Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading Challenges for 2009 - Part II

Now, the second part of my plan is related to our decision recently to stop getting our local newspaper. This was a difficult decision - I have been reading the daily newspaper since I was a kid. But the local paper has become so uninformative that I just can't justify keeping it. And, yes, I know I am contributing to the demise of print journalism, something I am not proud of. But I hate to keep paying more money for a product that does not satisfy. I tend to read the NY Times online with a few other blogs and online magazines daily. We can even do the Jumble online each day.

So I am challenging myself to keep up with other print material we continue to get at home, either weekly or monthly. These include

1. The Economist - I subscribed about a month ago but it has not started arriving yet. We have subscribed to the Economist before and it seems that after a few weeks I get behind and can never catch up. I challenge myself to read it weekly. It is a joy to read. You can learn so much about parts of the world you rarely even think about.

2. New Scientist - I replaced Discover with this weekly that should start any day now. I challenge myself to read this one weekly as well.

3. The Atlantic - I usually do get this one read, unless I carry it somewhere to read and misplace it. That seems to happen too often.

4. Hadassah Magazine - I get this with my Hadassah membership. I only joined to get a discount on camp tuition for the kids but this magazine has some good articles almost every month. I'm going to keep up with this one as well each month.

So that's it, my reading challenges for 2009. Also to read my monthly book club book. And to just keep reading novels and nonfiction. And memoirs and travel books. As the saying goes, Too many books, so little time. And magazines. PRM

Reading Challenges for 2009 - Part I

First, I plan to take the Jewish Literature Challenge. The rules are as follows -
What: Reading at least 4 books by Jewish Authors or about Judaism

When: December 21, 2008 (Beginning of Hanukkah) to April 27, 2009 (End of Passover)

My tentative list includes
1. The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman - This one has been on my wish list at paperbackswap.com for months. Finally I checked it out at the library Saturday and have started reading it already.

2. O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre - This one has been on my TBR shelf for awhile. Time to get it down and read it.

3. Four Mothers by Shifra Horn - I stole this title from someone else's list. The library had it and it looks good.

4. My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel Sabar PRM

Monday, December 29, 2008

Triple 8 Reading Challenge - Wrap Up

Last January I decided to take the Triple 8 Reading Challenge, to read 8 books in 8 categories in 2008. That would mean reading 64 books. Or at least 56, since up to 8 can qualify for 2 different categories.

I read 52*. I didn't actually meet the challenge. But I still think that is quite an accomplishment. And I didn't include any books that I read to or with Noach.

The reading challenge had the desired effect, though. I kept reading. I found the categories restrictive, but in truth, I got around that by eventually having categories that allowed me to read whatever I wanted to. I think that was a bit unfair and I am not proud of it, but frankly, it worked for me. And I met MY goal which was to read more.

What was my favorite? Foreign Correspondent by Geraldine Brooks

Which did I think I would never finish but couldn't quit either? Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright

What YA book should every teen read? The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Shermie Alexie. This book is a close second to my favorite. I loved this book.

Highly recommended? Purple Hibiscus, Does my Head Look Big in This?, Bel Canto. I could go on.
Next - plan for 2009. PRM
* oops, corrected count, that I hope is right now. And what the hell is wrong with the font at the end of this post?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Chanukah

Homemade applesauce, made with Granny Smith apples, and latkes, potato and zucchini. The latter looked more like hash-greens, according to Yakov.The dreidel pinata takes a whack from Shoshie. I bought the candy so it's filled with cherry and mint kisses. And some tootsie roll pops for everyone else. Nothing for the dog, who required restraints and removal. PRM

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

From last year. New photos soon. PRM

Monday, December 22, 2008

First day

The first night was done at home without me. I am with my parents in Tennessee because my 91yo dad has had a stroke. He will be going to a rehab center this afternoon and I will be coming home tomorrow. So our first mama's latkes and applesauce evening will be Tuesday. PRM

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A little word of warning

to other homeschooling parents. If your son/daughter wants to go to college, keep good records. Write down every book, every movie, every play. I wish I had.

Now, back to the course descriptions - was that Hamlet or Macbeth we saw? I remember it being dark and warm and I was a little sleepy. And it was 3 years ago.

The only consolation in all this - Noach' s college application process should be a breeze. Unless I get sloppy again. PRM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

A little brighter and a little bigger. PRM

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last physics lab

Yesterday we did the last of the physics labs before starting biology in January. I don't think I did a good job with physics. I have done biology several times so I think I will do better.

