Friday, March 29, 2013

Don’t Jump

This was going to be a “sheesh – some people” post about rudeness.  But then I figured it should be about something bigger, which is “conclusions, and the people who jump to them.”

You probably know that a year and a half ago, as I was harmlessly riding my bicycle down the street, my ankle was broken by a moron car driver who opened his door and sent me flying onto the street.  Technically, perhaps, the impact broke my ankle and not the driver, but as a result, I am now one of the carefullest car drivers around bicycles.  So that’s all you need to know for background.

And then today, after I dropped my sister off on our way home from our chol hamoed outing, after being stuck in Easterish parade traffic for maybe 20 minutes, I was eager to get home, but noticed some cyclists on the corner who looked like they might head into the intersection.  Cyclists in this town are a fun breed, too; most just go ahead and do whatever they want and blame car drivers if anything bad happens (ignore my paragraph above blaming the car driver for breaking my ankle).

So I was being leery of these cyclists, two women who looked like they might either a) pull over and stop on the sidewalk OR b) pedal out in front of me.  Again, in this city, either one could happen at any moment.  I slowed down at the corner, rolling almost to a stop until I could be sure I knew what they had in mind.

At which point, the truck behind me honked – LOUD.  Really, really loud.  I don’t drive a little hatchback anymore, but even as a station wagon, our car is probably not physically big enough to make a sound this obnoxious.  Clearly, the driver wanted me out of the way – fair enough; it must be obnoxious to slow down solely to (potentially) save a life.

And then – one of these lady cyclists, whose life I had been so cautious to preserve, swivelled around from talking to her friend (yes, it turned out they were pulling over to shmooze on the sidewalk, but it could have gone either way), saw my car rolling gently past the corner (windows open), made eye contact with me and yelled --

-- Well, she yelled a thing which utterly belied my assumption in the previous paragraph that she was a lady, and she yelled it right into the open window of one of my children.

By which point, accelerating out of the turn, I was already so far away that when I yelled back, “it wasn’t me!” she couldn’t possibly have heard.

Which sent me home fuming, where I sit typing this now.  And I thought, this could be a rant about rudeness, about the casual way strangers swear in front of my children… or it could be a message everybody needs (even me), over and over:  don’t jump to conclusions without being very, very certain that the situation is as you perceive it to be.

I hope that sentence made sense.

It’s a message we’ve all heard many, many times.  And yet, if some jerk honks at you on a street corner, and you swivel around and locate the closest person to target with your ire… she might not have been the jerk after all.

So I guess that’s the message here:

I’m not the jerk you’re looking for, lady.  But then, I guess you’re not the lady I thought I was looking out for…so now we’re even.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dear Pesach Pot

IMG_00000979I’ve heard it said that opening up the boxes of Pesach dishes is like meeting old friends.  But you don’t look familiar at all.

IMG_00000978You could be one of the two pots I referred to scrubbing and toivelling in this post.

I know you were put away with the fleishik dishes, carefully, nestled in a box so huge it collapsed when I tried to carry it up the stairs.  And yes, the lid was in the box, too.  But I have no memory of buying you, using you, washing you or putting you away.

Perhaps that’s because you’re an imposter… a dairy pot stuck in the wrong box.  But that’s not likely – Ted is very, very good at keeping things separate.  More likely, Pesach and the weeks before and after it are such a blur that big soup pots can sneak around doing what they like and nobody notices.  Certainly, the children all do the same at this time of year.

Product IllustrationNote to self for future years:  keep out the kosher kitchen stickers until the Pesach kitchen is completely set up!!!

p.s. I opened the box of fleishik cutlery and found a whole sheet of kosher kitchen stickers packed away in there – apparently, I have muttered this “note to self” before as well, and actually LISTENED to myself.  Yay, me!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Finished the (5773) Pesach Lapbook!

IMG_00000963Okay, I  lied.  This is the 5771 lapbook, revisited 2 years later.  But still – come explore it with us: the kids are super-excited at how well it turned out!

