Monday, December 31, 2007

Triple 8 Reading Challenge

Read 8 books from 8 categories in 2008

1. *Let Me Finish by Roger Angell
2. *The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein
3. *American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
4. *I'll Sleep When I'm Dead by Crystal Zevon
5. *The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
6. *A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
7. *Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
8. *The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein

1. *Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
2. Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
3. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
4. *Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything.. by Elizabeth Gilbert
*American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
6. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
7. Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanev
8. * Majic Bus by Douglas Brinkley

American Novelists
1. * Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
2. * Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
3. *Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
4. * Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
5. * The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
6. *B
less Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
7. *Pontoon by Garrison Keillor
8. *Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Foreign Novelists
1. * Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
2. * Waiting by Ha Jin
3. * The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar
4. * The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5. * People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
6. * Atonement by Ian McEwan
7. * Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi
*Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour

Young Adult
1.* Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
4.* Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
* Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
6. * Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis
7. * An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
8. *
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Immigrant Experience
*How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
2. *Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour

3. *Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright

4. *Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
*The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Dias

Nonfiction that Just Calls My Name
1. *Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
2. *Empires Lost and Won: The Spanish Heritage in the Southwest by Albert Marrin
3. *The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle
4. *Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright
5. *Math Phobia by Marilyn Burns
*The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
7. *Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
*Outside Lies Magic by John Stilgoe

Local Book Club List
1. * Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
2. * Atonement by Ian McEwan
3. * The Tattoed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
4. * Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
5. * Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
6. * Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. * The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
8. * The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
9. * The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

* completed

Possible substitutions
North Toward Home by Willie Morris
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Children of Jihad by Jared Cohen
Tamar by Mal Peet

Reading Challenge

One of my past pleasures I have tried to reclaim as my children have grown older and more independent is reading. It seems that for years I read very little for my own pleasure. About 2 years ago, I deliberately began to change that. Then during the summer of 2005, my friend, W, and I decided to organize a monthly book club which has been functional since. But I want to read more.

I tried an online book club but that just did not work for me. My natural reticence was very limiting in that setting. In person, I am pretty quiet but I make an effort to speak up. Writing this blog is a way for me to overcome my online self-censorship and reluctance. I feel like the effort is working. I have posted a couple of times to one of my email lists over the last 2 weeks. And I have to fight the feeling that someone's disagreement with me is necessarily a criticism. I KNOW it's not but it feels like criticism.

Well, that was off topic but I am working around to saying that I am going to take on a major reading challenge, the triple 8, 8 books in 8 categories in 2008. I will be posting my list, and a rather long one it is, later today. PRM

Friday, December 28, 2007

Book club and worry

Last night was book club night. We went to the movies as is our December tradition, if you can call a second year plan a tradition. Last year we watched To Kill a Mockingbird at our house. This year we saw P.S I Love You in the theater. We read the book a few months ago and wanted to compare. Always, or nearly so, a mistake. There was little similarity even in the plot, except for the basic setup - young man dies but arranged, before his death, to send his wife letters intermittently to help her move on. In the book, the husband is helping his young and somewhat immature, insecure wife grow up. The letters help her address and overcome certain weaknesses in herself.

The movie HAD to add a bit of pop psychology that I found particularly annoying. The wife's father had left the family when she was 14 and now her husband's left, even if not of his own volition. But, how could she ever trust a man again? Blech!!! In the book, the wife's family is mostly happy and largely normal. She did not like her oldest brother, but during the course of the story, she comes to really know and love him. Actually that plot line was one of the sweetest in the book.

We had dinner after the movie, having gone to the cheaper matinee show. Our dinner was somewhat restrained by the absence of one of our members. She is undergoing a workup for possible breast cancer and had an MRI earlier in the day. They are concerned she may have inflammatory CA. This is worrisome. PRM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hummus recipe

This is a very tasty but standard recipe from Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine.

2 c cooked chickpeas
1/4 c bean liquid
1/4 c lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional

Puree chickpeas, adding liquid to achieve a smooth, creamy puree. Beat in lemon juice, garlic and salt; then, gradually add tahini to form a thick, light paste. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsely and, if desired, drizzle olive oil over the surface just before serving.

My notes because I haven't followed this recipe religiously or measured anything in years -
1. Go ahead and add the salt. I made it with less salt many times and it just doesn't taste right.
2. I add a dollop of olive oil and blend in when making it. I am expected to bring this to my book club every month and someone would always stir in the olive oil, thinking, I guess, that I had forgotten to do so. So now I just blend it in and, may or may not, pour some on top.
3. I use canned beans but have found that Progresso brand beans are much better than the Harris Teeter or Bush's.

I was surprised to find this cookbook still in print. There is a 2nd edition from 2006 which I must consider getting. JP bought this copy almost 20 years ago and it is food-stained and falling apart a bit, but well-used and well-loved. PRM

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Who knew there were so many

Jews in our little Southern town?

The Chinese buffet was packed tonight. There were people of all persuasions and family structures but I suspect we were the only Jews. And the food was terrible.

After reading A Free Life, my view of the proprietors of Chinese restaurants has changed. Was that cashier a PhD in Sociology from Emory who aspires to be a poet?

Well, this loooooong boring weekend/holiday is almost over. Thank heavens. PRM

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Be careful talking down to kids.

From the NY Times
“Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

Daryl Cobranchi says that Aleya is a home-educated kid. PRM

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little bit of politics

I enjoy politics, read political books, magazines and blogs, but really don't want to blog much about it. It just makes me sad right now.

