Monday, February 22, 2016

Homeschool Curriculum. History, Geography, Science and More.

      A friend of mine who has recently begun her own homeschooling journey, recently asked me what I do for History, Geography and Science. In the beginning of our homeschooling experience, I have to admit that it did take me a good two years to get the image and expectations of traditional schooling out of my mind. What homeschooling looks like in every homeschool family will drastically look different from one another, simply because no two families are alike! The children are different, have different needs, some with special needs, different habits, different hobbies, different attention spans, tallents... the list goes on and on. For our own family, I knew that the way a traditional school runs, with desks, a set schedule, a set curriculum and even following the Common Core, was definitely not going to work for us and would even extinguish their love of learning. Despite knowing this, as I mentioned before, it still took me quite a while to gather up the courage to teach our children in a completely different way. one that looked entirely different then that of which you may find in traditional school.

      So what does our day look like? For starters, we personally do not follow a set schedule and the clock poses as just a suggestion. For some homeschooling families, following a set schedule with specific times works for them, and that's wonderful, but families need to realize that what works for one family may not work for another and that's fine too. What I do have, is a visual list of the subjects that ideally I would like to cover for that week. It's also an easy way for the kids to pick and choose how they would like to schedule their day. Like any teacher in the classroom, with children on multiple levels of learning, I walk around and go from one child to the next and offer assistance or guidance when needed, as well as teaching subjects in "group learning". No, things are not always calm, or go according to plan, but we definitely do our best. By the end of the year when I look back, as I make sure the portfolios are in order, I am always pleasantly surprised with how much we have learned and how much we have grown as a family.

      Sometime during the summer, before the start of the new school year, I take out my two large wall calendars. One calendar is for the family which has everything from doctor appointments to art classes on it. The other calendar is the one I base our homeschool year of learning around. I begin by marking in all of the Jewish holidays (if they are not already listed), then I fill in all of the Chassidic holidays or special days. (I also take note of the weekly Torah portion.) Once that is done, I pencil in which books and resources I plan to use for teaching the upcoming special days as well as when I would like to start. These include books on the significance of the actual days, laws and customs, history books and even science books. You would be surprised at how much history and science alone you can cover this way, all while keeping a beautiful connection to Torah.


      There is a secular History website that my kids have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. I allow them to pick what interests them, and after we have disgussed it, we write down what they have learned. and add it to their portfolio.  www.havefunwithhistory.com

      Another incredible resource that a mother recommended to me a couple of years ago, is www.learningally.org . If you have any child in the family with any sort of reading disability or learning disability, this is a gold mind. There are hundreds of books covering every and any subject for all ages. I can't recommend this site highly enough. I very much prefer a Charlotte Mason way of learning, so this has also been an easy and relaxing way to enhance the children's education. www.amblesideonline.org offers a free curriculum for every grade which I also like to use as a guidline. Keep in mind that when they say "year 1", "year 2" etc... it does not necessarily go by grade, but rather by level.

      For Geography, my all time favorite is to use a variety of different maps with musical audio CD's by Kathy Troxel. I knew I was onto something a few years ago when my then, preschooler and first grader, proudly began to sing all of the Northern border, Southern border, Easter border and Pacific states.

      When any kind of educational audio CD is playing, it is also a great time to encourage quiet creative play or art. I try to include which different audio CD's would be appropriate for certain times during the months on our homeschool calendar, ie, stories of Chassidim, holidays, weekly Torah portion etc, but I have not done this every year. Sometimes it's just easier to go according to my iTunes playlist that I put together according to the Jewish months. Even when the kids or mommy are feeling under the weather, they can be logging school hours from audio books and educational CD's.

      For foreign language we have chosen to stick with the Hebrew language, however, since having special needs kids, a few years ago we have added sign language to our curriculum as well. There are a few really nice sign language apps, but my absolute favorite way to teach kids sign language is to use the Signing Time videos by Two Little Hands Productions. I have used them for years, and only recently discovered that for $10 per month or $100 per year, you get full access to their entire DVD collection. Her DVD's have been a life saver for us. www.signingtime.com/subscribe  Who knows, maybe one of our children will even decide to take this further.