We had SOooo much stuff to stick inside this one, and it went SOooo quickly, because I split up the mini-books so that Naomi Rivka did the trickier ones while Gavriel Zev did those that were more basic.

Here’s what you see when you first open it…


Then, you flip back the first insert page (all I had for this lapbook was plain white cardstock and a slightly crumpled file folder – still, I think it looks terrific!) to reveal…

 lapbook (1) lapbook (2)

This is Gavriel Zev’s seder plate, which I think looks fantastic when it’s opened wide.

Behind the seder plate is his “Can we eat it” booklet, along with Naomi Rivka's Mr. Matza, who explains the symbolism of the three matzahs at the seder.

 lapbook (3) 

Flipping over the “Mr. Matza” page reveals the “Ten Makkos / Plagues” page, with a song and a fold-out little accordion book showing pictures of every plague.  There’s also a little pyramid counting book, which GZ cut out.

lapbook (4)

Finally, because there was so much room, I told Naomi Rivka she could decorate the page or write something.  Here’s what she wrote:

IMG_00000962Me [Naomi], Gavriel Zev, Sue [that’s her doll, Suzie], and Yosepha [another doll], and of corce, GZ’s many Dolls, wish you a happy Pesach!  For if Moshe didn’t bring us out of Mitzrayim, we would still be slaves! Happy Pesach! [heart] NM!

With all the craziness this year, I was so, SO relieved to have the lapbook ready to print, rather than having to create one from scratch again.  And I knew I’d tried hard to make it as complete as possible, so I didn’t have to worry about any glaring gaps in their knowledge – as long as I covered all the little mini-books, I knew we’d be hitting all the major bases.

If you want to attempt this lapbook (probably in future years, given the late date), I’d recommend accompanying it with this FREE Pesach overview / workbook from  It’s well-enough written and not overwhelming, and it parallels nicely most of the mini-books included in the lapbook.  Some of the “English” text is in Hebrew (words like chametz, matzah, the seder-plate items and brachot], so you will need some Hebrew literacy, but most terms are explained pretty clearly.  I still have it printed out from last year, but I read through it again with the kids, along with other written materials, while they were working.


All in all, I’m pleased… even though, now that we’re finished, I can no longer justify NOT getting up to wash & put away the dishes!!!

Take a picture of ME! (math happiness)

IMG_00000954I was snapping pics of the lapbook to share here (that’ll be my next post) when GZ said, “Take a picture of my work!”  I said, “your Mathematical Reasoning?”  He said yes.  He loves this book; I’ve written before about how it has saved his math year, and I stand by that.

[All school has been suspended around here this week except a) Pesach learning, which is mostly via the lapbook, and b) math, because otherwise, it’ll be another 2 weeks before we get to it, and I don’t like to have that long a break.]

As I said before, I was fully prepared to hate this book, and did, in fact, dislike immensely the one I got for Naomi Rivka (oh well).  You may like it very much, so don’t let my experience with it bias you.  By the way, I noticed when I put in this cover picture that it says Age 4… and yes, Gavriel Zev is 5.  Still – for better or worse, we are homeschoolers and that gives me the flexibility to let him work at his own level, without worrying overly much about catching up.

(but his math weaknesses are one important reason I have decided to hold him back into kindergarten when we move to Israel next year – the language barrier is another, plus the fact that it’s not unheard-of to have a 6-year-old in kindergarten)

This book is very repetitive in style – if it was for me, it would make me crazy..  There’s generally one quick-and-easy question or set of questions on each page.  And it’s a big, THICK book.image, which means you’re going to sit through many MANY of the same thing.

Like I said, it would make me crazy.  But Gavriel Zev absolutely adores the predictability of it.

This book also seems to address his main math weakness, which is that he is still having to count numbers in groups, sometimes over and over.  I think he can identify groups of up to 3, and maybe 4, but if it’s anything higher, he has to count.  There are many other concepts that he DOES “get”, but it’s very hard to move on when you’re missing something so foundational.

Because I don’t think math should be entirely workbook-based at this point, especially when there’s a specific problem, I have also been using our math frogs with GZ this week.  I’ve had them out a lot anyway for Naomi Rivka, who is practicing division. 