The Homeschoolers for Huckabee thing irritates me mostly because I don't want the public to think that HSLDA speaks for all of us. I don't know if it speaks for the majority but there are plenty of us out here who do not follow its lead.

With this country in the sad, embarrassing place it is in now, I think there are larger and far more important issues to concern ourselves with than a politician's position on homeschooling. Like war. Poverty. So much. PRM

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a miracle

This is a child who, until a week or so ago, had never read a whole book for his own pleasure and, until last night, had never really played with any toys. He preferred video games and TV to both. What has changed? No doubt less access to TV/video has helped some but he could have been on the computer instead of doing this as he was last night. I think his reading and perhaps the K'nex are related to some brain maturation and possibly visual maturity. He is not wearing his glasses here. He should.

This picture is from last night. It is MUCH larger now, after hours of work on it today. I am a happy momma. PRM

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

35 degrees - a breakfast sandwich and a book by the fire.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Marshmallow making

While we waited for friends to come over this morning, Noach and I made marshmallows. I used the recipe from Farm School, one of my favorite homeschooling blogs. We rolled them in crushed candy canes when we finished. It is about 42 degrees outside and should fall to about 25 tonight. I think that is cold enough for hot chocolate. When our friend arrived, she told us she had made them with peppermint flavoring in them. I think I may try that next. Maybe a little red coloring?

With our friends, we played our new game from Hannukah, Apples to Apples. There were six of us playing and it was really fun. It would be even more fun with even more people. I'm trying to talk Shoshie into having a homeschool teen party here to play music and games. They probably won't let me play but it still sounds like fun. And I can use that event as the impetus to get the rest of the family moving to make the remodeled basement into a usable space. PRM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Middle Eastern cooking day

I have made Baba Ghanouj, hummus and falafel this afternoon. The house smells like cumin. That's good, I think. My hummus, if I may toot my own horn, is to die for. Smooth and tasty. Mmmm. Now I think I'll make Kasha Varnishkes. I am hoping Shoshie, my vegetarian, will like Kasha so I can make it sometimes. Now no one but me likes it and I don't need it. But if I can recruit another, then I can make it sometimes without so much guilt.

Should have some tasty lunches this week. PRM

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our 6th Homeschool Band Winter Concert

According to Dr. R, it was the 15th winter concert but, for us, it was the 6th. The winter concert is always a challenge because the Beginner Band has been playing for only 4 months. And often they don't play well together. And sometimes they don't play well alone either. It always reminds me of that scene in The Music Man, when the boys start play discordantly and a mother calls out proudly, "That's my boy on the clarionette." (I know that's not an exact quote.) Last night the Beginner Band sounded pretty good. There were only about 8 members and they stayed together. I remember the first one we went to, when Yakov was playing trumpet and Shoshie squawking the clarinet. The band was awful, just awful. And they were so proud of themselves. And so were we.

Now Yakov plays the bass and Noach percussion in the Advanced Band. Shoshie dropped out this fall after 3 years of oboe playing. The Advanced Band played very well. There are a lot of trumpets and they stayed together. Dr. R told me again what a leader Yakov is, how he has really helped the new bass player improve. I suspect this will be Yakov's last year. He will be 18 next fall. I cannot imagine not going to these concerts. PRM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Editor in chief

I struggle with helping my kids edit their writing. They get so defensive. We have been using IEW this year for N and S. And that has helped quite a bit. But Shoshie has taken the lessons to heart and now starts many of her sentences with phrases, but all too often they are misplaced modifiers. Her PSAT confirmed her need for a grammar program and I have ordered Analytical Grammar for her to start in January. She will hate it, I predict. She has hated every grammar program I have ever tried. Her spoken grammar is largely without grammatical errors but not so her written work.

Noach remains a constipated writer. When he was younger and I transcribed his narrations, he would narrate stories much longer and more elaborate than the originals. Now that I ask him to write his own narrations, he produces short and stunted works. Sometimes when we sit together to edit, I can get him to be creative and use the Synonym Finder to spice up the writing.
He is always allowed to use the keyboard, but perhaps I should man the keyboard when we are editing. I think I will try that next time. PRM


That was a quick week. I am trying to get everyone to a stopping point in their studies so we can take a week or so off then start anew in January.

I have lots of plans for winter break that largely involve cleaning. So these are not fun plans but I think I, at least, will derive some comfort from decluttering. The clutter has taken over the house and I can't stand it. It seemd like everytime I walk through the house, something falls down.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The last night

Pictures from outside and in, on the last night.
Until next year. PRM

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evolution and Natural Selection labs

We started Monday's lab with the Great Fossil Find. Here the two boys are trying to figure out what creature their fossils come from. The point was to see how biology can be unsure of the answers. You need more info. You need to work together.

We also did Teddy Graham natural selection. Always a tasty lab. After that we went to lunch together.

Tonight is the last night of Hannuka. The potatoes are grated and I am just waiting to start the frying. PRM

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend update

Saturday at 11:30, I met my friends for lunch and a birthday party. We sat at Macaroni Grill for about 3 hours, laughing, talking, etc.

Saturday night, we went to the shul for a latke dinner. It was fun to take a hanukiyot for each family member, making our table quite the glowing area. Many people had never actually seen an oil menorah and so were curious to see ours. It is cool, but a bit messy. The food was good and the company as well. The student rabbi was friendly.

