Titus 2 School?


Honestly, there are very few things I learned at college that have proven useful for my everyday life as a mother of 7. I know G-d has had His hand and His plan leading me every step of the way, but sometimes I wonder about all the facts I crammed in at the university that are sitting somewhere in my brain, currently gathering dust. However, I’ve had some funny thoughts rattling around this week, about what I DO use, and thought I’d share them.

Here are the courses I actually get some use out of, on a semi-regular basis (all were, of course, elective classes – not requirements, in college):
Children’s Literature – I took this course as a total “filler,” during my last summer quarter at the university, but it did introduce me to some great books and authors that I have since acquired for our family library. (Here’s a gratuitous plug for my favorite children’s book that I found through this course, “How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen” by Russel Hoban.)
Acting Voice – useful for interpreting the different characters in the books mentioned above
Fencing – I am the mother of 5 boys – yes, this has been an occasionally useful skill to break out when I need to impress them!
ESL (English as a Second Language) Tutoring – translates well to EFL (English as a First Language)

And there, we stop. However . . .


I have come up with some ideas for classes that actually would have come in VERY handy. I would love to propose that something along these lines be taught in some kind of “Titus 2 School” for young mothers. Here are my humble suggestions, in the form of a course catalog, of sorts. Feel free to offer some of your own in the comments. This list is by no means exhaustive:

One-Handed Typing – Useful for maximizing computer time while nursing a baby.

Records Management – Includes building your photo gallery of children’s art projects (before their disposal), and filing options for unexplainably sticky but necessary records.

Businesslike Home Management – Chore charts and their implementation, perpetuation, and rotation.

Toy Obsession Workshop – Coaching against covetousness.

Strategic Bandaid Placement – Level 1: On the body of a child (wounds optional). Level 2: The stockpile – where to keep it so it doesn’t dwindle unnecessarily and contribute to litter.

Prioritizing – Practice addressing questions such as “Which cry do I answer first – that of the hungry infant or the toddler on the potty?”

Delegation – Emphasis on capability evaluation, training, and assigning the youngest capable child for each task.

Crisis Management (prerequisites: Prioritizing and Delegation) – Determining your course of action in multiple-implication emergency situations that can have no possible advance plan, i. e., one of your children breaks a bone when you have a houseful of company to feed and your toddler needs a diaper change. (This course was formerly known as “Counter-Ambush Training”)

Battlefield Triage (highly recommended for mothers of boys) – Covers first-aid and CPR, as well as wilderness treatment options. Includes ingraining of the mantra “head wounds aren’t usually as bad as they first appear.”

Dressing (and Redressing) a 3 Year Old – Learn to guide appropriate choices according to weather, time of day, etc.. Also covers “overriding skills” in the event of guidance failure on important occasions such as weddings and funerals, as well as photography skills in the event of children freelancing in their closets and drawers.

Finances of Childhood Pet Ownership – Covers making arrangements (before the pet’s purchase) for who will be paying for food, litter, vet bills and toys, as well as remedies for when the agreed payor runs out of money, but the animal is still hungry or sick or bored (aka “alive”).

Leadership of Group Study Time When your “Group” Includes Toddlers – Handling interruptions with grace, dogged determination, and an abundance of review questions!

Answering Ridiculous Questions with a Straight Face – Test questions include: Why does stickiness turn into hair? Mom, is this my east hand? and Can you milk a gecko?

Rapid-Fire Decision-Making 101 (a skill building workshop) – Strengthen your responsibility muscles! Will help with split second risk-assessment, short-range cause and effect projection, long range projection for bystander (younger sibling) witnesses of prospective permitted activity, the irrevocable veto and qualified permission using a signed waiver when faced with the question “Can I? Huh? Can I?”

Rapid-Fire Decision-Making 102 – Will include a field trip, grocery shopping with four or more rapping advertising agents at your side.

Micro-biology of Food Off the Floor – Will discuss the so called “3-second rule,” as well as the variations between floors of kitchens, bathrooms, cars, and outdoor surfaces. (Please include a pocket stopwatch with your purchase of the text for this class.)

Small Construction Projects – Building a sound-proof phone booth out of extra closet space, building prize-winning floats for entry in your local parade, and assembling toys late at night before the birthday party. If time allows, there will be discussion of whether any useful written instructions are ever exported from China.

Political Science of Sibling Relationships (prerequisite: Middle East Politics) – Covers advocacy, dispute resolution, hostage situations, and discusses the varying interpretations of the verse “. . . a brother was born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
What have I missed?


