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Happy birthday, Noa!

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Today you turn 12 according to the Jewish calendar and according to the date in your passport. Today you become a woman according to Jewish Law and yet, you are very much a little girl. As you celebrate at home with the rest of the family, and look forward to your second celebration, your actual day of birth in twelve days, and the bat mitzvah celebration at synagogue with your friends and family, all I can say is that I am so fortunate to have become your father three years ago. Thank you for being brave and voluteering to leave behind your loving foster parents and foster brothers to become a member of our crazy, noisy, big family.

You, along with your then baby sister, were the person, who turned me from being a father of boys to father of boys and girls. You taught me that not all girls like pink, or they only like it with brown, that Barbie is not always a bad role model, and girls can put together their IKEA kitchen sets.

In the Bible it says, “The Eternal One blessed Abraham with everything.” (Genesis 24:1) our sages interpret it that Abraham was blessed with a daughter. I can fully see why. Thank you for being that blessing in my life.

As you start your adult journey in Judaism, I hope to see you grow in your faith and understanding. I hope that you will always remember how much you are loved, and adult or not, you are still our daughter.

Have a very happy birthday, Noa!

School has Begun

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I would have started homeschooling years ago, if I didn't have a major stumbling block: Hebrew. Or my lack of Hebrew in a contry where it is one of the two official languages. Not as if I spoke Arabic, but being Jewish, my kids' education is expected to take place in one of the Hebrew language sectors of education. Out of necessity this year we found ourselves in a position where homeschooling all but one of our kids seemed to the only option we had. Some of our grown children and my sister-in-law rushed to help with Hebrew and some other subjects. And with that the 5774 academic year has begun this morning, as we gathered around the breakfast table, recited morning prayers, the prayer for IDF soldiers, sang Hatikva, and Kevin officially opened the school year.

After the official opening ceremony half of our kids went back to bed with their workbooks, and the three in gan (kindergarten for kids ages 3 to 6) and nursery had their Bible and sign language lessons in my bed. By ten o'clock some of us moved to various desks and the kitchen table with school work requiring help, and some of us even started to get dressed!

The older kids worked very independently, including on math, which is a weak point for many of us. Fortunately we still have Yonah home, who could help whenever a question arose, and who will substitute for me the next few days. Bella, Eli and Nirel decided to concentrate on Math and Physics while he is home, so for them the other subjects are on a backburner for the next week or so. I am so glad for this flexibility! Bella is finishing high school this year and sitting matriculation exams, so doing well on them in all her subjects is important.

We only had one melt down, when a certain someone found out he still has to write by hand in a notebook, rather than just typing everything up. Oh well. He got over it.

It's Nirel's birthday today, so Noa, after she was done with her schoolwork, decided to bake a cake for him. You need to know that Nirel is our resident baker, and he actually wants to start a cake decorating business after his military service. So Noa baking for him was big! Nirel decided not even to supervise Noa, he has so much faithin his sister. I saw the cake, It looks very nice, and it's not pink at all. At all!

A Reading Update (and lots of links)

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I know, I know, February passed without any updates to the reading blog, but I am just about to write two reviews. Or maybe three. I am almost done with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and finished Richard Castle’s Derrick Storm Shorts, and I’m about to start The Complete Father Brown Mysteriesby G.K. Chesterton. Currently the Kindle book I linked is only 99 cents on Amazon! I also grabbed Perfect Me (Perfection Labs) for free, and it’s still free for Prime members and $2.99 for the rest of us. I first heard about this book from The Bluest Butterfly, and apparently it is supposed to read like Douglas Adams’ books. We shall see.

I have to admit that I haven’t really had a paper book in my hands this year. I have been making use of the Kindle App on my tablet, the Kindle software on my laptop and the Kindle Cloud on other computers. Briefly I got to use Yonah’s first, old Kindle, but unfortunately it gave up the ghost at two years old. Turns out one too many coffee spills can kill even a Kindle. What a bummer. Kevin had a local shop look at it, but honestly, it would cost more to fix it than buy a new e-reader. Especially when there is a giveaway going on for a Kindle on Leah’s adoption blog, where for a $10 donation and some FB or blog shout outs you can win a Kindle, too. They have the other fundraiser continuing as well. The Kindle is not part of the original fundraiser, because it was donated to them after the other fundraiser began. If you are in Europe, and can wait, and you happen to win, I’m fairly sure that something can be worked out with Leah so that she can send it to you while she is in Europe for the adoption, reducing shipping fees.

