Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"The Mensches Are Nocturnal!"

Since I am Christian and Dave is Jewish and we are raising the kids in both faiths, it means that we have to make some compromises when it comes to celebrating holidays. One of the compromises I've made is having our Christmas focus on the birth of Jesus and not on Santa Claus. Obviously Jesus' birth is the reason for Christmas, and it helps to explain why Jews don't celebrate it. Most of the time this is not a hard compromise to make. However, I was a little sad to miss out on the fun of "Elf On The Shelf" although I do think an elf reporting your every move to Santa is a little creepy :)

One year when I was reading Kelly's Korner's blog, she hosted a Show Us Your Life on Holiday Traditions, and some Jewish readers shared about "Mensch On The Mantle." It is a similar idea to Elf On The Shelf, but it shows how kids can become "mensches" throughout the year. "Mensch" is a Yiddish word which means "a person of honour and integrity." I LOVED this because it teaches our kids great things. Who doesn't want to raise kids who have integrity and are honourable?

So last year we used some marionettes we had on hand. Dave HATED trying to pose them each night (they were pretty floppy) and so we knew we needed to have something new for this year. But then Chanukah ended and we forgot. Until the night before the first night of Chanukah this year. (Our mensches show up every morning and try to represent something we will be doing to celebrate Chanukah that night.)
So on the morning of the first night, the mensches left a note with a toy. They said the toy was to donate to a toy drive event we were going to that night, and that the mensches were going to be "out in the community" and the kids would need to find them.

So after our community celebration of "Chanukah In The Square" we went to Toys R Us and bought the mensches. We were hoping to find a boy and a girl doll but Toys R Us does not sell boy dolls. (That is what the salesperson told us when we asked.) So we ended up buying these "Disney My First Prince and Princess" dolls. Eric and Ariel were the least prince and princess looking. Ha! And "Eric" and "Ariel" aren't too unusual for Hebrew names. Not like Cinderella or Prince Charming for instance! And since the kids don't know Disney movies, they didn't know the difference.
This night my parents were arriving so the kids learned that mensches are welcoming!
Mensches are also thankful, as that night Sam had to make cards for all his teachers.
After a few days, Sam announced, "The Mensches are nocturnal!" and decided they would need to sleep during the day. So after that, every morning, the kids tucked Eric and Ariel into sleeping bags so they could rest during the day. Some days Eric and Ariel needed a cup of tea and a cookie before bed. This made me laugh so hard!!!
Mensches also keep traditions, by lighting Chanukah candles.
And finally, mensches enjoy spending time with family.

I didn't get a picture of the mensches every day, and some days the mensches had to do some quick work before the kids discovered them, but every morning the kids really enjoyed finding the mensches and learning about what they were doing.

So I'm really glad we have a good tradition, and am so thankful for the person who first started doing this. Now of course you can buy a "Mensch on the Bench" but I think Eric and Ariel will work just fine for us. As long as the kids never see "The Little Mermaid" of course!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Project 364: Days 351 Through 360

December 18, 2014 -- Rachel enjoyed playing with her Chanukah presents -- fairy wings and a puzzle.
December 19, 2014 -- Rachel poses beside her favourite light display at Wonders Of Winter -- a dancer!
December 20, 2014 -- We got our Christmas tree this day. Here are Dave, Rachel, Sam, and my dad pulling our tree cart in search of the perfect tree.
December 21, 2014 -- The hat and mitten tree at church was quite full after four Sundays of Advent.
December 22, 2014 -- In an attempt to be creative I served the kids a muffin tin lunch. Spoiler: They barely ate any of it. Awesome.
December 23, 2014 -- In spite of having a full day, I took no pictures :(

December 24, 2014 -- Our Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.
December 25, 2014 -- Rachel received a Nail Art kit for Christmas. By the time I was able to get a picture she had managed to suck a few nails clean. Gross. (Left hand: flowers, Right hand: ladybugs. I never claimed to be an artist! Ha!)
December 26, 2014 -- It was a day of playing games. Here Dave, Sam, and Rachel play a version of Rummikub.
December 27, 2014 -- Sam and Rachel with my dad before Mom and Dad left after a wonderful visit.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lighting Up The Night

Even though it ended last week, I still haven't had a chance to write about our Chanukah celebrations. The first night was quite interesting as we went to a public event in our civic square. The largest menorah in our region was lit, there were latkes (that were nowhere near as good as the ones Dave makes), and there were fireworks.
I really liked that the rabbi who led the candle lighting invited our mayor to light the shammash (the helper candle which lights all the other ones), and he called the mayor "the helper to our city." I liked that analogy.

(Also, sorry for the blurry pictures. It was nighttime and raining so it was hard to get good ones. However, I'm sharing them anyways!)