Sibling Challenge

Shabbat Shalom!

It’s before 7 am on Shabbat morning, and I just changed a diaper. All is peaceful and quiet at my house – like it was for most of yesterday, amazingly!

Usually, since there is so much to do to prep for Shabbat, Fridays are generally our least “peaceful” day of the week. I think that to a certain extent, G-d wants it that way, since it sets up the contrast with Shabbat! However, my Friday yesterday was an unusually peaceful one, due to the fact that my older four children decided at 9:30 in the morning that they would use the day to try their friend Kolby’s “sibling challenge.”

Kolby is a 14 year old friend of ours who is writing a blog you can find here: The Sibling Challenge. It is a challenge for siblings, based on The Love Dare from the movie Fireproof. Check it out!!

I’d like to publicly thank my children (and Kolby) for my relatively peaceful Friday. I suspect that my children had a bit easier time of it because they were all doing it together, but I know they did have some tough moments (especially because the two year old doesn’t get it). Good job, kids!!

And thank you, Kolby, for stepping up and making kindness and self-control

PS – In reference to my previous post, maybe we should try to start a “Body of Believers Challenge” next?

And now, for a total departure . . .

Hi again, faithful readers! 😉

So sorry – I’ve been a bit busy lately.  Just to get up to date, my darling 5th boy (and 7th child) joined us on January 28 – 18 days “late.” He is a complete and total joy, and a reminder of why I keep going through all this. We are learning so much on our walk lately, accompanied by the blessing of faithful family and friends who have been joining us for celebrations, observances, and lots of fellowship and growth! Since I last posted, we have come through Purim (a blast, celebrated at the local Children’s Museum), our family’s first Bat Mitzvah/Bat Brachah ceremony for our oldest daughter’s 13th birthday, Passover (hosted by us – a mere 30 people this year, and a wonderful experience), Firstfruits/Resurrection Day (picnic at a fun local park), a visit from my grandparents who live in Florida – in their 80s and still going strong.

Anyway, my honey just walked in the door for dinner, so I’m going to cut this short and paste my note to a friend who asked for recommendations for vacation spots in Washington State.  In case you need ideas, here you go!

Here are our top 10 suggestions (ok, 12):

1. Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend – you can either camp or rent space in barracks, infirmary or officers’ quarters.  Very fun, not too pricey, close to cute little waterfront town, marine museum onsite, cool old theater, officers’ quarters museum (house preserved historically as 1910-ish), woods, beach, big open field, close to Waterfront Pizza – our fave restaurant in town, plus lots of fun houses to drive around and look at and events going on all summer.

2. Suncrest Resort, Moses Lake – (number one suggestion from my crew) It’s a campground (mainly RVs and trailers, but our friends did tent camp there). There is a very cool pool with waterslides.  Check the weather prediction first. Kinda in the middle of nowhere, with a totally different climate than we’re used to.

3. Washington Park, Anacortes – like being in the San Juans, without the ferry fare – but still with the ferry fog horns – be forewarned! Great playground, beautiful woods, Nice rocks to climb around on.

4. Birch Bay State Park – Fun little resort area, Seaside feel, waterfront cotton candy and fudge, muddy beach to inspect. There is a waterslide park up there, but it was for sale last year.  Not sure if that’s operating.

5. Seaside, OR – a little further, but lots of fun – carnival rides and arcade, a similar option still in Washington is Ilwaco.

6. Silverwood, (Coeur d’Alene?) ID (more pricey, and further away, but lots of fun, if you want to go a little bigger) Just one step down from Disney – half amusement park, half waterpark, and very well done. You can get tickets a little cheaper through Costco.

7. Leavenworth KOA – Close to, but not in Leavenworth. Pool, game room, great playgrounds, short hike to the Icicle River beach, fun to poke around in the hat shop, etc. – More expensive than other camping, though.

8. Coho Ferry line from Port Angeles to Victoria (you’d need passports and/or I.D. pass cards for this) – From Port Angeles, you could drive up to Hurricane Ridge and all over the peninsula, though, and the Hoh Rain Forest, too.

