Thursday, May 29, 2014

Keeping it simple...

I woke up this morning feeling a bit under the weather.
I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. 

But then I remembered that I homeschool. 
And that if I am not up for doing work with the kids, 
I really don't have to. 
Its a great freedom that us homeschooling mamas have.

I told the kids they can go play outside. There were tons of butterflies all over the place and I noticed my 5 year old running around the grass with a plastic cup. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was 'trying to catch butterflies.'

We don't own a butterfly net but I felt bad watching the kid trying to catch butterflies with a cup, so I went online and looked at all the different ways to make butterfly nets.

After putting a few ideas together, I came up with the simplest way:
You will need tulle, a wire hanger, a glue gun and a stick. The truth is, you really don't need the stick, my son preferred just holding the hanger by itself.

It took me 5 minutes to put it together. I ended up making one for each of my kids, that's how quick and simple it was.

They were all outside for almost an hour, running around trying to catch butterflies. A few of them caught some and let them go right away.

Their cheeks were flushed, they were having such a great time and I got to lounge on my beach chair and drink my tea.

I have found that sometimes its the simplest things that keep our kids busy for the longest amounts of time.

A box of colored side walk chalk and a clear driveway.

A garden hose.


A box of new markers and a pile of white paper.

New books from the library.

Just like we enjoy the simple things in life, so do our kids.

So here's to keeping things simple.

Wishing you a wonderful, restful and peaceful Shabbos,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Surround yourself with Good People

A few weeks ago we had some Jewish techie guys visiting from California for dinner on a Friday night. They were super nice and also super smart. They had all gone to fancy shmancy prep schools which led them to even fancier shmancier Ivy League colleges. They are now in the process of developing a really cool App with the guy who designed the game of Tetris (who remembers Tetris? :).

One of the guys was a mathematician and was really excited about the fact that he was getting married on 3-14-15 which apparently is Pi. I found that cute.

Now, having these brains sitting around my table, I just had to ask them... how did their schooling and college experience help them get to where they are today.

Their unanimous answer? 
Its not WHAT you know, its WHO you know. 

Basically, they told me that while they learnt a lot at their fancy College, none of their classes actually helped them with what they are doing now. What did help them was being around like minded, smart people who connected them with other like minded, smart people which enabled them to develop this great team to work together and develop this App.

They then added that if you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, you clearly can't just hang around doctors and lawyers. But unless you have a clear idea of what you want to do, the whole Ivy League College experience merely networks you with well connected, smart, like minded people as yourself.

Now fast forward a few weeks to this past Shabbos morning as I was drinking my coffee on the couch. All of a sudden I got a really sharp stomach pain. I went to lay down in my room when I was suddenly paralyzed with pain in my stomach. I sent one of my kids to get my husband who upon seeing me double over in pain called 911.

The paramedics arrived and did their thing and told me I needed to go to the hospital.

It just so happened that a good friend of mine dropped off her 2 daughters to play. They are 10 and 11 and my kids adore them. When these girls are here, I do not see my kids for hours. We also happened to have 3 good friends spending Shabbos with us so going to the hospital with my husband, I knew my kids were in good hands.

As I was leaving, I saw 2 more friends pulling up to my house, one ran up to the ambulance saying, "Don't worry about your kids, we will all take care of them, just get better!"

Thank G-d, we got to the hospital and whatever needed to be taken care of got taken care of and I was feeling much better.

After Shabbos, friends came to pick us up and bring us home.

I walked into my house to find all my kids in PJ's and sound asleep in their beds.

And while this entire experience gave me a lot to think about, it brought me back to that converation with those Ivy Leaguers on that Friday night.

It really is a good and smart thing to surround yourself with like minded people. With good people. Because that is what we do. We are very blessed to have a lot of very good people in our lives. And our kids see this and feel it. We surround ourselves with positive, healthy, good people. And when the going gets tough, we have these amazing people who come through for us. Hashem sent them all to our house that Shabbos because He knew we needed them to be there.

Pirkei Avos says "aquire for yourself a friend" and "stay away from wicked people". It's that easy.

Wishing you all a wonderful week filled with health and goodness,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Second Chances

Yesterday was Pesach Sheini. Pesach Sheini is not really a holiday as such. In a nutshell, it is the day in Jewish history when those who could not bring the Karban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice) on Pesach itself, and so they got a second chance to do it, on this 14th day in the month of Iyar. 

I absolutely LOVE the idea of Hashem giving us so many chances to improve ourselves and our lives.

From the day I was born until the day I got married, my mother always had full time cleaning help. This meant that I never made a bed, cleaned my bedroom, did a load of laundry or any other chores for that matter. I did help take care of my siblings, and cook for Shabbos. But I loved cooking and it wasnt a job. But in regard to housework, I never even thought about it.

My friends always told me how lucky I was that I didnt have to help around the house. I never really thought about it. Until I got married. And had kids. And had to run my own home.

It has always been a struggle for me. Sure, my house is clean and organized, but it has taken SO much work on my part- not just the physical act, but mentally figuring it all out (which I am still doing daily). I have cleaning help, my husband helps and I am constantly reading and taking advice from all these amazing organizing blogs out there. But it has really been a journey.

