Nov
21
2013

Making a Big Deal of Hanukkah for Kids at Christmas Time

Because Being Jewish At Christmas Time Can Be Tough On Kids (And Mommies)

Making a Big Deal of Hanukkah for Kids at Christmas Time

I grew up in a small town where I was literally one of only a handful of Jewish people (a very small handful). Not only were there practically no Jews living in our town, but no one really knew anything about Judaism or the Jewish holidays. Because of this, I found Christmas to be really difficult.

We'd go to the grocery store, out to eat, or to school and we'd always hear the same thing: "What do you want for Christmas little girl?" or "Are you excited for Santa to come to your house?" or "How are you celebrating Christmas this year?" I'd look questioningly at my mom, suddenly feeling really uncomfortable and not sure how to respond. I can recall giving a half-smile, nodding, and muttering some sort of answer under my breath. Sometimes my mom would explain that we were in fact Jewish and didn't celebrate Christmas. In a town of 13,000 people in the heart of the Ottawa Valley, not celebrating Christmas was practically unheard of. We'd often get a look that was a cross between sympathy and confusion. You DON'T celebrate Christmas?!

How To Have A Jewish Christmas

To my mom's credit, she did make a big deal about Hanukkah and made the best of our small town situation. Every year she went to each of my brothers' and my class to spend the day making dreidels, baking cookies and latkes, and teaching our classmates the story of Hanukkah. Though we were the only house on the street without Christmas lights, we had our own traditions that we loved.

Moving away from that small town was a huge victory for me. And, thankfully I was able to make my home in Toronto where multiculturalism is a way of life. Here, latkes and Hanukkah treats are available in grocery stores. Toy shops like Mastermind have Hanukkah wrapping paper next to the Christmas wrap. And, larger-than-life menorahs are mounted and lit in public for the eight nights of Hanukkah. (I especially love the one outside the plaza at the corner of Bayview and York Mills). In this city, I feel much less out of place for not celebrating Christmas and I love that I'm not the only one celebrating something different.

The Top 5 Hannukkah Treats Your Going To Want To Try

But, now that I'm not bombarded with Christmas stuff to the point that it makes me ill—I actually find myself loving it! I've even gone so far as to ask my husband (only half jokingly) if we could have a Christmas tree or lights...just for fun. It's such a festive and celebratory time of year, that I still sometimes feel like I'm missing out. Sure, it's fun to see a movie and eat Chinese food on December 25, but truth-be-told, I'd rather spend the day opening presents, drinking eggnog, and celebrating with family.

Recently, I've started hearing from Jewish mommy friends that their little ones are saying things like: "Why can't we celebrate Christmas?" or "I don't want to be Jewish, I want Christmas" or "I want to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas" (those are the smartest kids I think!)

With Hanukkah starting next week, I really want to make a big deal out of the holiday. I want my kids to feel special, to form a connection with the holiday and their religion. I also LOVE buying presents and love watching my kids open them. I want my kids to experience the festivity of this time of year, and to feel part of it, rather than separate from it. I want to make latkes with my daughter (or maybe convince my mom to make latkes with my daughter!). Hang sparkly, blue and silver Hanukkah decorations from our ceilings. Host parties and light the candles. Even though it's not an important holiday as far as the religion goes, and even though I'm not so into religion, I want to make it a special holiday in our house.


(Willow's first Hanukkah, 2010)

But this year, once Hanukkah has come and gone, we'll still have nearly a month until Christmas. That's the trouble with the Jewish calendar. What are we supposed to do for the whole month of December so we don't feel left out? How should my 3-year-old be taught to respond when someone in a store asks her if she's excited for Santa to visit? What can I do to make her feel special but not different, this time of year?

This is the first year that she'll really know what's going on. So I have to decide how I want to handle it all.

In the meantime, I have a closet full of Hanukkah gifts, piles of children's books, and five menorahs ready to go. Happy Hanukkah!

Nov
19
2013

Celebrate The Holidays With Sonshine and Broccoli

Or How My Preschooler Became Star Sturck

Celebrate The Holidays With Sonshine and Broccoli

At one point or another we've all experienced what it feels like to be star struck. Maybe it was someone super talented; or incredibly charming; or majorly famous. Whether you met them in person or saw them perform live—there's no mistaking that feeling. 

What I didn't realize is that it can happen to a 3-year-old.

It wasn't Sleeping Beauty, who enchanted her friends at her third birthday party. Or Barney, who she recently saw live at The Baby Time Show. Or even Raffi, who she's getting to see for a second time this February.

My daughter's very first star obsession revolves around a Toronto children's performer by the name of Sonshine!

Maybe you've heard of her? Her real name is Lisa Sonshine and she's one half of the musical duo Sonshine & Broccoli. She's spunky, full of life, and a great entertainer. And my daughter totally infatuated with her.

It started when Sonshine & Broccoli performed at her daycare this summer. She came home singing all of their songs and begging me to take her to their Halloween concert.