9. San Juan County Park, SJI – A little-known, but beautiful gem close to Roche Harbor (location of fun marina, great little store and donut shop, historic hotel) and lighthouses to walk to, pretty little cove and big grassy field above the Strait of Juan de Fuca

10. Camlann Medieval Faire and Snoqualmie Falls (camp/stay somewhere near Carnation/North Bend?) – Have you guys been to Camlann? They are starting their Medieval Village weekends this coming week, and they run all summer, weekends only. Candle-making, archery, jousting and swordfighting – to watch or participate in, scribe, costume shop, soaps and flower wreaths, iron forge.  It’s just a few miles from the Falls. North Bend, nearby, also has a short train ride on an antique train.

11. Cama Beach State Park, Camano Island – We’ve never stayed here, but have walked through it.  A bunch of little cabins on the water, low, pebbly beach, outpost for Wooden Boat Center (can rent rowboats/canoes), little store. No camping option available, but the nicest state park bathrooms EVER – Cedar ceilings. Amazing. Cute village effect.

12. Kayak Point State Park – We camped here for Shavuot last year. They have a campground, and also nearby yurts that are a great option.  Down the hill (a hike down stairs from the campground) is the beach with huge playground, big fisherman’s dock, picnic shelters, etc. Totally insane on the weekends – I’d say midweek only.

OK, so obviously, my vacation choices revolve around water – but hey, it’s what the kids want, right?  And we’re in the Pacific Northwest – it’s everywhere! Strangely enough, our Israel trip was one long swimfest, too – Mediterranean, Galilee, Ein Gedi, Jerusalem YMCA . . .

You can also look up summer events and festivals for the state, and follow what interests your family.

Let me know what you pick!

“Overdue” . . . again!

Here I sit, in a familiar place.  I am officially “overdue” with baby number 7.   Babies 1-6 were 11, 16, 10, 19, 18, and 9 days “overdue,” respectively.  I am relatively at peace, though I would love for this little one to arrive any time.  I’m getting better at not calling a false alarm every time I have twinges.  I am waiting for positive signs besides those.  The twinges are stronger every day, so I know I’m getting closer, but have learned to hold on to my peace better, the longer I do this.  Trying to control things only results in more false alarms, as we’ve found.  All the “labor induction” techniques in the world are only time killers, at best.  At worst, they set up a pattern of false expectations that come to nothing and end up making me and my family more on edge for a longer period of time – and believe me, I’ve tried most of the methods, over the years.  It just gets to be too much of an emotional roller coaster, the more we set our hopes on anything but G-d to bring the little one.  Ironically, my last baby, after I decided to just wait and not try any kind of intervention, came the earliest of all.  If I match that, it will be at earliest, two days from now when I deliver.

Just for fun, here’s a list of labor induction techniques I’ve tried: Walking, Nipple Stim/Nursing, Homeopathic Gyna-Matrin, Prostaglandin Gel (never again – not kosher!), Spicy food, Pineapple in Vast Quantities, Membrane Stripping, Evening Primrose Oil, Swiss Kriss – (basically herbal castor oil), time with my husband, Pressure Point Massage, Raspberry Leaf Tea, Black/Blue Cohosh, Eggplant, and don’t forget good, old-fashioned Pitocin, which admittedly works, eventually, but at what a painful price!  I’ll leave this open-ended, so I can go on adding things as I remember them. . . (Oh, yes – we attempted to try acupuncture once, but were blocked from it at every turn, and understood we were being led to abandon that one.)

Anyway, I’ve decided it’s not my job to decide when my babies come.  I have evidence all around me that they DO, eventually, join the family.  Frequent check-ins from well-meaning family and friends, asking if anything is “happening” yet, while admittedly kind of fun at first, tend to make me grumpier about it, the longer I go – I TOLD you, I will CALL when it’s TIME!  While I truly appreciate all the prayers and thoughts being sent my way, it tends to make me feel pressured to perform in an area where I have proven I have no real control. G-d knows the perfect time to bring the little ones (although mine tend to be affirmatively not so little, after so long).

I would SOOOO love to be surprised with an early one, just once, but then again, I would probably be totally unprepared, since I count on having this in-between time to get ready.  I also put off lots of back-burner projects until now, partly to keep from going stir-crazy, that would not get done, if I had an early one once.  Thankfully, this month, I also have the distraction of two other birthday boys to focus on.  I made it past the first, already, and the second one is this coming Shabbat.  I still need to wrap some gifts for him, but I think everything else is pretty much ready.  We have the new family picture (taken last July) on the wall at last, the laundry room – and sock basket – are far more empty than usual.  The refrigerator has been cleaned, we’ve had some wonderful read-aloud times lately, and though my “nest” doesn’t stay clean with 8 of us messing in it every day, that’s probably a good thing!