      A wise homeschool mother once told me that about every six months, she stops to re-evaluate the growing needs of her family or if they need to adjust or change the curriculum in any way. One year I was so excited to follow a specific book series for Jewish history that I had found on Artscroll. It worked great, but about halfway through the school year, I sensed the kids needed a change. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can adjust things as needed as soon as you feel the need, whether it's the curriculum, the room where your typically do your homeschooling or the seating arrangements. We typically float from the dining room table, to the couch, to the carpet, to quiet reading in bed, and in the warmer months, to the great outdoors. (One of my boys finished reading most of a specific book that I had assigned him, while lying down on the outdoor trampoline.)

      What would my advice be to homeschooling families just beginning on this journey? Relax! I definitely put too much pressure on myself in the beginning and my expectations were too high. I was tense, the kids were tense and academics definitely took the front row seat in the house, when there is so much more to homeschooling then that. There is Midos, character, responsibility, household chores, Derech Eretz, connecting with each other, working on family dynamics, being a mentch and simply cultivating a love for Hashem and His Torah.

      No matter which path you choose, whether it be homeschooling or traditional schooling, may we all be blessed to have Shalom, peace in our home, nachas from each other, a home full of love, laughter, joy and simcha. May we be able to raise children who constantly feel the love of Hashem, see the beauty of Torah experience it's warmth and understand its depth. May we merit to welcome Moshiach speedily in our days.  

L'chayim

-Matana B
                                                                                                                              Photos by Mendel B




       

     

   

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Are Children with Special Needs a Financial Burden?

      When we were dating, newlyweds and then young parents, like everyone else we were full of ideas of how life (and jobs) would look. Both my husband and I are very passionate teachers. I wanted to pursue a degree working (ironically) with kids with special needs, and my husband is blessed to be a highly skilled, lively and passionate teacher with whatever age group he works with. It's not that I consciously dismissed the possibility that maybe I wouldn't be able to pursue a profession that has always been dear to my heart, I just flat out never thought of different possibilities that life may throw at us.

      Over the years we have gotten many comments on having a larger than normal family. One of the common questions have been, "How can you afford them?" and "Aren't they [special needs kids], a financial burden?" "How do you manage?" Sometimes I am not sure whether they mean financially or emotionally!

      If there is one lesson that I have can say I have learned in life (and am still working on), is that you can't argue with G-d. Whenever we plan something big in our family, I have learned to pray that if it's really not in our best interest, that G-d please intervene and show us that we are on the wrong path. When it comes to finances and earning a living, it is our job to make the "Kaylee" or vessel, to do our utmost in providing for our family and making our home a "Mikdash Me'at" a place where G-d's presence can rest, and then the rest is up to G-d. It really is. No matter how many job interviews you go to, no matter how many letters are after your name, If the Master of the Universe has decided that you will earn a certain amount, there is really no arguing. Again, it's our job to get up and do the utmost that we can in providing for our family, but we need to remember that if and when things don't work out the way that we had in mind, perhaps G-d is trying to tell us something. Change our focus. Change our outlook on life, our expectations and perhaps even to adjust our goals and dreams. Realize that we are more vulnerable than we thought we were, that indeed, we are not in control of the many things in life that we thought we were, and that's ok.

      Let go. I remember hitting a rough point in life, wondering whether we would loose our house, and where the next meal was coming from. I realized that I just need to let go. It was a lot easier said then done, especially since my personality is to fight with whatever curve balls may come my way. In the beginning, the more I fought, the more difficult things became. I finally did get the message though, and when I hit that Ah Ha moment, a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.  It's not giving up, it's recognizing that you are doing everything that is humanly possible and just saying to G-d, "Ok, I have given it my all, done all that I can (or at least I think so!) I am tired. I am drained. I feel broken. Please G-d, take my by the hand and guide me. I need your love, I need your arms around me. I need your compassion. Please show me where do go and what to do, for I need your help."

      Are children with special needs a financial burden?
      Let me ask you this.
      Is life a burden?
      No matter what your answer is, know that tears are ok and there is a something greater waiting for your embrace.

- Matana B

                                                                                                                                     Photos by Mendel



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gittel's Story

      I was sitting in the waiting room of our Dr's office, waiting for the nurse to call us back. Gittel and I were there for her 14 month well visit. I watched as she ran up and down the small waiting room, excited that 2 other little girls were there for her to play with. They were a little shy, but Gittel ran up to them with a big smile and initiated play with them. After a while Gittel came running back to me, as is normal for typical kids to do, almost to reassure herself that mommy is still there and keeping a watchful eye on her. Content after a few snuggles and a quick sip of her sippy cup, she headed back to play with the girls, but this time, as a few more people had entered the waiting room, she stopped along the way to say hi to them as she lit up the faces of a few seniors. This went on for almost an hour until we were finally called back.