The one thing I realized, and this has only hit me lately, is that I cannot have my kids grow up with everything being done for them like I had. So we have started a system where every day after lunch and before quiet time the kids have 30 minutes of chores to do. Included in these chores are cleaning their bedrooms, tidying up after lunch, cleaning the playroom and any other chores that need to be done to keep the house tidy.

I'm not the type of mom to constantly be on top of the kids to clean up after themselves all day, so taking a half hour and dedicating it to cleaning has really worked.

I will not lie- the first day I implemented this, there were tears and lots of resistance! The second day there were less tears and less resistance. And by the third day I did not even have to tell them what to do. And now they actually take pride in their work. They will call me to the playroom to show me how clean it is and what a good job they did. And the nice thing is, because they are cleaning every day, its really not much to clean each day as it is constant.

I find that by setting up certain times to do certain things, it keeps you focused and really helps get so much done as you know that this specific time is for this specific task.

The reason I started this post off with Rabbi Nachmans' quote about starting over each day and many times each day is that the beauty of life is that Hashem is always giving us so many chances to change things and make things better. Things don't and wont have to stay a certain way. We really have the power to change things in our lives.

I have attached a few charts and things that I have made to make my life easier. I did not grow up with menu plans, daily schedules, chore charts or any of that stuff, but these are things that make my life so much easier.

This is just a cute printable, I laminated it and put it up on the wall in the kitchen. The kids take turns filling it in every day with a dry erase marker and it helps them with remembering what day it is, month etc. 

I made this and stuck it on my fridge. Its a constant reminder of what to have ready made in the fridge so no one has to complain that they are hungry and that theres nothing to eat.

This is my weekly menu plan. I excluded Friday and Shabbos as that is in its own category. I sat down with my kids and every one gave me their favorite things to eat for each meal and we came up with this. Honestly, my kids could eat pasta every day for lunch if they could, and I don't stick to it every day, but it keeps things simple for me.

This is our daily schedule for now. Obviously it is always evolving, but having it up on the wall where the kids can see it is a tremendous source of sanity for all of us.  
Here's our little bedroom clean up chart. Its simple, not overwhelming and it works.

You dont need a million charts all over your house- but for someone like me, I need to get it out of my head and onto paper where I can see it.

So I encourage all of you to take a moment, look at your life and see where your challenges are. Then think of ways, which are sometimes so simple, to make things easier for yourself. 

Good luck and have a wonderful, restful Shabbos,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Super Fun Play Dough Activity

We had a lot of fun today doing this Play Dough activity today-

Check it out:

This is where I got the adorable Face printables: Click Here
I printed them out, then laminated them so we can use them often.
This is my absolute favorite go-to Play Dough recipe: Click Here

Have fun!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Grass is not always Greener...

A good friend of mine started off her kids in private Yeshivas. For good reasons, her family moved to a place where there are no Jewish schools available for her kids and she has now been homeschooling them since October 2013.

She is having such a wonderful experience Homeschooling, and I feel that a lot of what we talk about can really help other moms out there who are new to or are having a difficult time Homeschooling.

Here is her story:

 "When we lived in a big Jewish community, my kids started school at age 2. They were picked up by the bus at 8:15 am and dropped off at home between 4:30 and 4:45 pm. They would arrive home starving and exhausted. I would feed them, do homework with them (the Preschool and Kindergarten age kids) bath them and put them to bed.

"I did not know my kids.

"I had no idea how advanced one of my kids were in reading since her class were only learning the Hebrew letters. I would never have known she could have advanced in her fluency of reading in Hebrew and English within 4 months if not for homeschooling. One of my other kids was behind (we later found out it was because she simply needed glasses) which was not good for her self esteem as she was not up to class level.

"Once I began Homeschooling, it was like this whole new world opened up to us on so many levels.

"For one, I now know what my kids are eating and make sure they have healthy wholesome meals and snacks throughout the day, something I had no control over when they went to school.

"For my child who is ahead of her grade level, I am able to move forward with her and challenge her and she could not be happier. For my other child, she got glasses and is now able to catch up at her own pace with out being compared to anyone. She feels so much better about herself, its amazing to see.

"Socially, the only time they complain is when they say they miss their cousins. Never once have they asked to go back to school. In fact, they are the happiest I have ever seen them.

"I did keep their uniforms for school time. I get them from and it really helps keeping school time structured as well as keeps the weekly amount of laundry very manageable!

"We finish our school day at 2 pm and I don't see them until dinnertime. They play with the kids in the neighborhood, ride their bikes, play outside, play all together. It is so beautiful to see my kids all so close. I wish I would have had that as a child, to be able to develop real relationships with my siblings. But we were always at school or with friends or doing homework, we never got a chance to really get to know each other even though we lived under the same roof and shared parents.

"I get to hug and kiss my kids during school time. I really get to know them. They have chores at home that they are more then happy to do, since they don't have the pressure of tests and homework. I wish I would have had the opportunity to grow up like this. I always had friends at school, but I also always felt so lost. Here, my kids get their life and education catered to who they are. Its such an amazing gift! I feel that if we do move again, I don't think I can ever put my kids back into a conventional school. I want to Homeschool them all the way through High School if I can.

"To the moms out there having a hard time, I have been on the other side. Where your child just gets lost in the shuffle. Sure, you have A LOT more time to yourself! But the gift of giving your kids this individualized attention and guidance is something that will be with them forever. You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but if you take the time to water your own it will be greener."

Wishing you all a wonderful week,
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