Sunday was, as usual, a work day for me. JP and I went to the new Super WalMart to do some grocery shopping. He had never been there and I had only been once before. I really hate WalMart. I know everyone says that. But I have to admit that I have missed the old, messy, disorganized store that was close to us. If Target didn't have what I wanted, I could always say I was forced to go to WalMart. Now I can't - it's too far away.

I spent the afternoon organizing the school week and doing laundry. Then we had Chanuka at home with only Shoshie and Noach. I gave out gifts - games and homeschool T-shirts.

Now I am waiting for biology lab.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Went to shul

earlier tonight. There was a reasonable crowd so I didn't stay. It just felt sad. I still miss that community from the past and, perhaps more sad, is my fear that I'll never find that again. I hate that Noach will not study for his Bar Mitzvah with a small group of regular supporters who are there most Saturdays as was the case when Yakov, and less so, Shoshie were practicing. It's time to move on. PRM

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worth the overdue fine

I waited 3 weeks on the hold list and began it the day it was due, when I had finally finished reading everything else I had started. I wanted to give it undivided attention, thinking it would be a hard read. It was, instead, fascinating. A nonfiction page-turner. I read late into the night and sat at the kitchen table in the afternoon with my kids yelling my name in increasing volume.

I loved The Nine by Jeffery Toobin. Just enough inside gossip. The legal concepts were explained well for the novice like myself. His thesis is that the court is, and has always been, a political entity. The neutrality of the court system is a long held myth but a myth nonetheless.

To me, O'Connor's retirement and the changes that the court is currently undergoing are scary. I think the expansion of executive privilege is the scariest part. But I suspect that when a Democrat is president, the executive privilege supporters will begin to reconsider. I hope so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There's nothing more to say.

First night

Pictures pending.

We had fun. The first dinner was rushed because Yakov had a band practice. While he was gone, we played a rousing game of dreidel. Then we had gifts when he returned. After that, everyone watched old, lousy cartoons.

This week we are limiting screen time to one hour per day. The teens are bitching. It is too late to transform their interests. They do lots of other things and don't need to have computer time limited. Just because Noach should develop more interests, they shouldn't be punished. Etc, etc. I'm not buying it.


You know you're not swimming in the mainstream when

your teen's favorite ipod downloads are Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and This American Life.

Come on in. The water's fine. PRM

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday, December 4

Tonight is the first night of that eight day holiday with the varied English spelling. We have much to do today to get ready. We like to light many menorahs so I have to clear out a big space in front of the windows in the schoolroom, a very messy room right now. And I will need some more candles. I will post a photo later but the pictures from later in the holiday are better because of the larger number of lit candles. PRM

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Free Life by Ha Jin - Book Review

I really enjoyed this book. Sickness the latter part of the week finally gave me time to finish it. I had interrupted my reading to read my book club book, as well as a book I borrowed from the Country Inn and Suites library. That was the second book I have borrowed from the motel library. I like having a book choice in the lobby. Now to my review -

As I said, I liked this book. Nan Wu is a Chinese immigrant who cannot return to China after the Tiananmen Square incident. An intellectual, poet wannabee, he has to adjust to making a living and surviving in America. He also has a wife and son to support. While their lives are difficult, they do not want to return to China where the whole purpose of the government seems to be to annoy and inconvenience you. But they feel, and are, so vulnerable in the US. They have minimal insurance. They have few friends and their relationships with Americans are often hurt by misunderstanding or prejudice.

I have never read anything else by Ha Jin but I wonder if there is not a bit of autobiography about the book. He too immigrated shortly before
Tiananmen. The writing was very sparse. It sounds like what you would expect if Nan Wu had written his own autobiography. I will be looking forward to reading another book by this author soon.

It is interesting to compare A Free Life with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Both chronicle the adjustments of young male immigrants to the life and culture of America. Both are haunted by unfulfilled romantic entanglements. However, their reactions and choices are different. The never named Pakistani returns home with anger and a desire to destroy. Nan Wu wants to stay and find a way to succeed. He is often ashamed of his desire for financial gain and feels that he has sold out for the never completely attainable American Dream. At the conclusion, Nan has found a compromise, a rather menial job with insurance and a livable wage, where he can finally write his poetry. PRM

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I still can't figure out why my last post was so small. I'm curious to see what this one looks like.

Book club book - almost finished. Now I have to decide what food to bring. And prepare or purchase it.

Shoshie and I have been working on crossword puzzles. The Tennessean had the Sunday NY Times and the LA Times puzzles, with solutions, in the paper Sunday. I have almost finished the LA puzzle. I also printed a daily puzzle from the Wash Post. Shoshie worked on that one. She shares my interest in puzzles and games. We do the Jumble almost every morning. Even Noach participates in that. I keep looking for different ways to spice up the homeschooling day.

Every time I blog, I feel the pressure to come up with a clever blog entry title. I may switch to something more prosaic. That should take the stress out of it. I have been pretty faithfully blogging for several weeks now. A technologically-enforced break last week when we didn't have Wi-Fi but otherwise, pretty consistent. PRM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Font experiment

font nl
Times nl
Courier small
trebuchet nl
verdana nl
georgia nl

Back to homeschooling

We went back to work yesterday. There was less whining than I expected. But the expected amount of dawdling. Kids weren't up until almost 11. It is hard to finish if you start so late.