      When the nurse called us, I called Gittel, who turned immediate and came back over to mommy as the two of us followed the nurse. I picked Gittel up and carried her back, as she was a little nervous, and seemed to sense a little suspiciously something was up. She responded to my reassuring hugs and loving whispers. She watched the nurse carefully as we took her weight and I answered the usual questions. When the nurse left, we continued to play in the small office as we waited for the Dr. We sang a couple of her favorite songs, she explored the office a bit and we walked up and down the hallway while we waited some more. Pretty soon it was our turn to be seen.

      There was a gentle knock on the door and the Dr walked in. At 14 months, most of the questions were about her development and her overall health, which thank G-d, seemed to be right on track. There was also the basic autism screening questioner, which, ever since Sruly, I see both as a relief and somewhat of an annoyance. A relief, because as soon as the kids are born, I am scrutinizing their development and thank G-d relieved when I see everything is developing as it should and happy to answer the questions. A bit of an annoyance, because as the parent of a child with sever autism, for goodness sake, I can write the questioner, and it would be a lot more detailed then the one they have!....Not to mention that most of the time I seem to know more about autism then they do, so just ask me point blank on if I think she is at risk or possibly on the spectrum. What they should be asking the parent is, if the child may be at risk for vaccine injury based on their health history. How many rounds of antibiotics has the child received since birth etc... In our case, she had received  two rounds the previous year due to strep, so pumping a child such as this the whole year with the typical vaccine schedule in hindsight, is like playing Russian Roulette. She was otherwise thank G-d a healthy baby. She nursed beautifully (full time!), no acid reflux or need for Zantac, no skin issues, no thrush etc... Even with all of these questions it may still be difficult to predict what the outcome of a vaccine may be.

But instead I waited patiently and answered the questions.

Dr: "Is she making eye contact?"

Me: "Yes."

Dr:  "Does she respond to you when you come into the room?"

Me:  "Yes."

Dr:  "Does she seem interested in other kids? Does she play with them?"

Me:  "Yes."

Dr. "Does she use her hands or fingers in an inappropriate way?"
I love this question. What they are trying to ask is, does the child exhibit any stimulatory behavior?

Me: "No."

       After a few more questions, and thank G-d an uneventful visit the Dr said the nurse will be in shortly to administer the vaccines which Gittel is due for. He wished us a good day and walked out. Soon the nurse entered and asked us if we were interested in the chicken pox vaccine that day in addition to her MMR. Thank G-d I said no. I am honestly not sure what went through my mind then and why I said no so quickly. I had not even thought about it prior to the visit. (I only learned later that you never give two live vaccines in one day.) The nurse didn't seem to mind that we turned down the chicken pox vaccine and proceeded to prepare the vaccine for the MMR. Gittel briefly cried as I held her close, reassuring her with soft words and hugged her. The visit was over. When we got home, Gittel seemed understandably a little worn out, however that evening she developed a fever.

      By the next morning she still had a fever. What was more worrisome to me, was that she stopped looking at me and just sat on the floor not wanting to do much else. She didn't look to distract herself with her discomfort, and despite the pain killers I gave her to bring down the fever, she didn't perk up when the fever went down. She wasn't responding to me trying to engage with her. She almost seemed like her world had consumed her. Alarmed, I mentioned this to my husband, hoping he could make this stop, or pull out his crystal ball and tell me that she would indeed go back to herself soon. He responded that he felt she was just feeling under the weather and would soon perk up.

      By day two the fever was still there. I watched with a sinking heart as she failed to respond to her name. She just sat there. She looked sad and miserable. I wondered if she felt confused. Oh how I wanted to know what she was thinking. What was going on in that brain of hers. What was she feeling? What was hurting? What did she want me to do to help make her better? Still no eye contact. I got in her face, cooed, laughed, did our usual funny games, but to no avail. She didn't respond to our chase games or the thrill of Mommy coming to chase her. She wouldn't even smile. She still cried when she was hungry, and those intimate moments of nursing I treasured dearly. Somehow instinctively I knew I needed to help flush out her system, so I began with the most natural and soothing thing I knew. We stopped all solid foods and went back to strictly nursing around the clock. She was all too happy to comply.

