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. : )
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Ask most moms, and my guess is that they will agree that labor is not the hard part of having a baby.
Okay, labor is really hard. It isn’t the hardest part. That is day 3, or 4, or 5.
When you have a baby you have all sorts of drugs (natural as well as perhaps otherwise) in your system from the pain and adrenaline. You are thrilled to be done, G-d willing successful, and no longer pregnant. You have this beautiful baby!
A few days pass, and you come home from the hospital. Your milk comes in, suddenly your baby wants to eat in a serious way – and all of the time. Your hormones kick in. Your husband turns to you and says that work is done cutting him slack and it is time to go back/get serious/work more hours. Your other children decide they have had enough being big and brave and supportive and are ready for some “you need to show me you love me too” attention. All at once. And somehow you realize that your house is a disaster and a week’s worth of laundry has piled up. And this all comes down on you as day 3/4/5 of sleep deprivation makes your coping skills really, really limited.
Am I right?
So this is what this particular phase of our aliyah feels like.
The kids put on a brave, positive face. They made it through camp, and have really made tremendous efforts. But one month without furniture and a whole week home without camp in which to notice is just about enough. School starts soon and the “orientation” meetings didn’t really help, they just brought the reality of starting over in a new language to the forefront. Anxieties are at an all time high. Places of refuge and comfort at “home” are at an all time low.
My husband and I too are done allowing all of the take out food and the ‘getting by’ – we are also anxious for familiarity, routine and doing one thing – anything – that doesn’t take three times as long as it should.
The heat is at its highest and patience is at its lowest.
On day 3/4/5 after having a baby I routinely want to handle the situation by crawling under the covers, ignoring everyone and falling into a deep, blissful sleep for three or four days. I dream of someone else coming along and being the Ima for a day or two, taking care of it all — including me. None of that happens, but the phase does pass.
I find myself craving the same solution here. And similarly, I usually manage a daily escape into sleep for about 45 minutes instead. It helps. Now, as then, there is no one else to be the cheerleader and to say “yihiyeh b’seder” (it will all be all right) another one hundred times. There is no one else to make sure I drink enough, sleep enough, eat enough.
There is no other Ima coming along to say “I’m sorry” after every complaint, and the complaints these days are endless. They are entitled. This move is asking so much of them.
Everything I learn as an Ima is a tool to help me be wiser in the rest of my life – at least if I am fortunate enough to learn as I should. I know this too shall pass. The time will come when they will tell me I am exaggerating their current woes when I recall them. There is a time that the “aliyah baby” will coo and be adorable and I will forget just how miserable day 3/4/5 was. I know the day will come.
But I gather my strength and endurance to make it through until it does.
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This morning I am surrounded by overstuffed suitcases, carry-ons and “personal items” – with pillow pets peeking out of them.
Today is the day that, if Hashem decides they will go according to our plan, eight of us will board a plane for Israel. One-way tickets.
The ninth, the first child, my stepson, will say goodbye at the airport. Before I met my husband I never in a million years thought I could be a stepmother. Then I met my stepson.
In a million years I never thought I would leave Israel. Then my stepson moved to NJ. There was no other choice for us.
In a million years I never imagined it would hurt just this much to leave him here. He is a grown man, going off to college. But that doesn’t matter. Not to him, not to his father, not to his siblings, and not to me. We moved here just so that we would mean enough to him that it would be this painful and heartbreaking to be apart. This tremendous ache is our sign of success.
He knows, as his stomach churns and his heart aches, that this is what we need to do. For us. But it doesn’t make this part easy.
It has been a crazy and intense three weeks of limbo in Cape Cod, our “magical place”. Surrounded by my parents and brothers and a steady stream of visitors, we have tried to squeeze in a little bit of pre-trip errands as well as a few dabs of much-needed vacation.
I am sorry I haven’t been able to write about it. Perhaps when this adventure starts to calm I will find the time.
… But we all know this adventure won’t be slowing down anytime soon, right?