The latest distraction is the beautiful snowfall we’ve had the last couple of days.  We are expecting “Snowmageddon” tonight and tomorrow.  Sounds like perfect baby-delivery time to me! My body doesn’t like to be on stage.  It would prefer that everyone be focused on something else, so I don’t feel like a watched pot that refuses to boil.  Laid-back and alone are how I prefer to labor.  I truly don’t think I would mind being snowbound and doing it nearly on my own.  I have less fear going into this labor than all my others, and am frankly looking forward to it.  I am thankful for all my labor experiences up until now, as they have taught me so much about myself and G-d’s design for my body.

I find it terribly interesting, how birth circumstances, in scripture, seem to have something to do with the character of the person being born.  The naming process is also fascinating, as naming (and sometimes REnaming) people is such a prominent theme, as well.  Just the names, birth circumstances, and blessings of Jacob’s 12 sons are enough to keep studying those topics indefinitely.  And my husband and I have noticed that our own children’s names – for which we asked for guidance – have definite pertinence to who they are as individuals.  The one whose name means “praised,” for example, needs verbal affirmation in his life, and is incredibly sensitive to verbal correction.  Understanding the names G-d led us to for each child has been key for us, as we have learned how best to parent each of them.   All that to say, yes, we’re still working on name selections for the new arrival, as well.  (If this pregnancy lasts much longer, perhaps I’ll post on some of my observations in scripture on these topics!)

I’m sorry if this post has been more navel-gazing than thought-provoking.  It’s just part of where I am these days.  Turning inward to center, focus, and get ready to push! 🙂  Just waiting to see who this little one will be, and how and when G-d will bring about the appropriate birth and name to give us a glimpse into the personality joining us.  I feel it’s an honor and a privilege to be trusted with yet another little life to lead into knowledge and practice of His ways, to the best of our ability!

Happy Birthday, Honey!

OK, so I’m feeling a little left out, since I can’t wish you Happy Birthday on facebook this year.  I’ll try to make it up to you by giving you a blog post all your own!

Happy birthday to the one whose hand I’m holding (sometimes more tightly than others) as we ride this roller coaster of life together.  I am more convinced every day that you are the most fun, easiest man to be married to EVER, and your way of seeing nearly everything as an adventure to be experienced, a challenge to be met, or a reason to laugh at ourselves makes it all great fun to wake up next to you each morning!  I am blessed to be your wife, and want the whole world to know it! I love you!

Thanks for leading our family as G-d leads you, liking lots of children (more specifically OUR children!), eating what I cook, and being my hero in everything from squashing bugs to pulling our trailer through the mountains!

(Hopefully the picture lives up to your online protocol, and hasn’t given away your secret identity! ;0)

Now I’m off to make your German-Chocolate Chiffon Cake and prep for Shabbat!  See you soon!

Why I REALLY Quit Facebook – and What I’ve Done Since

no more facebook for me!

“‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said the Lady of Shalott.” – Tennyson

If you were at one time one of my “facebook friends,” and are reading this post, you may remember that when I quit facebook almost two months ago, I cited reasons like “the new format stinks and I don’t have time to figure it out,” “I can’t find my people anymore,” “I am concerned about my privacy,” and “my family needs me more.” I really can’t remember what all I put on there. I have recently heard that some friends have expressed concern that I succumbed to the “facebook is evil” school of thought, and pulled the plug for that reason.

In actuality, though, while each of these issues was indeed obnoxious and did influence the tipping of the scales, what happened for me was simpler, and I’ve decided to share it with you here, since I didn’t have the guts to actually post it ON facebook.

Here it is:
I received a special batch of irresistible “friend requests.” They were packaged in a small wax-paper bag, and were sitting next to my laptop one day when I went to log in to facebook. Each was cut down to business card size, and each had a crayoned face drawn in the corner – they were the faces of each of my children and my husband. With each familiar and beloved name, there was a choice underneath – I could choose “confirm,” or “ignore.”  My (then) 11-year-old daughter was the one responsible for crafting the requests, mostly because facebook looked like fun to her, and she wanted to participate, too.  As so often happens (for me, anyway), asking myself if I was acting as I would want my children to act in my place helped to put things in perspective.

