Sunday, October 30, 2011

NOW AVAILABLE: Hebrew Reading / Alef-Bet Lapbook!


I wish we’d had a lapbook like this when Naomi and I started doing alef-bais two years ago.  But we didn’t, and we managed anyway.  I think this lapbook is also very suitable for “older beginners” – kids who know a bit more than she did, at 4 years old, and who are actually interested in studying ABOUT Hebrew, whether they’re Jewish or not.

Some basic information:

The Hebrew language is relevant and meaningful for homeschoolers of any religion who want to understand the origins of the English alphabet, the beginnings of the Torah (Jewish Bible) or the modern State of Israel.  This lapbook is perfect for a short unit study on the Hebrew alphabet and reading Biblical or Modern Hebrew.  It's also a great way to find out if kids might be interested in continuing their Hebrew studies using software or textbooks.

0) Alef-Bet Lapbook CoverThis lapbook includes a short guide to "Teaching the Alef-Bet", with helpful web links, along with the following 13 mini-books ready for you and your child to fill in together:

  1. image Alef-Bet Matchbooks (22 of them, 1 for each letter!)
  2. Final (Sofit) Letters Heart Book
  3. Meet the Vowels Flap Book
  4. Vowels Wheel
  5. Which Way? Arrow Book
  6. Sounds Like Hebrew!  Flap Book
  7. Ancient and Modern - Accordion  Book
  8. My Country - in Hebrew Shutter Book
  9. imageRead Around Israel - Map Activity
  10. All About Me Flaps Book
  11. All Kinds of Writing - font samples pocket
  12. I Can Read It!  mini-book - three Biblical excerpts in easy-to-read Hebrew, with English transliterations
  13. Watch the Dots! L-book, introduces letters which change sounds with a "dot" in the middle

Like a few of my previous lapbooks, this one is Pay-What-You-Can.  Click here or on the “Buy Printables” link at the top-right corner of the blog to get to my PayPal page.

You can also check out my other PWYC lapbooks:

Also PWYC:

Totally FREE lapbooks etc:

Some unsolicited praise for my lapbooks and other Jewish printables and resources:

“I want to thank you for your lapbook ideas.”

“I enjoy your writing very much.”

“Thank you! Your lap books are amazing!”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Parsha Poetry, Year 2: Noach / נֹחַ

בְּרֵאשִׁית / Bereishis / BEREISHIT / Genesis 6:9-11:32: Read ithear it; colour it.

Click for printable PDF version.  And don’t forget to read last year’s poem!


Copywork and parsha activities – updated weekly.

Thanks to Ted for this week’s art, liberally borrowed from his Parsha Cartoon.

“What are you doing?” the neighbours all said,
“What are you building back there?
Why are you making a boat with a bed,
And building a cage for a bear?”

image “I’m building a boat,” old Noach replied,
“Building it sprawling and grand,
And very soon now, we must all head inside
For the floods, they will cover the land.”

The neighbours just laughed, a hilarious mirth,
Screeching, “who the heck told you that?
In case you can’t see, this is mighty dry earth,
So why build that box for a bat?”

“Look around,” Noach growled, “just look and see,
“What a mess we have made of this world.
With murder and mayhem, it’s pure misery,
And there’s worse that will soon be unfurled.”

“Who are YOU to tell us that stuff?”
His neighbours cried indignantly,
“Think you’re so special?  Well, we’ve heard enough!”
And they scattered eventually.

“But wait!” Noach cried, calling them back,
“Stay here, there’s a little more time!
The rains aren’t coming ‘till I drive this last tack,
Come join in this journey sublime!”

image But the tack was driven, sank deep in the wood,
And those droplets, they started to fall;
The neighbours all cheered, “This rain will be good!
More silver and gold for us all!”

Then all of his neighbours wandered away,
Ignoring the old man’s sad cries.
“Come back to Hashem,” he whispered at last,
“For this rain is just tears from His eyes.”


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Frontiers in Wearable Computing

plants 006In the interest of making our teenagers look even more awkward than their hormonal surges ordinarily do, they now sell something called the Breffo Spiderpodium that was, apparently, at the top of Big Boy’s birthday wants list.  Did I mention he had a birthday???!  Yup, that’s seventeen years of Mama-hood… but who’s counting?

