Posted by: Avivah | December 17, 2013

Heads up – moving blog to new site

Three years after I planned to do this, I’m finally moving my blog to a different site!

Why has it taken me so long?  First the business consultant I was working with turned out to be a high level psychopath (seriously). Then I went to visit dd who was studying in Israel and when I came back, started percolating the crazy idea of moving the entire family there!  Five intense and crazy-busy months later, we arrived in Israel.

The last two and a half years have been full of big things and blog changes didn’t register anywhere near the top of that list.   The wordpress.com platform is great but limited and it’s been something I’ve needed to move away from for a while, and now I’m finally moving to a different site – AvivahWerner.com.  Creative, right?  🙂

So here’s the big thing that has held me back – all of you who are subscribed!  I’m going to be working with someone to transfer the subscriptions but she said that it’s not so simple and at least 20% of you are going to be lost in the transfer.  I value all of my readers and I’d really like to simplify this by asking you to sign up again at the new site so I don’t lose any of you!

I’m hoping to have Oceans of Joy redirected to my new site sometime in the next couple of days, but before I do I want to give you all a heads up about what will be happening so you won’t be disoriented.  The blog content will stay the same, it’s just the site address that will be different and technically behind the scenes there will be more options for me to work with.  Edited to add for those who are asking: all of the blog content has been transferred, all 1500+ posts.  So you’ll still be able to easily access them.  🙂  So please go sign up if you’re interested in continuing to get email notifications when I write a new post.  If you’re not, then just visit me there when you feel like popping by!  My next post will be up within a couple of days at the new site.

See you there!

Avivah

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Posted by: Avivah | December 13, 2013

Update on Yirmiyahu’s growth – good news!

From the time Yirmiyahu was eight months until he was fifteen months, his weight and head circumference hardly budged.  He wasn’t big to start with and I, the mother who has never paid any attention to growth charts, was getting increasingly concerned that his numbers just weren’t moving up.   The nutritionist and pediatric allergist said he wasn’t growing because I didn’t feed him enough, though after his caloric intake was counted up, the nutritionist admitted that he was getting plenty of calories.  When I asked his pediatrician about it, she told me not to worry: “Kids with Downs’ are all small.”

That irritated me even though it was supposed to be reassuring and I know it was well-intended, because if a baby who didn’t have T21 came into the doctor with the symptoms I was describing, believe me, they wouldn’t be telling the parent not to worry about it. They would have been running all kinds of tests to figure out what was wrong.  But for Yirmiyahu, it was acceptable for him to be small and weak because he has T21.

So the last two months have been very empowering.  At that time, after extensive research and a lot of anxiety, I decided to begin a protocol for cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) – this is treated by taking your child off of dairy and supplementing with high doses of folate.  I took him off dairy formula when he was eight months old, and started supplementing for CFD when he was 15 months old.  Currently he’s taking 5 mg of folate daily (a mix of folinic acid and 5MTHF, see the info at the site linked for an explanation of why we’re using both if you’re wondering); when he’s eighteen months this will be increasing.  Results?

Increase in head circumference – 2 weeks after starting the protocol, Yirmiyahu’s head circumference had increased to the -3% for infants his age, a huge jump from from a percentage that was very far down off the charts, suitable for a baby many months younger than him.  This was very important for me because if the head isn’t growing the growth of the brain is limited, too.  Two months into the protocol, his head circumference now measures 2% on the typical growth chart!  That might not sound impressive but it’s a huge leap and it means he’s finally in the range of age appropriate.

Weight increase – after 7 months of no weight gain, Yirmiyahu has gained 1.1 kg in the last two months.  Within two or three weeks after we began supplementing, people consistently started commenting on how much older and bigger he seemed and this has continued until now.  That was anecdotal, but after so many months of people telling me how petite and tiny he was, it was a noticeable change.

