Monday, 30 July 2012

Tisha B'Av (A few days later)

I planned to post activities for Tisha B'av, but forgot that it needed to be done by Thursday. Sorry. Instead this is what we did to make it through the saddest day of the year.

It is extremely difficult to make children (anyone) appreciate the importance of the Beit Hamikdash. We talked about it over the past few weeks, but the gravity of its loss is a hard concept. And it is unfair to deprive them of their innate happiness. Nonetheless, children must know Tisha B'av is a unique day with a different feel.

Gabi woke and asked if we were going to fly to Israel so we could go and cry at the Kotel. I wish!

While I read kinnot, the children took out their colors and drew pictures of the Beit Hamikdash.
Gabi's picture (left) is the outside of the Beit Hamikdash. She included lots of windows and decided that Cohava should be the Kohen Gadol (you can tell from the hair).

 Cohava learned about the vessels of the Temple at school and her artwork reflects it. I was impressed by her writing the names of the kelim. I like her 13 branched menorah and the countless lechem hapanim.

The coloring entertained the girls for the better part of an hour, but not the whole day.
When my husband came home from beit hakeneset, he learned Job with the girls. Cohava appeared to understand and appreciate the story. Gabi enjoyed lying down next to them.
After the girls grew bored of that, they moved on to other quiet activities.
In the afternoon we worked on cleaning the house. This is a Sephardi minhag (I believe other communities have a similar tradition) to prepare for the arrival of Moshaich.

Although cleaning house is generally not exciting, we started with an activity the girls enjoy. Polishing the silver! This is fun because they wear silly gloves and get to touch the prettiest things in the house. After that we moved on to bedroom and playroom. The girls were really good. Cohava put on her super cape. But I was getting hungry and the children were getting ratty. So we made sure none of the puzzles were missing pieces. This did use a lot of time. And then we talked about what will happen when Moshiach comes.
"I want to go on the bird's back! Where can I find an eagle?" Gabi was excited.
"I want to go in an airplane. I think the bird will drop me," Cohava worried.

When the playroom and many puzzles were done, it was time for me to say mincha. The girls decided to try and build the Temple out of legos.
 First came Bayit Rishon. The girls were very proud. But then came the Ruti! And she bashed down the building!
Working together, they tried to build Bayit Sheni. They worked very hard and they worked together. I praised them on their achdut and how it was what would build the third Temple.
When it was complete, they looked proudly on their work. Then they brought in lots of their dolls for Teffilah. It was a nes and all of then fit! The girls took them out and began their own pious prayers.
 Meanwhile, Ruti eyed the Temple...

L'shana Ha'baa B'Yerushalayim Habnuya!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Devarim Diaries

 Parashat Devarim (and much of sefer Devarim) recounts the journeys, experiences, and misdeeds of bnei Yisrael since they left Egypt forty years earlier. My daughters know most of the events recounted, especially from the sin of the spies parasha project. But the idea of forty years or time in general is difficult. So the girls and I spoke about recalling our own personal journey.
Cohava started by recounting her day, what she did from the time she woke up, from modei ani until that exact moment.
 When we tried to go a little before that, both girls drew a blank.
Then we started this week's project-Devarim Diaries!
I purchased two bound notebooks and printed dozens of old pictures of the girls. Armed with glue sticks, they leafed through the pictures and chose which ones they felt best represented their personal journeys.
Gabi would pick up pictures from a year ago and said things like, "After that we ate some pizza."
I will print some more pictures and tomorrow we will work on writing captions for our journey journals/devarim diaries.
And that is this week's parasha project.

Have a shabbat shalom and an easy and meaningful fast. I will try to come up with a good tisha b'av project that will keep the children occupied. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Matot Masei Mikva Mavens

Dishing up Double Fun

This week we read two parshiot, which is theoretically exciting. Two for one specials are always exciting, right? But in actually much of these Torah readings are not exciting for children.
Matot begins with a miraculous victory of Bnei Yisrael against the people of Midian. I try to avoid discussing war (especially those we were commanded to fight) with children, so we only discussed this in broad strokes. The Torah continues by discussing what to do with the spoils of the war and the laws of making dishes kosher are explored. And thus our weekly parasha project was inspired!

Our milk dishes are in sad shape. We decided it was time replace them with some new Target dishes. First we took some permanent markers and decorated a few of the salad plates from the old set. I suspect they are not considered food safe, but it sure was fun.

With the creative part done, it was time to discuss the difference between taking our new dishes to the mikvah keilim and making something kosher. We acquired some nice silverware, service for 16, ages ago. They were secondhand and needed kashering. Based on what we had explained to the girls, we asked them how to make the dishes ready for us to use.
"Take them all to the mikvah!" Gabi cheered.
"No, the silverware aren't kosher.  We need to cook them kosher!" Cohava argued. And she was right! So we got the boiling water ready, and the girl took turns passing the utensils to their father. It was too dangerous to get any closer than that.
When the silverware was ready, we loaded up everything and headed to the mikvah keilim. We made the bracha together and the girls passed me the items. You are not supposed to talk from the time the bracha is made until the mitzvah is finished. Gabi always has a hard time staying quiet.

