Sunday, September 20, 2015

growth and teshuva (repentance)

It is a good thing that my husband is my memory keeper. I was exasperated, complaining how 9 yo will never get fluency in reading Hebrew, and he reminded me how I worried and complained about him not knowing any English letters back when he was 5. "He will never read," I said. Then one day it clicked, and now he's a proficient reader.

That got me thinking. We know that he has anxiety. There might be a writing disorder. There might be dyslexia, or some sort of other learning difficulty. There are quantifiable and visible issues. The medication, both traditional and alternative, has cropped up. We have tried therapy, and we have talked about looking into more therapy. When you are a desperate parent, it is so easy to start grasping at any story of a child with a similar difficulty following XYZ plan and getting results. We want results now. We want change now. Moreover, we want a very certain prescription for change, something that we can follow and elicit change.

But that is not how things work.

9 yo still has hard time writing, but he is capable of doing it. 9 yo still has hard time reading Hebrew, but he has slowly built up stamina to try and read accurately. He can read many פסוקים in a sitting now, and he can translate and pick out שרשים. Also, he is at the point where he has interest in board games, competitive games. The same child who would not even try a game before for the fear of losing is now happily engrossed in Sorry, Monopoly and Parcheesi, all well-known for the competitive edge. He loses graciously, even despite his older brother egging him on.

His tantrums, while still occurring over seemingly trivial things, are much smaller. In fact, he came to the realization that he should work on not throwing fits. One of his self-discovered cures is playing the violin. Violin is not easy to play, and he is a beginner, which means, putting it mildly, he is not very good at it yet. Playing the violin and not getting the right sounds is very frustrating to him. I was anticipating this frustration, and got the rental insured, just in case here will be some throwing. Yet, 9 yo discovered that it is a calming activity.

I wish that I could point to a magic pill, and tell everyone else what the secret to these changes is, but, I'm afraid, it is just giving it time. With this extra time comes extra maturity and introspection. All of this makes me wonder whether in our desire to change our difficult children we jump the gun, counsel, treat and medicate instead of just waiting things out. Maybe what ends up working in the end is not the latest cure, but the simple gift of time.

The time between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is known as עשרת ימי תשובה, ten days of repentance. Reading over Rambam's description of תשובה גמורה (complete repentance), one is struck with the complete transformation of a person, up to the point that one is called by a different name, because it is not the same person who did those sins. Yet, any aspect of תשובה that I have worked on was incremental. Change is slow, change takes time, change takes slip-ups and sliding back. Change appears instantaneous to the outside observer, yet, in the thick of it, change is often barely perceptible. Change is often a different thought pattern, Change is biting your tongue instead of saying something. Change is measured in these small steps, and often, one is not certain whether these steps are in the right direction.

Part of my תשובה is to be more patient with my kids, to give them the gift of time, and to allow them to change, mature and learn slowly.

Friday, September 18, 2015

First few weeks

5 yo and 2 yo have been going to their school. 5 yo loves it. She is happy to go and happy to come home. She talks about her projects, about reading, about making chains for skip-counting. She sings songs about Rosh HaShana. She talks about the new friends that she made. Overall, she is a happy child, having the time of her life.

I keep thinking  how school is meant for girls, rewarding and encouraging their behavior patterns of socialization, listening, and group activities.

2 yo is having harder time adjusting to having his nap time messed up. He is excited to go, but he is a mess in the afternoon when I pick him up. I get lots of pictures from the school and he is happy in them, participating in activities, sitting down, paying attention, crafting. Yet I do feel quite a few pangs of regret about sending out a child so young.

The boys are continuing with taekwondo three mornings a week. On Wednesday mornings we participate in the coop classes. Both boys are taking engineering and Minecraft History of Weapons. Unfortunately, these activities eat quite a bit of morning time. By 2 pm I have to leave to pick up the younger ones, so there is a lot of pressure to finish schoolwork before I go
. The baby is hanging out with us. Due to all the shuttling back and forth, she does not end up napping in her crib in the mornings. She is not a good sleeper and she is not easy to put down.

We are all adjusting.

I have finally finished reviewing בשלח with 11 yo. We have started on יתרו and, for once, he is excited to get to the "juicy stuff". I am trying to get out of the way and not kill his enthusiasm with too many Rashis. We have also been going over ספר יונה. So far we covered two פרקים. Please G-d that this year we actually get to finish it. Additionally, we have been slowly making our way through הלכות תשובה. I thought I have learned them all at some point or other, but, as I am reading them over, I am stunned by how much I do not remember. A while ago someone posted Beta Midrash app. I downloaded it and that is the text that we are using. It is nice, since there is an option to have Hebrew and English side-by-side, or just one of the languages. I can also make the font larger, Finally, all the citations are linked to the text. Moreover, 11 yo seems to enjoy the technological aspect of learning, As for me, this is quite a serious preparation. I am shaken by how much I am doing wrong, and 11 yo is getting the message, too. Sometimes I wonder whether this is too much, too soon, Yet I know that we will stop by יום כיפור, somewhere in the third פרק. This year, it is more of a taste than an in-depth study.

