Thursday, February 26, 2015

Purim Parties of the South Bay

Lots of Purim Parties coming up next week and weekend.  Here's what I have for you to consider:

Temple Menorah- Dr. Seuss Party
Wednesday March 4, 2015
6:30pm Megillah reading
$20/family for dinner

Sunday, March 8, 2015
Purim Carnival

JCC- Beach Cities- Brooklyn Party
Wednesday, March 4 2015
5pm for Dinner & Megillah reading
$20/person for dinner
$10/child kids ages 3-11 (prepay)

Congregation Ner Tamid- Back to the Future
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
6pm Dinner and movie screening
$5/person for dinner

Temple Akiba- Traditional
Sunday. March 1, 2015
Traditional Purim Carnival
Tickets needed for game booths.

Congregation Tikvat Jacob
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
6:30pm for dinner & Megillah reading
Dinner included.  Costume contest for Kids and adults

Temple Shalom of the South Bay
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Community Purim Party

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Easy Purim Craft

Sometimes I don't have time to do something crazy creative for the holidays. Especially for Purim, when it feels like I honestly have just finally put away everything from Halloween and Chanukah just yesterday. (No, seriously, I found another dreidel inside the couch!).

So here is something that almost every Mom (or Dad, or Grandparent!) can put together in about 5 minutes to engage the kiddos in the Purim Story.  It requires so little, I'm almost willing to bet you $5 that you have these items at your house- or something similar that would work really well.

1 piece of card stock like paper
1 straw or handle (Popsicle stick? plastic knife?)
1 pen
1 pair of scissors
Crayons or markers for coloring

To Do:

  1. Draw a simple sketch of a Queen Vashti, Queen Esther, Mordechai or Haman.  EG chose Queen Esther.

  1. Cut out the drawing, around the basic face.
  2. Let the kiddos color to their hearts content (EG colored both sides)
  1. Cut out the eyes
  2. Attach the handle
  3. Play!

Not into making your own drawing?  Print out this printable crown from Chai and Home- what cute little Hamentaschen!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Telling (or Not) the story of Purim

Old & New by Lindsey McCormack
I've been trying to tell EG the story of Purim now for a few days.  She's got the basics (you should hear her say Mordechai, so proud!) but it's the nuances I'm having a hard time telling.  The Purim story isn't all giggles and happiness.  In fact, it's one of those iffy stories that I'm almost to worried to tell her.  If this were a Disney movie, you can bet I wouldn't be taking her to see it.  Let's review:

The Killings:

  1. The first thing that happens in the story is drunken debauchery.  The second thing is the killing of the queen.  Who did nothing except decide that she wouldn't parade around naked in front of strangers because her husband told her to.  I totally want EG to be Vashti, except that death thing.  How do you explain that death thing?
  2. Murder plots to kill the King.  I'm not saying I'm a fan of King Ahasuerus, but murdering the man in power.  Not exactly a message I want EG to get in her mind.  Mutiny in the household anyone? Then a few lines later we hang these people from a tree.  Okay, they were bad guys, but it's a lot of killing.
  3. We hang Haman from the gallows that are intended for the Mordechai.  Okay, that might be fine, he's the bad guy here.  But what about the looting, pillaging and death the Jews exact upon the rest of the city.  Sure, the King says he couldn't reverse his decree, so we had to fight back.  That might seem fine, except we did more than protect ourselves.  According to the story we went out deliberately to kick some butt.  We killed and killed and killed.  Then we did it again on the second day.

The Lies: 

  1. Mordechai and Esther are husband and wife.  Or at least Rashi says they were. So, so so many things wrong with this message.  That you can just abandon your wife or that the vows you took on your wedding day can be annulled for a little while because it's convenient for you.
  2. Esther is a Jew.  You know this, I know this, and she knows this.  Yet somehow when she decides to enter this beauty contest to marry the king (you know, as an already married woman should) and then just not mention it.  And it's not like this wasn't something that should have been brought up.  She chooses to deliberately withhold this information, like it's something we should hide about ourselves.
The Treatment of Women:
  1. I've already discussed the unjust murder of Vashti, so that's square one.  But beyond that, we start out with a beauty contest to determine the next queen.  Not that beauty contests are a problem, per se.  It's the fact that this is a legitimate and believable way to choose a queen or a mate that I have issues with.  I don't want EG thinking that the most important part of her is her looks. (of course, the research says I shouldn't tell her she's smart either...)
  2. The fact that Esther has to wine and dine her man to make a request also seems a bit trite to me.  Yes, you can explain it away that he's not really her man, Mordechai is.  But then we've come full circle to the problems of women in this story.
But at the end of the day, it does have at least one redeeming factor: The Heroine...Esther initially doesn't want to do anything.  She tells Mordechai that she can't go in front of the King without death.  And he tells her that he's not worried.  His faith in G-d is so great that he knows that somehow they will be saved.  She responds that she will take the plunge, but that she won't go it alone.  This is where things get interesting, and the morals behind the tale take on a surprising turn towards the good.