I wish I could say I responded immediately and closed my account at that moment, but sadly, the power facebook wielded in my life was such that I couldn’t do it right then. To my shame, I still waited more than a year. I thought I would be able to merely reduce the time spent there, and be OK.  But let me tell you, those paper friend requests were a LOT heavier than the electronic kind. The conviction that I would ultimately trade in my time on facebook for time with my family gradually grew, and each time I logged in, I began to weigh the value of the time I spent there against the time I was simultaneously missing with my family.  At last, I decided to accept those paper requests and deny the electronic ones.

Yes, I’ve had a few moments of regret since – but very few; lots fewer and farther between than I had when I was on facebook regularly, for sure.  They come when I know someone just had a wedding or a baby, mostly, and I want to see their pictures.  Kind of ironic, if you think about it. . . that the things that draw me to facebook are the very things I am ignoring in my own life to go there – husbands and babies – things I know to be the important things.  Torah requires us to “Teach (these things) to your children  . . .  when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way,” which I think implies our children should largely be included in our daily lives.

I began this post with a quote from Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott.  I think it is an interesting picture of facebook.  The lady of the story is locked up in a tower, forbidden from participating in her own potential life, because she is assigned the task of weaving a beautiful picture based on what she sees reflected in a mirror.

The Lady of Shalott

I must say, I have really enjoyed getting back to “real life” without the preoccupation with the question of how to frame what was happening for my “facebook audience.” My head is a lot quieter, and I feel like I have freedom once again to fully engage in what’s going on around me.

Without facebook as the “default” setting for what to do with my free time, I’ve gotten a lot more creative! Here is a list of some of the things I’ve done with my “free time” instead:

1. Crocheted a blanket (my first EVER!) for my new little one’s upcoming arrival,

2. Played “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano (with plenty of hesitations due to lack of practice, of course!),

3. Helped my family complete a 550-piece puzzle,

4. Beat my 11-year-old son (only once, by one point) on the new “Pop-A-Shot” game my parents gave the kids for Hanukkah,

5. Laughed with my daughters and husband over the hilarious “Bad Baby Names” blog,

6. Organized a 5-city, 10-day tour of the US for friends visiting from Israel,

7. Posted to my blog for the first time since April (twice, now!),

8. Watched (and listened to) my children playing together,

9. Supervised them better, and taken more time to teach needed skills,

10. Listened to my husband say the words, “Thank you for leaving facebook.” Repeatedly.

Lots of love to my friends still in “facebook-land,” but I envy you less every day. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still hear from my real friends, too.  Maybe not on a daily basis, but when we talk, we are able to have honest conversations and catch up without the presumption that we know what is going on inside the other, simply because we’ve read each other’s “status.”

Because I was once an English major, I’ll close with a quote from another poem that I found to be on-point:

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,

But often, in the din of strife,

There rises an unspeakable desire

After the knowledge of our buried life;

A thirst to spend our fire and restless force

In tracking out our true, original course;

A longing to inquire

Into the mystery of this heart which beats

So wild, so deep in us — to know

Whence our lives come and where they go. . .

Only — but this is rare —

When a beloved hand is laid in ours,

When, jaded with the rush and glare

Of the interminable hours,

Our eyes can in another’s eyes read clear,

When our world-deafened ear

Is by the tones of a loved voice caressed —

A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,

And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.

The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,

And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.

— Matthew Arnold, from The Buried Life

Shalom, Shalom

So this is my first post . . . hopefully I’ll be better at updating than my sister-in-law, who never got further than this – so far! I’m beginning this blog because I have had some interesting thoughts occur on Torah-related topics.  I googled all of them and came up with NOTHING – so apparently, these are new thoughts that haven’t yet occurred to any blogger or journalist in this day and age, so I thought I’d put them out there to see what others think, and to give others something to find when they google their revelations!

Allow me to introduce myself – to a point.  I am Rivkah, a 2nd-generation homeschooling, Torah-observant mom to 6 beautiful children under 13.  I hardly have time for this, except occasionally in the middle of the night.  I am a “fruitful vine wife” to my husband Ya’akov, and we are nearing our 13th anniversary!  I am blessed to be his bride and the momma to our children.  I am trying to love the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and have experienced His miraculous healing power.  I love Israel, and the Hebrew language, and am looking forward to the complete restoration of the whole land and people of Israel, as anticipated by the prophets and apostles throughout the scriptures!

Of course, there’s a lot more to me, but that’s a good view of my core.

I hope you enjoy my blog – and I hope I do, too! 🙂

Oh, and I hope you all had a Happy Passover!