With the frogs, we practice counting and grouping according to colour and size.  I also have him do basic division problems, like giving him six “kid” frogs and three big “counsellors” and having him divide up the kids so each counsellor gets the same number [he went to March Break camp last week, so this is fresh in his mind].  So I’m trying to keep it concrete as well as helping him make the leap to abstraction, and I think the book is helping, even though it’s slow going.

singaporesingapore (1)Also, I know this post isn’t about Singapore, but since I mentioned that Naomi Rivka was working on division:  I absolutely love the way her Singapore books (Singapore Primary Mathematics 2A US Edition – which I chose because it’s a bit cheaper, and I skip the sections on non-metric measurement) introduce division fast on the heels of multiplication.  It’s a little surreal seeing a second grader producing “fact families” of multiplication and division, but the way they introduce it so concretely, it’s not scary at all. 

Okay, now I have real work to do – just wanted to share some moments of math happiness!

Postscript:  in case you’re interested, Naomi and I made these 2 math videos:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meeting Jesus – Christianity & my Jewish children

Today, in Story of the World history, we finally came to a chapter I have been giving much thought since I first flipped through the book well over a year ago:  The Beginning of Christianity.  The whole narrative appears in 2 sections:  the birth of Jesus, and the teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Because it’s a short chapter, I decided to do it all in one pass, which is very unusual.

It’s a busy week, but I wanted to share a few quick thoughts:

  1. This is a VERY short chapter, especially compared to earlier chapters about Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Julius Caesar, and heck, Anansi the mischief-making African spider.  There’s more about Christianity later on, but this is really it about Jesus.  I was kind of grateful it was so short – but if I was Christian, I might honestly have reason to feel offended that my entire belief system seemed to have been condensed into four short pages.
  2. I took a bit of time at the beginning to explain the vocabulary, and you should too.  Crucifixion was a common punishment, imposed by the Romans to ensure the “pax romana,” which may have been peaceful, but wasn’t always pleasant for Roman subjects.  Jewish parents might not know that the nails were not part of the standard treatment – it’s my understanding that most prisoners were tied up and suffocated to death very, very slowly (it becomes hard for the diaphragm to function with the arms in that position).  I did explain that Christians believe Jesus was also nailed to the cross – this was very uncommon, from everything I’ve read.  Resurrection is a word that means coming back from the dead.  More on this later, but I wanted to be sure that we all knew what we were talking about.
  3. Susan Wise Bauer does a great job of presenting the narrative AS narrative; as a story.  She states very clearly that people who believe the things in this story, and who celebrate the birth of Jesus as Christmas are called Christians.  Naomi pressed me on this point:  she asked, “but is it a TRUE story?”  Because, of course, I guess she noticed the difference from the way I treated the stories of Avraham and Moshe – I treated this one more like the Anansi story – as an interesting story from another culture.  More on my responses to her later.
  4. It’s interesting to learn about this right before Pesach because of the clear parallels between the story of little-baby Moshe and little-baby Jesus.  We didn’t really talk about this, but the narrative clearly appealed to Naomi Rivka because it centres around a young woman and her baby-dilemma.  (She loves baby stories, but doesn’t every little girl?)  I’m very glad she’s getting WAY more Moshe than Jesus this week… and I might plan to cover the story of Moshe even if it wasn’t Pesach time to show the parallels and the way the redemption of bnei Yisrael came about through Hashem’s plan for this little baby.
  5. The chapter does a good job of pointing out that December 25th is observed as the birth of Jesus, but doesn’t mention that Easter is marked as the weekend of his death and resurrection.  I think if I was Christian, that would bother me a whole lot, and I also think it’s worth explaining to my Jewish children because they have so much Christian family.  I believe – and some Jewish parents would probably disagree – that it’s important for them to know that Christian holidays have substance and meaning: it’s not just about eggs and bunnies and chocolate, or trees and lights and Santa, or whatever.  I want them to know what their Christian family believes and celebrates – there is too much “anti-goyish” sentiment in the Jewish community already, and I could go on and on about the self-hate that creates in our “half-Jewish”* kids (see bottom of post for clarification).

