Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Sign up for Thinking Inside The Box!

Last Shabbat was incredible!!! In addition to many wonderful things (a brit milah, a lovely lunch, nice weather) my children played nicely for ALL of Shabbat! After so much Yom Tov, this is a major accomplishment. Each toy they played with was a new exciting adventure, so they played happily and independently. I napped briefly.

How did this magic happen and how can you be a part of it? I know that is what you are asking yourself right now. And I will tell you how.

 Last week was finally Gabi's turn to get the Shabbat Box at school. Like Ira in The Shabbat Box, Gabi had been counting the weeks until it was finally her turn. We were invited to the school for a short and sweet presentation and Gabi came home with the big, coveted box.

I was surprised by the content. It was not, as I had assumed, just the items needed to turn Friday into Shabbat. It was mostly a box of books, toys, and games. Along the way different children donating more contents.

The Shabbat box wasn't about the rituals of Shabbat. It was about celebrating Shabbat! Playing with family and friends! It totally nailed what Shabbat is about. My children were so excited to take out each "new" item. It truly made our Shabbat one of Shalom.

So there you have it. The secret to the magic Shabbat of happy children is having a child in Gabi's class and one day getting the Shabbat Box.

That won't work? Then we need community Shabbat Boxes. I will be filling a plastic box with at least

  • a baby/toddler toy
  • 2 picture books
  • gender neutral chapter books on different reading levels
  • 1 board game
  • 1 card game/puzzle
  •  reading material for adults
If you want the Shabbat Box let me know. It will go on rotation around the community. If you want to keep something from the box, replace it with something similar you don't need back. Keep 'Sorry' and put in 'Guess Who'. If you have something else to add to the box, please do. The changing nature of the box is part of the fun.

If there is a high interest, multiple boxes can be made. The excitement of this box appearing at your house before Shabbat is huge! The need it fills is enormous.  

I am only volunteering to set up the box swap in my community, but others should consider it. 

Leave a comment  if you want to join, or have advice on this undertaking.

Friday, 25 April 2014

STOP! We are Holy!

This week's parasha, Kedoshim, contains some incredibly profound, and succinct laws. The most famous is ואהבת לרעך כמוך  v'ahvta l'reacha kamocha, 'love your neighbor as yourself'.  Often referred to as 'the Golden Rule' this concept has been embraced by many cultures. Rashi and many others site this as the fundamental law of the Torah. 

It is a beautiful idea and very easy to utter. But very hard to actualize. The rabbis offer guidance on how this is practically applied in various settings. But simply, if we actually put ourselves in another's shoes would we still act that way?

I find myself yelling 'Stop!' at my girls far too often. "Stop fighting!" "Stop hitting your sister!" You get the idea. Do you think they ever stop because I yell stop?

I decided to re-brand the word 'stop'. After some thought, I came up with this:

The image should speak for itself. The girls and I spent time discussing it. 
"Ima, you make dis all by yourself, so pretty!" complimented Ruti.
"Ima, did you know it spells stop both ways? Like along the top and side?" Cohava pointed out.
"Proceed. I like that word," Gabi muttered, staring at the image.

Then I made lots of the image smaller. I folded the page in half, lining up the image exactly, and laminated it. In the open area we will punch holes, and these will be charms to necklaces or bracelets. 

Wear it, see it, STOP. And love the people around you. 

Many different projects could be done with this. I hope my image will be used and help people fulfill this crucial mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom! Love to all!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Using Love to Decontaminating the House: Pesach & Parashat Metzora

Parashat Metzora is a continuation on last week's tzara'at in Parashat Tazria. The horrible spiritual skin condition can also contaminate the actual structure of your house. And if this happens:

Vayikra 14:41And he shall scrape out the house from the inside, all around, and they shall pour out the [mortar] dust from what they scraped, outside the city, into an unclean place.

We might not have tzara'at today, but this time of year some people go almost to such extremes, and not for the sake of a "parasha project". Ah the joy of Pesach cleaning! 

Here is a secret: I HATE CLEANING! 

Ok, maybe it is not a secret. But I do try to underplay my dislike for this task. Why? Why would I keep my hatred for cleaning a secret?

Because I don't want my kids to hate cleaning. 

Children pick up on our likes and dislikes, even if we don't verbalize them. 

Often when I get off the phone, the girls will say, "How is so-and-so?" 