And you know what they say – “the first forty years of parenthood are always the hardest.”  Okay, I only just read it imagefor the first time on a fridge magnet last Sunday, but I bought the fridge magnet, because it’s funny, and maybe it’s true.  Also, the fridge magnet was only $1.50, less than a TENTH of the Breffo Spiderpodium.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s not clinging to my teenager’s undershirt:

So is it mean to use the word dorky to describe my own son?  But really, it’s not him, it’s the gadgetry hanging from his neck.

imageWhich isn’t REALLY what it’s meant for.  He bought it for its ability to connect his iPod to anything, anyway, most especially the handlebars of his bike.  

You may recall that, back in May, I was trying to drum up (beg) donations from readers for a bike ride he was hoping to do in Israel… well, with some help from my mother, he made it all the way to $2500 (don’t say a word or I will cry) and is heading off to the Holy Land next week, iPod and Spiderpodium in hand to roll around for 5 days on his bike with his best friend Elijah.  He’s also planning to check out a couple of yeshivas while he’s there.

I’m not at all worried about him.  Partly because he’s going with another parent from our shul, but mostly because he has an amazing built-in navigational sense.  I have every confidence that you could drop him off at just about any level spot on the globe and he’d be able to find his way home in under 24 hours.

As for his globetrotting Spiderpodium, I’m actually quite impressed, because I think bought it with a birthday Amazon gift card from his Grandma, and he only ordered it on Sunday.  The fact that it arrived today is quite amazing.  But the fact that they delivered it at ALL is triply amazing, because I’ve never found anything on Amazon other than a book, in the most literal sense, that they’re willing to deliver in Canada.

Welcome Home!

plants 013Late, late, late, but tomorrow night it’s supposed to go down to -2…  and I’m not taking any chances.  So:  welcome home, Tenders!

Spending another winter indoors are:

  • Big pot of mixed aloe
  • Bit pot of mixed coleus
  • Long rectangular planter of mixed cactus, aloe, etc.
  • Lemon tree from a seed
  • Mango tree from a seed
  • Miscellaneous kitchen-windowledge coleus… picture to come.

I’m kind of sad and scared at the thought of another summer ending.  Almost November and still in denial, I guess.

Butterfly Field Trip: Naomi’s Feedback Form

Once again, I didn’t bring a camera… but once again, we had a remarkably good time at one of the homeschool programs run by the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (formerly Wings of Paradise).

I did manage to save Naomi’s comments on the comment form.  She seems to have understood very little of the form and yet filled in the blanks so sweetly (look at her final comment at the end!), that I just had to save this.



We brought along Aunt Sara to even up the score (Aunt Abigail came with us once last year).  I’m not sure if I love these programs, but I love the butterfly conservatory itself, and the programs are okay.  There is sound science content, even if some of it is sometimes kind of tangential to the actual butterflies that give the place its raison d’etre.  Whatever keeps them in business sounds good to me!

What I have NO idea about is why, out in the middle of nowhere, they can get dozens of homeschoolers to come out to a program like this, but here in the great big city, there never seem to be many of us around (and when they are, they seem bothered by our presence and nonconformity – or am I projecting???). 

I’m also not sure why none of the museums or other educational facilities here have caught on to the idea of courting homeschoolers the way this butterfly conservatory does… which is one reason I’m more than happy to support their programs, even if they are a bit off the beaten path.

Is ASL an endangered language???

imageI was sitting wondering this in class tonight, probably when I ought to have been paying attention, but what else is new?

Who’s going to use the language in 20 years?  Is it like learning Latin, a static, dead language, or, like Yiddish once was, a language reserved for chatting with old, stubborn people who refuse to go with the new ways (in the case of Yiddish, this was “learning English”… whereas in the case of deaf seniors, it is “not getting cochlear implants”).