When Naomi asked if it was a TRUE story, here’s what I said, pretty much verbatim (maybe a bit more articulate here):

Most of the people who lived around Jesus in Israel did not follow him while he was alive.  When Christians started telling the story of his resurrection, most of the Jews who lived back then didn’t believe them either:  they just kept on living their Jewish lives, and we are descended from them.  They didn’t think they needed to be Christian and follow Jesus, and neither do we.

She wanted a bit more information about the resurrection – about whether I believed it could have happened:

There is a story in the Tanach of Eliyahu ha Navi [I was wrong; it was Elisha – doh!] brought a person back from the dead – the person was dead, but then there was a neis and he wasn’t.  [she pressed me and asked if I thought that was true]  That story is in the Tanach so I think there must be something true about it, even though I don’t know very much about that story.  [yes, I was a bit flustered]  So I think people perhaps COULD come back to life, with a neis, but I don’t think that happened with Jesus, and neither did the Jewish people who lived around there at that time – even his friends and neighbours.  They knew more about it than I do, because they lived right there, and they decided they didn’t believe it really happened.

She also pointed out that Christians believe in OUR Bible, with a bit of an ellipsis suggesting that maybe we should believe in ours.

Yes, it’s true that Christians include the Tanach in their Bible – they think Avraham and Moshe and everyone in those stories are holy and important people.  But Christians also have their own books, their Bible, that tells the story of Jesus, and about the things they believe.  Many people have their own holy books – most religions have their own books and their own stories, and we don’t follow them.  Most people in the world are not Christians, and those are all people who don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.  [this was another thing she asked if I believed]

The Romans at the time thought their emperor was the son of God – it was a common title for somebody very famous and popular [Egyptians also said this about their Pharaoh], so I think it was normal for Christians to say their leader was also the son of God.  But the Jewish people at the time didn’t believe that – the people who believed that were called Christians.

I’m not saying these are the best answers – just thought I would share what came to mind in the moment, because I think it was mostly a good discussion that opened a lot of doors to understanding while making it very clear that this is what we believe.

If I could have clarified more, I think it would have been the fact that Christianity (then as now) largely failed to find a following among the Jews of Jesus’ place and time.  Where it caught on like wildfire was in the pagan world, where the truly revolutionary ideas were ones that came straight from Judaism – the concept of a Sabbath, of man created in the image of Hashem, the idea of a universal moral code.  All these things come from Judaism, and they are things we had (and still have) already – so although the pagans loved the ideas they found in Christianity, we had already been teaching and sharing those ideas for thousands of years before Jesus came along… and ever since.

If you’re interested, here is the majority of this chapter as it appears in the free previews in  This is not exactly the way it appears in our version, for some reason.  The discussion of BC/AD dating is missing from ours, and the “narrative” sections are more clearly offset from the rest of the page so it’s obvious that they are a story, taken from the Christian Bible.  Click for slightly larger images, or visit the page on Amazon.

imageimage image image

(click this link to buy the book on Amazon – yes, I get a very, very small commission which helps offset the costs of homeschooling)

The next lesson, Chapter 38, is an interesting one as well, dealing with The End of the Ancient Jewish Nation and the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.  Should be fascinating…

And now – something important:

* Earlier, I used the term “half-Jewish,” in quotes, because halachically, there is no such thing, but our children know full well that their ancestry is not ALL Jewish.  I love Yiddishkeit, but I don’t ever want them to think that either half of their family is any less worthy of Hashem’s love or that any part of their heritage is less fascinating and meaningful than the Jewish half.  If it sounds like I have an ax to grind, it’s because of things I’ve heard secondhand from my high schoolers.  The sweeping generalizations about “goyim” must end because – to my children and many like them – the “goyim” are their beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.  End of rant – for now.

Cranky Complaints-Lady… can’t get a DATE?!?

A few weeks ago, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (in Ottawa) announced that it was going back to BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, “the year of our Lord”) for dates on anything “intended for the public,” while continuing its policy of many years to use BCE and CE on documents intended for a more academic readership.  You can read all about it in the National Post here.