      Day three the fever was still there. I was almost pleading with my husband to see what I was seeing. I was hoping I was wrong, but I was scared. I was scared that I was right. My husband still tried to reassure me that she was not herself because she was still under the weather. She not only stopped eye contact, she avoided it! No smiles, she stopped responding to her name, she didn't respond to our usual fun and games, she didn't even stop to watch her siblings, let alone interact with them. She seemed to be just dealing. Dealing with what life had just thrown at her. With what life had just thrown at us.

      After 3 days, her fever subsided. For the next couple of weeks I kept trying to interact with her, to engage with her, to get eye contact, smiles, something! But there was nothing. She moseyed around the house in her own little world. She was busy. Very busy. Almost alarmingly busy. Before all of this she used to knock down the occasional book from the bookshelf, as do most buys toddlers, and when caught in the act by either my husband or myself, she would giggle and scream in sheer delight knowing that we were coming closer to get her and tickle her away from her little game. It was her game of both exploring and of successfully capturing our attention. Now, however, she seemed like she was on a very serious mission to wipe out the entire bookshelf over and over again and stopped responding to our playful drama in coming to get her. It was during one of these episodes about 3 weeks after she received her shot, that my husband finally realized that I wasn't just being overly worried. There was indeed something alarming here..... and all too familiar.....

       Once my husband realized, it was then, that everything suddenly seemed official. Until then I was hanging on to the small hope that perhaps I really was just worrying too much. It was then that the tears began to fall. The next few months were full of prayer, supplements, therapy and more prayer. We did take her to specialist who confirmed mild Encephalitis, but I was too afraid to take her back to her original Dr, assuming he would just dismiss our case upon hearing that it was vaccine related.

      I was beside myself. I couldn't believe this was happening to a second child. How could I have been so stupid 12 years ago in letting the doctors convince me that vaccines were still safe. That the pros very much so outweighed the cons. That all of this would have happened anyway. I once again found myself in tears before G-d. "Please," I begged, "Don't let this happen to another child." I don't think I have ever asked my Grandmothers who have passed away, to help me beseech G-d and ask Him to help, but I did. I began praying and asking my Grandmothers and a dear and special Great Aunt to please daven for her as well.

       A few months went by, and thank G-d she began to smile again. During this time we continued with supplements, therapy, nursing, praying and more praying. One night, after a couple of more months had gone by, I tearfully began to daven. I am not sure if this was the right thing to do, but I asked G-d that if this was truly the decree, if this is what was meant to be, if  He could please, please lessen the severity and make it mild. Please not so sever.

      Little by little she began to give us better eye contact. She still preferred not to, but if we got in her face she didn't actively turn her head to avoid us. She still didn't react to us if we were coming to play chase with her from across the room, but if we got in her personal space, she began to respond with smiles and giggles. She also seemed to once again, love being in the company of her siblings and cousins.

      It is almost a year later, and thank G-d she has come along way. She still does not communicate her needs, but she has begun to label. She still does not responds to her name or turns when you call her, but she does get excited with interactive games like chase, dancing and peek-a-boo. Thank G-d she has the most beautiful smile and infectious little giggle. She is back to enjoying looking at picture books, and loves sitting and playing next to other children, including her siblings. When we initiate, she will happily join in, in interactive play. Although part of me is still hopeful, part of me is still fighting and yet part of me still doesn't want to think too much about it, we are still watching her very carefully. The specialist that we went to said that at this young age, they are still hesitant to put an official diagnosis on paper because children this young can still respond beautifully to appropriate supplements and therapies. "The body," he told us, "is a self riding ship."

      I did eventually gather up the courage to return to the original Dr who's office administered the vaccine. When he finished hearing our story and reading the reports he responded that in all of his many years of practice, he has never seen a reaction to a vaccine like this. While I did find this hard to believe, he did, however, agreed that it most defiantly was looked like a vaccine injury. He was kind enough to encourage us to file, stating that if we needed a letter from his office he would gladly give one. Just as our visit was ending he did say something that has both scared me and has turned me off since. He looked at us and said, "I think we should hold off on vaccines for the next three months." I looked at him, completely dumbfounded, almost not believing what we were hearing. After all of this, if this was still his view, I realized it wasn't worth my time or emotional energy to argue. We promptly ended the visit and walked out.

