We ended up joining some friends at the Adventure in the Park, courtesy of Temple Israel. We had preregistered, and I'm glad we did. Though I may drive on Rosh Hashana, and we went out for lunch afterwards at a restaurant, the idea of a temple asking me for money on the High Holy Days gives me the heebejeebes.
First off, the park location was really difficult to find. We ended up being very late to the event. They had some signage, which ended up being helpful, but we could definitely have used a bit more directional assistance. We had to park very far away, but the park was pretty, and there were TONS of people.
They had a female rabbi, female cantor, and they the services were centered around a stage. They had tons of pup-up tents, since it was so, so so hot. They also had water on offer. They had an adorable little service booklet to follow, and there were families everywhere. Lots of people on picnic blankets, with folding chairs.
It was absolutely the perfect place to bring a toddler. Bubbles, and toys all around. And a torah making it's rounds. Perfectly simple for a young family.
They blew the shofar, handed out apples and honey sticks. Broke challah and had wine. It was a complete service, with the amidah, singing, all the traditional elements. Lots of families had brought picnic lunches and were eating them after the event. EG really enjoyed wandering around, and feeding her challah to the ducks, turtles and geese in the lake.
When it was over, we went to a restaurant around the corner for lunch.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Though we arrived late, there was still a spirit of the holiday. No pressure to act a certain way, no problems with letting our littlest Jew be just the toddler that she is. Next time, however, I would remember to bring our lunch, bring a blanket, and I would definitely register in advance. $12 per person for a bite of challah and some apple was a bit much, but it was absolutely worth it to be together, as a family, with meaningful tesuvah.
That was it for our Rosh Hashana services. Friday passed in a fog of family. Wonderful, happy fog of family.
We atteded Kol Nidre at the Shul by the Shore in Long Beach. We had decided to attend this location because they stated they had Children's Programming. To me, this meant that there were activities related to the holidays for our littlest ones. To them, it meant babysitting in another part of the building.
They were very, very nice and welcoming. Initially we tried to bring the babies in with us (EG with the ladies, her boyfriend with the boys). But that lasted only about 5 minutes. So we took the babies to babysitting, and tried to focus and switch out. I don't think I would do it again, though they were very kind to us, and the babies had a good time.
We went to Saturday Services at the JCC of the Beach Cities.
This was a communal family event. We attended the Tot/preschool event. It was totally participatory, and lively, just very engaging and exciting. They read stories, built a beit hamikdash, told the story of Jonah and the whale, and got to see the Torah. They also had a puppet show which the kids really liked. The puppet show was nice, but I didn't think the story was very appropriate for a holy day. It involved wizards, witches and dragons. It also involved breaking the rules and trying to lie. Oh well, you can't have it all.
They served a snack at the synagogue, allowing all us parents to relax just a bit more and not have to stress about preparing yet another meal. This JCC also had a more traditional family service for the older kids in another space. Family seating, but still a traditional call to worship. A great compromise when the kids get a bit older, but you still want to be a bit more relaxed.