HAPPY ADAR!!!

Shavua Tov and Chodesh Tov!

This week I once again have the honor and pleasure of hosting “Haveil Havalim”, a roundup of posts from the Jewish blogsphere, carnival style. Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and is organized by way of our facebook page.. [The term “Haveil Havalim,” which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Koheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon.]

This week we have a great number of posts, and I hope you take the time to check out a few…. it is worth your while to read down to the end this week…

Please consider submitting your posts next week and every week. You can email the links to your blog post to shilohmuse@gmail.com. If you want more information, find and join our facebook page, or  just contact me, ima2seven@gmail.com.

Let’s Feel Good   

I want to start with some Adar fun, so we have a parsha wordsearch for Parashat Mishpatim 5773  over at Thinking Torah.

 .. And A Soldier’s Mother gives us a story that just has to make you feel good (and proud), in An Only Israel Story from India.

Mr. “Amazing Resource” Jacob Richman, shares Israel’s New Educational Stamps with us over at

Good News From Israel. (They are also beautiful.)

  What about a vacation? (Just the word makes me happy.) The Travelling Rabbi gives us tips to the wandering Jew for Visiting Scotland or England. 

.. But before you leave, make sure to read Beneath My Wings‘ amazing tips for Keeping Kosher Away from Home!

Batya over at Me-Ander takes on her journey in Take The Train! First Time for Me on The Israeli Railways.

 When the weather was bad, I really asked myself for a moment why we shouldn’t just run off to the Golan. And then the some comes, and all is gorgeous, and beautiful and wonderful and I can’t imagine ever living any further from Jerusalem than I do right now. Sharon brings that feeling home, in pictures, of course, in Jerusalem After a Very Wet Week at Real Jerusalem Streets.

… and take in Beneath the Wings’ tourist-at-home beautiful pic too in Spontaneity.

And for a super tourist-at-home experience, read the ROUNDUP IN A ROUNDUP!  Tali Tarlow, founder of Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts  brings us the Bloggers Nachlaot Scavenger Hunt Roundup. A great time was had by all – you should try it too!

Social Responsibility

I was in an Adar groove, and not sure how I wanted to include posts of a more critical tone this month, since I am in the Adar spirit. But the truth is, increasing social responsibility and accountability is one of the best, most positive things about today’s blog world.

Esser Agaroth wants your take on a conversation he shared with a shadchan in The Facebook Match-Maker Incident. I don’t think I agree with either one of them, but you decide for yourself.

Batya gives us an update on the coalition building process and the remarkable number of new MKs that have just been sworn in (without swearing) at Shiloh Musings with New Government Coalition in Israel?  Can our new Knesset have a new tone, maybe with a little more Adar in it?

One of those MK Moshe Feiglin has made some statements that has Ariel’s unhappy over at The Torah Revolution. I have to personally disagree again, but healthy debate is part of social responsibility, right?

In talking about the New Government Coalition in Israel,  Batya raised her concerns about Obama’s visit, and the timing… as does Esser Agaroth, in US President to Visit Israel….Without Demands?

What about the changes in Greek government? Esser Agaroth discusses the disturbing Rise of the Nazi Party in Greece. Oh, how Amalek just keeps coming back in so many different and varied forms….

Let’s Show the Love

I learned that Mishloach Manot are all about brotherly love within the Jewish People. And that brotherly love; caring for one another, seems to be the natural these this week! What will be your random act of kindness today?

Maybe you will help an orphan today. Liz from Lizrael Update reminds us of our need to help Israel’s orphans and HOW in her timely Help an Orphan Help the World.

Maybe you will be a special-needs advocate today. A Mother in Israel gives us VERY practical advice to advocate for our children with the government bureaucracy  we all know and love here in Israel. (Okay, maybe love is a bit strong…) Fighting City Hall: Get Services for Your Special-Needs Child is really a great post for anyone who has a child that needs anything from “the system”.

Maybe you will help someone who has lost their way on the derech today – or even better, prevent it from happening. Check out  Shlomo’s Freiing Out – A Book Review over at Thinking Torah.