I spent too much time on the computer, trying to catch up with the too many blogs I read. I also need to read my book club book. The next meeting is tomorrow! I started yesterday afternoon and there is a lot to go.

I began to organize an American History course for Yakov to start in January. I am following some of the online APUSH syllabi. I wish he could take the APUSH exam but he cannot get prepared by this next May. He can certainly do the work.

Biology lab this week is genetics. I can't find a really good online tutorial. And I have too many lab options to choose from. Spongebob genetics vs dragon genetics vs pipestem babies. The choices! The decisions to make! There are worse things. PRM

And why is this post so small?

A few pictures

No gathering is complete without that baby. Here with Aunt Shoshie.

A lot of sitting around, often watching the baby. Here my son, Big E, and my brother.

Yakov and my dad.

"Who is that?" Baby with her mom and my mom, her great grandmother.

The food was good, too, but the company was the best! PRM

Monday, November 26, 2007

Home, at last

We just got home. It was a long drive with frequent rain and two separate episodes of thick fog. I am glad to be home. I feel so much more at ease when I am back in my usual routine, dreary as it may be.

I'll post some pictures tomorrow. PRM

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prep for the bigmeal

I drove the kids to my hometown yesterday so we can spend the weekend with my family. My older brother, his wife and their older daughter and her family will be here as well. Best of all, Big E, my oldest son, will be here with his wife and that BABY we all adore. We spent last evening with them. Today they are driving to Memphis to spend this evening with the Big E's dad and his family. They will be back for the feast tomorrow.

Today my SIL and I will be doing some prep. Her daughter will be here about noon. Kim, my niece, can just get things done. She is awesome.

JP flies in tonight. As do thunderstorms. PRM

Monday, November 19, 2007

Weekend Roundup

The sock is finished. It is too thick to wear with any of my shoes. I may look for a thinner yarn and knit a pair after Thanksgiving. Maybe after Channuka.

I took my kugel making on the road yesterday to Religious School. The kids helped make the kugel and then they decorated T-shirts for Hannukah while it cooked. Most of them were willing to sample the kugel when it was done. But the adults got the samples with raisins, the better kugel. Few of the kids would eat the raisin kugel. Lucky grown-ups.

Yakov and Shoshie returned from NO shortly before midnight. As always, they had a great time. And were unrested. They spent Sunday doing tzedakah, mowing yards in the 9th Ward. Apparently the city will do yard care for deserted lots but assess an inflated charge. If the landowner doesn't pay, then his property can be repossessed. Y was in the same area of NO 18 months ago and he said it looked different. Where he saw rotting homes, trucks on porches and other signs of devastation previously, he now saw empty lots. An improvement, surely, but not normalcy.

Biology lab later this morning. I vacuumed yesterday and only need to straighten the bathroom and the kitchen. Guess I'll do that now. PRM

Saturday, November 17, 2007

About that sock

I continue to work on it. Especially today. Hours. And hours. But I have turned the heel and am working on the foot. I wish my feet were smaller. And then I have to just do it all again! So cool. I have really enjoyed it.

Yesterday Noach ran a few errands and then I spent 2 or 3 hours getting ready for biology lab on Monday. I will be trying to teach them mitosis and meiosis. They will be able to look at mitotic cells from an onion root tip. I have created some chromosomes to demonstrate both processes. As always I just hope they get something out of the experience.

The religious school kids did the service last night at shul. They did an excellent job. We stayed for the oneg and visited with friends.


Friday, November 16, 2007

A bit of peace and a new project

Yakov and Shoshie got off to New Orleans mid-day yesterday. Not without incident but nothing too serious. Noach and I went to Velocity and came home to do the rather small amount of schooling that occurred yesterday.

I began a new project. I have looked on with envy the last few years as friends sat with their knitting projects and made such cool stuff. And of course, Danna is involved with knitting on another, professional, level. I want to do that, too! So Noach and I took our 40% off coupons to Hobby Lobby yesterday morning and purchased some yarn and knitting needles.

I know how to cast on, knit and purl but that is about the extent of my skills. I searched the internet for instructions to make socks, my goal for now, and found a site that purported to make sock knitting so easy even someone of my limited skills could succeed. How could I resist?

I worked for hours. I cast on, knitted, purled, screwed up and ripped it out. I must have cast on 10 different times. Maybe more. But I kept at it and NOW I have about 1 1/2 inches of sock top done. I'll take a picture when I get a bit more done. My finger tips hurt but it is so worth it! PRM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crisis time

It was crazy around here last night.

Yakov and his sister are headed to a YJ convention today and Y had not completed all his pre-convention work. This became an issue about 9pm. Not one to take care of things too early, he was in a state by 10pm. And of course, the older computer would not cooperate. And then he gets an email about his participation in the swing band and how they don't think he has been reliable enough.

He does need to develop some better organization skills. And I think the band, largely made up of middle-aged and older men, do not appreciate that Yakov, as a teenager, is not in complete control of his own schedule. When his parents make travel plans, he really doesn't have the choice to opt out and stay home. He loves that band. It is the only one he is in. We have made expensive arrangements for him to be at the next gig. So he is committed. But he is not the most organized.

And sadly, Yakov is nearly impossible to help with issues like this. PRM

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back home

We had a great weekend at Dan Nicholas Park. JP was on call Sat and Sun so the rest of us hung out. I will try a day by day rundown but will probably not finish it tonight. And I will try to add some pictures later.