I was looking for something fun and pretty to do on our last day. There were only 4 kids there so I divided them into 2 groups. We did this experiment, Seven Layer Density Column by Steve Spangler, but I only had 6 layers. I had the kids take 100ml of each liquid and get the mass. We put them in order, from most dense to least. I explained density and then we played with the liquids. Which ones mix, which ones layer.

At the last we added each of the 6 liquids in order of density, making the pretty column. I had failed to notice that, according to the groups, the water had more mass than the Dawn detergent, so they were added to the column in that order. When poured the Dawn, it nicely distributed between the water and the corn syrup, making an "ohhh" moment for everyone.This picture comes from the play time. Of course, I forgot to get a picture of the very pretty 6 layer column.

Finally we had a group lunch with everyone bringing lunch and treats to share. It is such a pleasant group of families. PRM

Friday, December 12, 2008

Having biological fun

This week we did one of my favorite labs, Egg-cellent Ideas for Osmosis and Diffusion from The Science Spot. Noach is reading about cells and cell membranes.

First we dissolved the eggshell of 2 eggs in vinegar. After finding their mass, we took the naked eggs and put one in blue water and the other in karo syrup. They were refrigerated for 24 hours and then examined and the mass measured again.
Egg 2, was placed in syrup, which was hypertonic relative to the egg white. Water passed through the membrane by osmosis and the egg was somewhat deflated. It was 11.9 g lighter. We also noted that the karo syrup had a layer of water on top of it, because the water was less dense than the syrup.
Egg 1 which had been in blue water was tense when taken out. The membrane was thick and blue. Water moved into the egg because the water was hypotonic relative to the egg white which has proteins dissolved in it. The egg's mass increased only slightly, 4.7 g, but that was enough to make the blue water inside the membrane to squirt when pierced.

Science fun! PRM

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh, a pretty butterfly

Thank you, thank you to The Ridge School where one can always find such beautiful photos.

Well, I spend too much time each morning with my favorite blogs and it is very hard to tag only a few. Many have already been tagged and I am trying not to re-tag anyone. Just link back to me and then tag your own favorite blogs, up to 10.

Learning Through Living
- always inspirational.

Derfwad Manor - just perfect for a morning chuckle

The Thinking Mother - almost makes me miss living in Connecticut. Almost.

Now back to trying to get Yakov into college. Who knew how much paperwork the schools were doing for the high school senior that I am trying to do now. And I don't naturally speak educationese. PRM

Wordless Wednesday

Why we finished the basement - for Dad and his Boys.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dear Aunt H,

Uncle J and A,

Thank you for letting me stay with you during our recent trip. It was nice to wander around your house, nap on the sofa, and eat out of my own dishes rather than being penned up in a kennel with a bunch of noisy stranger dogs. I am glad I was able to meet your neighbors on our pleasant walks. I wish I could have spent more time with Kiki, Sammy and Tammy but I appreciate their sharing their home with me. I still wonder what a hamster's butt smells like. Maybe next time.

Love, your doggy nephew, Jasper

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Reminiscing in Clarksdale during our recent trip

JP and his mom looking in the window of his zayde's store in downtown Clarksdale

The bus station where the child, JP, would arrive from Memphis to visit his Bubbe and Zayde

Crossing the Sunflower River

He has what strange cats want

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just in time

the periodic table pillowcase is finished so it can be shown to Grandma and Aunt H over the holiday. Some additional decorations may be added later to the background. The radioactive elements are noted by glow-in-the dark paint. This cool project comes from The Elements by Ellen McHenry, which was first brought to my attention by Lorna.

We are finishing The Elements soon and may do a bit of biology before continuing with Carbon Chemistry. My young lab kids will be doing biology after the winter break so I may try to coordinate Noach's lab and home science for awhile. PRM

Monday, November 24, 2008

Of course, I forgot my camera

but we did do a bit of lab this morning. The teen chemistry lab was canceled because so few could come. There were only 3 younger kids as well, so I planned a fun lab. We raced balloons. It was another chance to investigate force and friction. I think they had fun.It didn't look like this but I like this picture anyway.

We will be shutting down for Thanksgiving and not resume until next week. PRM

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Well, it was an eventful trip

Our 3 day trip turned into a 5 day trip when our flight home was canceled because of mechanical problems with the plane. This episode involved several hours in the Tampa airport, as well as a bit of time on the plane. We got as far as taxiing toward the runway when there was a loud loss of sound. It was amazing how loud the sudden loss of noise can be. The agitation of the other passengers and the general situation really began to frighten Noach who was glad to finally leave the airport and go back to oldest brother's home.

We took an extra day, Sunday, to relax, and came home mid-day Monday. Noach was still pretty nervous about the flights. Any unexpected noise caused him to ask, What's that?