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a prominent rabbi in Ottawa, came out with a response that sounds pretty much like something my teenagers usually say:  “no-one cares.”  In fairness, the article says, he “prefers BCE because it is more inclusive, but… can live with the change.”  I can live with it, too, but I’d rather not, and I’m not going to just sit by quietly.  And if you live in Canada, neither should you.

I was dismayed to read in the National Post that you're going back to using BC and AD for dates on museum displays and other materials "intended for the public".
We have always enjoyed visiting the Museum of Civilization when visiting family in Ottawa and really appreciate its fascinating, high-quality exhibits.
I agree with Rabbi Bulka that nobody is going to become Christian or Jewish as a result of this change.  However, your "lowest common denominator" approach sends the message to Canada's non-Christian community that diversity is not worth the bother.
As a Crown corporation, your museum has a responsibility to lead the way - not follow the crowd.  In any event, I cannot believe there were that many people confused by the BCE/CE dating system.
Sent this day the nineteenth of March, in the year of your Lord (perhaps Canada's, but not mine) 2013

So - while I’ve got you all het up about this… email them quickly from this form!  There’s a 1000-character limit, which is fine for a brief note: just tell them YOU care, you want to feel included… plus, you’re not a moron, and you and your friends will be just fine figuring out dates even if they appear with BCE and CE next to them.

One thing that’s always impressed me about Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World History series is that, despite the author’s own Christian beliefs, she uses BCE and CE dates throughout her books (usually alongside BC/AD dates, but in the audiobook version, Jim Weiss uses only BCE and CE dates).

Just for fun, you can also try walking around saying the museum’s name the way I do – in overly-correctly-enunciated French!  Musée Canadien des civilisations!   (It’s on the Quebec side, so the signage pointing the way is all in French, and I switch over automatically the minute we cross the river.)

Just the “ci-vee-lee-za-sy-o” part takes some doing the first few tries.  Usually my kids have walked off in horror by the time I finally get it right.  Try it!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just enough time for… a lapbook!

IMG_00000941IMG_00000944Yes, there is just enough time between now and Pesach to put together a lapbook.  Sure, it’s the exact same one we did two years ago (didn’t do one last year).  But to an 8-year-old, 2 years is a quarter of her life and she has almost no recollection of working on the same bits way back then.  And two years ago, Gavriel Zev was 3, and didn’t really participate at all.

(By the way, you can buy the Pesach lapbook yourself THIS WEEK ONLY at a special discount by clicking this link.)

Looking at those old pictures now, I can really see what a difference it makes to use brightly-coloured paper instead of just printing the whole thing out on white paper and cardstock.  I’m not rushing out to buy multicolour cardstock, but we do have some brights here still (probably from the same package), and lapbooking is the best possible use for it, since the mini-books stand out so well when they’re done with different papers.

Only problem is that all our glue sticks seem to have disappeared, so we’re having to brush on the glue with paint brushes.  How very old-fashioned!

It’s nice to see how proud they are of their work, and of what they’re learning.  Contemplating the imminent end of our homeschooling journey, I have become very reflective… and also very, very grateful for every day we share together.

Which doesn’t mean nothing else is getting done this week.  I plan to keep up math as well, because we missed last week due to March break camps, and we’ll be missing more time next week due to Pesach.  So math and lapbook it is – just the basics.

Do you do school right up until Yom Tov, or call it quits early so you can prepare???

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quick Healthy Snack Cheap – Oven-Toasted Nori

nori (2)

They sell all these "seasoned nori snacks" in health-food stores but a) they're way overpackaged, and b) none have a hechsher. And now, I can add reason c) - mine taste way better!  (I’m assuming, not having tasted the packaged ones)

I admit, they don’t look like much, strewn on a plate like this… but believe me, these pack a mighty tasty punch.  And I just bought two packages of nori for $1.99 so at that price, we can afford to eat these to our hearts’ content!