We left the house about 3pm after the kids and I hooked up the trailer. I drove with Yakov following behind. It took less than an hour to get there. Then we BACKED it into a campsite. Yes, BACKED. Yakov started the process but I finished it. I was so proud that we were able to do it. My being able to back it in is an important skill that I need for a long trip, a long trip we may take next spring.

We had a pleasant Shabbat in the trailer. I baked a challah earlier in the day and we took it with us. The dinner was followed by many games of poker.

JP left very early, about 6am. The rest of us slept until 8:30. Weekday mornings I stay up after he leaves about 7am but as there was really nothing for me to do in the dark in the trailer, I went back to sleep. I needed that sleep.

We left the trailer about noon, after several more games of poker and some Racko. We had a terrible lunch but then we letterboxed Salisbury.There were 2 boxes planted and I had printed out maps to the parks where they were located.
We found them pretty easily. We took Jasper, the letterboxing mutt, with us.

We also went to WalMart to get some forgotten supplies, including a football and soccer ball. They played for a while when we got back to the park but we were run out of the parking lot
when the park closed at 5pm.

We played lots of poker and Racko. The kids fought over the computers where they could watch some movies adn Allison played Muggins with me and I played Connect 4 with her.

The day was much like Saturday. Yakov left to come back home about 2pm. He had some CC school work to do that he could not do without WiFi. Shoshie, Noach and I searched for 2 letterboxes in the park. We found the first one easily but there was no stamp. We could not figure out the clues for the second so we couldn't find it.

The evening was extra fun. After dinner, the two kids and I snuggled on the table/bed with popcorn and watched The Birdcage. The volume we could get was very low so we had to keep close and turn off all other noise. That included the furnace. It was quite chilly by the end of the movie. The French version, La Cage Aux Folles, is much better but the snuggling and popcorn made up for any theatrical weakness.

After breakfast out, we packed up to go home. Everything went well until the sewer hose broke as we were dumping. Fortunately, we were through with the black water. But it was kind of disgusting anyway.

The No Jane Austen Literary Society had their 2nd meeting, and first book discussion, at 3pm at the Kernersville Library. I thought they had a thoughtful, insightful, discussion. There were 6 teens and 3 parents. We parents largely stayed out of the discussion. They made plans for the next 3 months and will be reading some challenging material.

Finally, Noach had a Cub Scout Pack Meeting. Then we were done for the day. And the weekend. PRM

Friday, November 9, 2007

If you want to make me happy,

just take me somewhere or go along with me. I love few things more than travel. It doesn't have to be far or to a fancy place. But GOING makes me happy.

We have been rushing around for the last 24 hours getting ready to take the trailer down to S. where JP will be on call this weekend. The kids and I will keep ourselves busy with fishing(Shoshie), letterboxing, walking and reading. Also, we may go to the NC transportation museum. One of our 1st LBL field trips was there, many years ago.

I will have to drive the trailer with Yakov behind me this afternoon. The scary part is that I may have to back into the campsite when we get there. I am trying to decide whether to take a few minutes to practice in the largely empty parking lot of the recently replaced WalMart. Practice is always good, right?

I do not expect that we will have much internet access while we are gone so I may not be posting again before Monday. I 'll try to remember to take and then post pictures.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What DID we do yesterday?

Must not have been very exciting.

Noach and I played Take Off in the afternoon. He enjoys geography games a lot. Thus I have ordered 10 Days in Africa as a Chanukah gift. I also ordered some other gifts yesterday, t-shirts from Israel, jewelry, other games. Hannukah will be here soon. And I will not be ready. Oh, well.

Well, that was about it for yesterday.

So far today, not much better. Noach is lying on the sofa with a headache and dizzyness. I hope he does not have what I had 2 weeks ago. It was not fun.

New goal - to never spell Chanuka the same way in any post. Each spelling gives me a red underline like I can't spell so I'll just show 'em.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Biology, pizza, and then, engineering

Biology lab went well and very quickly. Two kids were absent and the other 4 just went to work. We were modeling DNA transcription to mRNA and then translation into amino acids. Twizzlers and colored marshmallows were involved. You know, colored marshmallows do NOT taste good. The kids like Twizzlers, though. And I have MANY left over.

University of Utah has the coolest website for DNA information. There are lesson plans and virtual labs. You can replicate DNA and there are visually appealing explanatory sites. It has really been a mother lode for me as I mined for labs and prelab instruction websites for the kids to look at.

After lab, as always, the teens headed outside to socialize. And we moms chatted. Someone mentioned getting pizza on the way home and, the next thing I knew, we were all at ZPizza. I recommended ZPizza because they have generous-sized, cool-ingredient slices at $1.50 for lunch. They were only $1.00 when they first opened but they are a tasty bargain at $1.50. Yakov met us there as he was coming home from GTCC classes.

We had a great time lunching with our friends. Another perk of homeschooling.

I had volunteered to help Noach's Webelo II den meet the requirements for the Engineering activity badge. So off we went to Cub Scouts at 6:30. Shoshie went with me. The boys got to build an electrical circuit with a Dcell battery, lightbulb and on-off switch. They also built a block and tackle and saw how that decreased the energy needed to lift a weight. And, best of all, they built catapults out of shoe boxes and launched marshmallows at the wall, and inevitably, at each other. Nasty tasting colored marshmallows were ideal for this. I even sent some home for boys to launch at their big brothers at home. Good riddance.