We did have a wonderful time with our family, oldest son, the Big E, his wife and 2 year old daughter. We got lots of hugs and kisses. She loved to be chased through the house by Noach. This would provoke a joyous shriek that could almost break glass. I took a number of pictures but most are out of focus because 2 year olds keep moving. Every little girl should have an uncle who will get down on the floor with her. Noach was an enthusiastic participant."Look at me, Flacco." Flacco is getting a hair band. Every little one needs a sweet, tolerant dog to play with, too. Flacco, aka Hendrix, is a wonderful companion for a little girl.

We are glad to be home, but looking forward to our next trip in 3 months. PRM

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Be prepared for Bubbe snuggling. Noach and I will be there this afternoon and we are primed for some snuggling. Bubbe, AKA PRM

Monday, November 10, 2008

Purple Hibiscus - Book Review

I have worked hard at completing the 888 Reading Challenge this year. I don't think I will complete it but I will be close. I chose Young Adult books as one of my categories and I have read some real treasures from that list. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a favorite.

Last week I finished another Young Adult selection, Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi that I could not put down. It is a coming of age story set in politically restless Nigeria. The young girl, Kambili, and her brother, Jaja, live with their financially successful father, who is publicly generous, but privately tyrannical and fanatically religious . Kambili's life is rigidly controlled and largely joyless until she spends time with her impoverished aunt and cousins. There she finds laughter and love. She finds religion that can be joyous rather than restrictive and legalistic.

The exotic setting is well-drawn and dramatic. One feels the heat, sees the beauty of the purple hibiscus and smells the unfamiliar foods.

It is a gripping story and the end is hopeful as the family, now without the domineering patriarch, can see a better future. PRM

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Noach and I did yesterday

With apologies to Mason Williams
See them vote toters
Ain't they sumpin'.
Toten' them new voters
Toten' em in bunches.

I met mild-aged voters who had never cast a vote before. Yesterday they felt like they had a voice, coming from someone like themselves. Barack, like Martin, they were on a first name basis. PRM

Our long national nightmare

is coming to an end.

Obama took North Carolina into blue territory. I saw young men and women, college students mostly, who worked loooong hours to accomplish that. They deserve our thanks for their dedication. PRM

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This is it

And it has been exciting. But I am anxious that it won't go well. And I am ready to move on to the next thing.

But for today, Noach and I will be carrying voters to the polls. We will be doing what we can to get these men elected. For my children's future. For my country's future. For Israel's future. PRM

Monday, November 3, 2008


There are two Think! challenges this week. We don't have any marshmallows but we have plenty of candy.
If you have it, use 5 pieces of Halloween candy and 5 toothpicks and 2 straws to make an animal, real or imaginary. You may use scissors in construction but not in the solution. You may not use any other materials but you may use anything from your Halloween candy! If you don't have Halloween candy, use whatever you'd like to make an animal.

Here is Noach's CANDI-LION. PRM

Friday, October 31, 2008

Science is beautiful, too

The Hubble is sending pictures again. PRM

Oops, I forgot

to mention in my post yesterday, how much we enjoyed listening to the Periodic Table of videos.

Noach and I were reading about sodium and lithium so we watched the sodium video where you get to see sodium burn in water. There was lots of popping, flames and bits of metal flying. The best part of the video was the background laughter of the scientists as they reacted to the explosions. I swear it sounded just like the videos Yakov sand his friends make when blowing stuff up.

Science is fun. And in 25 years, Yakov could have that hair.PRM

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Singing the praises of

The Elements by Ellen McHenry. I first heard about this science curriculum last spring from Lorna at Socks and Books. She often commented on it on the WTM boards and that's how I found this and her wonderful blog.

Noach did the sample chapter at the end of last school year and then continued with the rest this fall. We have enjoyed it. Currently we are in the process of painting a periodic table onto a pillowcase. Noach is not fond of crafts so it is a slow process. We have had difficulty finding glow-in-the-dark paints for the radioactive elements, but there is one more store to try.

Here it is. A work in progress.

Doing high school level chemistry, Shoshie is using Chemistry Matters from Singapore this year. I found their explanation of atomic structure to be inadequate and unclear and so did she. Thus she is reading several chapters of The Elements this week and next. Yesterday I heard her exclaim, "Oh, that's what a valence electron is." Noach responded, "Yeah, you didn't know that?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I voted early

JP and I went to vote yesterday morning. The wait was about an hour. It was an interesting assortment of people, white, black, Asian, Latino, skinhead, dreds.