How to make them:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a bowl, mix some combination of sriracha, tasty soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of water. 
  3. Brush on one sheet of nori.  Stick another sheet of nori on top and brush with more mixture.
  4. Using kitchen shears (I wouldn’t want to do this with a knife), slice into thin strips or any shape you want.
  5. Bake 5 minutes or less, checking often so they don’t burn (remove when curled).

p.s. if I had any in the house, I probably would have pressed some sesame seeds on top just to top them off… play around with this; as with most of my recipes, it’s more of a concept than a specific set of instructions.

nori (1)


Yup, that’s me!


…In my dreams, maybe!!! 

A friend shared a link to this one-click app that will determine your personality based on things you’ve “liked” on facebook.  She said, “wow. this was right on. You should try it!!!”  I’m glad hers worked out – mine, well… not so much.

I won’t share the link here, because you can see what a great job it did with mine…!  You can probably google it if you’re desperate to know your own innermost personality secrets….

Ah, the things we do when we are supposed to be cleaning for Pesach.

However, the same friend ALSO shared a link to this nice Pesach song, so I’ll let you listen to it here, if you care to:


Monday, March 11, 2013

Blown it? or, the end of parenting

If you live in Toronto, you know that this is the bronze Jacob Wrestling sculpture that sat outside the JCC on Bathurst Street forever.

Every morning, forever, long ago, I’d stumble in semi-darkness and blur and fog past the sculpture, holding my little kids’ hands, rushing in to get them to daycare (and then me to work) on time.  And then, in the evening, I’d do it all over – rushing in in a foggy stupour to pick them up from daycare and rushing out to get us all home before we collapsed from exhaustion.

Holding those little hands, swinging their arms, singing half-asleep the "happy to be a mommy with two babies" song and, of course, dreaming big about "later" and the wonderful lives we would have together as they grew.

Last week, walking out of a fitness class at the JCC (beside the now-demolished JCC where my kiddies went to daycare), this sculpture jumped out at me.  It didn't, really, but since the building had moved, I hadn't noticed where the sculpture had gotten to.  And suddenly, it was in front of me.

And the words in my head, cool and clear like a breezy late-winter evening:  "you blew it." 

A sign.  And I hate signs.  I don't even believe in signs, really.

But that thought was what I walked around with, hanging over my head all week:  "I had eighteen, nineteen years to parent, and now it's over, and I blew it."  Life was what happened while I was busy making other plans.

On Shabbos, I went to shul and of course, when I finally stop moving and am surrounded by stillness (and it was also erev my first husband's yahrzeit), I start weeping.  Subtly, I hope; I hope nobody noticed.

But then one friend came over, and then another, and I decided that was a sign, too.  I mean, TWO friends?  I don't even HAVE two friends.  Gazillions of acquaintances, but people I'm actually really happy to see, who aren't family members?  Not that many.

So I sucked it up, figured the happy sign beat the sad sign, wiped the tears away and decided that was NOT the message.

But it is a scary thought - if you had only four more months to parent one of your most beloved children... well, if you were me, you'd probably start by smiling more.  And I probably should, too.

Beyond that, I have no idea what to do, other than just keep on keeping on what I've been doing, these last 18 years...

I haven’t blogged much about it, because big kids have their own ideas about what belongs on blogs, but since a million people have asked and I have said the same thing to all of them, I figure it’s public knowledge, neither of the big kids is coming with us on aliyah.  Yup, zero for two. 

One of them is planning to spend the year in Israel anyway – hooray!  So we will have one child close for a teasingly short time before things shift once again.  And the other – well, we just don’t know.

People make assumptions, when they see you with two little kids.  It happens often enough these days anyway, even with the big kids living with us at home.  They assume these are your only kids.  They assume this is your first marriage.  They assume you’re about 15 years younger (not all the assumptions are terrible!). 

People are terribly shocked and forced to do a bit of math when I admit I have an 18-year-old.  (Yes, that does mean I’m not 35…)  Being a parent to ALL of these children is so much a part of my identity that I hate that assumption and I don’t want to lose it.

This must be a common thing for parents of adult children, but it is a new thing for me. 