One of the best-known deaf kids (THE best-known?) thanks to her mother’s “Signing Time” DVDs, even Leah Coleman now has cochlear implants (actually, as of seven years ago – read the article; she makes many good and important points).  Her mother still recommends signing as part of the child’s communication toolbox, but not necessarily as the primary, first language of deaf children that advocates have worked so long and hard to have it acknowledge to be.  (She DOES strongly recommend giving children a language, any language, be it English or sign, before age 3.)

I’ve blogged before about the impact of implants on ASL and other sign languages before… actually, I kind of said the opposite of what I’m saying now, which was that there will always be a need for sign.  I guess it’s true that there will always be a NEED… but I worry that my teachers’ generation, people in their mid-30s to 40s, will be the last true generation of native signers.  Ultimately leaving deaf kids “orphaned,” without a language.

Still – just as they declared the death of Yiddish far too prematurely (remember, before the Chareidi baby boom, when people were predicting that in a dozen years or something, nobody would speak Yiddish anymore???), it’s too early to toll the bells for ASL or any other sign language.  It’s just tough, sometimes, sitting entirely surrounded by hearing people artificially immersed in a world of silence… a silence we have created, voluntarily, by mutual agreement.  Sitting there, basking in our Deafness, promising ourselves we have found authenticity.

New Alef-Bet / Alef-Bais Lapbook on its Way!

Latest and greatest in a series of amazing (if I say so myself) lapbooks by me, this will include a range of activities for Hebrew beginners of all ages.  Through twelve fun manipulative mini-book projects, it teaches:  letters of the alef-bet (I pronounce it alef-bais, but either is correct!), vowels, final letters, reading direction (right to left!), the evolution of Hebrew (ancient to modern), place names in Israel, different types of Hebrew scripts, and a few simple phrases.


Not just for homeschoolers – it’s great for anyone who wants to learn Hebrew with their kids before, during or after school!  Though it introduces kids to Hebrew, this lapbook contains no specifically Jewish content, so it’s perfect for readers of other religions who want to “dabble” in the amazing and ancient Hebrew language.

I’m just finishing this up right now, but we’re having a busy week, so it’ll probably be ready sometime over the weekend.  If you have any suggestions or requests, please let me know!!!

Meanwhile, check out my other paid lapbooks:

Also for sale:

Free lapbooks etc:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


What is this???


In the frum world, this is the ultimate “diss” – the “simchas chosson v’kallah clause” on a wedding invitation.


What does it mean?  No meal.  “Come for the chuppah, then go home for two hours!” – presumably to eat something – “But then, come back to dance a bit and have dessert.”

The Clause means you’re not family.  You’re not honoured out-of-towners.  You’re not close friends.  You’re not important business associates.  You’re not worth spending upwards of $100 per person on for a chicken dinner… which is probably true, and always a little sad.  On the community’s fringes as we are, we don’t get invited to many weddings… so it kind of hurts, sometimes, to be only half-invited.

It also means (subtly) that that not only us but our TIME is not worth much.  With the distance of this particular hall, it’s not TWO, but FOUR 20-minute drives – over an hour of four people’s lives driving up and down and up and down and up and down.  (unless we use the two hours to go for supper nearby…)

And yet… this time, just this once, I’m overjoyed.  I didn’t feel dissed at all.  Okay, it’s true:  I love these people and would love to be part of their inner circle… but I know I’m not.  And I feel loved and happy anyway.

Partly because I know they have many, MANY friends and family, mostly from out-of-town.  I know this is going to be a frighteningly expensive simcha, and a true burden on a couple who presumably have three more daughters’ weddings coming up.  I doubt there are many in-towners who’ll be invited to sit and eat.

Partly because I secretly think there is nothing more boring than a sit-down wedding dinner… and it would be nice to take a couple of hours, go for dinner, maybe find a bookstore not too far away to browse before going back to dance.  (We’re definitely going.  We’re definitely dancing.)

But the main reason even my usually-easy-to-hurt feelings aren’t a bit bruised right now is this… a handwritten post-it tucked inside the invitation.


Email and evites and electronic whatever-it-is’s are great and can go a long way to help us meet each other, get together, plan events.  But there is nothing, nothing, so powerful as a handwritten post-it tucked inside an invitation to say “We love you.  We can’t have you for the meal, but please come anyway.”