"How did you know who I was talking to?" I ask, surprised. Their reasons include my tone, facial expression, phrases used, and topics discussed. 

Children observe everything. If I complain excessively about cleaning, there is no hope of me successfully encouraging them to do it. Then everyone will feel justified in their hatred for cleaning and no one will do it.

This extends to pretty much everything. If I complain to or in front of my kids about going to synagogue, cooking for shabbat, another person, or any religious practice, they will also think negatively of it. 

As I mentioned last week and last year, rabbinic tradition connects tzara'at with lashon hara. Something consumes your body and even your house, as a consequence of 'negative speech.' Guarding your tongue, thinking carefully about what you say, is crucial in preventing tzara'at, a physical/spiritual condition. We don't have tzara'at today, but careless speech causes educational/emotional/social (and spiritual) consequences. 

I still hate cleaning for Pesach! 

I can't smile and scrub at the same time! And I can't lie about it. 
I frame it and balance it. 

Framing it means saying things like: 

"I don't like everything about cleaning, but I love having a clean house!" 
"Cleaning the whole house is going to be a lot of work! I am so glad I have such good helpers!" 
"The cleaning can feel like a lot of work. Can you imagine what it was like to be a slave in mitzrayim?"
"Cleaning is not my favorite part of Pesach. _________ is. What is your favorite part?"

Keeping the bad attitude at bay for the kid's sake, will also keep it away for your sake.  Armed with a baby wipe, small broom or rag, toddlers love to 'help'. Or you can try even younger.

In my preschool group and later at home, the children had art time to make signs. Taking a break from cleaning to do something relaxing and enjoyable is crucial. 

Print, color in, laminate (optional), and the children are thrilled to put one on a completed room. They take pride walking past it, 'I made the sign, AND I helped get that room ready for Pesach. Oh! And I can't bring this cracker in.'

If you had spare time for a parasha project this week, the signs could easily be altered to "This Room is Tzara'at Free."

This really is just a cleaning break. You can even see the vacuum in the foreground. 

And now back to my not-so-favorite activity...

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Pesach Prep Pantry Clean Out- Cereal Cookies!

Although I don't enjoy cleaning for Pesach, I do take pleasure in pantry clean-out. We do not sell our chametz (unless there is substantial financial loss), so we donate or use everything. It is fun finding forgotten product and putting them to use (oh! udon noodles!). And taking packages of food for donation is always fulfilling. I hate wasting food, so finding a use or place for everything is important to me.

Only one item in the kitchen had me stumped for a use. The top of the fridge is home to the cereal box graveyard. There stands the tombstone boxes of rejected cereals. Most were rejected after a few bites. All are open and stale. They can't be donated. They won't be eaten in their current form. And I cannot just throw them out.

So I created cereal cookies! They are probably more like breakfast bars, but I thought calling them cookies would be more alluring. Maybe they should be brekkie bickies, linguistically honouring Australia.

The recipe is very approximate, but I am happy to share it.

14 cups crushed cereal
1 1/2 cups of oil
1/4 c brown sugar (more can be used, as well as white sugar if your cereal assortment is less sugary)
1 c soy milk (not really necessary- could be milk or water, but I had an open box)
1 T vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 c rolled oats (again we had it)
flax seeds, craisins, nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, whatever you like 

The first step was my favorite, crushing all the cereal. I loaded it into ziplock bags and instructed the girls to squeeze them. This is great for hand muscles, those pencils holding muscles. The girls tried to think of other ways to crush them, using elbows and sitting on the bag.  They did not think of the simple alternative for crushing, the food processor.

Maybe I should have pulsed them in the processor, to make it more flour-like, but our consistency was extra lumpy.  

Then we added all the other ingredients. 

And stirred. Lots of stirring. Add flour or oats if it is too wet. More liquid if too dry. Not an exact science. 

The oven should be preheated to 350 F.

Since we were making cookies, we used ice cream scoops to make balls on the tray. They would work in bar form just as well. 

Bake for 12 minutes. 

Eat in the morning with milk or take on the go. 

They store well in the freezer. 

As long as I am recipe sharing, here is another one that is good for chametz removal and is nice and healthy.

Grain Salad

2 cups of a cooked grain (I used from our barley stash)
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c chopped parsley
chopped vegetables (whatever is in fridge, bell peppers and cukes are particularly nice)
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c soy sauce (more of that chametz!)
1 t garlic

mix everything!
Serve cold and enjoy!