      I know everything that goes on in this world is all part of G-d's master plan, but sometimes I wish I could just ask G-d what exactly does He want me to do? What do I need to fix? What do I need to do to improve? I do thank G-d everyday for giving us life, for keeping us together, for blessing us with all of the beautiful gifts and Brachot He has blessed us with and for blessing us with the beautiful tests that He has so carefully chosen. I pray that we, along with all of Klal Yisrael be blessed with immense light, love, simcha, brachot, good mazal, nachas, and long life and may we all merit to greet Moshiach speedily in our days.
We are ready, Hashem.
We are oh, so ready.

                 


                                                                                                                      Photography by Mendel B

    

   

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Which Path Will You Choose?

      Many of you have no idea what it means to have a special needs child that has been vaccine injured, and the difficult decisions that come with this special package. What I would give to go back in time to get back the child that I once knew..... but I can't. What I can do, is make future decisions about the rest of the children, but that too comes at a cost.

      Imagine if one day, an old man came up to you and said, "Tomorrow your child has a well child check up, and is due for some shots. Your child has developed beautifully so far! He is friendly, sweet, social, sensitive and incredibly loving.... however that may all stop. You have two choices. You can follow through with the shots, and never get the child that you once knew back. He will never again talk. There will be endless sleepless nights, you will need to quit your job so you can stay up all night with him. He will always need help in the bathroom, well into adulthood. There will be tantrums and screaming that will bring you both to your knees in tears. You will need to add numerous locks in your house to keep the child safe, some of which Child Protective Services will sight you for. There will be times that he will refuse to wear clothes because the fabric feels like pins and needles on his skin, but if you don't succumb to the screaming and force him to wear his clothes, the neighbors will (once again) call Child Protective Services. He will avoid most food so you will be on your toes supplementing with essential vitamins and minerals to keep him healthy, but if the child can detect even a hint of supplements in his food, he will reject it, causing even more challenges in his development and behavior. When he is in pain and upset, but can't tell you because he has lost the ability to communicate, he will begin to throw everything and anything he can get his hands on. You may find your personal belongings have been thrown out the window, precious items have been broken, Bar Mitzvah gifts of the other children are no longer usable. There will be tears, many tears. Your once private, peaceful and calm home will become an open house to many, many therapists, and if after many years, should you need a break and want to limit or stop them from coming because the intense therapies and complete lack of privacy have brought you to tears, you will be questioned and accused. But you should know that through all of this you are protecting all other children, both in your community and around the world from certain illnesses, so this is all for a greater cause. Or....

      You may choose to not follow through with the shots tomorrow, and you can keep your beautiful healthy child that you now know, but this comes at a cost as well. The cost is that you will constantly be bullied by the medical profession, neighbors and friends who you once thought you trusted and knew as friends will call and report you for child neglect, child abuse, demand that your kids be taken away and you thrown in jail. Verbal abuse and accusations from friends will become the norm. Family will question you, challenge you and in some cases, may even want to have nothing to do with you.

      The only thing I can promise you is, that no matter which path you choose, you will be blessed with an inner strength known to few people. Whichever path you choose, G-d will be right there, holding your hand, loving you and guiding you, walking with you every step of the way.

Now tell me, which path will you choose?







Friday, July 17, 2015

A Colorful Mess

Have you ever vacuumed with the vacuum bag ripped?  Or use the shop vac with it somehow spewing dust and other matter out of the back? (Both have actually happened to me.) If not, imagine, slowly pushing the vacuum forward while your busy toddler quietly follows you and throws flower, spices, toys and whatever else he or she may have up their sleeve or behind their back all over the floor behind you. This is what it is like cleaning with toddlers. Sometimes you wonder why you bother cleaning at all, but I have figured out a very sensible reason for this seemingly not so sensible action..... Because you don't want a mess on top of a mess!!! Picturing this is giving me chest pains....

As we all know, life can become quite stressful and intense. Ever since my early teenage years, one of the ways I learned to cope with being able to handle the curve-balls that would come my way, was to try to make sure that at least my physical surroundings were orderly and neat. Life might sometimes seem like a mess, but at least it was an organized mess! (Regular exercise,  music, dance, outdoors and health food are also highly recommended.) A sense of humor helps too! 

I remember one evening,  when I was going through the dating scene, I had retreated after a rather long day, into my bedroom. As I was tidying up my already Martha Stewart picture perfect, slightly OCD room, my mother poked her head into my room to wish me a good night, but stopped suddenly as she looked at what I was doing. I was on my hands and knees, combing the fringes of my carpet out with my fingers, so that none of the fringes were touching, and all of them were relatively straight. 

