I used to be scared of empty shelves. Got a shelf, fill it up. If I don't
fill it up, it means I don't have. So for years, I have filled my shelves (and I
have many of them) with clothes, pictures, my kids' toys, books - even some
duplicates because Josh and I each had one when we got married. Clutter was my
friend, it meant that we were okay, we had enough. Perhaps this is because I am
a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, wonderful and inspiring people who
literally had nothing but the clothes on their backs (and a large contraband
violin which did not make it through Ellis Island because there was no where to
hide it), which brings us full circle to the whole clothes on their backs thing.
I'm not trying to sound flippant, I just am not sure where this obsession
came from but it's been bothering me and I have been exploring many different angles.
Right about now you might be thinking, hey, I come here for art projects
and cookies, not philosophy, but bear with me. This just might be your new project.
Don't worry, we'll still make cookies.
I have been reading a book called The Happiness Project. I haven't finished
it yet, but I already feel like this is the book that I have been waiting for.
Like me, Gretchen Rubin, the author, is a mom in her thirties with (thank G-d) a
wonderful life of a husband, kids, home ownership and creativity. But something
was missing for Gretchen and she couldn't put her finger on it. I've been having
the same issues lately. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to tell you what the
problem is, but something, something is missing, something is off. And I wish I
knew what it was. It's not about anyone else in my life, just me.
From the first page of the book, I have felt like Gretchen is talking to
me. I keep nodding my head and saying, "oh my gosh, me too". And then I look
around and see that I am alone in the room and I am talking to myself. Gretchen
is happy with her life, but she wants to be happier, hence the name of her
And I think I might need a Happiness Project too. As I mentioned before, I
have not finished the book yet, but I hope to over the weekend, at which time
the plan is to give a lot of thought as to how I can implement my own happiness
project, which I will be so happy (see I'm happier already) to share with you.
So what does this have to do with empty shelves? One part of The Happiness
Project talks about creating more energy for yourself by knocking off the tasks
on your never-ending to-do list (you know you have one), specifically the tasks
that are draining your mental energy because they keep knocking around in your
head all day. A huge one for me is the toy situation in my living room. Because
I don't have a playroom (yet - basement, you're next!) my living room is the
catchall for all the toys in the house and I have been finding lately (and
especially since the kids' Chanukah presents have been thrown into the mix) that
I am being boxed out of my own living room. There is literally no where to sit.
Today was the day. We're having company this weekend, I haven't cooked or
cleaned anything yet, but today was the day. Baby and I spent the better part of
the morning purging, sorting and making piles. Now that she is napping, I am
trying to finish this off so I can look around my living room and smile.
Here are some before pictures of unsorted toys crammed into drawers and
boxes, plus some that my mom will be horrified to see, such as behind the
couches. But I am here to bare all and share all, in the hopes that I will
inspire some other mom to take control of her home and maybe even her life.
I do have to say, if nothing else, I have recovered the majority of the Clics that
we have been missing. Do you have Clics? It's an awesome toy, the kids played with
them everyday until we just couldn't find most of them. Welcome back Clics.
There will be some after pictures coming soon.
Happy Eighth Night of Chanukah!
Tonight marks the last night of Chanukah. All eight candles burning on the
menorah is truly a sight to see. I had wanted to take a picture of all of our
menorahs lit up from outside the front of the house, but sadly it was
pouring this evening. Oh well.
Tonight, and tomorrow, the last day of Chanukah are known as "zot
chanukah" because of the passuk or verse that is read from the
Torah on the last morning of Chanukah, "zot chanukat hamizbayach".
There is a kabbalistic thought which teaches that the last day of Chanukah has a
certain power or koach to it and it is an auspicious time for prayer for what
one may need, especially for women who are trying to have children, for anyone
seeking a spouse, for a full and speedy recovery for those who are sick and for
those who are in need of a (increased) parnassah or livlihood.
You heard it here. Now think of those friends and family and loved ones that
might need an extra prayer and hop to it. And may all our prayers be answered
for the good.
And also, be sure to have just one last jelly donut tomorrow. You know you want it.