There was an older gentleman (I use that term out of politeness) in the line, who used to work with JP, a man I think is responsible for the regular Messianic mail we get at the house because he was always trying to share the word with JP. JP is more polite than I who would have told him to cut it out the first time. This man came over to speak with us, mostly to bad-mouth the organization that both he and JP have subsequently left, but also to make sure that we had heard that Obama's Kenyan birth certificate had been found. JP reminded him that McCain was born in Panama. PRM

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In the works

So many IMPORTANT ongoing projects-

1. Yakov has to apply to colleges SOON. This is our first homeschooler to do that and it is vedddy scarrrry. How to present him, this very special boy, who has never met a stranger, reads Machiavelli for fun. He can play practically any instrument but no longer wants a career in music. He loves blowing things up and videoing it. Maybe I should keep some of that to myself.

2. Yakov has to apply to colleges SOON. He got his SAT scores this morning so maybe he will finally start applying. He has been rather unmotivated and I'm hoping his good scores will change that.

3. Noach will be Bar Mitzvah next summer. We finally made a decision on the place. Now I have to get everyone's schedules for next summer and find an available weekend when his siblings will be in the US. I expect the window of opportunity to be narrow, perhaps 2 or 3 weekends. And then, what kind of event, where, ...?

It never seems as overwhelming when you write it down. So why am I waking up in a sweat many nights? PRM

Monday, October 20, 2008

Funday Monday

We didn't quite get to Fun Friday last week. Just one of those weeks, I guess. So we decided to start the week with Funday.

The Think! challenge for this week uses 12 straws and 12 inches of tape to raise an egg at least one inch off the table. We only have bendable straws and raw eggs so the tension was high.

Noach created this. It's a little over 1 inch high. PRM

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sukkot and parenting

Many years ago, before my conversion, JP and I were walking in NYC, close to Battery Park. There were all these little booths, canvas-sided most of them, small, with tree limbs over the roofs. Lots of black hats around and lots and lots of children. JP explained that it was Succos, a Jewish holiday with which I was unfamiliar.

Sukkot was not a holiday I was particularly educated about as I was converting but it has become one of my family's favorites. It is holiday to celebrate the harvest, the bounty of G-d's world.

Most years we have built a sukkah on the deck. For years we had a latticework and beam contraption that we stored under the deck during the rest of the year. It was hard to assemble and required extensive scouring of the neighborhood and beyond to get enough schach, or leafy stuff, to put on top of the sukkah. You should be able to see the stars through the leaves at night but there should be ample shade during the day.

A few years ago, we switched to an aluminum frame, one made to be used as a canopy at the flea market. We hang canvas tarps for the sides and I sewed strips of burlap together to form a top, which can be thrown over the aluminum support pieces. It is wonderfully easy to put up. And to take down, sometimes weeks after the end of the holiday.

We eat in it, serve guests in it and sleep in it. Some years it is too rainy to enjoy. Some years the nights are bracingly cold for sleeping. Some years it is too hot to sleep comfortably. This year the first 2 nights were warm and the weekend nights have been rainy.

Last year we missed putting one up because we went on a family trip to Chicago. The year before that was one of the best years. We slept in it several nights and I read The Trumpet of the Swan aloud each night.

I want my children to remember Sukkot. I want them to think about sharing the sukkah with their children, hanging decorations from the roof and walls, and sleeping in the cold. I want them to think about what they will miss if their own children do not grow up as Jews. PRM

What if he is?

I have to remark on Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama today because it was so eloquent. Powell said he had heard prominent members of his own party spread rumors about Obama's religious belief and Powell said,

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
Powell went on to say,
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.
Finally, someone needed to say it. What if he is? PRM

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shhhh, don't tell Dad

but we have put up the sukkah as a surprise for his birthday dinner tonight. PRM

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fun Friday

Fun Friday was limited yesterday as I was recovering from a bit of arthroscopic knee surgery. I had to keep my knee iced and elevated so Noach moved a tray table to my bedside to do his work.

He did Think! Challenge Week 6. His bridge held 161 pennies. The challenge was to be measured in quarters but we didn't have that many quarters so we had to do some MATH! Quarters weigh 5.7g and pennies weigh 2.5g. He converted the 161 pennies into 70.6 quarters-weight.

Noach was a good and enthusiastic helper yesterday. He has gone on a scout camping trip today and I will miss his help. But I am MUCH more comfortable moving around today. PRM

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

The Queen does not walk around to the pet door. She will wait patiently for her royal attendants.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Energy lab

The physics lab students learned about potential and kinetic energy and the transformation from one to the other.

The pop-up toys, with their springs,were easy to illustrate this.

Then they played with Darda cars. They store energy in a spring also and this can be used to race through a loop, or loops.

Finally you can use gravitational potential energy to do the same.