were really not happy about it. We all got back up and made a circle again and I noticed this young lady who is always so respectful and so wonderful when she comes over started acting a little too wild and between her and her friend the circle just fell apart. I was really disappointed but then I realized this is very normal middle school behavior. Peer pressure.

Both these experiences made me see the Miracle of Chanukah on a very personal level.

We live in a huge world where everyone is trying to keep up with every one else.

The Greeks wanted the Jews to do just that. To be like them.

When we homeschool, we give our kids the gift of making decisions based on their own opinion, not the opinion of others. They do not have the issue of peer pressure on a daily basis.

My daughter has her own fashion sense. She wears things that she likes, colors that she likes. She plays with toys that she loves, not toys that are cool or in style.

My sisters gifted her with an American Girl Doll. She had no idea what this was, she figured its just a pretty doll. Needless to say, she was not too impressed as she doesn't love playing with dolls, she prefers miniatures. So she gave it to her younger sister.

The beauty of knowing yourself, and knowing what YOU like and enjoy, is such a special gift. The Jews had to be so strong during that time that the Greeks were trying to change them. Its just like that today except we just don't realize it.

So take this Chanukah and appreciate being who YOU are. The foods YOU like, the clothes YOU choose. The things that make YOU happy. Its NOT about what you SHOULD do. Don't compare yourself to other moms, don't compare your kids to other kids. Be you, because that is who Hashem created you to be. Embrace it.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and may the rest of Chanukah be filled with lots of light and many many miracles!

Chanukah Sameach!
Always,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Montessori and Chanukah Fun Printables and More!

My dear and very talented friend Nechamy has very graciously started contributing her gorgeous and very well made Montessori inspired printable activities to my blog for all of you to enjoy-

Feel free to download and print some or all of these fabulous Chanukah activities for your munchkins, all made and put together by Nechamy just for you... 




And of course, these adorable books from Mish and Mush- just click on the images to purchase and enhance your Chanukah experience...




And check out these super cute Chanukah themed card games and activities from Emily Sper...




Just click on the above images to make these adorable activities yours~

Enjoy the rest of your week and stay tuned for a wonderful Alef Bet curriculum review and some more fantastic Alef Bet activities from the wonderfully talented Nechamy!

Always,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Adorable Menorah Decorating Kits



Whenever I go with my kids to Costco this time of year, they are always fascinated by the Gingerbread House making kit. Knowing it is not Kosher, they know not to even ask for it but talk about how cool it would be to make one.

A friend recently sent me a link to Sweet Thrills Bakeshop  where I saw they had Gingerbread Menorah Decorating Kits... that were KOSHER!!! PARVE!!!

I immediately contacted them and asked if they would send me one to review for all of you and within a few days the kit arrived--- and oh my goodness!!!



We opened it up and here is what was inside:


Which you put together to make this:



I mean, can you get any cuter? And the prices are SO decent- I highly recommend you hop on over to their website Sweet Thrills Bakeshop and check out their products- 

For Chanukah they have 3 different options and its all Kosher Parve!!!

A great Chanukah gift and activity for the kids- Enjoy and Happy almost Chanukah!

Always,
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