Energy – when he was younger, we all thought of Yirmiyahu as an active baby.  As he got older, he became more passive (but supposedly ‘babies with Downs’ are slower” so this worried no one but me and my older kids).  By the time we started supplementing, he was frequently laying his head on our shoulders to rest even at times it seemed he shouldn’t be tired; he wasn’t crawling much even though he had the physical ability.  It was worrisome when we contrasted what he had been like months before to how he was at 15 months.  Now?    He’s like the Energizer bunny – he just keeps going and going!  He’s crawling all over the house, cruising holding on to things, loves to bounce when held on a lap and is so energetic!   He still loves to snuggle into the person holding him, but it feels different – you can tell it’s because it feels cozy for him, not because he’s so tired that he needs to rest.  He’s sleeping much less and is much more awake when he’s awake.  This isn’t something you can track scientifically but it’s a relief and a joy for me to see his true personality being able to be expressed again, not being held back by nutritional deficiencies that supposedly didn’t exist.

Jaw structure – when Yirmiyahu’s bottom front teeth came in, they came in vertically rather than horizontally.  Over the last month, they’ve been getting straighter.  He was born with an extremely high palate, and his osteopath last week told me it’s coming down (ie expanding).  I asked her why she thinks this is, and she said perhaps it was due to specifically this supplementing.  (She hasn’t worked on his palate in the last couple of months so she didn’t think it was connected to craniosacral work she’s done with him.)  It makes sense to me that if his head circumference is increasing it might be affecting his jaw.

I’d like to get some follow-up bloodwork done so I can track his lab values.  I don’t anticipate continuing with therapeutic doses of folate long term; this is to address his serious deficiencies and as his numbers improve, I’ll be cutting down on this.  So I need to see the lab values so I can cut down appropriately.  I also am hoping I can get more thyroid bloodwork done (this is much more easily said than done!) to see how flooding his system with folate has affected these numbers – the hypothyroid symptoms I was concerned about have dramatically improved and I’m anticipating big improvements in his lab values.

I’m so grateful for the internet and the ability to do research and connect with others who are also looking for answers.  Without this it’s painful to think that Yirmiyahu would be suffering with unaddressed medical issues, and the doctors would continue telling me- and I would believe them! – it was because he has Down syndrome instead of addressing the real issues.

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | December 12, 2013

Inner contentment from the alignment of values and actions

Most of us start off homeschooling with a lot of trepidation, excitement and a vision of something beautiful, something we think we might be able to have if we make this choice that we wouldn’t otherwise have.  And at first it’s exciting because we can remember how life was before and the contrast makes us grateful.  But then sometimes we get stuck in the day to day and lose sight of our long term vision along with how things used to be.  You begin to take for granted what you have – you doubt what you’re doing, the house isn’t clean enough, the kids aren’t learning enough, you don’t have enough time for yourself and you wonder why you thought this was a good idea!  (Yes, I sometimes have those feelings, too!)  We just lose perspective.  

When I recently received a lovely email from a homeschooling mom, I asked her permission to share it with you.  It’s been over five years since I shared a letter like this, so I figured it’s time for another one!  The last one was from a mom in the US, this one is from a mom in Israel.

>>As for homeschooling, in case I needed the validation, my sister told me yesterday that her daughter, who lives here, told her that homeschooling was the best thing we did for our family and ourselves. She said she sees our contentment and inner peace — ours and the kids’ — even though she knows it’s not a perfect utopia all the time. And she’s right; I would describe us the same way.
 

There are so many things I love about homeschooling, it would be impossible to list them all but at the top of my list would be learning along with my children. Not just learning information but learning about each other, about life, about how to do homeschooling. I love learning with them that the process is at least as important as the product, and this applies to every area of our lives. There is so much more, but if I continued I just wouldn’t stop 🙂

I want to thank you again for your guidance and inspiration. You’ve helped us look at things in a whole new way and opened up a whole world of opportunity to our family.<<
 

Contentment and inner peace – those are the same feelings I have about homeschooling when I take the time to step back from the day to day busyness and reflect.  It’s not specifically homeschooling that causes this feeling; rather it’s a result of when a person aligns their values and their actions.  Every day we’re faced with choices in different areas of our lives, and when we can align them with our higher values, it’s incredibly empowering and inner contentment is a natural result.

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | December 10, 2013

When to stay with something and when to move on

It’s interesting how comments and questions on certain issues seem to often come as groups.  This has happened recently with the topic of making a change – I was asked the same question by three different people in close succession: when is moving toward change positive and when is it running away from a problem.  Interestingly, all three were in situations in which a change would be beneficial, which made me wonder if it’s the people who have a tendency to stay in difficult situations who phrase the question in this way.