Brutally, it must be a common thing for parents who have lost children - “I am a mother of THREE – even if only two are here today.”

I think I finally, sort of, understand those necklaces that show how many children people have, and their birthstones.  How silly, I’ve always thought (arrogantly, as it turns out).  You just need to count them to know. 

Well, not for much longer.

But I haven’t blown it… not yet.  I hope.

FREE Printable Pesach “Chad Gadya” Masks & Tunes

imageimageHand-drawn by my friend Shira, these are ten simple masks (only 4 shown here) that you can print out and have your kids colour. 

(the tunes I mentioned are not printable, but you can scroll down to find links)

She plans to have hers laminated once they’re coloured, and then the kids can keep them from one seder to the next (a good use for lamination, in my opinion, as opposed to many of those throwaway projects you wish were not encased in plastic.

  • To download these and hundreds of other Limudei Kodesh (Jewish) printables – including weekly parsha copywork and holiday resources, click here.  (search for “masks”)
  • For General Studies printables, including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.

These masks bear an eerie similarity to the colourful foam masks we actually do use already, which are sort of like these, but a bit different…  and I do have to add here – I don’t feel we NEED these at the seder, and most of us (I think) kind of resent them. 

I mean, here you are, 3 minutes away from going home, at 2 in the morning, and all of a sudden, out come the masks and in comes the bickering over who’s going to be which “character.” in the 3-minute song.

Oh, and by “bickering,” I mean teenagers and adults alike (those who are still physically present at this point in the festivities) muttering, “just sing it already, I don’t want to be anything” and me insisting, “no, you have to be something.” 

And then yelling at everybody to remember their “role” for the 3 minutes that the song lasts, when everybody, including me, would much rather be anywhere else at that particular moment.

And yet… the sweetness of the seder.  I hope, living in a land where there is only one seder, we will come to appreciate its sweet fleetingness that much more.

Because you only get so many seders, and really – is there so much harm in wanting to draw it out 5 minutes longer, if it means five more minutes with the people you love?

The first year my father did the seder (the full halachic shindig in Hebrew – he’d been doing a seder for years) was a big concession on their part and my part and a huge learning curve for all of us.  He, who grew up speaking Yiddish, not Hebrew, started practicing in January, and did the whole thing at great, painful length in Hebrew.  And at the end, after Chad Gadya, he turned the page and offered to begin Shir Hashirim (which is printed in the haggadah because some people have the minhag to say it afterwards).

And I assured him that he did NOT need to begin Shir Hashirim, which would have been agonizing for all of us.

Still – forget what I said earlier: grab some masks, draw out your Chad Gadya and enjoy.

If you need tunes, this free-to-listen album on the FAUJSA site* has 4.  I got the 4th one stuck in my head years ago and every once in a while, it pops back up:  “chaddi-gaddi-gaddi-ya!”

* What’s FAUJSA?  Only one of my favourite “tunes” resources:  the Florida Atlantic University online Jewish music archive.  They’re highlighting a bunch of free-to-listen Pesach music (cannot be downloaded that I know of), including this album.  I won’t try to point you to all of my favourites, but this month, a few good ones have even been bumped up to the front page, so do check it out!

p.s. More free-to-listen Pesach music here at Israel National Radio’s Jukebox page.  Again, this is streaming music which cannot be downloaded through legitimate means (though if a file or two happens to be hiding in your cache when you’re finished enjoying the music, there is very little to stop you from renaming it with an mp3 extension and listening to it again and again… which I didn’t tell you).

My Mother’s Rules for Living

IMG_00000881 (575x1024)

While we were away, my mother left the following instructions for living at our house.  I assume they were tacked up somewhere prominent when she did that, but by the time we got home, the note itself was floating around on the floor and had gotten kind of dirty… which is itself kind of sad and also, somehow, emblematic of the whole problem.

I don’t think there’s any particular order here:

  • If it falls on the floor, pick it up
  • If it’s dirty, wash it
  • If it belongs to you, put it (away) in your room
  • If you take it out, put it back
  • If you need help, ask
  • If something spills, wipe it up
  • If the toilet paper roll is empty, put on a new one (and toss empty into recycle bin)

So there it is!  I cannot comment, because if she sees this, she may think I’m mocking.  But I’m not… I just wonder why even these very basic standards seem, most of the time, so far out of reach.

