Monday, July 30, 2012

Kids Art Display & Lego Storage

A good friend of ours (who was homeschooled and just graduated from NYU) gave my kids her very treasured and very large Lego collection that she played with as a kid. 

Now there must be hundreds and hundreds of pieces of Lego and up until now we were just keeping them in a large storage bin that the kids go rummaging through to look for whatever it is they need.

My husband had this tool box and so we dumped out the entire bin of Legos on the floor and got to work. We (the kids included) put all the regular Lego building blocks back into the storage bin. We then went on to divide the specialty pieces into the tool box (windows, doors, Lego people, flowers, hats, tools, wheels, very tiny pieces and any other pieces that are different). 

 Its a whole new world for them now as they can see what they have and it works. I have seen numerous Lego storage idea's online (stored by color, types of pieces etc.) but I knew that when my kids clean up, there is no way they are sitting and putting each piece back in the right color box or whatever. So this works for us.

On another note, my daughter LOVES arts'n crafts. She LOVES drawing, painting, coloring, gluing, stickers, you name it. And I find myself putting her stuff all over the house and it is getting a bit much. 

So after much Pinterest searching and inspiration, this is what I came up with:

I took the empty wall in her room and using 2 wooden frames (without pictures or glass), a clip board and a piece of bamboo, hot glued regular wooden pegs onto them and voila- her very own art gallery.

Here's a closer look at the bamboo... it is very inexpensive where I live and we have tons of it around our house.

I have a busy week ahead, hope you are enjoying yours~

A Conversation with the Handyman

This morning we had a handyman come over to fix up a few things around the house.

Of course he had an audience of all the kids watching in awe as he stood on his huge step ladder to change some really high light bulbs.

After he was done with everything, he asked me the ages of the kids and said he has four kids of his own, ages 20-26.

I told him that most people tell me that this stage that I'm in right now (raising little ones) is the EASY stage and it just gets more challenging... and then asked him what was his opinion on that.

You know what he told me? He told me that it is what you make of it. If you smother your kids and try to control every move they make, yes, it is going to get more challenging. But if you let them be who they are and make their own mistakes, you will find that most of the time they will turn out okay.

Another thing he said was, "always be there for them, no matter what" because if you're not going to be there, they are going to find someone else to be there and not always will that someone be the right one for them. He also said that in his experience, don't TELL them how to act, SHOW them. Be a role model in every sense of the word. Your kids see how you handle every situation and if you handle it with class and tact, that is what they will learn. If you just get frustrated and angry, that is what they will learn too.

Have I met his kids? No. But that 10 minute conversation we had as he was headed out the door really resonated with me. It is nothing I havn't heard before, but just thought I would pass it on as it is just so true.

No one comes into your life by chance. Not even the handyman:)

Have an absolutely awesome week~

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More summer fun and some preps for the school year...

 Giant bubble fun... 
Mix 12 cups water, 1 cup dish soap, 1 cup corn starch and 2 Tbsp baking powder.
Let it sit for at least an hour. The longer you let it sit, the better the bubbles. Give it a good mix, get some fun bubble wands, sit back, relax, and let the kids have a ball:) 

Take a bunch of crayons, line them up on a piece of paper, tape them down. Get a hair dryer and blow close to crayons and watch it melt. Kids thought this was AWESOME. 

Now as a very proud New Yorker, and growing up in the city, my knowledge of gardening was very limited. A good friend of ours helped us plant a garden and the kids have been LOVING it. 

I love the fact that they can actually SEE where it comes from, hence when making a bracha, it makes sense. They see the tomatoes growing from the ground, hence, "ha-adama". It's a very cool, hands on approach to teach kids the correct blessings on foods as opposed to just coloring pictures of foods with the same bracha.

Here is our tomato plant. This tomato was picked and eaten by my daughter just seconds after I took this photo. 

 Our strawberry bush- this strawberry still needs a few more days, but these are the most amazing, sweetest strawberries you have ever tasted.

Our pineapple. Now you can understand why we say "ha-adama" on pineapple:)


Now back in this post I began working on our continent boxes. It's a good thing mom and dad were world travelers before we met and got married and between my hubby and me we have a some great photos of ourselves from all over the world. 

I went through these photos and took out a bunch and put them in each continent box. The only continents we both didn't get to were Australia and Antarctica. The kids love seeing photos of us in these places, it makes it very real to them. 