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I packed up for our big move to Israel early. It made a lot of sense under the circumstances. My parents really wanted us to come for our annual extended stay in our magical place, Cape Cod. So why lose out on rental income on our US house by delaying the inevitable?
So I made plans to have our lift picked up seven weeks before we left the country, and we cleared ourselves and 12 years of living in the US out of our home three weeks before leaving for Israel. I tried to have a plan. I tried to be organized. I tried to get it all in the right bags: donate, sell, bring to Israel, bring to Cape Cod, bring to Cape Cod, then Israel…. I am sure you can imagine just how much reality fell short of that goal.
We got out of our house a full 36 hours later than we said we would. And someone went back to get something I left there after that! But I was fairly confident that I had put the important things where they need to be.
Something inevitably was going to fall through the cracks, and I prepared for that eventuality. We will buy new whatever it is, I told myself.
But I wasn’t prepared for it to be my daughter’s precious case full of items that are very sentimental to her. I can buy her a new case, some new trinkets, but I can never, ever repay the emotional value of the items that are now missing. My heart breaks. She hasn’t yelled or screamed. She remains optimistic that it will “pop up”. I, in contrast, have dreams of the case in free fall down into an abyss. I am so scared that it was left behind and that our renters threw it away without any idea what it was, or something equally awful. For now, I am grateful that it is hurting me more than it is hurting her.
I know that our road home to Israel will be paved with many, many bumps, twists and turns. I just hoped the little heartbreaks along the way could be mine, and not the kids.
I also know that this period of transition is part of the process, and that I have to accept many things won’t go as I hope, many things will be hard for my kids, and many things I just won’t be able fix quickly and easily.
Still – please, Hashem, make all the falling through the cracks from hereon in be MY stuff…..
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I have to be out of my house by Friday. My aliyah date isn’t until July 22nd, but we won’t be here. We are going back to my parents’ house/summer getaway/magical place on Cape Cod first.
Uprooting your life to move with school-aged children is honestly crazy. Finding a way to say goodbye to your close friends and family is crazy. Finding a way to say “goodbye” to my stepson as he leaves for college and finding a way to tell him we are still his parents and love him but will be six thousand miles away? Definitely crazy.
Love makes us do a lot of crazy things, and my love for the land and the people of Israel are worth it. But right now in the middleof the storm of crazy I am spending a lot of time trying to have faith and hold on tight.
This move feels a lot like giving birth. And we are getting close. I think I am in the ninth-month-with-braxton-hicks phase right now, and when I was pregnant, that made me pretty crazy too.
Just as then, I know what will come in the end is all worth it.
….But if anyone wants to borrow some stir-crazy, bored, emotionally strained children for a few days, just let me know. : )
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Wow. I have been gone a really, really long time. I think I may have mentioned once or twice (or a hundred times) that we are moving (back) to Israel. Everything else has experienced some neglect, not just the blog. I hope to make up for it, all while sharing tremendous mountain views from the Judean Hills.
While we are in this intense period of transition
we my children are having the very expected roller coaster of mixed emotions. We went through a particularly challenging bump in the road for about a week in which we thought the perfect picture or plan “we” had made was in peril. Of course Hashem had a better plan and the pothole in our road was a gift, but at the time the sudden upheaval and uncertainty was extremely distressing – and therefore not lost on the kids.
When I was suddenly standing on uncertain ground (again) it was too much for them to bear. “You told us everything was set!” they cried. ”What do you mean things may change!”… “If you weren’t right about what school I would be in, then how do I know anything else you told me is really going to happen?!?!”
I sat them down on Shabbat morning, and I told them the story of the Peer Group Retreat I went on with Weston High School in 10th grade. I never really understood why we went to “peer group” or what the point was of putting their perceived “leaders” in the school all in one room. Shouldn’t we have been meeting with “non leaders”? (Whatever that means.) But it meant some measure of status to be chosen, we told ourselves it would look good on college applications, and it probably got us out of other classes. So we went.