For math I checked out Khan Academy, but I was too nervous so I got Math Mammoth. 11 yo finished his first unit which was mostly review. Next unit has to do with equations, and I will need to sit with him, to make sure that he is not lost. So I let him loose on Khan Academy, hoping that he will either get ahead, or will get to review more of the material that he is not solid in.

We are continuing with Rosetta Stone, and I am hoping to read more of the picture Hebrew books with him.

With 9 yo, it has been touch and go. I dropped חומש for now and we are doing a lot of pages from the reading primer. I am hoping to build up his fluency and accuracy. There is still a slight possibility of dyslexia hanging over. It will not be picked up easily, as he reads fluently in English, but in Hebrew we've got problems. 9 yo is still better at reading Rashi script that regular Hebrew and I wonder whether I taught him and pushed him to read too soon.

We have been reading יונה from Artscroll children's edition. There is a lot of explanation and midrash in there, but it gives him welcome breaks between each פסוק. I have not been asking him to translate, just to focus on reading Hebrew text with corresponding English.

For math, 9 yo is going over Math Mammoth. He seemed fine with it until his brother started doing Khan Academy; now he wants to do that instead. He got to play around with it a while back, but he did not want to explore areas which were unfamiliar or difficult.

For science I am planning on using a standard 4th grade textbook with our usual mix of eclectic learning thrown in. We hanged a hummingbird feeder right outside the kitchen window and the kids have been watching the tiny visitors. There were many questions ( most from 5 yo), so i asked 9 yo to make a poster about hummingbirds by doing some research online. He threw a fit: "I am not good at science and you know it!" I understood that he simply did not know where to start. I asked him to bring me 5 index cards and told him that each card will be for a question. He sulked. I asked him whether there was something about hummingbirds that he wanted to know. He said, no. I gave him a few examples and wrote them down, leaving the last index card for him question. He finally admitted that he wanted to know how fast the hummingbird's heart beats. Then he went to Google the info, A minute later he excitedly came back, spewing numbers. Apparently, it beats anywhere between 60 and 1260 beats per minute. We have hummingbirds that live here year-round, but other species spend the winter in our state. Hummingbird eggs are the size of black-eyed peas. Many hummingbirds return to the same feeder year after year, so we have to keep ours up. The baby hummingbirds come potty-trained: they "do their business" over the side of the nest. Parents feed their babies a mixture of nectar and fruit flies, so it is a good thing that we resurrected the compost pile ( to which 9 yo dutifully takes out compost every day). Finally, hummingbirds are pushed out of the nest as soon as they are able to fly. This fact made 9 yo sad. He actually came back to me in the morning and told me again how sad he is for baby hummingbirds. I asked him, why he thinks parents do that. He said, so that they can grow up and be independent and live their own life. Somehow, this thought cheered him up.

So are we, as parents, pushing our kids out of the nest so that they can get a chance to live a life and to fly.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

kids in the kitchen

apples in honey

I got ambitious tonight ( the younger two were asleep) and started on sunken apple tart from Kosher by Design. No sooner had I sauteed apples in honey and inhaled their heavenly aroma, and the baby woke up. 11 yo picked her up while 9 yo walked into the kitchen, wondering whether he can help.
dry ingredients

I asked the boys whether they want to take over. And take over they did. They made the rest of the tart, while I sat on the couch and nursed. They hunted down the lemon zester, measured and mixed. I was not consulted, but, by now, we have baked enough that they knew their way around the kitchen.
wet ingredients

Of course, there is a risk that something was not done right, and the tart will not come out. However, as I sat nursing, I truly relaxed. I have no ego in this, just pride that my kids can help and can tackle even a pretty elaborate recipe.

a bit of sampling

and a bit of goofing off

cinnamon sugar topping

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Every day

Every day I spend hours rocking the baby to sleep, long past the time that the rest of the kids fell asleep, long past the time that makes an acceptable bedtime. 

Every morning I wake the same baby during her morning sleep to drive the rest of the kids to their destinations.

Every afternoon, I scream like a banshee because the house is a disaster, I'm covered in spit up, the dinner is not ready, or not cleaned up, and somebody still has schoolwork and the temerity to ask about watching TV. 

Every day I get a forward with amusing something or other from one of the grandmas. 

Every day my mother calls, asking me to call when I can. 

Every day I wonder whether my husband will be home for dinner or bedtime, whether he will bother to tell me.

Every day my son asks why I yell so much.

Every day whatever gets started does not get finished. 

Every day I'm solving yesterday's dilemmas, cleaning up yesterday's mess, checking yesterday's schoolwork. 

Every day I yearn for connection beyond superficiality, but I have no time and energy for one. 

Every day feels like an escalator from which I cannot get off.