The most recent person to ask me about this was my dd17 when she was home for Chanukah vacation.  She’s living with an elderly woman which provides her with a place to live and a salary and she’s studying in an Israeli seminary – where she lives and where she studies are both difficult situations.  She’s not happy but told me she’s not sure if she needs to stick this out.  I told her, “If you’re a member of this family, your issue isn’t going to be running away from problems but staying in a non-suitable situation too long and trying to see the positives.”

Being positive and looking for the good in life is important, but you can’t let that keep you from acknowledging when a situation needs to be changed.   I suggested that first step is for her to be honest about how she’s feeling, not to rationalize or justify staying where she is because she doesn’t know how it can work out financially to do something different – just to acknowledge to herself how she’s really feeling and be willing to say, ‘I’m not happy’.  Then after getting in touch with that feeling – which doesn’t take too long once you clear away the mental clutter – to ask herself: “Is this situation supporting me and the life I want to have?  If not, why not?  What would be more supportive of my needs?”

So she did that and we talked quite a bit about what this means for her.  This week she gave notice to the family of the woman she works for that she’ll be leaving in a month, is interviewing with another family as a possible place to stay, and contacted the principal of an American seminary here in Israel to see if a mid-year transfer is possible.  I asked her how she felt and she said it all feels good.

It seems to me that most people get stuck on one side or another of this question when they have to ask themselves the question about if their current life situation serves them or not.  Many people stay with situations that aren’t supportive for too long, not believing that anything better is out there, thinking that they don’t deserve for things to be good or blaming themselves for the way the situation is.

Others go to the other extreme, moving from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, always blaming others for their situations and searching for that elusive happiness in the next place.  When a person is having a hard time in life because of who they are, they carry that with them wherever they go.  Someone who hosts a lot of people checking out her community told me she can tell right away who is a good candidate and who isn’t by asking why they want to move.  She said when people start complaining about everything that is wrong with where they’re currently living, she knows they’re going to miserable in her community, too.

So how can you tell when you objectively would be better off in a different life situation?  When are you running away from something instead of putting in the effort and time to make things work, and when are you moving forward towards a better and more fulfilling life?

This is a really individual situation and sometimes for the same person, it can look very different in different situations.  If you’re in an abusive situation, generally the faster you get out, the better.  Aside from that, we have to remember that all beginnings are difficult and time takes time.  Don’t give up on your current situation too soon – think about what specifically is missing for you, and what you can do to make it work for you.  If you’ve put in time and effort and after a reasonable amount of time things aren’t improving, you probably are seeing the reality of the situation and it’s time to think about making a change.  Don’t blame yourself for being where you are right now; it is what it is, you learned something from where you were and now you can move on.

Since we can’t be objective about ourselves, it’s very valuable to get feedback from someone outside of the situation who is willing to listen to you without projecting themselves onto the scenario.  At times when I’ve grappled with choices of this sort and spoken to friends, it’s been interesting how obvious the answer to my question was to them!  People outside the situation can often see things more clearly since they aren’t fixated on all the tiny details that our minds can get tangled up with.

If you’ve determined that change would be beneficial for you, have courage.  Trust that life is meant to be good, that you are worthy of good and that you will overcome the initial challenges the new situation is going to present you with.  Making a change like this is an act of self-value and self-love; we can’t have better things in our lives until we recognize that we deserve better in our lives.

If you’ve grappled with decisions of this sort, please share how you recognized when it was time to make a change or stick things out!

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | December 9, 2013

Funnix math and reading programs – free until Dec. 20

Funnix has a free offer of their early reading (kids approx. 4 – 7) and beginning math program (approximately kindergarten).  This morning I ordered both.  Click here to see the details of the offer.

I tend to be cautious about computer based learning because while there is so much potential learning online, there are disadvantages and online time has to be carefully moderated.  Computer learning can often make skill acquisition easier when the material is presented in a fun and engaging way.   Too much screen time is unhealthy for kids so any computer learning should be used sparingly.

Years ago I noticed that even after 30 minutes on a computer learning game, my kids were more edgy and irritable for a period of time afterward and at that point I cut out just about all computer games as a result.    Now I use computer time in small bite sized pieces and this has been pretty effective in minimizing the negative effects, of being too zoned into the computer and too zoned out of human connection.

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | December 4, 2013

Just chilling and enjoying each other on Chanukah!