We did get to go on a retreat at a campgrounds in the spring. We had ice-breaking sessions, conversations on leadership, lectures on the evils of drugs, we had to use teamwork to navigate a ropes course, and we learned… trust falls. I told the kids about the fear of closing your eyes and leaning backwards, completely letting go, prepared to let your peers catch you. I related the story about being told to go to the next level, onto low bleachers, falling blindly backwards from that height into the arms of your classmates. It wasn’t easy, and we all learned that no matter your weight, with a group behind you to catch you if you can really let go, they will catch you and you won’t fall on the ground. We all had to do, had to learn it by doing.
Aliyah, I told them, is one big trust fall.
You have to know that Hashem is going to catch you. You can’t waiver, and you can’t doubt. You won’t be able to lean and you won’t be able to fall if you don’t trust. You can be scared and you can be anxious. But you must trust that you will be caught.
Then, of course was the fun part – I let them each try a trust fall. It was immediately apparent who could let go and lean and who really had to work on the trust. I think by having to do it then finally understood what I meant.
The pep talk was at least as much for me as it was for them. I would hate for my anxieties over changes in our plan or troubles along the way to ever be misinterpreted as a lack of faith in the Master of it all.
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I didn’t want to weigh in on the Time Magazine “Are you Mom enough?” cover. But, alas, I am.
I have heard enough other people talk about it (and talk and talk and talk…) and I am sorry, but I think they are all missing the point.
Some have said “Why pit moms against each other?” with which I definitely agree. The fact that we let TIME use shock value to exploit any mom and her choices to sell their magazine is indicative of a publishing business run wild and a lack of empowerment of mothers to use our mighty grip on the consumer dollar as we should.
However, I have heard disparaging remarks about stay-at-home mothering, attachment parenting, breastfeeding and…. feminism. What I haven’t heard is the important connection.
In the 1970’s, there were several kibbutzim, or communal farms, in Israel. The policy on the kibbutz was for the children to live in the “children’s house”. While they visited with their own parents, all of the children lived together in one home, an expression of the kibbutz movement’s communist ideal.
Twenty years later, those children of the kibbutz who remained, working the land and continuing the dream, abolished the children’s houses. It wasn’t a decision made en masse through a unified decision, or as a united body. It was a decision made by the mass majority of kibbutzim (kibbutzes) on their own. These children who lived the policy knew that they didn’t want their children to feel like they did. They knew how much they missed living with their parents, so they reverted back to a more traditional, less communist policy on this one issue.
The writer of the article, Kate Pickert, gave an interview afterward in which she stressed that the reason so many women today seem to choose attachment parenting is because of issues that they have from their own childhood. At least in the video interview (available here she made it sound critical, as if parents who wear their children and breastfeed past 6 months are all “damaged goods” foisting their issues onto their children.
I would argue that the precise opposite is true. Like the children of the kibbutz in Israel, women (and their husbands) across America know what the feminism of the 70’s took from them, and they want to give it back – to their own children.
family photo from 2001, three children ago.
The decision on the part of a growing number of parents to prioritize bonding time with their children, to be attentive and loving, natural and deliberate may be, in fact, filling a hole in the parents. But the hole is there because the generation that raised them overemphasized freedom from the punative shackles of nursing and child rearing. The 70’s told mothers and fathers that they could divorce when ‘it just wasn’t working’, and the kids would be better off. Who is shocked that those children, now adults, are holding their babies tight? The magazines all told women that they could “have it all” “just like men” and their children would be fine.
They weren’t fine. They want better for their kids. As much as TIME may want to make Dr. Sears into an innovator and a god-like leader of some strange breed of followers, the truth is that Dr. Sears only elucidates child-rearing practices that have existed in hundreds of cultures on every continent for thousands of years. They lasted because they work.
