Wednesday, September 30, 2015

seuda hamafsekes

About 10 minutes before we sat down to eat erev Yom Kippur, I decided to put a question by each person's plate to facilitate discussion about Yom Kippur during the meal.  I put 3 fact questions by the boys' plates, and then 4 random questions for Chana, Sarah, Moshe, and Ari.  I would have put a question by my plate except I ran out of time to think of any more questions.

I had no time to type and print, and the boys were unable to read my handwriting.

Who does all the Avoda on Yom Kippur?

What are 5 things we can't do on Yom Kippur?

What is the place that only the Kohen Gadol can go only on Yom Kippur?

Why is it important/valuable to have a day of Yom Kippur in our calendar?

How are you going to make Yom Kippur mean something to your year?

What is the theme of Yom Kippur?

How does fasting help you on Yom Kippur?

The boys were pretty excited about their questions and Elazar initially thought the theme of Yom Kippur was because the Jews were taken out of Mitzrayim (probably because I frequently do this for the seder, too).  Everyone answered his or her question and it brought us some nice discussion before Yom Kippur.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

the cycle of worry-->decision

It's 8:47pm and I'm about to put Jack to bed so we can do an hour of work.  Since Elazar has been putting himself to bed at 10:30, he hasn't been learning before bed anymore.  I started thinking maybe it's time for him to learn.  But I've been through this before; every time I do it, he ends up agitated and dislikes it because he can't sit through it.  Then I thought, maybe we should bribe him.  Maybe he's old enough to have the discipline to learn regularly.

Then I thought, I think I can leave this until age 10 and see.  (Or maybe even he'll have more sitzfleisch when he's 11.  Chana became much more able to focus on work in 4th grade.  In fact, we didn't start Chumash until 4th grade with her.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

chana's first day of school

This isn't really about Chana's first day of school.  That went well.  She had one class today, which eases her in nicely.  She is attending Chumash and Torah Sheba'al Peh.  Today was Chumash and she was happy when I picked her up.

The trouble for me is the back and forth.  By nature, I don't like to leave the house.  I prefer to stay at home in my pajamas all day.  Loading up 3 little boys and getting somewhere on time does not show me in my best Mama Sunshine light.  When I noticed this about myself, I became more careful about overscheduling.  Like a cranky toddler, when I get overscheduled I get tense and prone to tantrums.
This year, with all the back and forthing, is a big of a logistical nightmare.  For example, the day that Chana's 2 classes are unfortunately not back to back and are 3rd and 6th period, is also the day that Jack has begged to be allowed to go to science class 45 minutes away.  And the times Chana needs to be picked up from class are I will already be gone.  Ari is kindly stepping into the gap with a lot of driving help.  I get a slight tension headache whenever I look at the weekly schedule.

Today, since it was only one class, I decided we would go to Trader Joe's during that time.  The boys were excited and even remembered to put their shoes on.

It reminded me why going on trips or generally going out in public with them is still so difficult for me.  Mostly it is Elazar.  When I only have him, it is manageable, but him and 4yo who behaves his age, and 5yo who is well behaved but bickers with his brothers, I just don't have the amount of hands I need.  Try to go out and actually accomplish anything and things get even more complicated.

Aharon sat in the child part of the cart.  And Jack sat crouched down in the back of the cart.  Elazar was already being wild and touching things on the shelves and mitchering his brothers, climbing under the cart and poking their behinds to make them yell, etc.  I left the cart and went to get cheese, and Elazar pushed the cart away, not noticing if he was walking into people and ignoring my verbal admonishments not to push the cart and to stop.  I had to follow him, put my hand on his shoulder, turn him, look him in the eye, and tell him to stop and that if he did it again, he would not get raspberries.  All this is normal with him.  I was in no rush and we chose some food for tomorrow's trip to science class and looked at the freeze dried fruit and loaded up the cart and got on line.  Despite Elazar's hyperactivity, he was behaving mostly appropriately for the store.  I kind of knew the line was going to be challenging for him.  Last time we were there, I actually had to restrain him the entire time on line.  But I wasn't thinking about it.  We got on line, and I was just taking a breath and feeling okay that we got through the store, and Elazar was hanging on the cart and tipped the whole thing over.