My mother looked at me, let out a soft gasp and said, "Tana! You can't expect to do that when you have kids!"

Still a teenager at 19, I responded, "I know!!! And I am not going to have fringes on my carpet when I have kids!!!!" It took me 1.2 seconds to figure that out. 

It wasn't exactly something I regularly thought about, but I wanted to take advantage of the time of neatness while I could. Little did I know just how messy busy toddlers and kids with special needs can make your world, but in the meantime I continued to live in a world of bliss (or was it slight oblivion). I would fix those fringes on the carpet, hang my clothing in height order and according to weekday and special occasion, made sure to dust and kept the books in height order..... yes, [sigh] there was more but I will stop here.... but that was one of the ways I felt in control of that time period in my life, a time that was full of introspection,  nervousness and, well, at that point I was still working on my sense of humor......

So does our house get messy? Yes! Does it feel like I might lose my mind? Well, only when the mess looks like it is something out of Calvin and Hobbes, slowly morphing and coming to devour me alive. I remember seeing those scenes in Calvin and Hobbs and thinking, wow, that kid (and author), has an incredible imagination!..... well now I am not so sure it's an imagination. ... and no one ever told me that laundry can multiply faster than fruit flies (yes, I have learned rather quickly not to keep bananas out in the summer. And I had no idea fruit flies like lemons!!!) And how on earth is there so much laundry when it seems like half the kids (especially my sensory kids), prefer to be in the nude??

But is it all worth it? At the end of the day, when I have cleaned up, rearranged, wiped, sprayed and organized for the trillionth time (literally), is it all worth it? I will give you a resounding Yes! And I thank G-d for a beautiful and colorful mess full of colorful and suspiciously sticky fingers and little bodies and the list goes on. In my teenage years, if G-d would have shown me a glimpse of our future mess, I probably would have fainted on the spot. Am I brave enough to show you pictures of our beautifully messy house with the kids in action before mommy digs real deep for that last little bit of mental energy to clean up again? (forget physical energy, that was lost a long time ago). Uh, no, definitely not brave enough.  Anyway, the pictures of our toddler and one year old covered in chickpea flour (thanks to our toddler who was filling an awesome sensory need), she was not exactly dressed appropriately, if you can even call it that, so I will leave that up to your imagination. ...so here are just a few of our safe pictures. ;) One day I might be brave enough to blog about sensory kids in the bathroom, specifically kids with autism...
  
Ps. No, the carpet does not have fringes. :)

Our son with Autism actually got past the child lock to this spice cabinet a while back. He dumped the cayenne pepper down the air conditioning vent just as the A.C. kicked in..... it was painful. This little beauty has thankfully not discovered the A.C. vent. Yet. And mommy has learned her lesson.
This time I decided that since it was too cold to go outside, I would let her amuse herself with unpacking and rearranging her surroundings.  I figured, at least it wasn't a sticky activity and who knows, maybe one day she will actually start organizing like her Mamma..... but don't tell her about the carpet with fringes,  I don't want her getting any ideas.....
The day was far from over but mommy was ready to call it a day.


I found a picture with the chick pea flower! (Her sister, wanting the full sensory experience,  was not exactly dressed appropriately.) This took 4 baths to get it all out of her sister's hair.....
Yes, it's more fun to show pictures of a neat house. Even if it's just for me to just look back on and reminisce. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ah yes. The three weeks.