So far we’ve had a really wonderful Chanukah!  What makes it nice is having almost all of our kids at home.  Ds20 and ds14 happened to arrive home from different cities at the same time on Friday afternoon, and when they came inside and everyone was hugging each other hello and talking, I had a very full feeling of deep inner joy: this is my family, that every bit of effort I invested as a mother was worth it.  I had that feeling a number of times over the next few days as I watched them all interacting together.  I love seeing their loving and supportive relationships with each other.

When we moved to Israel, we decided to stop giving presents on Chanukah.  We always tried to keep this toned down, but with so many people giving each other presents just among us and the kids, it made for a lot of stuff.  I wanted to keep the focus on the spirit of Chanukah more, and moving here was a good way to make a shift away from presents.  I gave one family gift this year (the board game Cadoo) and the kids have enjoyed playing it together every day since then.

Otherwise, our focus is just on time together – especially now that ds14, dd17 and ds20 aren’t usually home.  (Ds20 was only home from Friday to Monday.)  After menorah lighting (anyone over the age of 5 who wants to lights his/her own menorah), we sing Maoz Tzur/Rock of Ages, then continue singing more Chanukah songs together as my dh dances with the kids.  (This has been our routine for many years.)  Then we sit around together after that, mostly relaxing while the Chanukah candles burn.

Another thing that adds to the Chanukah feeling are the appearance of a couple of foods that are unique to Chanukah.  We usually make chocolate glazed doughnuts at least twice during Chanukah.  Our electric food processor and our manual food processor both broke so we couldn’t grate any potatoes for latkes (potato pancakes).  Then yesterday ds14 brought home a new hand grater and last night he made latkes for everyone – delish!

The only one  missing was dd19, and I’m grateful that thanks to technology we were able to fill this gap a tiny bit.

We skyped with dd19 before menorah lighting on Friday when everyone was here, so she could ‘be’ with us during lighting.  In the middle we suddenly heard the sound of a camera going off along with corresponding flashes of light, and there she was, taking pictures of us from her computer in the US!  On Tuesday night we skyped again (ds20 wasn’t home anymore); this time she asked everyone to get in the picture right before we began lighting.

Here’s the picture she took, with dd19 in the corner inset (everyone holding a candle was lighting a menorah):

Inline image 1

When spending time with her children and grandchildren, my mother often says, “It doesn’t get better than this!”  Many people are so focused on the performance and accomplishments of their loved ones that they can’t appreciate them for being unless they’re also doing.  I’m grateful that my mother finds so much joy in the simple things in life, and I share that feeling!

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | November 30, 2013

School-wide gemara test at ds14’s yeshiva

A couple of days ago ds14 participated in a school-wide gemara test. I didn’t initially realize how significant this was, since he has so many tests and I assumed it was just one more. But when he mentioned this test several times and commented that he’s been studying a lot for it, I realized it wasn’t a standard test and asked for more details.  That’s when I learned that once a year, the entire high school participates in this gemara competition.

There are two parts to the test. The first is a written test of 30 difficult questions; all the high school students do the same test and everyone who scores above an 80% advances to the next level.  There was so much tension about this test – ds called us as soon as he came out of the testing to tell us he was finished and thought he did well.  He said everyone who walked out of the room was practically bouncing from the relief of having finished.

Then in the early afternoon, all the tests had been graded and the results of who would be proceeding to the finals was announced to the entire student body, with lots of cheering for each person after their name was announced. Of the ninth grade, ds14 and his study partner were the only ones who scored high enough for the next level of testing. He was excited (though nervous) and it sounded like everyone else was, too! I thought it sounded like a lot of pressure but most of the pressure was the first level – it’s kind of like you proved yourself just by being able to advance, regardless of how well you do at that level.

The next part of the testing was that evening. The way it worked was that verbal questions were asked of each student; when someone missed a question he was out of the competition. They started with questions that were of medium difficulty, and during the first round five of the ten contestants were eliminated.  They continued with questions of increasing difficulty but no one was getting any answers wrong. Finally, they announced that they hadn’t anticipated that everyone would do so well, and didn’t have enough questions to keep going at that pace. So, they continued, they would ask questions and the first one to raise his hand would be given the chance to answer first (instead of going in order and asking each student a different question).  The first one to give the right answer would be the winner.