For a true feminism to thrive, it must be honest and self-aware enough to learn from its own mistakes. There must be a way to elevate the importance of all things female in the world, empower women and give us options…. And still prioritize the healthy needs of every developing child.
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There are plenty of memorials to Maurice Sendak, z”l, on the web this week. They are mostly articles and facts you may or may not know about him and his unique body of work. No doubt he was successful, if not controversial, and he definitely was a man defined at least in part by his Jewish son-of-immigrant roots.
I only offer my personal connection.
I was an early reader. As a student in Hurlbutt (no I am not kidding) Elementary School in Weston, CT, I spent a good deal of kindergarten off in the corner with friends like Susan Bruno and Simeon Hellerman “reading” while the rest of our class listened to records about the alphabet and what sounds they make with The Letter People inflatable 21″ dolls. I thought the dolls were horrific, but then again so was being put off to the side publicly at five years old… there was clearly no concern about social ostracization in the educational system back in CT in 1977.
I put ‘reading’ in quotations marks because we were given headphones larger than my head that plugged into record players. We would play records that went with books and follow along, reading and memorizing each story. The number of books to choose from was significantly smaller than the number of school days when we were sent off to the corner. Along with Susan and Simeon, Rikki Tikki Tembo became one of my closest daily companions. As did Pierre who didn’t care, Really Rosie, Johnnie and the little boy who ate Chicken Soup with Rice.
When I look back upon that time now, I appreciate much more fully how fortunate we were to have access to such educational technology back then! Those ridiculous headphones and record players were most likely not available in most schools then, and we lived in the town that housed Weston Woods. This was the company to first produce books on record (and then tape) for children, and I am guessing we probably had those records before most, if not all, of the country. They created the Really Rosie movies as well as the other animated Sendak stories, including the recorded version Maurice Sendak himself reading Where the Wild Things Are.
His books such as these were formative for me, and for some reason (probably my parents’ PR) I knew he was Jewish and that it was supposed to be a source of pride. I have been so fortunate to pass along my love to my children who have learned Where The Wild Things Are in two languages, have a ‘wild rumpus’ song and dance of their own (that my husband created with my stepson) and who have thought for years that I made up that tune to Chicken Soup with Rice, not Carole King.
So for me, the connection is a truly personal one. My status as an early reader was and remains an indication of nothing regarding my intelligence, only my lifelong deep love affair with books. A love affair spurred on early by the wonderful creations of Mr. Sendak who will be missed, but who will live on in our house and bookshelf for what I hope is many generations to come.
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When my children were younger I felt like I was always playing catch-up, scrambling up the learning curve to meet their needs. Somewhere past toddlerhood I guess I started to feel competent. Surprise, surprise, each of the children followed a similar developmental pattern. Lots of things were predictable. The “terrible twos” weren’t really so terrible. It was nice.
The trouble is that while I started to gain confidence, let down my guard, and even blog about the joys of “phase II” parenting…. the older ones kept growing up, bringing with them a whole new set of complex needs and struggles – ones I didn’t get any proper training to handle.
I remember that almost two years ago I was on the phone with our Rav, second guessing (again) our family size decisions. He cautioned me that I was about to hit a “whole new level of intensity and needs” as my children entered their second decade. As is so often true with advice, I couldn’t fully relate until it happened.
I know that “big kids, big problems” is a cliche, but I don’t know that this is always true. First, big kids let you sleep at night. Second, older children can often articulate what is going on. It’s a pleasure to receive more feedback than crying vs. not crying and I blunder through.
When I try to wrap my head around the fact that I am already dealing with boy-girl issues, I just can’t. They are just too young! Everyone around me also seems to react that they are “so young”. Then I remind myself of Jimmy M. in the 5th grade. Although oblivious to me and any of my thoughts and feelings, Jimmy caused a blowup with my father about the injustice of only being allowed to date Jewish boys.