It was a good day. PRM

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday morning biology lab

Most Monday mornings, I get up a bit anxious. At 10:30, it is time for biology lab. Six teens, including one of mine, comes into my kitchen and we examine, model, or discover something in biology. My challenge is to find informative and fun stuff to do. There is so much on the web these days that I have largely been able to avoid using any kind of textbook. I also have to keep at least one lab ahead so I can give them material to read before the next lab. Usually I email them web sites to look at before the next lab as well.

They are fun to be around. I really like teens. At least in small groups.

And a large part of my anxiety each Monday am is making my house presentable for company. I have to get the kitchen clean, vacuum the living room for the moms who wait and clean the guest bathroom. It's good to have to do those tasks occasionally as they are often avoided until outside pressure or fear of humiliation supervenes.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Backtracking a bit

Since this is the "Traveling Jews" blog, I thought I would backtrack to our most recent trip. We returned last Sunday night from a week away. This is the view from our hotel window. That is the lake in the background.

At first we were in Chicago. JP was at a meeting and Shoshie, Noach and I wandered the city. This is a picture Shoshie took at the aquarium. That is a cool place. Highly recommended. We went to the planetarium briefly but I was having terrible vertigo and had to go back to the hotel for several hours.

Then we flew to Tampa for the end of the week and the highlight, if I may say so. Somebody had a first birthday. What a beauty! What a sweetie! My son, the Big E, and his wife have given me the BEST grandbaby a bubbe could hope for. I can't wait to see her again. Is that not the sweetest face?

Saturday, November 3, 2007


We tried out the new student Rabbi today. She seems to be very sweet. I have heard that she is a very good teacher and the kids like her.

Of course, it is not the same as with the old Rabbi. Our family really misses him. When we were visiting my MIL
early last month, we drove from Memphis to see him and his wife. Rabbi seemed to have settled in nicely. His wife, perhaps less well. Noach is considering having his Bar Mitzvah in Hot Springs in 20 months. He prefers Arkansas to Israel. I prefer Israel but Arkansas will certainly be cheaper. There are other issues to resolve before we make a committment but Hot Springs remains high on the possible sites.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Movie break!

One of the experiences I miss from homeschooling my teens when they were younger was movie afternoons. We went fairly often. No crowds, often just us. Feet up, munching popcorn. It was fun. We don't do that often enough now. The big kids are going in so many different directions. They also want to see films that are either not appropriate or not appealing to the younger guy.

But today we found a movie we could all see, at least the 3 of us at home. Dan in Real Life. It was fun. Enough goofy romance for the teen girl and enough silliness for the preteen guy.

Shabbat evening tonight and services with the student rabbi tomorrow. PM

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Letterboxing, star gazing and trick or treating - What a day!

We placed 2 new letterboxes yesterday while with our friends. They will be in the Forbidden Forest series. I have to spend some time today writing out the clues from my notes before I post them on the letterboxing sites. My friends will critique my clues before I post.

The best part was checking out our previously placed box. It was so cool to see how many people had found it. There are only 3 logged finds at Atlas Quest but there were many more finds in the logbook. Really exciting.

Noach went trick or treating with his friend whose dad accompanied them. One hour and such a bag of candy. Looks like today will be a hard-to-stay-on-task
school day.

Yakov had to go to the observatory at his CC to fulfill an astronomy assignment last night so his sister and I met him and his girlfriend there. We saw the Holmes Comet, a star cluster and a nebulae, but I can't remember which one. It was cool. I love to go there. They have observations every Friday night that it is not cloudy. But, of course, we are busy on Friday night and can rarely go. There is nothing like looking at the sky to remind you of the majesty and power of G-d but there is nothing like our family sitting together and singing Shalom Alechem at the dinner table to bring the beauty of Shabbat to mind and heart.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trying again

I am going to try to blog more often now, perhaps sharing our homeschool life as well as our travels.

Today we are planning to letterbox with our friends. We placed one letterbox this summer and will place another today. Our friends have found most of the local boxes so we are doing this in order to get together to letterbox. We will be doing very little school. Maybe that will be a plus.

I have been out of sorts since we returned from our last trip, late Sunday night. Not enough sleep. Frustration with getting people to do what they are supposed to do without REPEATED demands to do so.

We'll see how it goes with more frequent blogging. The fact is I am not a very verbal person. PM

Monday, July 30, 2007

USS Yorktown and scrapbooking

Noach and JP went to Charleston with the Cub Scout pack and spent Saturday night on the Yorktown. JP is quite interested in military things. Noach sat in many planes and guns.

They slept here.

Just another reminder that people should have their children when they are younger than we were when ours were born.

They had fun.

Well, I had fun too. Shoshie and I had a scrapbooking party Saturday night. I worked on our travel trailer and recent trip book. Shosie actually spent the time trying to knit a sock, preferably one that will fit her foot. A bit of a challenge, it seems.

New trip starting next weekend.


Friday, July 20, 2007

I am sad

Tomorrow is the last service with the much beloved Rabbi. As the small congregation has gotten smaller, we cannot support a full time rabbi. And so Rabbi Fox and Carole will be moving to Arkansas.