It kind of felt like it was happening in slow motion.  I saw him wiggling the cart out of the corner of my eye.  One of the boys dropped some change out of his pocket, and he wanted it and I was looking for it to get it. Then people started screaming.  Then I realized the cart was tipping, then Jack and Aharon started yelling, then I ran to stop the cart from tipping, and I reached for it, but I couldn't stop it tipping, and everything fell over, and I was able to slow down the cart from smashing down and sort of ease it down but it tipped fully over on the side.  Elazar sprang away from it, it landed on my wrist, a lot of things fell out, the boys were on their sides yelling.

Four or five people sprang forward to help.  I was trying to lift the cart (I had been trying to lift it the whole time but had been unable to do it one-handed; I was only able to slow it down and once it was on my wrist I really didn't have the strength to lift it) and suddenly I was easily able to lift it because all these people were helping me.  I pulled Jack to a stand and pulled Aharon out and settled them and told them it was okay and put Elazar in time out and by the time I looked at the groceries all the people had put everything back in the cart for me.  (Luckily, nothing spilled and none of the glass jars broke or anything.)  An employee came and picked up all the change (that had distracted me to begin with) and handed it back to me.  Everyone was very kind and helpful and concerned and caring.  Part of it is that people are nice and part of it is that Trader Joe's creates a really wonderful atmosphere.

I thanked everyone profusely for their help.  I overheard someone ask, "Why didn't I hear a crash?" and someone answered, "Because the mom caught the cart."

I can't say that I expected one of my kids to knock over a shopping cart, but I also can't say that I was surprised that it happened.

Friday, September 4, 2015

A typical day

I woke Chana up a bit late this morning, after making a midmorning iced coffee.  I made the boys early lunch before going up to her.  They wanted seconds, but I said that it was time for me to work with Chana, and that they can either make it themselves or wait.  It took her another bunch of minutes to rouse herself enough to get out of bed to do negel vasser and say birchas haTorah so we could learn.

I decided to work on Avinu Malkeinu this morning.  I handed her the machzor and her ipad and told her to read it in English and make a list of questions.  I gave her 10 minutes and headed down to make or supervise "seconds" for lunch.  It turns out the boys were having a giant picnic with neighbors on our porch, and were providing the food.  So Elazar had a long row of slices out, and each one had a different order (cheese, sauce, cheese and sauce, etc.).  I helped him assemble and left him to the cooking.

I went back upstairs.  Chana had written down 3 questions, and they were all vocabulary questions on the translation.  Thwart and abundant.  I explained the phrases to her, and she was already looking up the translations and thinking about how to use them in sentences.  We discussed the themes of Avinu Malkeinu, and the different categories of requests (generally divided into "forgive us" and "protect us").  When we got up to the begging of tearing up the evil decree, we started a conversation about whether a person could die without a decree.  Is a decree an explicit punishment?  Can someone die without it being decreed?  If we say an evil decree is going to be deserved, then how about people who die not as a punishment?  I'm not sure how that conversation morphed into the doing things for Your sake.  I thought Chana would have questions on that, but apparently we have discussed many times the concept of Hashem's reputation.  Then she asked if the Holocaust was an evil decree and a deserved punishment.  So to explain that difficult question I started explaining about the brachos and klalos and the bris with that.  Then Chana said that it seemed superstitious that when the Jews don't behave well, that other nations attack us.

I explained an answer I heard from a Rebbe of mine, many years ago, that when the Jews call themselves the Chosen people, this has a psychological effect on the world.  When we follow the Torah and behave kindly and generously and humbly and wisely, then nobody is aggressive towards us.  But claim to be Chosen and behave avariciously, aggressively, basely, immorally, and evilly... Well, I gave the example of if Chana was saying she was chosen.  I wouldn't love it, but as long as she was truly acting in a lofty manner I would concede that maybe there was something to it.  But if she began to be obnoxious, I'd probably punch her out.

I explained that it is pretty cool in the history of the Jews that historically, any movement that claimed the supremacy of Man (eg Hitler with the elite Aryan race) felt that they had to destroy the Jews, who stood for the "Am Hashem."  (I personally think this is a fantastic connection to the idea of Rosh Hashana being the time that the Jews concentrate on the difference between Melech Elyon and melech evyon, but I don't think Chana shares my enthusiasm.)

She didn't believe that the Jews are actually widely considered the chosen people.  I challenged her to google it ("who are the chosen people") and every single hit talked about the Jews.  I was just referring her to theonion article about the Jews as the Chosen people when Elazar came inside absolutely hysterically crying.  This is unusual for him.  His disposition is pretty sunny.