Then my mikva mavens gave some tzedaka and we headed home to eat lunch on our new kosher dishes.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Project Parashat Pinchas

Parashat Pinchas begins with the zealous act of Pinchas stabbing people for sexual misconduct. Clearly this is not appropriate to teach to children. I wonder at what age it becomes appropriate to teach everything in the Torah. The Torah then continues with Moshe taking a census of the people in each tribe. After explaining censuses to the girls, I asked how many people there are in our family. "Five!" they answered quickly. "But what about your grandparents. And cousins..." They had a go at counting the number of people in various families, counting in English and Hebrew.
"Abba said there are three sisters in the parasha who are really special, just like us!" Cohava interrupted the counting.
"There were five sisters..."
"No, just three! Me, Gabi & Ruti!" Cohava yelped.
"Okay, well up until now in the Torah, and in the world, only men and boys got to be in charge of land," I began to explain.
"That's not fair!" Gabi shouted.
"That is what these sisters were saying. They didn't have any brothers and they wanted to have a share of the land in Israel. They went to Moshe to ask if they could have some land."
"And Moshe said, 'Yes!'" Cohava announced.
"Actually, Moshe said he didn't know. So he asked Hashem. And Hashem said, 'Yes'."
I must say the girls were not wowed by the story of bnot Tzlofchad. I suppose you have to know the lack of women's rights to appreciate how groundbreaking these five women were.
The rest of the parasha outlines the special mussaf sacrifices given for each of the holidays. There is only one other parasha that describes all of the chagim so I thought now would be a good opportunity to review.
"The rest of the parasha talks about the special korbanot for each holiday. Do we still do korbanot?" I asked the girls.
"No cuz, there is no beit hamikdash." Cohava supplied.
"Right, so instead we do other special things for each holiday." Cohava got a notebook and started to write a list of each special day and what is done. I was pleased with the results of how much they know. I went on a google and chinuch search to find images of everything the girls described. I also included plain text because Cohava and Gabi enjoy letter recognition and reading. I arranged the images on three pages.

I printed each page twice and then gave it to the girls to color. When they were finished we laminated each of the six pages and cut three of them into squares. And then the game begins. The squares are laid out and each player turns over one square, hoping the image is on their card. The first one with a filled card wins! I forget the name of the game, but you get the idea. Print, color, and play! 
Shabbat Shalom!


This week's post is dedicated to Devorah bat Dina. May she have a speedy recovery. Please pray for her recuperation.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Superheroes in The Three Weeks

Three Weeks of Superheroes?

This morning the girls were unusually ill-behaved. This might be the result of a busy Shabbat and a very late night at a Malida (which was beautiful and really special). A solid week of no school could have played a role. And fasting/unwell parents might not be very patient.
The point of the fast of the 17th of Tammuz is definitely not to be irritable and frustrated with your children, but their behavior was the perfect springboard into the topic of the three weeks. This time of great sadness and mourning would be meaningless if it were not a time for self-reflection and efforts at self-improvement.
First I explained to the girls the five events which occurred today, and the forthcoming time of sadness, caution, and auspiciousness. When I described the events, Cohava got excited and said, "And Moshe had the tablets and then he saw the red cow or gold cow, or just cow and he got veeeeerry cross! And he bashed them!!!"  Gabi wanted to know more about the idol in the Temple. "What did it look like?"

And for the prohibitions of this upcoming time, Gabi was most concerned about the prohibition of weddings. Cohava was worried about Ben not being able to cut his hair.
Then we talked about why all of these bad things happened and how the people weren't being good. "But we weren't even there. We weren't even born yet! It's not fair!" Cohava argued.
"True," I agreed. "But did we learn from them? Are we being as good as we can be now?" Cohava and Gabi both hung their heads and shook them.
"Sometimes you guys are Good. Sometimes you are Bad," I continued. This is a duality that Cohava coined some time ago. At times she claims that Good Cohava is on holiday and only Bad will be around for the rest of the afternoon. Bad spends time by herself until Good comes back. "But what about Super? Are you ever Super?"
"Sometimes I am Super for a little while," Cohava declared modestly.
"Well, the three weeks is the time where we need to be as Super as we can be. As a family we are going to make a list of what each person needs to do to work on being super." Quickly, lists did materialize for each one of us.
"What about Ruti?" I asked.
"I think she is Super right now," replied Cohava.
"Even if we wrote the list, she wouldn't understand. Stop putting my toys in your mouth, Ruti!" Gabi reasoned.
Soon our lists were made, printed, and decorated.
"Do you know what superheroes are?"
"The boys in my class know," Cohava shared.
"Spiderman is a superhero. Seth told me," Gabi added.
"Superheroes work to make the world a better place," I explained.
"Tikkun olam!" Cohava shouted, pleased to use one of her new words.
"Yes, superheroes do Tikkun Olam. And they often wear clothes that are a little different than normal people. They often wear capes. If we are going to be Super, we might need some capes," I said, revealing today's project. 
The girl's chose a colour of fabric (I have crushed velour in a lot of colors from a fabric sale when I had high ambitions for lots of sewing) and cut a section for them. We covered the table in newspaper, followed by sequence, permanent markers, ribbon, scrap material, kiddie scissors and fabric glue.
The girls worked hard and were very pleased with their results.
"The capes need to dry tonight."
"Can we wear them tomorrow?" asked Gabi, excitedly.
"Only if you are going to be Super. You need to be working on the things on your list. Otherwise you are not a Superhero in the Three Weeks!"
 Hopefully there will be pictures to come of my Super girls.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Parashat Balak