Esther must approach the King by herself.  Only she can speak the words to him.  Only she can attempt to sway him.  However, before she does so, she asks that everyone in the community fast for three nights and days.  They they join with her, and help her in spirit to accomplish her task.  

The moral of the day, or at least the one I'll be trying to get across to EG this year, is that just because you are scared doesn't mean you can't do it.  Just because you think you can't doesn't mean that when others join with you, that you can't.  You can stand-up. You can have help.  You can overcome.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Divide and Conquer

I'd written this entire post about how we've dealt with having two children.  How we've sort of ended up with a makeshift 'divide and conquer' strategy, rather than the previous 'we are one' strategy that we used to have.  I was going to say that I think it's terrible, and it makes me sad.  But with Working Dad being sick tonight, I'm feeling the pain of not having my right hand man doing his part.

There are so many moments when we are parenting when we are focused on our children.  Which, of course, as parents are almost all consuming.  Especially the parents of an 'I still eat at night and need to be held because I can't walk' 7 month old baby.  And though Working Dad and I do a decent job of date nights (speaking of which, the Growing Garden Gala event is this Saturday night, which is an AWESOME kosher date night if you are interested) and a decent job of trying to connect, but sometimes it feels like we haven't had any sort of real connection for days.

It's a hard thing to think about- because I fundamentally believe that the basis of good parenting is a good relationship between the two people who created the child.  While I realize that's not always possible, I feel like my first obligation is to the man I married, not to the children we created.  First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

Tonight, I'm sitting here alone since Working Dad has another cold.  We just can't seem to keep healthy this season.  But sitting here alone isn't the sad part. It's looking around the kitchen and realizing all the little things that he usually does at night.  Put away Ochos' bathtub, clean the bumbo seat.  Take out the trash and clean up my mess from making dinner.  He's the other half of my entire equation.

So, I think I've changed my mind about 'divide and conquer.'  Sometimes it takes two to tango...or keep a house with two kids running with gas.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Egg-less Challah

This week I've invited over a friend who has a son with a bunch of allergies.  As allergies are nothing new in my household (shout-out to my sister-in-law and oldest nephew) I knew that I wanted to make a meal that everyone could enjoy.

Her son has an allergy to dairy and egg, and she has an allergy to wheat.  Well, I did try to look up a celiac's recipe for challah, but didn't find anything that looked good.  I was given some new flour thats supposed to be not only delicous buy is certified Kosher and wheat-free, so I'm looking forward to using that sometime soon.

But I did find a great egg-less challah recipe that I'm excited to take a gander at.  It's from this blog called the Challah Blog, which isn't really still up, but it's got a great archive of recipes and braiding techniques for those who are into it. 

3 C flour
1/4 cup plus 1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 C natural oil (vegetable or canola)
1 1/4 C Water
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) to 1 Tbsp dry yeast
Optional: Maple Syrup for an egg-free shine

As usual, proof your yeast in warm water with a bit of sugar.  Add oil, then water, salt and sugar.  Mix it all up.  If it's too wet add flour, too sticky add water or oil.

Let it rise at least an hour.

Punch down and braid.  Let rise again for an hour

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

It didn't really turn out that delicious, but in a pinch it would totally do for an egg-less friend.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Purim Around the Blogisphere

Purim is coming up in just a few weeks, on March 4th.  I'll be sharing some thoughts on the holiday, as well as my usual Purim Carnival round-up, but I wanted to share a bit about what some other bloggers are doing...

Tori Avery Image

Food wise, Joy of Kosher Jamie Geller has a nice Persian Menu for your Purim feast.  I think it looks delicious, and I'm sure would be quite tasty.  Any time you eat lamb is a wonderful meal in my mind.

Deni at Chai and Home has some artful ways to make your Purim basket of goodies shine.  For me, part of the wonder of this holiday is the treats you get to make for others, and displaying them beautifully is such a great part of that.

Even though this is from last year, Creative Jewish Mom has some awesome toilet paper roll dolls.  These would be so perfect for my EG, since she loves puppets and anything interactive really gets the stories across so much easier.