They asked the first question, and two students raised their hands – ds and an older student. The older student didn’t answer correctly, so it went to ds14. Ds gave his answer, explaining the answer thoroughly.  But he couldn’t remember the Hebrew term to sum up this concept (a hazard of being a non-native Hebrew speaker). Another student saw ds was stuck for the word and provided it. The room broke out into cheers when it was announced that his answer was correct, but ds thought he wasn’t going to get full credit for his answer and that as a result he hadn’t won.

The round continued, and ds raised his hands for the next couple of questions but wasn’t called on. Since the rules were that the first person to raise his hand got the chance to answer first, he asked them why they weren’t letting him answer. They told him, “Because you already won first place so we’re continuing the questioning to determine the second and third prize winners!” He had no idea! Everyone had realized except for him.  He told me later he was sorry he didn’t realize all the cheering was for him. 🙂

The contest was a really big deal – it’s only happened once before that a ninth grader won this competition and it’s an honor for a student of any age to win – and everyone was very excited for him. His classmates were extra pleased since the entire class of whoever won was to be treated to a barbeque. He received a full set of Talmud as a prize, which is now gracing our bookshelf at home.

Of course we’re also very proud of him! He studied hard and applied himself, and though there’s always the luck factor in this kind of competition (eg who raises his hand faster), he knew the material well. When he called to tell me that morning that he was going to be in the finals, I had a feeling he was going to win. It’s not that I expected it – to me the effort he put into studying was the most important part, not his performance during the testing – I just had a feeling about it.  Right after I got off the phone with him that morning, a clear picture flashed through my mind of him winning and bringing home the Shas (Talmud).

I’ll share about his background in gemara studies for those who may be wondering.  He was homeschooled through sixth grade and since we philosophically believe it’s better to hold off on gemara studies until boys are cognitively more developed, our boys start studying Talmud at a later age than the norm (most boys in school begin in fourth or fifth grade).  He entered school for the first time when he was in seventh grade, so that was his first official exposure to gemara.  For the first year he wasn’t getting much since he was learning Hebrew and didn’t understand most of what was said.  When he was in eighth grade his Hebrew comprehension was much better so that was when he was more engaged by his gemara studies.  Now he’s in ninth grade, as I mentioned earlier.

This was interesting and validating for me for two reasons: 1) according to mainstream belief, he should be at a disadvantage with his schooled peers; 2) Israelis are often said to be at a much higher level than Americans when it comes to Torah study, with the assumption that Americans will find it difficult to catch up, much less hold their own.  I’m grateful that neither of these have proven true for ds!

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | November 28, 2013

A day more special than Thanksgivukkah

Today is a special day.  Not because it’s the first time since 1888 and the last time until 79,811 that Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah coincide.

Nope.  Today is special because it’s my oldest daughter’s 19th birthday.  Every nineteen years, the Gregorian and lunar calendars coincide, so this is the first year since she’s born that her birth dates are on the same day.

Months ago my daughter was very fragile medically and the situation was very serious.  At that time I asked you to please pray for Tehila and we are so grateful that she’s doing so much better now.  Earlier this week a blog reader asked me how she’s doing and I realized that I never updated you beyond her medical status when she was out of danger.

She’s now learning in a seminary in New York, studying towards her BA and was just hired as a part-time medical receptionist.  She’s looking into volunteering with the Bikur Cholim organization to help families who have a loved one who has to be hospitalized.  That’s a little about what she’s doing, but it doesn’t say much about who she is.

When Tehila was born nineteen years ago, I had no idea of the special soul that had just been sent to me.  She has taught me so much, things that hopefully have made me a better mother and a better person.    She has deepened my understanding of what courage and love really are, shown me what it means to love someone else and what it means to love yourself.  She has many incredible qualities and I have no doubt she will continue to use them to bring light into the lives of many people.

Nineteen years ago it was the first day of Chanukah, and a special light came into this world.  I had no idea of the amazing soul that I had just become a mother to.  But now I know.