If I am a successful Jewish parent, i.e. my grandchildren are Jews, then I will owe much of that to Rabbi. My children have, with little complaint, continued to go to religious school most Sunday mornings long after other Jewish teens have quit. And it is because they look forward to talking with him, hanging out with him. I asked Yakov a few weeks ago if he was through with religious school now that he has finished confirmation and he said no,
I think I'll checkout the new rabbi before I decide. May he always think of Rabbis and shuls as sources of interest and knowledge and good times.

My heart is heavy as I recall the Shabbats while Yakov and Shoshie were preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Jake, doing the old Jew dance, and Jean, now both dead. Of course, they were each nearly 100. Danna and Madeline. The Bialiks. So many people who have shared our Shabbats and moved on. I am so glad we have the group trip to Israel to remember. That I will treasure forever.

And we will go to Arkansas and see the Rabbi and Carole next time we go to Memphis. Maybe Noach can have his Bar Mitzvah there, if we can't talk him into going to Israel for it.


Tonight is the night

We have been waiting for the new Harry Potter, like so many millions around the world. JP and I have heard the first four books on long family trips. But that was years ago. Then last month I wanted to catch up in anticipation of this last book. I did not have time to read them all but that was in the back of my mind when I bought a copy of the first book at the Scholastic warehouse sale in June.

So I decided to read 5 and 6. I had to get The Order of the Phoenix at the library since Lizzy, in a fit of pique peed on the hard cover copy we had. Yakov then convinced me that the 5th was too long and the plot too convoluted to be worth the time. He gave me a 3 minute synopsis and said I could start the 6th, which I did.

Noach wanted me to read it aloud to him since he really doesn't have the patience to read it to himself. I started but we were running out of time. Right before our trip to Boston, I managed to get a copy of the CDs from the library and we listened to them on our trip. Yakov was happy to listen also. I had many questions since I had skipped the details of the 5th book. Subsequently I saw the movie. I'm sure much was left out but I think I have the important stuff.

Now it is time for the finale. I am a little sad about that. But still anxious to find out what happens. This morning Noach, Shoshie and I sealed in an envelope our predictions for who will die. I predict Snape to be good but to die. I think Bill Weasley and Hagrid are doomed. I hope none of the central three die.

Well, the HP stories have had a good run here. Shoshie was an early reader when we got the first tapes, yes, tapes. She really improved her reading fluency listening and reading along. I have no doubt she would have been a reader without HP but she has enjoyed the books. She has read the Redwall books nearly as much.

So in a couple of hours, we will get the last book. And Noach and I will steal it while she sleeps to read it aloud until we finish. Which may take a while.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

First Letterbox Plant

This is so much fun. On Monday, Noah and I planted our first letterbox. We decided to follow our other current interest, Harry Potter, as the background. Recently Noah and I walked through an area with lakeside trails off East Fork Road. It seemed like the perfect "Forbidden Forest". I think we can find unicorns and werewolves and, perhaps even a whomping willow, well maybe not a willow.

We walked about a mile and found a place to hide the box. Noah put it between three trees growing out of one trunk - FLUFFY! We looked for some other HP connections.

Yesterday we went with our friends who were using our clues to see if they can find it. They did.

This morning I edited the clues a bit for clarity and interest and posted the box on Atlas Quest and I hope someone finds it soon and lets us know. And I have my next stamp so we need to get ready to place another.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

My baby's comin' home

Tomorrow. I missed her.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Back Home

I drove all the way home from Connecticut yesterday. We had a lovely time visiting with family.

I left Yakov at camp in Boston. What a crowd! It had not occurred to me that here would be so many campers. The lines to register were long and it was hot. And Yakov was out of his usual element, a little unhappy. BUT,
as Noach and I were trying to get back to the turnpike, we caught sight of him one last time and there he was talking to 2 guys. He will be fine. I envy his social skills.


Friday, July 6, 2007

On the Road

The boys and I spent the night in Delaware, on the road to Connecticut, and finally Boston.

We stopped on I-85 at the Virginia Welcome Center and found a letterbox. Sadly this may be the only one we find this trip. It is unfortunate because the boxes are abundant in CT but we just don't have time.

Pictures to follow


Tuesday, July 3, 2007


This is a new interest for me. The kids are less enthusiastic. I have picked out 2 boxes that are on the way to Boston, both at rest areas on I-95. I hope we can find them. Yakov has not done letterboxing - he was always too busy to go with us. Perhaps he will be intrigued.


Fireworks Camp

Now here is the camp for Yakov from today's NY Times.

A Summer Camp Where Fireworks Are the Point

I hope Berklee can measure up to this. It will be hard.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

A New Trip

We will be taking a new trip in a few days. Noach and I will be taking Yakov to his summer camp in Boston. We will be leaving Thursday and staying Friday and Saturday nights with my aunt in Connecticut. I am trying to find some cool site to visit Thursday on the way north. We may cross the Chesapeake in some new and different way.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 14 Going home

We left early, at least for us and proceeded to drive for 10 1/2 hours home. We could not get a one night reservation on the road for Memorial Day weekend and we thought about just staying in a WalMart parking lot. But with temperatures in the high 80s it would have been a sweaty and miserable night without AC. Soooooooo, we drove all 449 miles. We got gas on the road, a new venture for us in the Kurgan and the 33 foot trailer. Takeout was not an option but these days many truckstops have Subways and McDonalds. Ummm, tasty eating. And nutritious. I know, Subway is not too bad but the line there was so long I couldn't get anything and had to have Fritos and a piece of Marble Cake. I was rather desperate at that time.