I left Chana with the article and Elazar (8) insisted that Aharon (4) smacked his sandwich out of his hand for no reason.  I said, come on, he must have had a reason.  Was he angry at you?  Nope.  No reason.  I said I would get Aharon in to discuss it.

I'm not sure what happened next.  Perhaps Elazar beat me outside to extract vengeance.  By the time I got there, Aharon was screaming that Elazar kicked him in the forehead.  Elazar was screaming that Aharon ruined his sandwich.  There was a glob of melted cheese on the porch.

I told them to come sit down and discuss it.  Aharon ran away.  I scooped him up and sat him down.  I asked who wanted to speak first.  Aharon refused.  So Elazar said he was upset that Aharon ruined his sandwich and that's why he kicked him.  I asked Aharon why he did it.  Was he angry at Elazar?

No, he wasn't.

Hmm.  Was it an accident? I asked.  Elazar said no, and Aharon seized on that excuse and said yes.  But I could see that it had been deliberate.  So, why?

There was no good answer.  I deduced that Aharon has general aggression towards his older brothers and he saw an opportunity to bother him and did so.

So on to the next step.  Repair.  I asked Aharon if he would make Elazar a new sandwich.  He was happy to agree.

In the meantime, Jack's sandwich was cooking.  Aharon and I assembled Elazar's new sandwich amid much mess (it would have been easier to do it myself, but that's not chinuch, is it) and Aharon talking in a baby tone talk because of his strong feelings about the whole situation which he is not so good at expressing, except through baby voice and nonsense words.  (Whenever I try to speak to him seriously, he erupts into it and starts smacking.  I live in hope that with maturity, he will get better at verbally expressing himself, and I live in fear that I don't have enough time, energy, or concentration to help him.)

I went to put the sandwich in the toaster and I realized that the toaster wasn't working.  (Bear in mind, I'm supposedly in the middle of working with Chana and we were in the middle of a fantastic discussion, which unfortunately will not pick up because the mood was broken.)  I thought maybe it was the outlet.  I moved the toaster across the room and yay, it worked!

Must be the fuse.  But I know how to go down and fix that, because I am superwoman!  Except, guess what.  I went down and couldn't tell which one had blown.  So I called Ari.  He walked me through it.  (Silly me, it was in the one that said "2nd floor" even though it was on the first floor.)  I come back upstairs, and the toaster is on fire.

And it's not a tiny fire that is going out itself.  (This at least the fourth time this toaster has been on fire.)  The boys were not careful about the cheese placement, which dripped, which burnt.  (I'll have to discuss that with them, but since the previous fire was because of my doing the exact same thing, I understand how that goes.)  So I'm opening the door, blowing on it, nervous that maybe the fire extinguisher is called for and opening the door is stupid and maybe it will burn itself out, except there is a sandwich in there to catch fire.  But I blow it out like birthday candles.  And it works, and I am relieved.

So.  Recap.  Great discussion.  Big fight.  Broken fuse.  Fire.

I go back up to Chana, and she is pretty much done.  I would like to discuss the difference between "Avinu" and "Malkeinu" (our father and our king) and what this has to do with the themes of Rosh Hashana.  But Chana was done.  D-O-N-E done.

So we did Hamlet.  And now I have 6 hours to cook for Shabbos and get to the library.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

unschooling continues

I woke up this morning thinking about Elazar's adhd.  I've managed to get him to dislike learning Torah, and when he snuggled me last night before he went to bed, it would have been great if we would have had some Torah that interested him.  He was questioning me at length about how the sun affects eyesight, and what happens when you look at the sun.  His brain was active and questioning.  How can I get that to work for Torah?

Jack started readers and workbooks again last week.  Every night we slog away for half hour to an hour, with me usually the one calling it quits.

And Aharon, age 4, was in the middle of a temper tantrum yesterday.  I tried to read him a book and he refused, and then I asked him if he wanted to read the letters to me.
This is hanging out in his room

He did, and it calmed him right down.  He knew all of them except 2.  I have seen him crouched there, studying it.  He also named the letters in "chart tablet."  I've never taught him his ABCs.

Chana went to orientation for school today.  We are having some family over to barbecue tonight.  Will we have time in between or in the evening to work on Rosh Hashana prep?  What should I choose?  I wanted Chana to read some of the tefilos in English and write down questions.  She was not excited about this activity when I proposed it, and after a full day I imagine she'll be less so.