Here is what we have so far, as I find things, I add them to the boxes:


(okay, Israel is not a continent, but it's our land so it deserves it's own box:)
* a map
* Take Me to the Holy Land (you can get it here)
* Personal photos of mom and dad in Israel
* Photos and pictures of various places and events that happened
*Israeli flag
* Miniature Menorah and Shekel and Silver Jerusalem
* Israeli Soldiers
* A police pin
* A Tanya printed in Israel

 * A book on Antarctica which I got here
* 2 books on Penguins
* A book I made with images I tore out of an issue of the National Geographic
* Photos of Jewish scientist David Wakil lighting the Menorah in Antarctica
*Some cute miniatures: scarf, hat, snow flake, iglue, sled. sweater. snowman and polar bears. I know we have some penguins somewhere, just have to find them:)

* Russian money
* Photos of my husband in Russia
* Photos of famous Rabbi's from Russia as well as Yeshiva boys learning in Yeshiva's in Russia
* Book on Asia
* Photos of Thailand and China
* A Tanya printed in Jordan
* Miniatures of 2 Asian people and a fan
(my husband spent time in India, we are trying to dig up those photos:)

* Book on Europe
* Photos of mom and dad in various countries in Europe
* Photos of Menorah lightings around Europe
* Tanya printed in Italy and France
* A Picture Book of Anne Frank which you can get here, with photos of mom at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
* Book on Raoul Wallenberg, he helped the Jews in WW2

I have Australia, Africa, North and South America and will post photos when I get a chance.
The nice thing is that you can just keep adding things as you find them.

The kids LOVE the continent boxes. They can take one and sit down and go through the photos, play with the miniatures, read the books, and all the while learning so much. I hope to make some more boxes like these but in other subjects. 

And on one last note, some wise words from my dear father-in-law...

Wishing you a good week and an easy fast,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Days of Summer...

Here are a few fun things we have been doing this summer, in no specific order...

Hope you are enjoying yours~

Here is New York City... notice the Empire State Building and Central Park:) The kids worked on this for at least an hour, by themselves, while I sat on the back porch and drank my coffee while chatting with my best friend in NY. 

Don't underestimate the power of free play- the more time you give your kids to play by themselves (without you having to entertain them) the healthier it is for them and you.

Here is a our tent/fort that we have started working on... will post more photos as we go along. This is under out Avocado tree which is producing Avocados by the hundreds now.

The Avo's...

Remember our cute (and super easy) bird feeder we made here? Well, here's our little friend enjoying a snack. We have refilled it with bird seeds a few times since.

Kids made their own doll houses out of Popsicle sticks. We used a hot glue gun for immediate drying, but you can use regular glue and paint it the next day once dry. We made all the walls and roofs separately and then glued them all together. Mom was just the supervisor and hot glue gunner. They did everything else by themselves.

Kids made their own puppets. The boys made astronauts. My big guy drew and colored his own rocket. He asked me to make him the astronaut. He colored it. My daughter made a princess and ballerina. It's pretty much just making a picture on card-stock, coloring it, cutting it out and gluing a craft stick to the back. Voila. A whole puppet theater:)

I cannot get enough of this chalkboard paint. You can see what we did with it here, but I am all over the place with it now:) I made labels for inside my pantry, the bathroom, you name it, I am loving it!

Here is a fun sign I made for the kids playroom:

I painted a cookie sheet (I had to paint it a few times over a few days to get rid of the streaking) and used green acrylic paint for the border. I am using this chalk pen which is so great. It goes on smooth and wipes right off with a wet rag. 

 ...and a little something I made for myself to stick in the kitchen. It's nice because I can change the inspirational quote whenever I feel I want to. I just took a picture frame, removed the glass and painted the cardboard inside it with the paint. You can probably paint on glass with it, though I haven't tried it yet. Will let you know how it works!

And that is how we are enjoying our lazy days of summer. 
Looking forward to getting back into the water after Tisha B'Av
May you all be safe and well during these 9 Days.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Not-So-Perfect Storm

This past Monday, a friend of mine who lives about 10 minutes away informed me that the local news channel predicted a Hurricane to hit on Friday.

On Wednesday, the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm, but was on its way in full force.

I was not very happy to hear about this. Firstly, because Friday is the day before Shabbos. And on Shabbos, I really need good weather. I need it so my kids can play outside and not drive us nuts inside.