      Every year I hold my breath when we get to the three weeks. One year, on the Shabbos before the ninth of Av (so what on earth was I thinking taking my kids to the park that morning????) My son fell off the zip line and broke his humerus. He needed 3 pins to hold the bones in place. Another year ( this was just as we were entering the 9 days), we were driving home, and on the on ramp, our youngest daughter began a 20 minute complex seizure. Needless to say that was the first time I have ever driven backwards on an on ramp... so yes, when the three weeks approach I tend to get a little nervous.  Last week, one of little ones spiked a high fever with a 24 hour virus. Watching her, I knew that if the baby would get it, there was a good chance of a fiberal seizure..... now if I was a betting woman.....!
        last night, I carried up a very tired little one off to bed. We curled up together under the covers and she began to nurse. After a few seconds somethings didn't feel right. She was still sucking, but even in the dark I could see her eyes open really wide and she gave a fixed stare looking up and to the right. Those wide eyes scared me. I had seen that stare before. Her neck stiffened a bit. I called her name, stroked her head and adjusted her position. With her eyes open wide, she continued to stare. As soon as her neck started twitching I knew something was wrong. Watching the clock, I yelled for my husband. We took her temperature and sure enough she had a fever. It wasn't so high, but a fever nonetheless. Her hands twitched a little, but that stare,  that stare was really all it took for me to know. We rushed her downtrairs. I stroked her, called her, I felt myself getting a little choked up. We were 5 min in and her lips were blue. By the time the parametrics came, just a few minutes later, it was over. We called her pediatrician and asked him what to do. This may sound funny or obvious to you, but having gone through our share of seizures,  once this was over it almost seemed like a walk in the park. I felt like, "oh! It's over! Few! Thank G-d (a million times over)! And just a febrile seizure, nothing fancy like her older sister child." (She pulled so much shtick and needed to spice things up with her seizures, by keeping them longer then 20 minutes, as if life wasn't exciting enough.) Needles to say, our wise Dr said it most likely is just a febrile seizure caused by a virus,  bit they don't like diagnosing those things over the phone, especially since hers was about 6 min long. So off we went with the EMT. As expected, she was still quite out of it, but I was relieved to have an additional set of watchful eyes, keeping a close eye on her.
     
       It was almost 4 am. My husband woke up Yehuda, one of my brothers, to come over and watch the kids while he went to pick us up. As my brother walked over in the dark in his pj's, slippers and button down shirt, and approached our house, he heard some crying. Yes, our toddler had gotten up and needed her passionate and intense toddler world to calm down.  As much as I dream of living on a farm, I know we would kill the roosters with insomnia. Perhaps my son's idea of getting a chinchilla isn't such a bad idea after all.....   
      
      Well, all's well that ends well, thank G-d. I should add here that this was the second time we called emergency this week, but the first time was much less eventful,  except for the fact that when the paramedics asked me for the name and birthday of our toddler, of course I panicked and completely blanked.  Our toddler just gave me quite a scare, enough for me to be in tears and call 911, my entire being and all of my brain cells are focused on her well being, and your going to throw the name and date thing at me? With a panicked and probably a bit of a sorrowful look on my face, I turned to my husband for help, who thankfully came to my rescue.  Flawlessly I might add.
      
      I thanked my brother for coming over in the wee hours of the morning at such short notice.  I was so grateful he came with his usual layed back happy self, despite being suddenly woken up. In no way did he make me feel like we had inconvenienced him at all. Smiling, he looked up at me and said, "It seems you have very religious kids who hold the Jewish calendar close to their heart."
Thank G-d for the little things.
L'chayim!
  
                                                                                                     Photos by Mendel B

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing your Mountain

      I remember looking at you for the first time. I remember the overwhelming feeling of intense emotions that rushed through me. I was filled with wonder at the beautiful miracle that was just placed upon my chest. You were beautiful! 


      
      Exhausted from the long labor and with my eyes closed, I tenderly placed my hand over yours, hoping that everything was ok. I carefully felt your delicate little fingers. You were quiet, but breathing. I gently placed my hand on your side and held you close. You were quiet, but listening. I opened my eyes to look into yours. You were tired as well. I slowly brought my other hand over you. It's ok little one, you can rest now. Your body rose with the rise of my chest, and with each breath you seemed to relax a bit more. I felt shy and was humbled to meet such a perfect human being. Who am I, to raise such a beautiful soul? Was G-d certain He knew what he was doing by entrusting me with such an awesome being? You were quiet but filled with life, and you had an endurance that would later inspire us both, for you had a mountain to climb.

      You had difficulty nursing. You struggled to get nourishment. It was too exhausting for your little tired body. We both cried as you would strain to get milk from me, and then fall asleep to conserve your energy. I so badly wanted to connect with you in this unique way, but I began to realize that your week little body simply needed nourishment more then I needed to bond with you in this special way.  I would cradle you close to my heart as you would eat from a medicine dropper, whispering gently words of encouragement for you to take just one more swallow. Just one more swallow, and again, just one more. Little by little you began to get stronger. Each feeding would consume every ounce of your energy, but you were determined to begin the long assent of your mountain. 

      Every milestone took great effort on your part. It has been amazing to watch your persistence and patience. There were many times I felt tears welling up inside me as I watched you struggle, but then I would see your determination and courage. You have strength I could only wish for and G-d has blessed you with a great gift, because your mountain is an awesome one. Climb your mountain, little one, but please, may I be so humble as to ask for you to take me with you.