I drove some but JP negotiated Baltimore and DC like a pro. The bad congestion started in Virginia, just outside DC, about 30 mph for at least an hour then it broke up.

Now we are home. A was sick Friday. Now JP and I have it, a rotten cold.

We learned a lot, had some fun, and had some testiness between family members. Like at home, I guess.

That's all folks. PM

Day 13 Philly

We left early to catch the train. The ride was a little over an hour. We had reservations for a guided tour on this -

It was a quacking good time and lots of time quacking.

After lunch, we visited the Liberty Bell. There was something very emotional to me about seeing this. It really doesn't have major historical value but it is such a symbol.

We had 3:30 tickets for Independence Hall. The tickets are free but required.

Thomas Jefferson was in this room. As was Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and so many others. They produced a wonderful document, the Constitution. To sad that it is so undervalued by those in power now.


Day 12 Reconnaissance and Rest

We took much of the day off. Our plan is to go to Philly in the morning and we needed to investigate the train stations, measure the travel time to the train, etc. We started this rather early and had breakfast out.

This is Chef MacJon's Dinner close to the Downingtown train station. Turns out this is the site of the diner scenes in "The Blob". And, yes, there is a cellar in which Steve McQueen, his girlfriend and the chef were trapped by the monster. The food was plentiful and quite tasty.

Later, A and Yakov went canoeing on the Brandywine River which flowed through the campground.
There they go.

Here they come back, an hour later.

Jasper and I spent the time exploring the waterside. He fell in several times and, generally, had a blast. I couldn't take a picture of him because I couldn't let him go and he was too wriggly for me to get a picture while holding the leash.

It was a good day. PM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 11 Strasburg

We drove through Amish country to Strasburg where we went to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and rode a steam engine train through the countryside. Saw lots of horsedrawn plows and wagons. But I forgot the camera and all the pictures were taken by phone. I can't post those pictures until we get home.

Everyone thought the museum was really cool - lots of BIG machines. They had GG-1 4800 which is a very famous train locomotive. Picture to follow. Noah drove the locomotive simulator. No accidents occurred.

The train ride was about 45 minutes long. We chose the open air car, a good choice since it was a lovely day.


Day 10 Martin guitar factory

Nazareth, PA is about 85 miles, mostly north of here. It took 3 hours to get there and 3 hours to get back. "Why?" you might ask. Well, it is because the maps and reality so seldom match. The roads are narrow and winding. They seem to change numbers willynilly, especially in the middle of each small town.

But the trip was worth it.

It seemed like a cool place to work even though much of it is assembly line work.


Day 9 Move to West Chester

It was a pretty drive through the small towns of the Pennsylvania Dutch country. Otherwise not too eventful a day. The new campground is on a hill with the campsite rather narrow and generally uncomfortable.

After we arrived, A went fishing in the Brandywine River which went through the campground. She caught a whopper


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Day 8 Gettysburg

Now I am caught up with posting.

This was really cool. We had a personal guide who got in our car and drove us around for over 2 hours describing the 3 days of battle. I had tried to read about Gettysburg before but was always confused by this ridge or that one, or this General(Confederate or Union?) or that one(Confederate or Union?). Very hard to keep it all straight. Much clearer now.

JP and I were discussing how we find ourselves rooting for the Confederates, native Southerners and all, and yet, obviously we would not want them to have actually won. That would have been a travesty.

Tomorrow, we move to West Chester, PA, our last move.


Day 7 Rain, rain, go away

This was another moving day, from New Market to Gettysburg. The rain started about bedtime the night before and continued through most of the day. Made unhooking and getting on the road a real pain.

The new campground has WiFi for a price, which we do not pay initially but finally gave in.


Day 6 Now THIS was fun

We went rafting on the Shenandoah River. This was not whitewater rafting. It was much too calm. We paddled and floated for about 2 hours. Beautiful and fun.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 5 New Market

Yakov was ill today and did not want to go sightseeing this am. So JP, A, N and I went to the battlefield at New Market.

This battle occurred May 15, 1864 and we were there May 16th. There is a big re-enactment weekend this weekend. This battle was the last significant victory for the Confederacy and is most notable for the participation of the cadets at VMI who were put into battle, including being on the frontlines at one point.

This is the Bushong house. The family hid in the cellar while the battle raged in their wheat field right behind the house. It is so hard to imagine these battles as rows of men just slaughtered each other.

Later we picked up Yakov who was feeling a bit better and went to the Endless Caverns.

There are several cavern attractions around here. We chose this one because it seemed the least tarted-up.

This is the entrance, built in the 20s. The flowers are pretty but hard to see in this picture. I am still working on my pictures.

One of the pretty formations. A "curtain" colored by iron oxide. I have another that looks like pus on a wound. I'll save that one for later.

Later, after dinner, A went fishing and caught this. She was very excited. With a few phone calls for advice, she managed to get it off the hook and back in the water, no doubt to the fish's relief.


Day 4 Moving Day

On Tuesday we left Crozet and moved to a KOA between Harrisonburg and New Market. This is another really pretty place and the WiFi is much better.

This was the first time we put down the awning. Putting it up was a challenge. There was the threat of thunderstorms so we felt like we needed to put up the awning before going to bed.

N and A have discovered a new hobby.

We stopped in Harrisonburg at the Super Walmart and bought supplies which included fishing gear. That was quite a trip, manuevering this big thing through the parking lot.