I was also not very happy because along with tropical storms come blackouts. And when we have blackouts, I can't cook. And if there was a blackout on Shabbos, there goes the Cholent that my kids live for every week (no joke, they each have about 5 bowls throughout the day, starting with breakfast with daddy at 6am) and there goes my refrigerator and freezer with the ice cream that gets us through the later part of Shabbos afternoon.

Not only that, but my kids are all feeling much better, thank G-d, but there are still many runny noses running through my house so I called all our Shabbos guests who usually come over every Shabbos with their kids (who play with our kids, keeping them entertained for a large part of the morning and afternoon) to let them know that I don't think it would be wise to bring their kids around this household just yet, not until runny noses have all disappeared.

Lets just say, that I had made up my mind, on Wednesday, that Shabbos was going to be very difficult and not very enjoyable.

 Comes Friday morning, I wake up to see the clearest blue skies and the sun streaming through my bedroom window. Ah, the calm before the storm, I told myself.

All day, it was gorgeous. The sun shone, there was the slightest breeze, just enough to cool you down from the intense heat of the sun. Ah, just wait for Shabbos. The storm is going to hit. Hard.

We lit candles, davened and had our meal. We put the kids to sleep and I made sure to finish a book I had planned to read the following day. But since this huge tropical storm was coming, I would be so busy with all the blackouts and cabin fever kids, I wouldn't have time to read, never mind finish the whole book. So I lay on the couch and finished my book.

Shabbos morning arrived. Clear blue skies. Even more clear then Friday's. A most gorgeous day awaited us. The kids played outside all morning. We had to call them a few times to come inside to make Kiddush. They ate their Cholent. All 5 bowls. The younger kids napped. The older ones played. We had our ice cream party. My hubby took them on a walk while I started and finished another book. It was a beautiful Shabbos.

And here, I wasted 3 days stressing out about how challenging it was going to be.

My husband, a very practical man, always says, "Tracht Gut, Vet Zein Gut" "Think Good, and it will Be Good". I love this saying, but when you hear a storm is coming, does it make sense to think it away? To think of the benefits of a storm on Shabbos? No. But you don't have to think negative thoughts. Because as we all know, our minds are so powerful and can color any situation. And as moms, it is up to us to set the tone in our house.

So if there is a storm coming, take that information and process it. Make some extra food just in case there is a blackout. Make an extra cake in case the ice cream melts. Prepare some fun games to play if the kids are stuck inside.

I learned such a powerful lesson this week, how our thoughts can really really change things.

Here's to positive thinking. I now really get it. Think good, and guess what- it will actually BE good:)
To all a wonderful week,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

DIY Personal Chalk Clip Boards

I have been so inspired by all these creative projects (on Pinterest and the Blogosphere) using chalk board paint, so much so that I ordered some HERE and could not wait to get started...

It arrived yesterday and I was so excited. My hubby had some extra clip boards that he brought home from his office and last night while all the kiddies were sleeping, I got to work.

I made 3 clip/chalk boards in total- it took me about 2 minutes each one and let it dry over night. I did 2 coats using a sponge to paint it on.

The kids LOVED them. They drew for a while, it was awesome.

I was so inspired, I painted a large cookie sheet too, to have a magnetic chalk board (how cool will that be?) but I have to tell you, I think its the metal, because I had to do about 4 coats, let it dry and do a few more coats to get rid of the streaking. Something to keep in mind before you try it. I am sure there are other ways to do it, but I'm not one for primers and shmimers and what not. 

Hope your week is going well and have a wonderful and peaceful Shabbos!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I want a messy house!!!

A few years ago in the winter, all my kids got a really bad case of the flu.

They were all in bed for a week, on antibiotics and what not, it was so hard.

After a week they all started feeling better, thank G-d.

They started playing and doing the things they normally do.

I will never forget, my husband walked into the house one evening (it was about the time they were all getting better) and said, "Baruch Hashem! The house is a mess again!" To which I asked him what exactly he meant by that.

He in turn replied, "When the kids are sick and in bed, they have no energy to destroy the house on a daily basis, like they usually do. So the house is pretty clean when they're not feeling well. Walking into the house tonight, seeing toys and everything everywhere showed me that they are all getting back to their happy, healthy selves! So Baruch Hashem (Thank G-d), the house is a mess!"

This Shabbos was really difficult. I had my 4 year old in bed all day, lethargic from fever and sore throat. My 3 year old walking around with a really nasty cough, and my little ones kvetchy and fussy with fevers, pretty much in my arms all day. I was exhausted.