Tori Avery has a great guest post with some awesome Purim Finger puppets.  They include an amazing printable made by Secret Agent Josephine, and would be even easier for those who are a touch less crafty.  All you need is a color printer.  I think I might try these on my Cricuit- which can print and cut all at once!

I'll be trying to branch out into the Jewish Blogging world more and more. Have a Purim idea you'd like to share, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll add it to the list!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Valentines Day- Crafts for the Kiddos

Ah Valentines Day.  A nebulous historically Christian holiday whose current form is so far from it's religious traditions we're tempted to call it an American Holiday.  With it being on Saturday night this year, the hallmarkism of America went into overdrive. What better time to brave the crazy crowds at a restaurant then this hallow of forced love...

We didn't celebrate Valentines Day yesterday. We sang Shabbat songs and enjoyed time as a family, as we do most Shabbats.  They don't celebrate it in EG's school, but never-the-less, there are a few crafts that I think are PERFECT for the holiday that we did do...


This is a great little thing to do, and I love the idea of making hearts every year to see how the girls have grown.  Sort of like making Christmas ornaments, but not quite as Christian, just fun and nice, and something I can display and they can have as keepsakes.

1 cup salt
2 cups flour
about 1 cup water

Make it into a nice dough, then roll it out or pat it down.  Have the kiddos step into the dough, then cut around it to make a cute heart shape.  You can try to get a bit more of a heart shape out of the feet, but I found that too difficult for me to really do.  Dry overnight, then put in the oven on warm while it dries out.  I think I might paint them once it's dry, and I'll definitely add the date and ages of the kiddos.

This dough is great and easy, and also not something toxic, so totally good for Ocho too!

Here's EG's after she stepped in it....

 And little Ocho feet- this was fun to do, but also really difficult.  I had to have EG distract Ocho with a toy so she wouldn't press her feet into the ground to much. Even like this, it's a bit hard.

The next project is one that we actually did for a Christmas present, but I thought I would finally share it here, since it's perfect for this holiday.  I got the idea from my sister, but it was so much fun making it myself.

The hand is EG's and the footprints are Ochos.  I love that it's both girls together, and though it was a bit hard to get them nice, it turned out really well!  I also LOVE that EG's handprint has a mini heart inside too!

Buy a canvas- I recommend at least 8x10
Get washable fingerpainting paints
Paint onto one hand, press onto canvas
Paint onto one foot at a time, then press onto canvas.

I recommend letting each image dry before adding the next one.

Then just add the "L" and the "E".   So easy and so cute!

The last one is a glitter fest!  EG loves to give hugs and high fives, so this was a 'virtual' hug with her hands that she made.  Then we painted on some glue and made each of her handprints a different glitter color.

Again, doing this project yearly also lets you see how the kiddos grow!

Hope you enjoy these fun projects!

Friday, February 13, 2015

JLI: The Art of Parenting On Good Authority

This weeks' JLI Parenting class discussed parental authority, or what to do with the 'why' question our children constantly ask.

It started out with a story by Rabbi Yosef Titschak Schneersohn, one of the Chasidic rebbe's which told the story about how he learned to do the motions to the Modeh Ani prayer.  In the story his father tells him when he asks why that we do as we are told without asking.  Then his father called over an elder man and asked him if he knew why.  The older man answered 'because that is how I was taught to do it- that's what my father taught me.' Rabbi Yosef's father went on to say that before him was Moses, then Abraham.  Sometimes we need to do without asking why.

When we first discussed this story, it seemed a bit strange.  We can't always rely on the 'Moses and Abraham did it' or 'Sarah and Leah did it' response to our children's questions.  But underneath the answer is the real truth- sometimes we need to do without asking why.  Sometimes we just need to listen.

Do your children listen?  Or do they ask why?

Of course, we want our children to ask why on some level.  It means they have cognitive thinking, that they are exploring their world, especially if they are the age of EG.  She literally didn't know that the bathtub had what's called a faucet and handles- she was calling them wheels in the bathtub.  So, she asks why not because she wants to change my mind or argue her case, but because she doesn't know.  Eventually, however, our kids start turning why into a challenge.

The class goes on to explain how we need good authority from which to make our rules and decisions.  That we need our rules to come from a higher sense of our values, our beliefs and what we want for our children.  And that sometimes it's in the best interest of our children not to give an answer to 'why.'  That's not to say we should answer with 'because I said so', but rather sometimes it's important for our children to learn that not all requests have a why.   Or that sometimes you don't get to ask (say your boss, etc.)

For me the most moving part of the whole class was when we discussed a 'Jewish advantage.'  I'll go so far as to say that all people who hold G-d up in their hearts and minds probably have this advantage.