And, God willing, we certainly will.

Holy Boxaroni!

I just turned around and discovered that the box Gavriel Zev was playing with had been plastered with labels:


It says “Pull Box”.  Apparently, his ladybug wanted it to say that and actually wrote the words… but the ladybug didn’t want to be in the picture, so the blue monster offered instead.

He cut off lengths of masking tape with scissors and wrote the words all by himself without any prompting!!!  This from a kid who only just picked up a marker voluntarily for the first time a month ago… (yes, we have done SOME writing together, but it has always been reluctant and slow, with nowhere near the sophistication of these letters he drew himself)

DSC01313  DSC01312

It’s ALMOST enough to convince me to unschool – or even neglect my children outright.  Turn my back for 15 minutes to get some work done, and see what they come up with!!!

Naomi Rivka is out with Ted at an animation workshop… I imagine they’ll be home pretty soon, but in the meantime, we’re having a quiet mama-and-two-boys morning.  (one small boy playing, reading, having fun… and one big boy mostly in bed with his iPod)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sukkos – Last Days, almost

Almost, because there are still a few gaps in this menu, especially desserts… but I honestly don’t think anybody’s going to go hungry.

I made two batches of Pumpkin Challah dough – one based on Maggie Glezer’s Pan de Calabaza, and one based on my old faithful Reliable Challah recipe, but with a cup or so of fresh pumpkin puree added.  What a beautiful colour the dough is…



Shmini Atzeres

Simchas Torah




YIZKOR – Dairy


Pumpkin Challah

Pea soup

Mush/brox crepes

Green Beans Salad

Simchas Torah – Dairy

Just us (late)

Pumpkin Challah

Homemade pizza puffs

Apple kugel

Shabbos – Dairy

G Family

Pumpkin Challah

Salmon puff pastries


Sushi Rice Salad

Green Beans Salad


Shmini – Meat


Pumpkin Challah

Squash carrot soup w/kneids

Shake n’ Bake

Corn fritters

Apple kugel

Simchas – Dairy

Just us (late)

Pumpkin Challah

Pea soup again w/kneids

Baked mac n’cheese

Shabbos – Meat

Guest:  B

Pumpkin Challah

Squash carrot soup w/kneids

Tirkey Slider Mballs



Apple Kugel


Oh, almost forgot…


  • Dairy:  Pumpkin Pie
  • Pareve:  Honey Cake??? (forget if I have any left… maybe not) 
  • Pareve:  Mandelbroit
  • Pareve:  S’mores tart OR Smores cookie bars
  • Pareve:  Apple Galette with Ted’s hand-picked Spy apples

Ted’s Amazing Parsha Comics

Ted has begun his parsha comic project with not one but TWO comics for Bereishis… check them out on his blog, over here.

parshah template 1-3parshah template 4;8-10

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chol HaMoed, Day 2: Science Centre

photo 1

We’ve received a Toronto Zoo membership as a gift for the last few years – usually around Gavriel Zev’s birthday.  Family membership at the Zoo is $145 – at the Science Centre, $120. 

We used our Science Centre membership for the first time today, and there are some really nice differences.  At the Science Centre, your membership gives you 50% off parking, 50% off the Imax movies, plus a discount in the gift shop (I think 10%).  At the Zoo, you get 10% in the gift shop and nada elsewhere, though they do mail you a $2 parking coupon in their newsletter a few times a year (parking has gone up by $2 every year; it’s now $10 or 12). 

At the Science Centre, somehow, they made us feel like VIPs – offering us free tickets to the new Da Vinci exhibit, for example, or giving back half the price YM paid for his Imax ticket because he arrived late (changed his mind and came on his bike) and didn’t have the membership card with him. 

Of course, at the Science Centre, you can’t see animals, and at the Zoo, you can’t see various science-related exhibits n’ stuff… but after a few years of free access to the zoo, I think we’re ready for a change.  Plus, today was a chilly day – it was kind of nice to be paying for the tickets while standing indoors in warmth and artificial lighting.  :-)

imageThe newest Imax movie is “Rocky Mountain Express,” which was somewhat exciting, despite repetitious shots of the front of the train and perhaps too many “train-in-motion” scenes.  It also kind of glossed over the death of hundreds of Chinese (and Japanese, which I hadn’t known) railway workers – truly one of the ugliest blights on Canada’s reputation for niceness. 