(Plus, did you notice the handwriting???  my mother has some of the neatest handwriting I’ve ever seen… I’m certain she wasn’t doing anything special here or making an effort to be extra-neat.  This is just what it looks like!)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

FREE “On Pesach” Printable Easy Reader Mini-Book!

My gift to you… just like the ones I did last year for Chanukah and for Shavuos!

This one has a five senses theme… with the usual sweet, sticky ending, of course.

To receive a free PDF of this very simple print-cut-staple easy reader for Pesach, featuring all the usual cute “borrowed” Internet graphics you have come to love from my printables, please email me directly at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, and I’ll pass it along!  You can also just leave a comment here with your email address – I won’t publish your address.

image image

Sorry, it’s not direct-downloadable this time. That’s my gift to myself: a few times a year, I like to meet you, and find out who’s reading and using these things.

(Just wanted to add:  I won't collect your name or email address in a mailing list or anything.  I just honestly like to know who's reading and using this stuff, because usually, all I get are download statistics)

  • To download hundreds of other Limudei Kodesh (Jewish) printables – including weekly parsha copywork and yom tov resources, click here.
  • For General Studies printables, including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Bright Beginnings Chumash – Part 2???

book coverYes, indeed; you heard that right… exactly what I’ve been hoping for:  I got an email late last night suggesting that Part 2 is officially in the works!

Apparently, the new volume “covers the rest of Lech Lecha and has very upgraded worksheets as well as chazara [review] tools.”

Naturally, I suggested that he arrange to come and show the thing as a vendor at the upcoming Torah Home Education Conference in May!

Bright Beginnings is the Chumash workbook we have been working our way slooooowly through since July of 2011.  It’s cute, it’s fun, and I have found that its method of emphasizing roots and prefixes is very sound and appropriate for this level, while the layout is visually more appealing than almost anything I have seen in a limudei kodesh text.

Here’s a typical page from Bright Beginnings:

It’s not too busy – engaging, but not distracting.  There’s enough interaction, but also enough focus on just reading and getting the job done.  It’s true that we have gone through this book very slowly, but I believe the experience has given Naomi Rivka a very thorough grounding in what Chumash study is and should be.

Next year, of course, she’ll be learning Chumash in school – they call the subject Torah in Israel, apparently.  And I’ll have very little control over what she does and learns.  But until then… well, if we ever finish Part 1, I am very much looking forward to starting Part 2 (or even if we don’t finish – I’m not averse to jumping into the new book if it offers more of a challenge).

To see an old prepublication sample of what Book 1 (sort of) looks like (the cute artwork was added in the final stages), click here (previewers’ constructive criticism appears at the bottom of that page). You can also read about Michelle’s adventures with her daughter, Froggie, working through this book over at her blog, Lionden Landing.  (if you have blogged about using this book with YOUR kids, I’d love to hear about it – leave a comment below)

On another note, I heard Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, one of the book’s authors, speak in Toronto last month – it was wonderful.  He is one of the good guys out there:  saying all the right things about chinuch (education) and the yeshiva world, and although not everybody is listening yet, he has a great site where you can read his essays, ideas and responses to parents.

Just thought I’d share this great news with everybody here…

Monday, March 04, 2013

Quick Question…

For anyone who’s used my Parsha Overview sheets with their kids at any point:

If you could "fix" one thing about them, it would be to make them more... (fill in the blank with as much or as little as you want!)

I’m in the process of pulling these together into a book (I’m only 9 parshiyos short, but the style is veeeeery uneven so it’s going to be a BIG job – one I hope to have finished in time to sell the book form at the Torah Home Education conference in May!), and any insight you guys could provide would be very, very helpful!


p.s. I know this is the most neglected of all my blogs at the moment – I’m baking up a storm, and we’re all charged up about Israel and guess what’s going by the wayside – regular daily life!!!