So we went to the concert. And this happened...

(That's my little pink butterfly up on stage!! Note: you couldn't have paid me to get up on stage at a concert when I was a kid)

Then this happened...

And from that moment on...it's been all Sonshine all the time around our house.

"I want Sonshine to be in my family," she said. "I want to go see another Sonshine concert," she said. "I want to listen to the Sonshine & Broccoli CD in the car...EVERY DAY," she said. And the best..."I want a Sonshine doll for Hanukkah! Please mommy!"

It's been over a month and she's still talking about that show. Still talking about Sonshine and how much she loves her.

So, you can only imagine that we're counting down the days until the next Sonshine & Broccoli concert. Which happens to be coming up very soon.

If your kids love music and dancing, then they'll love Sonshine & Broccoli. I promised Lisa I'd help promote her upcoming Holiday concerts (since my kid is now the unofficial head of her fan club and all) plus, when I find something that makes my kid so happy, I'm more than happy to share it.

So here are the details:

THE CHANUKAH SHOW (DECEMBER 1, 2013)

To order tickets email: singingwithsonshine@gmail.com

THE SOCIAL MONKEY CLUB HOLIDAY WORKSHOP (DECEMBER 15, 2013)

Click here to buy tickets.

Finally, Sonshine & Broccoli also do music classes, birthday parties, and perform at schools and camps across Ontario and beyond. If you want more info, check them out online at sonshineandbroccoli.com.

I hope your kids love them as much as mine does. See you at the show!

Nov
16
2013

The Musings Of A Totally Distracted Mommy

Or Why I've Written Five To-Do Lists But Haven't Gotten Anything Done

The Musings Of A Totally Distracted Mommy

At the end of the month, my baby girl will be 8 months old. I'm kinda freaking out. How did she get so big, so fast? And why is it getting so much harder to get anything done? I've been trying to get organized, but the 'to do' lists keep piling up and the chaos continues to mount. Every time my baby's head hits the mattress for her nap, my brain is bombarded with a bajillion things I really need to get done.

It goes something like this...

Wow, I'm tired. I should really take a nap.

But...the dishwasher is clean and needs to be emptied. I could do that now...unless the noisy clanking of dishes wakes the baby up.

I could make dinner. What on earth am I going to make for dinner? I would really like to have a personal chef. Where does someone go about getting one of those?

Coffee!! Is it too late in the day for coffee? Would that work to replace the nap I really want to take?

I have so much work to do. I should really sit down and get some work done. Where to begin? I think I'll write another 'to do' list. Just to get myself back on track.

I can't believe Hanukkah is just a few weeks away. I wonder if we have any candles left from last year? I should make a list of presents I need to buy. Shopping would be a fun way to spend the day...but, what about all the work I have to do?

Ding. Facebook! Damn you! Why do you always lure me away from everything I should be doing?!

Thanks to Facebook I now know that another mommy friend is starting to sleep train her baby. Should I be sleep training Fiona? She's almost 8 months. Shit! She could be sleeping through the night... But, do I have the stamina to mess up a routine that's working fairly well? Do I have the strength to let her cry in the middle of the night? What am I supposed to do with Willow while Fiona is crying all night? Willow is hardly sleep trained as it is. Gah! Maybe I'll just forget about this for now. If I do nothing, maybe she'll sleep train herself...

I'm hungry. Guess I really should start to think about dinner. Should I start cooking before my mom brings Willow back from swimming lessons or once she's is already home? What am I going to cook? I really really need that chef!

Beep. That's the dryer. All those warm clothes should be folded before they get wrinkled. How is it possible for a family of four to produce so much laundry? This remains a mystery to me...

If I go upstairs to fold laundry, I'm sure to find a bunch of other things that need doing up there, and I'll get sucked into the household chores and won't get any actual work done.

Remember when I actually believed that I could have it all. Hmmm...that was a pretty good blog post. But, boy was I being overly optimistic. Some days I feel like I'm totally making it all happen, and the next I'm a crazy, crying wreck who feels like nothing is getting accomplished and I'm running around in circles.

Does anyone else feel like this? Maybe I was crazy to try to work and stay home with a baby?

Why are there so many toys on the floor? Didn't I just clean this house yesterday?

I wonder what next year will be like when the big kid is in JK every day? Maybe I'll finally be more productive...assuming I get Miss Fiona into daycare at least a few days a week.

Which reminds me, I really should email the daycare.

But before I do that, I've got to deal with the car breaks that need replacing. Once I book that appointment...I can get us scheduled in to have the new car seat installed. Baby is moving out of the bucket and into a big car seat already.

Wow, time really is flying. I think I might actually miss this baby stage.

Or maybe not.

Why am I suddenly so hungry?

Dinner...right, I've got to figure out dinner.

Just as soon as I respond to this last email.

(And just like that nap time is over)

"Mommy's coming..."

Oh well, there's always tomorrow.