Gavriel Zev spent the whole movie curled in my lap with my hands over his ears, peeking at the screen out of the side of his eyes.  Not one for sitting still OR being quiet, he still hasn’t been to many movies in his four years.  Still – the rest of us liked it.  A fascinating and dramatic Imax movie about Canadian history; how many of those can you find out there???

I like to think the movie was especially meaningful for the big kids, whose grandfather worked on the trains as a youth, almost 50 years ago.  To celebrate a big birthday last year, he brought them home from Calgary by train, a thrilling 3-day journey.  My parents also did a romantic Rocky Mountain train trip a few years ago.  The movie kind of makes you feel guilty for taking trains, though… so many people died – so I could take a vacation?  Better you should hop on a plane!

Anyway, a few other highlights:

The ballies / sculpture that go round and round… (mostly kid-powered)

photo 1

“Trying on” spacesuits – me and Elisheva

 photo 2

Elisheva got roped into “cashiering” at the little kiddie supermarket.  What this has to do with science, I have no idea, even though they do have free brochures you can take home about Canada’s Food Guide.

  photo 5

I seriously doubt that we did much there that had anything to do with science.  Do they take home valuable lessons and insights about physics from rolling balls around or playing with sound waves, anatomy from putting together a skeleton, immunology from the super-weird “sneeze machine”, or biology from spinning around various animals’ heads and bodies to create fascinating chimeral creatures?  Um, I doubt it.

To the kids, as it was to me at their age and even into adulthood, it’s basically a playground.  But a good time was had by all 6 of us, young and old, and that in itself is a rare enough thing these days.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cranky Complaints-Lady asks, “Tis WHAT Season???”

imageEmail sent via Michael’s main website.  I have absolutely no hope that anybody will reply to me – ever.

In the Toronto Michael’s store today, I was annoyed to find a full display table and shelves of Chanukah merchandise. 

In case you weren't aware, we're currently right in the middle of a month of wonderful, major Jewish holidays - all far more significant than Chanukah, which is a relatively minor holiday. 

It seems that even with a fairly large religious Jewish clientele, nobody on staff has had the imagination to come up with a Jewish “fall holidays / harvest” theme to stave off the blue, white and silver just a few weeks longer.

It takes a lot to offend me [ha ha ha… what they don’t know won’t hurt them], and this display certainly did.  Think of it as tearing down the Xmas displays in December to make room for Valentine’s Day kitsch and maybe you'll understand why.

Chol HaMoed Outings

Last night:  Putting Edge, indoor mini-golf.  Boy, is it hard to take pictures of glow-in-the-dark mini-golf!  This is the first time we’ve taken everybody – well, not YM; he had a friend’s birthday to be at.  But Naomi and Gavriel Zev came along, with their own sticks and balls and everything.  I guess they’re called clubs; I don’t know much about golf and “mini” is the only kind I’ve ever played.


Elisheva said, “After Abba, I won.”  It’s true.  And after her, I won.  And after Abba, Elisheva and me, Naomi won.  Gavriel Zev lost, with a score somewhere in the thousands.  Ted takes his game very seriously, and beat all of us by at least 30 points.  He was the only one who attained anything near par on most of the holes.  It was a late night, but everybody had a GREAT time.

(p.s. The secret to happy “whole-family” mini-golfing?  Glad you asked!  Let two people play at once; you’re finished the holes quicker, the pace stays fun, and the people playing the hole behind you don’t get quite so mad…)

DSC01214This morning:  Apple Picking!!! 

Despite my tedious insistence that Sukkos “falls” on the exact same date every single year (15 Tishrei), we can definitely feel how much later it is this year on the solar calendar.  Last year, we went apple picking the first week of October; those two weeks really do make a difference. 