But after Shabbos, once they were all in bed, I got ready to tackle the usually insanely messy house (especially after Shabbos, this place is usually a serious wreck), but the play room was spotless. Not a toy out of place. There were no puzzles all over the floor or wooden blocks to pick up.

Then after Havdalah, I asked Hashem, out loud, if He could bless me with a week of happy, healthy children, and a VERY messy house, from all of their playing. The sooner, the better.

Wishing you all a good week, filled with health, happiness and messy homes~

Monday, July 2, 2012

How on EARTH do we do it all?

During my second pregnancy, I often wondered how it would be possible to love another child as much as I loved my one and only son.

After I gave birth to my daughter, I wondered if I was ever going to be able to take care of 2 little ones and give them each the same amount of love and attention that they so rightfully deserved.

When I had 3 kids under the age of 3, I thought that things could not possibly get anymore challenging, and how was I going to get through this.

And now, when people come over to my house and see 5 (homeschooled) little ones running around wearing clean clothes (most of the time), are fed 3 healthy meals a day, have clean linen to sleep in and a somewhat clean house, I am constantly asked, "How on EARTH do you do it all???"

There are so many scientific studies on how different men's and women's brains work and how differently we think and handle tasks. But when we look into our Torah, it is so clear to see how Hashem gave us women the strength to love beyond reason. He gave us the strength to love our families so much that we often forget about ourselves just to make sure everyone else is taken care of. That's just who we are. It's not about science.

Hashem, in all His Greatness, created us women to be able to do just that. 

Being a mother is the most empowering thing in the world. To do a 'job' that requires SO much of us, and we all know how much it takes. And what do we get in return? Money? A medal or reward? A "thanks mom for staying up with me all night while I threw up all over you" from your 5 year old? So why on earth would we invest all our time and energy and put our whole self into something when we don't get something back in return? (and I know some of you are thinking, 'you get happy awesome kids who love you in return' which is wonderful and all, but that is not the reason why we do this...)

We do this because we are women, we are mothers, and it is all done out of LOVE. 
A love that is so strong, that we don't need anything in return. 

L'Chaim to all you awesome women and moms out there. 
You all seriously ROCK.

Have a good one, 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Figure. It. Out.

 "You need to figure it out."  I find myself saying this to my kids ALL the time.

As a homeschooling mom, who's kids are all at  home and spend most of their days together, you can be sure that there are a fair amount of fights and arguments that come up. And not only that, but being that they are mostly home and not at school, I have had to come up with a lifestyle where "Mommy" is not the one responsible for their entertainment 12 hours a day.

Let me explain.

I grew up in South Africa until the age of 12 where we had 2 maids and a full time gardener. I went to a private Jewish school (King David Sandton, for those fellow South Africans who read this blog:) and had extra curricular activities every day after school, ranging from tennis lessons, swim team, art class, pottery, modern dance and netball (similar to basket ball, but for girls).

When at home, there was always homework, tests to study for and projects to do for school. Then on the weekends it was always play dates with friends and lunches with cousins and grandparents.

I really never had to make any decisions as a kid. Everything was completely laid out for me. It was nice then, but it came back to bite me as an adult, as I found it very difficult when having to make decisions. I didn't have that confidence to trust myself. To know that what I thought would be the right thing to do, would be the right thing to do.

Fast forward to now and I really feel that it is so important to give kids that skill. To figure things out on their own in the real world. To make proper decisions.

When my kids fight or argue ("Mommy, he has 5 animals and I only have 4, its not fair..." or "She won't let me play with her and I want to.") and come to me to get a verdict (decide who is right or wrong and what to do next) I almost always say--- "You guys need to figure it out. You need to come up with a compromise. A way where you are both happy. Lets think of some different options of how we can work this out." And I would say that 99% of the time, after a few minutes of going back and forth, with mom as the mediator, THEY come up with an agreement and walk away happy. Both of them.

And if we have plans to go on a trip, lets say, to the park, and it starts raining- I say to them, "Okay guys, it's raining. We can't go to the park, but lets think of something fun that we can do instead." And we all sit down and decide what to do. 

This is not "giving the kids their way" and doing "what they want", but it is empowering these little people to think for themselves and realize that their thoughts and opinions matter. Not always will we do what they want, but we will discuss it, and figure out what works for everyone.

It sounds like a lot of work and effort, but it WORKS. 

Try it. You will be so pleasantly surprised and proud of how smart these little ones can be.

Wishing you all a wonderful week,

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