After the candlelighting we sang a song, and then there were fireworks!
After that we went home and lit our own menorahs. As the rabbi invited all of us to share our nightly menorah lighting on social media (with a hashtag even!), most of my pictures are taken from Instagram.
Night 1
Night 3
Each night the kids "lit" a menorah of their own. Sam's was a hand painted wooden one he made with Dave's mom and Rachel's was a foam one Dave's aunt sent her. Each kid would also do their own blessing. It was so great! I think watching the kids "light" their menorahs was my favourite thing from Chanukah this year.
We don't do presents every night but on Night 3 the kids got some, including fairy wings for Rachel. I loved how she wore them to "light" her menorah. I called her The Chanukah Fairy. Also shown is our menorah on Night 7 with a book Tim and Janice gave the kids and that we read a page of each day.
Chanukah overlapped a little with Christmas this year so we had Advent candles going too one night, and the Christmas tree lights in the background another night.

All in all, it was a beautiful Chanukah with much light in our lives during this dark time of year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Project 364: Days 340 Through 350

I haven't done a Project 364 post in awhile so I have a bunch to catch up on. However, I also want to blog about some other things so over the course of this week you will get a few of these posts and a few other posts. I apologize in advance for the "Project 364" overload :)

December 7, 2014 -- I saved one of my ice carving pictures from the Christkindl Market for this day. I loved the detail in this carving.
December 8, 2014 -- Sam stayed home with a bad cough and watched a lot of "Octonauts" this day.
December 9, 2014 -- Sam was home for a second day in a row and I took no pictures. :(

December 10, 2014 -- Day three of being at home with Sam but I got (very belated) birthday cards ready for my nieces and nephew, and I got a lot of our Christmas cards addressed.
December 11, 2014 -- I took this picture of the sunset as I arrived home from the walk-in clinic with Sam. He had just been diagnosed with mild pneumonia.
December 12, 2014 -- I painted my toenails to prepare for Dave's work party the next night, but then I had to keep my feet warm in my comfort bag. It's tough being a woman! Ha ha ha!
December 13, 2014 -- The kids made Chanukah cookies at Tot Shabbat this day.
December 14, 2014 -- We went to a Waterloo Siskins hockey game this day. It was fun!
December 15, 2014 -- Janice and I delivered food hampers this afternoon. It was quite an eye-opener to see how people with poverty live in our community.
December 16, 2014 -- We went to a public lighting of our area's largest menorah for the first night of Chanukah. It was raining so you can see that in this picture.
December 17, 2014 -- Meet our mensches, Eric and Ariel. Yes, they are mini-Disney dolls. No, our kids don't know that. No, we aren't going to tell them! (I will be writing more about our mensches in a few days.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014: In Pictures

This year was one of the best Christmases I've had in years. Last year on Christmas Day, my parents were in Saskatchewan, we were in Ontario, and Rachel had just gotten over a week of being sick. I was homesick and really sad. Two years ago I had the flu over Christmas and three years ago my grandma had just died. Needless to say there has been a pall over the joy of the Christmas season for the past few years. But this year was different. It was so amazing and fun and joyful.

(Now I know this wasn't the case for everyone and those of you dealing with your first Christmas without loved ones or with sick kids were in my thoughts. And I know there were a lot of you in this situation. My friend Bekah wrote a great blog post on the paradoxes of Christmas and I think she expressed it better than I can. I realize this is awkwardly expressed but I just wanted you to know that I am aware that Christmas is not always full of joy and happiness for all.)

To tell you about our Christmas, I'm going to use pictures, and after this introduction, very few words. (Edited to add after I finished the post: I lied about the "very few words" part. Ooops.)

Above is Sam at our Christmas Eve service. I loved how he followed along with me in the hymnal and sang his heart out.
Our traditional Christmas morning picture.
(Also pictured, my new Christmas pjs!)
Our festive children in front of the tree.
Dave was not all that surprised by his gifts. My parents give him a daily Mensa puzzle calendar each year. Dave and I don't exchange gifts so on Christmas Eve we went shopping at Target and bought some things we each needed/wanted as our gifts to each other.
Rachel loved her Franklin and the cars Just. For. Her. Now she doesn't have to depend on Sam to share his cars with her to be able to play cars. Kudos to my mom for thinking of this gift.
My dad made me a cutting board and a wooden spoon. And my mom gave Rachel the purse that was given to her mom by my great-great-grandparents the Christmas my grandma was three years old. She used it to carry her offering to church in. That was in 1910 so this purse is 104 years old.
We spent a lot of time enjoying Christmas gifts. Rachel got nailpolish art and Sam got a Perplexus and a magnetic world map, among other things.
Dave and I went for a 5K run. My first one ever. Left: Pre-run. Right: Post-run.
(As if you couldn't tell! Ha ha ha!)
The table set for turkey dinner.
An attempt at a family photo with all of us dressed for dinner. Trust me, this was one of the better ones.
Mom and Dad cooked an amazing turkey dinner. And we lit the Christ candle on our Advent wreath.
We finished off the day with some game playing.

Not pictured: I also got some time to relax, paint my toes with my new nail polish (Essie's "on a silver platter" which I love), and catch up on some blog reading. It was a pretty perfect Christmas Day. I hope you and your families had good Christmases too. I can't wait to read about them.