Though we had a promising start to the day, and a forecast of (relatively) gentle weather, it was raining and chilly by the time we arrived at the orchard, with patches of sun coming through but not really warming me up – since I’d left my jacket at home.  Doh!  The one other family on the wagon ride was dressed in full arctic paraphernalia. 


We started the day by mocking my mother, who turned out in full lumberjack gear.  Which actually worked out very well for her.  I wasn’t really mocking her, either… just gently pretending to dab at her pom-pom.


Ted was dressed sensibly, too.  He likes to pretend he’s one of the grown-ups, watching me shiver in my fleecy pink vest.


Sara managed to come along this year.  Naomi is refusing to wear her raincoat at all these days.  Like me, she’s in total denial about the change of seasons.

DSC01205   DSC01212 DSC01213 

I’ve always said they were “out standing” in their field… a pun which doesn’t work AT ALL in writing!!!


The fields were pretty picked over.  They only had a few varieties left, including Golden and Red Delicious, which none of us enjoy.  Too sweet, too firm, too icky to bake with.  We usually get Spy, but they were all out of those in the orchard, too (turned out they had some at the cashiers), but Ted discovered a whole flock o’ yummy Empire apples, and really, you only need one good kind.  Ted, as usual, was secretly hoping for Jonagold or something really special, but I’m pleased enough with the flavour, texture, etc., of the Empire.

Awww… and here’s an absolutely adorable 4-year-old Gavriel Zev, looking like he just (innocently) stepped out of the Garden of Eden!!!


(not-so-subtle bid for attention)

In case you’re thinking, “Hey, aren’t they homeschoolers?  How could all that fun be educational???” we read the following to keep ourselves on our toes:

imageAlso, despite vocal protests from my mother and feeble peacemaking defenses by Sara (along the lines of “Well, it’s probably slightly better than any Ancient Egypt song I might write in my sleep with my hands tied behind my back.”), we listened to several educational things in the car on the way to and from apple picking: 

So the day wasn’t a total write-off, educationally-speaking. But even if it HAD been, that’s okay, too.  Oh – also, Naomi Rivka had her first ballet class of the season.  Wow!  I am very, very impressed.  Genuine Russian teacher… guess it doesn’t take much to wow me.  :-)

Here’s what’s up next: 

  • Tomorrow, Science Centre and Omnimax Theatre (Rocky Mountains?)
  • Tuesday, Reptilia, plus a sing-a-long in a nearby sukkah
  • Wednesday, “surprise” outing with Abba so Mommy (aka ME) can cook!!!

So what are you up to this Chol HaMoed???

The Sukkah – 5772 / 2011 Version!

It hasn’t changed much from previous years, BUT this year’s improvement is the snugness of the roofbeams.  Confusingly, the north-south wooden beams ARE the actual schach – schach does not have to be green, but merely have grown from a tree and never have been used for any other purpose. 

BUT the schach cannot be nailed down, so the wooden beams are held in place snugly by pieces of wood on the frame.  Last year, this innovative and exciting design resulted in two guests getting conked on the head by fairly light wooden beams, and on one particularly windy day, having to eat inside for fear guests or their babies would be seriously hurt. 

THIS YEAR, Ted added cross beams that ensure that even if the “schach-beams” do fall, they only “fall” onto the cross beams and never actually have the chance of landing in your soup.  Plus, it’s been so rainy that all the wood supports are swollen, so they’re clinging tight to the schach beams.  All in all, a very lovely sukkah indeed!

Front view – occupying the entire width of our driveway, between our house and the neighbours to the south:


Coming in the front door:  (there’s some spare greenery “schach” on top just for the nice effect…)


Bedsheets with Sharpie on them, from years ago:


Here’s the inside view out through the front door:


I love this window!  Ted added it last year, and between the clingies we’ve made and the curtains, it totally makes the sukkah feel like home:

     DSC01231_thumb DSC01232_thumb

Naomi’s addition this year:  at Ted’s suggestion, she made signs for the inside and outside of the door, complete with diagrams of how to use the door correctly from that particular side.

 DSC01233_thumb DSC01234_thumb

From year to year, I keep forgetting how much I love Sukkos… it doesn’t get the hooplah that Chanukah and Pesach do, and that’s a shame.