 

Maybe your prayers will add to the fight against cancer today. Yarden of Crossing the Yarden has given us an update on his family’s personal rollercoaster battling Stella’s cancer in Turning a Nightmare Into a Dream, where we get to join them at DISNEY. And if you are reading this, say a little prayer for Stella and her winning this fight before you keep reading, okay? Thanks.

Maybe you will invite in a guest, someone radically different from you, today. Yael sends us Open Doors in the Wild West Bank on Yael Yells… Softly. About the power of hachnasat orchim, for hosts at least as much as guests.

Maybe you will just help someone who is down today (maybe yourself?) with Cheriblevy’sRolling With the Punches... thoughts, ideas, and unique way of giving us all some “@cherapy”.

Leave With a Smile

..So before you get on with your day, your week, your Adar, I wanted to do something nice for all of you that are still reading, just to make you smile, and hopefully someone else as well.

( ***giveaway was removed because of a lack of proper entries…..) 


Have a great CHODESH ADAR, and do something to “marbim” (increase) someone’s simcha (happiness) today.

When my friends asked me to test drive a new developing computer product designed for young children, I jumped at the chance. They know that I am a blogger, and they know I am VERY opinionated, especially about my kids. They also know I am brutally honest, so they must have a lot of confidence in the product!

What I am not sure that they know is that both my husband and I have worked in IT, we own four working laptops that are always in the house, and I have children who are not only relatively computer savvy, but specifically well-versed when it comes to educational programs.

They did give me a Webee (pronounced Web-ee) to try for free, but I made no promises to post a word other than my true feelings after a thorough test-drive by the family. And we love it. The makers are currently running a kickstarter campaign to get this product on the market, and I strongly endorse the effort. I don’t need to buy one, I have one. But I am putting my money into the campaign nonetheless, because this product is a good one, and it will sell.

The Webee is not a web site (or rather not just a website) but rather a custom keyboard that plugs into a USB port and sits on top of the keyboard of the computer. It is used in conjunction with the Webee website, which requires a login by the parent. The user (designed for young children) can then access educational games around the site, changing as they choose.

How is this different than just using a kid-friendly educational web site? 

First of all, the buttons are much easier than a mouse for a very young child. My four and a half year old is very comfortable with a mouse, but not only are the buttons easier, he is “safer” using them, i.e., less accidental clicks, closing browsers and generally messing up Ima’s work.

Second, it is almost impossible for the user to accidentally switch out of the site and/or end up somewhere on the net where they shouldn’t be. This is a big deal. I am okay with my son using the computer, but it is a general problem that I either have to stay on top of him supervising, or I cannot and feel that I should.  This product makes it much easier for me to let him work independently in a truly safe way.

Third, most of the web sites that I actually do let my little one use have a number of options that are simple “play video”. I hate this. I like limited amounts of brain-engaging computer activity, but if it is just going to be a mini television set, then it defeats the purpose. The Webee solves this problem too.

“Isn’t this just ‘digital babysitting’?” You ask: 

Someone recently reacted to me that way when I described the device. Before going any further, I know virtually no one who isn’t guilty of digital babysitting at some point, for some amount of time.

Having said that, we don’t own a television, and I am not a big fan of passive entertainment. On the other hand, my children gain a great deal from relaxed, indoor time (when they happen to not be bothering me!) in front of the computer doing mind-engaging educational work. My older kids all use Khan Academy daily, for example.

Their younger brother wants to follow suit. When he is using the Webee he is learning reading comprehension, letter and color recognition, order, size, matching, etc. All positive school-preparedness skills.

And… this brings me to my favorite part….

THE WEBEE CAN BE SET UP FOR USE IN ENGLISH, RUSSIAN, or HEBREW.

If you allow your two year old to use a computer, limiting daily screen time, in Hebrew for a few minutes every day, he/she WILL learn Hebrew! I have seen this first hand. If your four year old is learning some basic Hebrew at preschool and you want to reinforce it, they can use this toy in Hebrew and learn. I love it as a language tool in addition to a basic learning one.  I know this won’t be the selling point for everyone, but it has added a significant layer to the value for us as a family.

What is the review from the four year old? He is at the older end of the spectrum for the toy, but he loves it. It is definitely more challenging for him in Hebrew, but he does love using it in English as well. Do you know what the most precious commodity is to a seventh child? Anything that is actually solely theirs. A computer related device designed for him? He feels like a really big man.

