Saturday, December 8, 2012


Tonight is the first night of Chanukah and my kids were thrilled beyond belief. We were able to light the menorah (D'vorah lit the menorah tonight) and place it in the window and look at it from the road... it was so beautiful!

I know it looks like there are four candles but that is the reflection from the window.
We played dreidel.


Earlier this week the kids decorated the front window as well...

Taken from the road
 Every night we add a paper candle and flame to the menorah the kids made.

It's been a wonderful first night... I can't wait for the rest of the week.

And now, another video for your viewing pleasure! More Maccabeats!

Friday, December 7, 2012

I wish Friday was longer in the Winter

Fridays are always busy for me. It is the day that I prepare my home for Shabbat. Since we do not work (which includes cleaning and cooking) on Shabbat, I spend Friday getting everything ready for a peaceful and restful Shabbat (or as peaceful and restful as it can be with 4 children). And with sunset being earlier in the winter time, I miss those extra hours to get everything ready. I always feel rushed in the winter.

What does my typical Friday look like?

I get up in the morning and fix breakfast for everyone. Then I organize the kids and pass out their chores. The older kids are responsible for cleaning their bedrooms, vacuuming their carpets (they alternate every week who vacuums the upstairs hallway) and making their beds. If they have any clean laundry, they fold it and put it away. If the two oldest have dirty laundry, they bring it to the laundry room and start washing/drying.

Once the kids are taken care of and have something to do, I begin with my list of chores (usually with a 10 month old following me around and tugging on my leg).

If the kids aren't using the washer and dryer, I start on the adults laundry and the younger kids' clothes. I'll check back throughout the day to switch over the loads and distribute the clothes where they need to go (and if I start running out of time, the laundry is the first cleaning job that is cut from my "to do" list - by this point it's usually washed and dried, just not put away yet - it can wait until Sunday).

I never do the same routine twice. Some weeks I start in the kitchen, other weeks I start with my bedroom. Today, I started with the living room. I picked up the clutter that has accumulated, clear off tables and the top of the TV and the mantel over the fireplace. Everything gets dusted and scrubbed. The windows are washed. Finally I sweep and mop the living room and dining room floors and the downstairs hallway.

I moved on to the kitchen to clean off and wash the counters, empty and refill the dishwasher, scrub the sink, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and freezer, and finally scrub the kitchen table. I move on to the sliding glass door and the window to make them nice and shiny clean (and to remove the fingerprints of the 10 month old from the glass). After washing the fronts of the cabinets and drawers I then sweep and mop the kitchen floor.

On to the bathrooms. Scrub the tub, the sink, the cabinets and counters, and the toilet. Sweep and mop, was the mirrors and windows. Moving on...

Usually by this point the kids have been finished with their bedrooms and had a little time to play. Now they take over in the schoolroom, picking up and vacuuming. They clean off the white boards while I was the windows and dust. Books are returned to the shelves and desks are cleaned off and scrubbed. The computer desk gets cleaned and the computer dusted.

In amongst all the cleaning I am also baking challah (egg bread we have at meals on Shabbat) and preparing dinner for Friday night. Tonight we are having a nice thick beef stew with the challah.

Before I am done, I set the table for Shabbat. We have a tablecloth just for Shabbat, I put out the candlesticks and get everything ready to welcome the time of rest.

That's just a glimpse of what all happens on a typical Friday in my house. Now to get back to work...


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From the Maccabeats!

My kids love all of these videos and songs. Maccabeats is high on their list of favorites. As are Matisyahu and the Fountainheads. As a matter of fact, Yaakov's Hebrew school class is singing "Candlelight" by the Maccabeats at our school Chanukah Carnival this coming Sunday! YAY! So here's "Candlelight!"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How we celebrate Chanukah

Every family has different traditions for what they do for Chanukah. Many come from what the parents families did in the past. As converts, we get to figure out our own traditions.

Every night, just after sundown, we light the menorah (a candelabrum with 9 branches - space for 9 candles). The only night(s) this is different is on Shabbat. When Chanukah is over Shabbat then we light the menorah candles before we light our Shabbat candles. Part of Shabbat is to not kindle a fire (that is work, and we abstain from work on Shabbat), so once the Shabbat candles are lit, we cannot light a fire, which includes lighting the Chanukah candles. After we light the shamash, we say the blessings for Chanukah, then we light the rest of the candles in the menorah.

Everyday we light more candles on the menorah. One night one we light the shamash (helper) candle and then one candle for the menorah. One night two we light the shamash and two menorah candles. On night three we light the shamash and three menorah candles. We increase the number of menorah candles by one each night, for eight nights.

After the menorah is lit we sing songs and eat (it's never a Jewish holiday with food). Because Chanukah is the story of the rededication of the Temple and the miracle was that the oil burned for 8 days when there was only enough oil for one, fried foods are popular for Chanukah munchies. Jelly doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes) are the usual foods of choice. YUM!

Next the kids usually insist on playing dreidel. That is a game with a spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each of its four sides. All together the four letters mean "A great miracle happened there" (meaning the miracle of the oil). During the game the letters tell the player what to do. Landing on one letter means the player who spun the dreidel gets all the "money" in the pot (we use chocolate coins, try keeping the kids from eating all the "money" before the last night of Chanukah, it's not an easy task and we usually end up having to bring out the jar of pennies), another letter means the player has to add money to the pot. Yes, it's a gambling game but the kids still enjoy playing.

Next we come to tzedakah (charity). Before we do our own gift exchange, we encourage the kids to contribute a little something to tzedakah. They are going to be getting some nice gifts but there are many people who cannot even afford to feed their families. We may not always have a lot, but we have more than many and we shouldn't feel burdened to give to those who need help, but we should feel happy to give. We put our money in our family tzedakah box and after Chanukah we will donate the money to a charity with which we all agree.

Then we come to the gifts. Exchanging gifts at Chanukah is actually a fairly new tradition. Traditionally, the only "gift" giving associated with the holiday was the giving of gelt (a small token of money). However, since Chanukah falls around the same time as Christmas, many have expanded the traditional giving of gelt to giving of gifts.

Gift giving in our house comes at levels. Nights one through four are all small and inexpensive gifts (usually less than $3.00 each). On nights five and six the gifts get a little better and there are usually a few more as family and friends have also sent gifts to the children. On night seven the kids exchange gifts they bought for each other. Finally, on night eight, each child gets their "big" gift.

Once we get to the gift part, we usually lose all the attention of the kids. They just want to play with their new toys and games. LOL They are kids after all.

I am almost as excited about Chanukah as the kids!