I was thinking about discussing the akeida, which Chana has always taken issues with, and will probably not merit being discussed "al regel achas."  I was thinking of discussing zichronos, what it means to be "remembered" by an omniscient being that never forgets.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yamim Noraim II

The lessons are going well so far.

Lesson 1:
-Talked about the difference between teshuva, selicha, and kapara.  Used a basic metaphor of me stealing from her and how all those elements would play out.
-Talked about how a day for kapara is useful to the Jewish people
-Talked about the idea of 10 days of teshuva
-Talked about how the theme of Rosh Hashana is Hashem as Melech (framed it as "Man is not melech" because of her agnostic tendencies).  Looked at piyut of Melech Elyon/Melech Evyon.  She enjoyed the death imagery.
-Talked about how Rosh Hashana is "New Year, New me" (her catchphrase)
-Left with question of why the theme for "New year, new me" would be "I am not King"

Lesson 2:
Went through Rambam Hil Teshuva 2:8-9 about how teshuva is especially good this time of the year.  She read reluctantly because it has no nekudos (she did well) and she translated with me helping out a bit.  Talked about the benefit of having a national time to focus on teshuva.

I made a list of the things I wanted to cover:
shacharis shemona esrei
musaf shemona esrei
torah readings
avinu malkeinu
concepts of shofar

Then we began talking about what her plan was for davening on Rosh Hashana.  I wanted her to try to stay in shul for the whole time.  And at this point, we began to have a classic teenage/mother interaction.  Sometimes I feel like I am saying things because I care about her and love her, and it's so frustrating because she is just finding me irritating and annoying.  And the more I talk because the more I am concerned, the more annoyed at me she gets.  So then I back down but the damage is done, and instead of feeling loving and connected, she feels annoyed and frustrated and I feel concerned and icky about the whole interaction.

She told me I'm conveying to her how much I care about Torah and mitzvos, but it also makes her dread chagim she used to either look forward to or feel neutral about.

After hearing that (I was hoping for her to stay in the entire 100 blasts), I asked her if davening Shacharis shemona esrei and musaf shemona esrei would be okay for her.  She agreed but the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  I want to just go back in and reconnect but I still have 2 more interactions with her that involve responsibilities.  I can knock one off til tomorrow...

After some thought, I am putting both of those aside.  Tonight I will try to reconnect with no agenda.  I read a parenting book over the weekend and one thing that I remember from it is that kids can sniff an ulterior motive from a mile away.  The idea is to spend time with them without having opinions about how it should go, what they should do, how they should benefit, what should they gain, and what the interaction should engender.  We'll see if I can try that tonight.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Yamim Noraim

I woke up this morning thinking about tefila over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  What can I do to make the hours in shul meaningful for Chana?

This is the first year in a long time that I see myself spending any significant time in shul.  My youngest is four, capable of playing outside with all the kids and not being in danger of running into the street, or needing his mommy, or needing to be closely supervised.  I imagine that he'll be in and out of shul visiting me, but it means I will hopefully be able to stay in shul for a portion of the time.

And aside from the time spent in shul, I was wondering what to teach Chana in terms of the yamim noraim altogether.  I thought about going through some of Rambam's hilchos teshuva, but she has numerous objections to Midas Hadin as expressed in Bamidbar, and I'm not sure that the concept of viewing oneself as a beinoni would be most suited to where she is emotionally right now.  I was thinking about which themes to highlight that she would find relevant and meaningful.

I'd also like to review the musaf shemona esrei with her.  And perhaps study the Torah readings and maybe look at the haftorah (Chana's story, which of course she knows well) on a deeper level.  And then I was thinking about going through the machzor just basically so she knows the different tefilos and what is happening when.

Then I realized that I'm likely being super over ambitious.  I wonder if it is better to drop Devarim until after Rosh Hashana.  Well, I just looked at the calendar and it's about two weeks.  So I think that is definitely what I'll do.

I'm not sure if the story of the akeida is best to address right now with her, either.

I think today's plan will be
What is Rosh Hashana
Vayikra 23:24, Bamidbar 29:1
Maybe some ideas of the mitzva of shofar.
Maybe some thoughts about the concept of teshuva specific to this time of year.

And now I'm thinking maybe Elazar (grade 3) and perhaps even the other 2 boys might be interested in the procedure of the avoda of the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur.  We'll see if that pans out.