T 19

**Happy birthday to you, Tehila, my incredible, amazing daughter.  I love you so much and couldn’t be prouder of you.  **

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | November 25, 2013

The courage to say hard things

Quite some time ago, someone was talking to me about one of her children and said something oblique that led me to understand her daughter had been molested.  It wasn’t my place to inquire and I don’t know the specifics but my impression was it was an early level by someone who was grooming her.  I wasn’t sure from the way the mother was speaking if she realized the significance of what she was saying.  In a later conversation I came to feel that although the mother knew what had happened, she wasn’t understanding how central this was to the issues her daughter was having.   As a result, she wasn’t taking steps to protect her daughter from a situation that was developing because of the lack of this awareness.

This put me in an uncomfortable situation because it’s not fun to bring to someone’s awareness something so sensitive, especially when your opinion isn’t being directly asked for – she was asking for my feedback on something that she didn’t think was related.  I knew she valued my opinion but still…to call it a touchy topic is a big understatement.   But when there’s a child at risk, you can’t just stand by the side and say, ‘tsk, tsk’ later on when something happens.  I told her it seems there is a potential perpetrator in her daughter’s life  and that her daughter was at a very high risk of being sexually abused unless steps are taken to protect her.   Thankfully she was receptive.

I’m bringing this up because I was thinking about why so often good people see something wrong and stand by and do nothing – including me.  We don’t like being uncomfortable so usually we ignore things we see rather than take action, or blame the victim because they made us uncomfortable and it’s easier to blame them than to exert ourselves to actually do something to help.

I was concerned about a different situation and for months thought about how to approach the mother without making her defensive.  I told myself that she probably wouldn’t listen to me, that she didn’t have the resources to change the situation, that she was well-intended, that I was imagining things, that the situation wasn’t really as bad as I thought, there were other people closer to them who would say something, the school would get involved.  Basically, I made excuses to avoid doing anything that would make me and her parents uncomfortable.

Even though I told myself this, I knew I was making excuses and making the parents’ emotions more important than the child’s.  I was afraid this would be unpleasant for the mother to hear and I didn’t want to be the messenger.  I saw a child who was being impacted by a situation and I wasn’t doing anything to help because I was more worried about what her mother would think of me than about what her child needed, and this lack of personal integrity weighed on me so heavily it was like a physical weight.

I tried to think of ways to help from outside the situation  but everything required me to speak to the mother and come up with solutions together with her.  Finally I asked the mother if we could meet.  I really don’t think conversations like this should be had in any way except in person, it’s just too delicate.  She couldn’t.  I asked if we could speak by phone.  She wanted to know about what.  In an email I very briefly shared my concerns.  She emailed back and said the situation is being taken care of and to never mention this to her again.

Sometimes you can help and sometimes you can’t.  But I don’t want to let an unpleasant response keep me from having the courage to step up the next time I have the ability to help.  Usually being brave requires facing things that we don’t want to face.  Sometimes being brave is being willing to hear hard things.  As unpleasant as facing our fears is, it’s still much easier than living with the results of not listening to our conscience.

Avivah

Posted by: Avivah | November 24, 2013

Shabbos away with just dh and I

My husband and I went away for Shabbos – just the two of us!  This is the first time since before ds7 was born that we’ve gone away without any kids and it was wonderful!

We asked the older kids to come home for Shabbos to stand in for us, so ds20, dd17 and ds14 all were here. They had a really nice bonding Shabbos.  The little kids were all happy and the older kids were happy and dh and I were happy so it worked for everyone!  I did miss being able to be be here when they were all home since it doesn’t happen that often, and ds20 and dd17 were gone before we got home but fortunately this coming week is Shabbos Chanukah so we’ll get to enjoy having almost everyone here then.

When we got to the home of our hostess, she offered us a healthy treat and then asked if we wanted something to eat.  I had something, and she asked me if I wanted some homemade sauerkraut on the side:, “I made it myself, it’s fermented and that means that..”  Having written about this years ago, I knew what this meant!  I commented that I’ve never been at someone’s home and been offered fermented vegetables, and asked her how she learned about it.  She said someone in her community taught her about it, and you know what the funny thing was?  That person learned about it a long time ago on my blog!

We had an amazing Shabbos with so many wonderful people to spend time with.  We didn’t have much time for just the two of us or for resting once we got to our destination but our goal wasn’t to have a getaway but to enjoy spending time with friends and it was so enjoyable!  Have you ever thought about how amazing it is, the amount of nice people there are in this world?  We still had hours to spend alone while we were in transit – a benefit of having a loooong bus ride in each direction!

Avivah

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