Parashat Balak recounts the efforts of the king of Moav to curse the Jewish people, using the prophet Bilam. Bilam agrees to this venture, but on the way his atone, his donkey, refuses to travel properly.  In anger Bilam smacks the donkey and something miraculous occurred. The donkey begins to speak! And she asks why she has been hit, when she has been so loyal for so long. And then Bilam's eyes are opened to the sword yielding angel blocking his path. The angel makes Bilam promise to follow Hashem's directive.
Bilam meets up with Balak, and after seven sacrifices and several attempts Bilam says, "מה טבו אהליך יעקב,  משכנותיך ישראלMah tovu ohalecha Yaakov meeshkanotecha Yisrael." All of Bilam's attempts at curses are blessings. "How beautiful are your tents Jacob, your dwellings Israel."
The girls loved the story. We spoke in depth about how hitting when you don't get your way is useless. Then we discussed what makes a Jewish home so beautiful.
Gabi said, "Hashem makes our houses beautiful."
"But it is more beautiful when we tidy the house. And smile," Cohava added.

The girls know that the Jewish people lived in tents instead of houses because of the time and location. That said, I still surprised them by putting up a tent in the house. We spent hours playing and reading in the tent.
Then a friend came over to play and the girls decided to act out the story of Balak. Then a fight ensued because no one wanted to play the 'boy parts'. So Ruti was quickly nominated to be Balak, Cohava became her messanger, and Gabi eagerly became the angel. Therefore by default the friend was Bilam. Cohava also played the part of narrator/director and did a lovely job of telling the story. 'Bilam' was not particularly phased by Gabi the angel and plowed over her with the 'donkey'. Gabi continued to try and stop them.
Eventually the girls all congregated in front of the tent. Cohava told Bilam the big line, but Bilam didn't get it, so Cohava sang the song at the top of her lungs, with Gabi joining. 

 If we have guests for Shabbat we might have a go at dinner theatre.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Brachot Unit

Instead of posting about each component of the food brachot unit like I started to here, I will summarize the whole unit and you can use what suits you.

Because it it about food, there is lots of cooking/food prep involved.

I already showed you about fruit picking for borei pri ha'etz.

For borei pri ha'adama the children made vegetable soup. The parents brought in an impressive variety of root vegetables. I put the veggies in the micro to soften them, chopped them into large pieces and then gave the children plastic knives to cut small pieces. The children love this opportunity to help make food in a way they are usually not allowed at home. But when it comes to eating, they all still prefer croutons to soup. :)
Gabi's class also pasted pictures of various vegetables on a pot shaped paper. Gabi loved this and every night for weeks after she would pull it off the fridge during dinner and offer everyone some vegetable soup.

Mezonot was celebrated with stringing Cheerio necklaces. Stringing (or threading as it is called here) is a great activity for fine motor development. With plastic based thread, the children sat and made jewelry and ate the cereal (after making a bracha).

This year I did not do the shehakol project. In years past we have made ice cream in a bag. This is heaps of fun, a cool science experiment, and a gross motor skills strengthener. But there wasn't time and it was really too cold. Maybe we will do it in the summer.

The brachot unit culminated in a sandwich making party. The parents each brought in a different type of bread and various spreads. The children all had a turn making different sandwiches. Lunch was lots of fun.

For a non-edible project during brachot unit, each child makes a place mat. One of the children told me their brother, who was in my class two years ago, still has his. And parents have told me that their children are more mindful of making brachot when they use it. It is a great way to sort the brachot when making it, and a fantastic visual reminder, when it is all done.

The place mat image is printed on 11 X14. The food images are all cut out and the children select which foods they want. With some guidance from an adult or older child, the children paste the pictures in the right section.

And then laminate. My images were based on the local kosher products, most recognizable to my student body. They could be easily modified with a search through google images. And I forgot some good ones, like cheese sticks and yogurts.

Isn't the final product beautiful?