It actually didn’t upset me too much that I was expected to date only Jews. It upset me that I was sent to public school in preppy-town, USA, with practically no Jewish population and then told I could only date Jewish boys. Perhaps this was a clever strategy on my father’s part, a means of putting off the inevitable.
But I doubt it. With hindsight, he probably made decisions about moving there when he was still in Phase I of parenting himself, and Phase II snuck up on him sooner than he had suspected as well. I suppose he couldn’t wrap his head around having boy-girl issues when I was in 5th grade any more than I can wrap my head around it now. I bet he had his first crush around that age himself. He probably only remembered that as he stood there post-blowup thinking I was too young.
The thing is, we never really get to stop scrambling up the learning curve trying to meet their needs, do we? I am not sure that we would want to. If I ever master meeting their needs, won’t that mean that their lives have stagnated? If they continue to grow and develop, this will mean an endless series of of new challenges, just like mine. Won’t that be a good thing?
I hope they will continue to grow, and I know that it means that I will have to as well. I also hope that they will continue to need me; seek my advice, solicit my support in the hard times, and welcome my applause in the good. My mother dropped her own life this last month and again last week to help me pack for our anticipated move. A significant evolution from fifth grade romance boundaries, it’s just a different, not lesser, call for help after all of these years.
And I know that they are glad I still call.
… I think all of this is what Hashem (God) wants me to understand of his relationship with me. He wants more than anything for us to continue to have challenges – always new, always harder – that are signs of our ongoing growth and development. Having to cry out to Hashem for help is a sign of both continued relationship and ongoing progress, just as in my relationships as both child and parent. He really doesn’t want me to be “there yet” and to stop growing… and he really wouldn’t want me not to call.
The key difference is that Hashem doesn’t have to run up the learning curve. He, as the ultimate parent, has already arrived. As for me? I am not there yet, and since I hope for my children to keep being challenged and therefore challenging me, I am pretty sure I never will be.
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I didn’t blog about Purim this year. Those of you who have read my earlier posts know that it is not my favorite holiday.
But this year is different; we are in the midst of a move. A big one. To Eretz Yisroel. I am excited about it, and looking forward to every aspect, every challenge, every hill we have to climb. (ND’ers, get it? Hill?)
That doesn’t make it easy.
Catching up on doctor’s visits has meant a slew of diagnoses and challenging follow-up for the next few months.
The children have started to manifest all of the anxiety and mixed emotion expected with any move. At the end of the day, I am taking their stuff and moving it around and putting it in boxes…. Painters have come, cleaning off their decade of marks – and permanently removing their art from the walls.
Some of their possessions were even on the front lawn for a yard sale. The tension is coming out in all sorts of interesting ways. Fever for one, hostility for another, worry for all… and migraines for me.
I gained tremendous chizuk from Trip’n Up’s recent post about grief and her interactions with her son. Her piece was a stark reminder that my children are going through a grief process and how important it is for me to manage it as such. I know that as the Ima I set the tone. That my positive attitude is needed to carry us all. I know this deep down, and have seen it in action so many times. That doesn’t always make it easy.
Bombs raining down on our brothers and sisters over there hasn’t made it easier, either.
So Purim for me this year felt like a backdrop of noise, partying and chaos while I quietly tried to embrace safek – doubt -and to breathe through the pain of limbo knowing this is all for the good, part of a divine plan and that Hashem will always be there, behind it all.
In Adar we celebrate the triumph over Amalek, which is related to safek, and lack of faith. Only Amalek could doubt Hashem’s hand when the Jews left Egypt and it was clear to the world who took them out. I am trying, for my children and for myself, to model an ability to live within this stage of limbo. I try so hard to empathize with the sadness that the children feel despite knowing so much better than they do just how excited we all should be.
The irony is that they do not yet comprehend that they are moving to a new home where everyone must master living with safek. Where the conversations about doing so are clearly and deeper and certainly more frequent, but the emunah that goes with it will be B”H all around them.
I hope they can have emunah in me as I keep reassuring them that it all will be good in the end.
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