In order to share the advantage, we need to establish a few ideas first.  We need to agree that our children learn best by our modeling the behavior we expect to see.  We speak nicely, they speak nicely, etc.  We need to agree that there are fundamental things that are right and wrong.  Cheating, stealing, etc.  Whether those examples work for you is irrelevant, it's important to say that sometimes you speak from the perspective of 'because this is what's right.'  We also need to agree that our goals for our children are to teach them these morals and values that we hold dear.

Assuming all these things jive well with you as a parent, then here's the Jewish secret advantage. Each time you, as a parent, do something solely because G-d told you to (aka, light Shabbat candles, not use your phone on Shabbat, pray before a meal, not mix milk & meat, buy kosher candy, etc.) you are role modeling the subordinate behavior we are expecting from our children.

It's rare in 'regular' life that our children see us responding to requests and fulfilling them just because we were asked to.  They don't follow us to the office, nor do they see us in submissive roles to a higher power.

Therein lies the secret advantage of leading a Jewish lifestyle.  Each time we freely choose to submit to G-d's commandments and accept them as a foundation of our way of life and value system we show our children our ability to do as we want them to do.  When we do it with joy, we show them that they can do it too.  In a way it's like we're saying that the hierarchy of our family is them, us, then G-d and Torah.  That we don't just make things up or create demands based upon a whim - that all things come from a higher place.

As I said earlier, I'm fairly sure that those with faith have this advantage- regardless of the faith you subscribe to.  Going to church on Sundays, choosing to pray before meals, etc. all shows dedication to something we can't always understand- just like we want our children to listen and respond to us even if they don't understand.

The other big take away for me from the class was this sentence: Exodus 24: 7

"The people responded, "All that G-d spoke we will do and we will understand.'

Now perhaps this is the Jewish advantage, because according to BibleHub, there is no Christian verse that contains the context of 'understanding.'  Which to me is the whole crux of the issue.

First we will do, then we will understand.  We're not saying that our children don't need to understand.  We're saying that sometimes they need to DO first, then perhaps they can understand.  Sometimes we need them to DO (not run into the street after a ball) before we know that they will really UNDERSTAND the consequences (run over by a car/death)

This time, tonight, as you light your Shabbat candles remember that you are showing your children how to answer to a higher authority. That sometimes we DO, even when we don't know why.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

These are the days

Today is one of those difficult days.  Those days that you thought were going to be few and far between, when one child is so emotional that the drop of a hat literally sends her into reels of tears and the other one is having separation anxiety so bad you'd swear it's like you left her for weeks not moments.

These are the days when being a mom seems to feel more like an endless loop of unenjoyable actions, and frustrations, rather than singing happy tunes and making cookies.

These are the moments when you just wish your child could be 5 or 10 or 15, so they could do it themselves, rather than have the debate, discussion, tears and arguments again about the potty and washing their hands.

But these are also the moments when you realize that your little girl will be 5 or 10 or 15 before you can say a word.  That nap time battles will become classroom dramas will become boyfriend troubles in the blink of an eye.

That these are the reason's why you are here.  Because even if you had thought you were going to work this morning, her tears and minor fever meant she wasn't going to school anyways- so all those meetings would have been canceled.  Now you can just scoop her up in your arms, and if a load of laundry doesn't get done, or the breakfast dishes are still sitting in the sink when you are making dinner- it doesn't matter.

What matters is that she has you with her.

So take a deep breath mama.

Then just let it go...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: Kosher S*X

I try to make this a family blog, and perhaps you could say that this is actually the most family friendly conversation I've ever had on this blog... about Kosher Sex.  Have you read this book?


Now I don't claim that Working Dad and I practice this, but I do think it's an interesting story.  It ties into the Rosh Chodesh class called SoulMates that I've been taking monthly, and I thought it would be an interesting topic of discussion.

The basic concept is that instead of answering your carnal urges at any time, there is a cycle to your intimacy.  For at a minimum of 12 days surrounding the start and end of your cycle you are off limits to your husband.  Then, after that time, it's all fun and games.

The book talks about several basic ideas which I think are easy to get behind:

Part One: A discussion about what sex is, compared with lust, commitment, and love.  It drives down into the ideas of traditional thought, doing what's expected and understanding why there are benefits to waiting until marriage.  My favorite is the 'myth of compatibility' which lays out the argument that you have to have sex before you get married to know if you are compatible with each other.  Totally crap according to this book.  And in a lot of ways I agree.  Once you get married the sex you had with someone else is utterly irrelevant as you've committed to never having sex with anyone else again.  Having someone for you to compare your partner to is probably a mistake.

