Enjoying the spring

We’ve had delightful weather here recently, which means lots and lots of time spent out of doors, lounging under trees, visiting all our favorite playgrounds, and just enjoying the pleasant spell before the heat that will inevitably come.

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The kittens, now three weeks old, are growing rapidly and becoming playful. Let me just tell you, nobody needs screen time when they can have kitty time! My kids can play with these snuggly fur balls all day long.

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In between, I’m working on a rather ambitious crochet project for Hadassah, who has become a walker and now merits a lot more cute little dresses.

Lately, I have found no more perfect way to unwind than watching videos by this amazing lady living in rural paradise in China. It seems she knows how to make anything with her own two hands and some primitive hand-operated tools. It is both inspiring and humbling. I know that if you watch, you will become enchanted as much as I am.

Happenings here

Now that the holidays are over, we are gradually getting settled back into a more peaceful routine, which feels great. Today I made my first after-Pesach pizza, and we enjoyed it so much!

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The kittens are two weeks old, and have opened their eyes a couple of days ago. Luckily our cat is very laid back and doesn’t mind us playing with them. Guess what my kids would be doing all day long if only I let them?

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We have recently discovered a beautiful local park and had a blast there one afternoon. Doesn’t this little munchkin look like she’s enjoying herself?

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There was this round thatched hut that really gave the feeling of us all being on a trip to Africa. It fascinated my kids, but to their great lament, it was locked.

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The duck pond.

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Some goats with their babies and one friendly alpaca. No, they don’t always keep them in that little pen – they just closed it off while someone was cleaning the yard.

Enjoying some rest

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The house has been scrubbed, my hands were sore and raw, and the kitchen was sparkling clean on the night before erev Pesach when we overhauled everything to make matzo from scratch (a feat I could personally have dispensed with, but which my husband insisted on trying at least once). Three exhausting hours later, I went to bed to wake up to a busy day of cooking for the seder.

DSC_1233However, as Pesach just can’t come without some surprise to brighten up my life, I discovered that the cat has snuck into the house and had her kittens. In my kids’ bunk bed. On top of the clean sheets. I was desperately exhausted and extra laundry was about the last thing I needed, but who can be angry with such cuteness?

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Now that I have gotten back into the swing of crocheting, the days of chol hamoed (the Pesach week) feel a little empty with the prohibition of crafts and drawing. I compensate myself by braiding my daughters’ hair.

The weather is lovely, and I intend to be very, very lazy for the next few days.

Cheering up with chickens

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Wherever we are, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until we find some chickens. It turns out we have a neighbor who has a whole yard full of poultry (we found him through the crowing of his roosters), including all my favorite chicken breeds such as Silkies, Brahmas, Polish, Wyandotte, Sussex… And it turns out we have some poultry aficionados as common acquaintance. So now hopefully, once I am able to nudge my husband (*smile*) in the direction of building a coop and giving the incubator a test run, we can get fresh eggs for hatching. Really, in moving here, there is nothing I miss like my chickens. For the time being, we go to visit and feed our neighbor’s birds whenever we can.

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Speaking of going somewhere… There hasn’t been much of that lately because the rains have been SO intense for the season. We even missed our regular afternoon in the library today! I’m surprised at the strength of my craving for sunshine, warmth and all that comes with it – hammocks, picnics, wading pools, bare feet, and working in the garden.

In the meantime, we have been trying to make the best of these days of being cooped up inside (as you can judge by Shira’s modeling clay art), drawing, reading, and taking out all our favorite board games. We have actually finished the fifth Harry Potter book, which has been our ongoing read for months.

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I have also been putting the closets in order and discovered another stash of yarn scraps that will be just perfect for a doll-making project. Once, of course, I put Pesach (and all the cleaning it entails) behind me.

I hope spring is on its way to all my friends in the northern hemisphere!

Activities for kids: structure vs. freeform

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In today’s post, I would like to elaborate a bit on Lisa’s question:

I was wondering how you structure indoor activities. I don’t know if I should expect my children to do quiet or individual activities for longer periods of time, they are 10, 8 and 5 (one girl and two boys). I find they want to be with me or doing things with me all day which I love but I would like them to find settled indoor activities they can do alone. I appreciate any thoughts you may have! 

Like you, I love to sit and do all sorts of interesting and creative stuff with my kids. I can easily lose myself in watercolors, a game of monopoly, a puzzle, or a good book. But how much is enough, and how do I strike the balance between a helicopter mama and the lazy parent who can’t be bothered by anything?

I homeschool and work from home, so the boundaries of work, school and play tend to become kind of blurred. It’s easy to assume that if you’re at home, you must be at leisure, but if I let people (including my own kids) get away with it, I would never be able to get anything done. Therefore, I try to foster independence and individual activities from an early age.

My older girls love to read, draw and paint, which they can do for hours on end. Sticker collections, slime, and modeling clay are popular with the 4-year-old too. Often the older girls will read to or entertain their little brother. Israel also loves construction toys such as Lego or blocks. The kids also do spontaneous dress-up plays together, which is adorable.

I don’t really structure indoor activities beyond making all the equipment – books, art supplies, board games, etc – readily available and keeping them in good order. I just sit back and let things happen. I have taught my children that, although I might be home all day, I’m not always available to play (well, the baby does still have some learning to do on this!). I do not, however, disappear on them – whatever I’m doing, whether it’s in the kitchen or on my laptop, my kids can see me and talk to me if necessary. Hope this helps!

Between the drops

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We’ve had so much rain here lately that I’m seriously considering to go into hibernation mode until it’s all over. I know, I know. It’s unfair to complain about a bit of rain and mud when the country needs water so badly, and when my friends in the northern states and Canada are snowed in, but I do love sunshine with a passion and absolutely need lots of it to feel happy.

In the meantime, we are going on with our indoor diversions of baking, reading and crafts. In the photo above, you can see the cute little throw-on vest I had just completed (the loose ends still need to be tucked in!). It’s made from alpaca wool blend and was a joy to work on. I imagine it would also work great with pure alpaca yarn, such as this lovely yarn from LoveCrochet.

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On a rare sunshiny afternoon, we went for a walk to take some photos of these beauties – almond trees in bloom, the typical local herald of spring.

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And this last one is my favorite – this old stump looked quite dead until new green shoot began to pop up all over it. Now it’s teeming with life. So hopeful!

I hope you are all staying safe and warm and successfully battling cabin fever. Soon enough, it will be time for working in the garden, gathering wild edibles and, perhaps my most dreaded feature of the season, spring cleaning.

Writing with my children

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The exciting day is here! Dragon Diplomacy, my first Middle Grade novel, is available in print and on Kindle, to my immense joy and satisfaction.

Let’s face it, with how little time I have, writing is often a guilty pleasure for me, and I go back and forth a lot on how long I can allow myself to spend it without neglecting my family. This book, however, had a different birth process. It was written with my children’s active contribution, and the reading aloud of each chapter was beautiful family time I can fondly look back on. We also drew the characters and made maps (not included in the book) and thought of ideas for sequels (working on that now).

The most important lessons I learned from writing this book are probably, 1) Kids love dragons, and 2) Kids are a brutally honest audience. My daughters had no qualms to say, “this is boring” or “change the ending”. I followed their advice, of course. What choice did I have?