A different Menorah…

December 12th, 2010

I have had a very frustrating month unable to upload photos. This is only one of many excuses reasons I have not been blogging for so long.

I know, I know: Chanukah is over. For most of you, I would imagine that it is already out of your mind. As my big return, shouldn’t I post something timely and relevant? Probably.

But I really wanted to put up this post, and I can finally do so with photos, so please bear with me, dear readers (all two of you that haven’t given up on me.)

My almost 11-year old daughter came to me about a month before Chanukah declaring that she wanted to make a completely unique menorah this year, as a project – and as a surprise for the family – with just me.

I haven’t had time to blog because I am adjusting to worki

ng full-time, and not adjusting well so far. I don’t have time to breathe, and I certainly don’t have time for special projects! But I have to have time for my daughter…. so we came up with a project together.

Homeshuling’s Amy Meltzer let me know it isn’t all th

at unique… but it is creative, and pretty, and was not a lot of cutti

ng and gluing or creatively molding or shaping, all of which I don’t do very well.

Daughter decided we weren’t going to buy anything; the challenge was to use what was in the house. SO, this is what we did:

We washed and saved jars from food with relatively similar heights and wide nec

ks. Then, we glued the together, like this:

Jars glued together

Next, we filled them with water. In order to make them the same height, I had to eyeball the water to get the levels the same, since the jars are different. (In order for the menorah to be kosher, the candles have to be the same height.)

Then dear daughter had a great time adding food coloring to each jar to create a variety of colors… we had agreed earlier that the shamash would get to be purple.

Jars filled with water

Then we added the tealights.  Despite my husband’s worries to the contrary, they floated beautifully, and didn’t sink once throughout the holiday.

It isn’t a very compact solution, but we had a lot of fun, and the colors looked beautiful. We did reuse materials in our house, and we had our mother-daughter time.

lit menorah

I know it is late, but perhaps this can be filed away for next year…I hope you had a Chanukah holiday full of lights, latkes, love, freedom and family, music and matanot (gifts.)

…I also hope to get to starting blogging again more frequently than once a month.

Winter break

December 29th, 2009

Today is day 3 of the kids being home for winter break. DH and I planned a day at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Needless to say, such an outing, even with only six of the seven kids, is a production. Lots of planning…..

DH broke his toe last night (I can’t even begin to explain.) So either we had to cancel, or I had to take five of them on my own. That wasn’t going to happen. Especially after yesterday’s near melt-down.

One rule of thumb I learned (the hard way) a long time ago is that I don’t discuss big plans like these with the kids much ahead of time. This way when they don’t work out there is little whining and disappointment.

Another, is that kids like small, easy and familiar outings as much if not more than a big production of a trip that requires travel, planning, and is usually exhausting.

Today was a case in point. Instead of our big day at the museum, we counted out the money in their banks, did lots of fun math to total the amounts, and trotted off to the local bank to open FIVE student bank accounts. This including explaining to my four y.o. at least ten times that she would still have her money, just at the big bank not in her piggy bank.  Luckily someone came in to use their safety deposit box. She sort of interpreted what I told her to mean that she was going to have her $18 stored in one of those… and I let her leave believing it.

The people at the local PNC branch deserve a lot of credit for their patience.

We then went to a friend’s to watch an American Girl movie on DVD…. for some reason the fact that it took place during the Great Depression was enough to get the boys to watch it. Everyone loved the movie. My eight year old son got a lot of pleasure out of the fact that Ima cried at the end, for some reason.

The last exciting outing of the day was a trip to Target to use the gift cards the children received for Chanukah. That was my idea, the gift cards. I must remember to post a blog about what a terrible idea that was.

They were thrilled. A full and fun day. So, so, so much easier than a 90-minute each way trek into NYC to the Museum of Natural History on a day with record freezing winds…… and, for the record, I spent absolutely nothing.

Last week our local library invited Yosi, a childrens’ performer, to give a Chanukah concert. We don’t live in a large Jewish community, and the greater community does very little to acknowledge Jewish holidays. I was thrilled.

But Yosi got sick, and the event was cancelled. I called the library and offered to “fill in” and run a Chanukah Musical Party (as opposed to a concert) this week instead. After all, I reasoned, it is actually Chanukah this week. The children will  have something instead of nothing, however lame it may be. It will be great marketing for my Jewish Mommy and Me program. And who knows? Maybe one more Jewish family will leave wanting to know more about their Judaism. …

I didn’t think it through, and I didn’t consider at the time how much I was setting myself up to flop, fail; embarrass me and my family.

The local outreach Rabbi was so pleased that I “think on my feet”, and jumped into the void quickly enough for it to work out. The library is thrilled! My kids are excited (the almost 10 year old is embarrassed in anticipation, I think).

I learned the word impetuous at a very early age from my father – about me. I have made very quick decisions much larger than whether or not to perform without an instrument or musicians – or a clue – in a small local library before.

After 18 months of college searching, 8 applications, etc, I decided to blow it all off, “defer” and go to Israel for the year. It was one of the best, and most pivotal decisions of my life.

I dated my husband for 8 months. Some considered that very short; for me it was far longer than I felt was necessary.

I suppose that some enjoy the comfort of  safety. This isn’t a feeling I can relate to very much. It isn’t learned, it is an innate personality trait that I enjoy taking risks, knowing that I will sometimes fail.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t come with an innate ability to deal with said failure.

The dictionary uses the term “rash” to somehow differentiate between impetuous and hasty. So are my decisions rash? Or just “thinking on my feet”?

Perhaps the only way to know is with that wonderful clarifier hindsight.

My first singing teacher taught me the trite phrase “life isn’t a dress rehearsal”. It resonated with me. I think more often than not I have been happy with the hasty decisions I have made.

I hope today’s performance is one of them. I have already expended a lot of energy with thoughts of “what was I thinking”.

Holiday gift recommendation

November 22nd, 2009

I really dislike most toys. I think they are a waste, don’t last, and very few have staying power. My kids use the trampoline more than every toy we own combined. And that is a lot of toys.

So I don’t recommend toys lightly. There are a few I love that just get used so often. For me, a toy is worth it if it can be used in more than one way by different children at different ages and with different personalities. Maybe that is the nature of my large family, but I don’t think so. You want toys to adapt to cousins, playdates, and of course, our children growing at a rate that is just far, far too fast.

All of this long-winded preamble is to let you know that the Aquadoodle Wall Mat is one of my all time favorites. Every house with a toddler should have one! It allows a child to write on the wall with water – the pens only take water – and then it dries, and we start over.

Mine is in the hallway just next to my kitchen, so my kids can be near me, engaged, creative — and leaving me alone to work at the same time.

There are several versions, some are girl-ish and some boy-ish…. neutral as possible is good since every kid large and small (including teenagers) cannot resist writing some “kosher grafitti” when given the chance. You probably will use it too.

For those of you in Israel, this is the best toy to ask for or bring, b/c it is FLAT, and can therefore fit quite easily in Bubbe’s suitcase.

You can find them in a lot of stores, but here is a link to the best price I have seen:


Order extra pens, so lots of kids can use it together.

No; I get no money or any other perks, this is just my recommendation. I didn’t buy mine at Toys R Us, FWIW.

I would love recommendations of your faves as well; cannot believe we are going to have to cram more stuff into this house come Chanukah time…