I expected my older kids to scoff and make fun of the “baby toy”, and that their put-downs might turn him off to it. Didn’t happen. They love it too, and they look for excuses to “help” him. I know that one of the reasons it holds their interest too is that there are a very large number of games/choices.

The programming itself is high quality, although I do prefer some games over others. I am thrilled to learn that once the product takes off they have created a Software Development Kit, making it possible for others to expand the choices and create even more high quality options within the system.

I encourage you to visit the kickstarter campaign HERE, and to invest if you are able. Stay tuned here for updates and news about Webee and its development, and when you can finally get one! .

I had asked the company for one to giveaway to you, my readers, but you will have to wait for the actual product and not an advance prototype. Once Webee raises the funds they need and can get moving on the assembly line, I promise to bug them for a giveaway contest until they have to say yes.   :  ) 

 

 

Mama Doni’s Chanukah Concert

December 19th, 2011

I have to blog such a big thank you to Culture Mom & Mama Doni for their giveaway of tickets to a Chanukah performance this past Sunday. It was a blast to win, and a much bigger blast to attend.

Alia was right. Mama Doni was warm and engaging and did a great job on Sunday. I knew that Mama Doni’s performance wasn’t geared towards a frum audience. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, about religious / propriety issues, and about feeling like I would stand out in this crowd.  I was hopeful it would be okay with my little ones. When Mama Doni came right over and welcomed us before the show like old friends, and all of my apprehensions went out the window. And that was long before my three year old spun around like a dreidel,  or jumped with glee to a song about gelt.

Even though I did completely stand out in this crowd. I seem to have had quite a run lately of meeting performers and of standing out in the crowd.  But I digress.

Mama Doni choosing volunteers to boogie with her on stage.

Mama Doni knows her job, and she does it well. Preschoolers are a tough group to play for. For the record, moms, so are the parents of preschoolers!  As a Music Together teacher and occasional Library Story & Song Hour performer, I can tell you that parents often think their kids will stay engaged without their parents, who would prefer to catch a break and let someone else do the entertaining rather than having to be goofy and participate. So they talk and schmooze on the sides. That can be really challenging for those on stage trying to keep the focus of the crowd. Far more challenging than most parents realize. The next time you go to a kid’s concert and you see a grown woman acting all silly and involved down in the front it very well could be me. And now you will know why. (Ask anyone who attended Shira Kline’s performance with me last year, or Yosi’s last week; they will agree with me here.)

I give Mama Doni so much credit for not only handling this tough scenario so well but managing to engage the parents despite themselves.

Towards the end of the concert Mama Doni asked if anyone knew Maoz Tzur, and my aspiring-singer-young daughter raised her brave little hand. She went up on stage to sing it with Mama Doni, and after she got going Mama Doni handed her the mic and let her just do her thing…It takes a tremendous Diva to command the stage and keep two year olds and chatty dads interested and involved – and then in another moment be able to hand over the spotlight like that. Not only did she make my daughter’s day (week, year…), but she signed a poster for her with a personal message at the end, which was such a huge affirmation for such a young woman with such a love of singing.

I would have blogged that it was a great concert and a great day even if she hadn’t picked my daughter and given her a moment of a lifetime. I promise. The band was great, the performance was great, and all of the kids and families there left with “Chanukah Fever”.

As expected, Mama Doni and I didn’t have much time to talk about my big plans and ideas, but now that we have met (and hugged), I am certain we will. Although I think I will be cemented in her memory forever as the “mother of” the young lady singing Maoz Tzur….

Mama Doni cheering on my daughter.

UPDATE:   WE HAVE A WINNER!

Congratulations to Rachel Wilgoren on winning our Summer House Natural Soaps Gift Pack! I will contact you directly to get you your prize, and to facilitate you selecting the scents of your choice. Thank you to all those that entered… I hope you are savoring your summers and your magical places while we still can.

thee bar gift box

This is what she won.

Please say a little prayer for my parents and everyone else in dangerous areas like Cape Cod during the upcoming Hurricane. Thank you. 

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