Part Two: This the the meat of the book where he really talks about the mechanics, and offers a lot of opinions about specific questions.  It discusses porn and sex toys, as well as more adventurous sex techniques...

Part Three: This is titled sex for single people, but it's really about discussing why we marry at all.  He lays out wonderful arguments about why people need to be in committed relationships, and how waiting until you are married to have sex can really enhance your relationship. 

Part Four: This chapter deals with difficulties in marriages, and the possibility of divorce. One of my favorite parts is where he discusses how children are important to a marriage, but that without the bedrock foundation of the married couple, the children don't exist.  Today it's so easy to put your children first, especially when they are little and have seemingly around the clock demands (yes 3am is totally a great time to be up Ocho!)...

Part Five: This is where he really discusses the tenets of Kosher Sex and Family Purity.  About how waiting until after a woman's cycle creates a unique opportunity for a man to be constantly chasing his wife.  How it gives a woman mystery and specialness that comes when she isn't in intimate contact with her husband.

Overall it's an insightful book with a visionary way of looking at some of the more base aspects of a sexual relationship. 

Did it make me decide to start practicing family purity laws as discussed?  No, but it did make me think about how important it is to dedicate part of your time to both sides of your marriage.  The intimate and the emotional- because when it comes down to it, this is really what family purity helps protect.  It says these weeks are for intimate connections, and these weeks are for emotional connections.  It allows us to say yes, even when we might want to say no, because it's only another few days before I'm off limits again.  It allows us to say no when we might want to, because it's that time of the month, or because I really do just want to take a bath and eat all the chocolate in the house.

Have you thought about how you protect both sides of your marriage?   This might be part of Judaism's answer, but what works for you? 

I really encourage comments about this part of Judaism, and as with all my posts I hope to illicit some sort of discussion. However, this topic being a sensitive one I won't allow posts that harass or demean myself or others.  Happy commenting!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Jewish Learning Institute: The Art of Parenting Class 2

We had class two of the series I'm taking, and this one really clarified a few things for me.  The main point of the class was the concept of discipline.  When we think about discipline, we think about the things we do to correct the actions of our children.

We think about the time out chair.

We think about the spanking.

We think about all the things that we do to our children to correct their behavior.  But why do we do any of it?

The thing I learned from this lesson was that the most important thing we can teach our children is the art of SELF- discipline.  Why do we give them a time out- so they remember that what they are doing is not the right thing.  But what's behind that?  The idea that the next time they think about doing what they just did, they will remember the punishment and not do it.

What's the end goal of it all- Self discipline.  The ability to do the thing they should do, even when they don't want to.  The ability to NOT do what they shouldn't do, even if they do want to.  The ability to do the right thing, and refuse their 'baser' instincts.

We give our children rewards to help them understand that they are capable of overcoming their instincts.  We punish our children to help them understand that they are better than what they think they are capable of.

How can we teach self-discipline?  By modeling it ourselves.  When it's time to do the dishes- do the dishes without complaint.  When it's time to go to work, model the good behavior we want from our children and go to work with a smile.  Doing the things we don't want to do because we need to do them.

So, when you next think about the things you want to teach your children and the values you want to instill in them- think Self Discipline. Think that the reward for going on the potty is the point where she learns that she can.  Think that the time out is the moment when she realizes that she doesn't have to be.

Just read this definition of discipline and think about this definition: "training that develops self-control or character."

Give your child the gift of good character and self-control.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tu B'Shvat Tablescapes

I'm not the most fancy when it comes to table decor.  As much as I try, I don't think I'm ever quite able to get across what it is I'm trying to.

You've seen my Passover table, and I've had some pretty Rosh Hashana tables, and I've done my best on Purim too, but I get so involved in the practical- especially when you have little children and tiny hands on the table.

This Wednesday is Tu'Bshvat, and while we won't be hosting our dinner until Saturday night, I thought I would share a few beautiful tables, so we can all strive for something new this year...

Attribution Some rights reserved by Didriks
There are so many beautiful tables designs at Chai and Home.  She even has a whole pinterest page dedicated to these gorgeous tables.

I love the idea of using a platter and displaying some of the fruits and vegetables of the season, or of the holidays...

 This shows how gorgeous Wheat can be in a vase- and totally simple too...

Also cc  Didriks
The Jewish Hostess also has some nice tablescapes, so you can look at her website too for some additional inspiration.  Just because we have tiny humans doesn't mean we don't want pretty things... right...?

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