Now, I might have a lot of reading time coming up in the next few weeks. I’m kind of excited about that! So many books to read… Grandpa P is coming in a few weeks, and asked the kids what he should bring. “Books,” was the answer. The middles committed to a book a week program at their school: every school week they read a book. Some shorter, some longer. They share books, and they frequent the library and are now discovering the joys of e-books. Noa finished a novel in Armenian, and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of her! While the twins don’t remember any Armenian, Noa’s hard work and dedication helps her keep her native language.

So what are you reading these days?

On Princesses, Barbies and Star Wars

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When I first became a parent I was adamant that my kids would never have Barbies or Disney merchandise in my home. Of course for over 6 years I only had boys, and it was easy to keep the Barbies and Princesses out of the house. Then, two and a half years ago I suddenly became a father of girls and soon found myself surrounded by Barbie dolls and Disney stickers. Even the pull up diapers my daughter wore had Disney princesses on! Fortunately my then eldest daughter Noa was picky with her Barbies: she went with the Barbie Basics line, and now two and a half years and 12 Barbie dolls later, we still haven’t bought any blonde Barbies for her. The line also has black Barbies that Noya and Shiri like a lot.

Now the Disney princesses are a difficult thing here. Shiri and Noya devour anything that was made after 1990 by Disney. Luckily that cuts out Cinderella and Snow White. Noa, on the other hand, is a lot more picky. Her favourite is Mulan, and she also likes Belle, because she is smart. Neither of them are princesses. She, however, doesn’t really like the fact that the reward for the princess is always a man, and after the princess gets rescued by the man they marry and live happily ever after. I think she is a budding feminist. It really shows in her Barbie play as well. When I see her play with her Barbies, I often ask her what Barbie does, and the recurring answers are that Barbie is an architecht, aerospace engineer, or most recently a software developer. Barbie is always smart, gainfully employed, and independent. The various dolls take turns going out with the single Ken doll we have, but don’t worry, since Ken’s underwear is permanently attached to his body, Barbie keeps chaste.

A while ago Noa took up a new hobby: creating household items for Barbie from polymer clay. Being a mini enterpreneur, Noa sells them to her friends as well, who regularly order things in certain colours. Lots of kitchenware, laptops and a TV set. I think Noa should be enrolled in some sculpting classes. At almost 11 I think the quality of the small things she makes for Barbie really shows some talent there. She and Bella are really into sewing dresses for the dolls as well.

When I heard two days ago that Disney bought Lucasfilm, I first checked the date to make sure it wasn’t April 1. Then I checked other sources, because Cheezeburger is not a very reliable source, I mean I usually go there to read Failblog and such. But it’s true. So that now makes Princess Leia a Disney princess. So maybe finally there will be a Disney princess Noa will like?

A Missing Wheel

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Having a large family means that everyone has their own responsibilities that make life easier. It might be picking up the Legos after playing, or separating light and dark colours for laundry (I gave up washing whites only with other whites a long time ago), or cooking dinner. There are chores that are either rotating or assigned ad hoc. And then there are things that we just got into the habit of doing a certain way… by a certain person. Like it’s usually Yonah, who takes Noa to her Sunday dance class.

Since Yonah is in Canada now, I took Noa today. I enjoyed watching her, and I could even go in the classroom, and sit on a comfy chair. It has perks when your brother teaches dance classes. I was thinking, “Gosh, I should do this more often,” and then it hit me: I will. Because while Yonah is coming home from Canada soon enough, he won’t be in Tel Aviv on Sunday evenings. He will be away in Haifa, only coming home for weekends. Our lives, as a big family, will change with his life change of going away to study. And we will miss him. Not only because of all the things he won’t be around to help me, far from that! We will miss him, because he has become a very integral part of the family.

We haven’t been all together all that long. Some of the older boys lived with us full time only for a few months, yet we miss them all week till they get to come home. And HOME they come. Every other Shabbat or so I have all the boys home. All the kids, teens, Bella and her son, often her boyfriend Kirill… and we are together and then everything feels normal.

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