This little gem of a project came home from school with my five year old. I
was so impressed with the forethought of the teacher. She had the kids create
Happy Chanukah cards for their parents. Each child wrote a message that they
composed themselves on the inside of the card, which is always precious,
especially when the writer is a new writer and still learning to print and spell
and writes his words out phonetically. I just love that.
But what I really loved about this card was how the kids painted the
menorah. They didn't use paintbrushes, they used their fingertips and some
watercolor paint. Each candle on the menorah and really the entire menorah itself
is made up of his fingerprints, one little finger after the next. Brilliant,
really. I was so touched that each parent got a card that was not only
personally made by their child, but also literally contained a personal touch, a
fingerprint of that child. Call me crazy, but the card made me slightly weepy.
And then the other side of me sees the pure fun in such a project too. I will
definitely be adding this to my list of fun things to do with the little one who
does not yet attend school.
On an unrelated note, I would just like to take a second to share what my dining
room looks like.
I realize that there is still one more night of Chanukah to go so there's more boxes
and paper and hard to cut through little plastic thingies that holds toys to
their packaging like superglue coming, but I would just like to say that this
seems slightly excessive and out of hand. Between the grandparents, aunts,
uncles and cousins, my kids are drowning in new stuff. I was even able to pack
away a few toys and stick them in my secret closet in the attic without anyone
noticing. I feel like next year I will put some more effort into showing the
kids that perhaps the most important part of Chanukah - or any of the holidays -
is not the gifts they receive, but what they give.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've just read, leave a comment please!
This post originally appeared on metroimma a few weeks back when I had the fun opportunity to guest blog on a topic close to my heart. Thanks metroimma!
I love reading other mommy blogs, specifically the ones where the mom
homeschools her brood of (six? seven? ten?) kids. I don't for a second want to
homeschool my kids, but I’m always so happy for this blogging mom that has found
her groove and is able to handle all the demands placed on her at once. If I
homeschooled my kids, the only thing we'd really work on would be learning to
tell time so we'd know when The Good Wife was on. That, and on learning to use a
measuring cup so we can measure out the water and oil needed to make a Dunkin
Hines Brownie. Although, in truth, I really hate measuring oil for a recipe; the
measuring cup is always so hard to clean afterwards. I usually just eyeball the
oil and hope for the best. So yeah, we'd be able to tell time and measure a
quarter cup of water. And really, what else is there?
When I read a homeschooling blog, I am always amazed at the spontaneous
learning that goes on in these homes. Like when the kids are all happily
coloring together and then all of sudden and without prompting, they start
sorting the crayons into piles by color. Then they count all the crayons in each
pile and add together the number of crayons in each pile to get a total crayon
And then they graph it.
And yet today, to my sheer delight (tempered by a small amount of horror,
although I am sure my husband, Josh-The-Math-Guy, would only see delight here)
my oldest child spontaneously burst into - what? Education? Learning? It wasn't
homeschooling because I had nothing to do with it. It was more like
We were working on a Chanukah project, making super simple place cards for
our family Chanukah party. He was the only kid home, he had me all to himself,
which in and of itself was a minor Chanukah miracle, and we were working
together to trace and cut out small dreidels to glue onto index cards that we
had folded in half to make standing place cards. So yeah, where was I? Right,
the self-schooling thing. Every once in a while, in the middle of cutting out
his dreidels, he would stop to figure out how many he had left to cut. He
wouldn't just count up the ones that were not yet cut out. He would actually say
aloud the total number he had traced, count the number of dreidels in his
already cut pile and then subtract(!) in his head. Wait, it gets better. Then
he'd pick up Josh's graphing calculator* from the dining room table and check
My first thought was, wow, he's checking his work. My entire school career
would have turned out so much differently if I had just listened to my father
and checked my work. Such a work ethic, this child of mine. But now that I’m
looking back on this afternoon, my new question is, how in the world does my
6 year old know how to use a graphing calculator? Because I’ll tell you, if
my husband's students are any indication, most tenth graders don't know
how to use one.
When I asked, he said Abba showed him how to use it. And when I asked him
further, he said he really liked math and playing around with the calculator and
that in school, he really likes the math part of class. And that a lot of kids
in his first grade class don't like math but he doesn't care.
Same thing on the playground. He doesn't care that most of the other boys
won't play with the girls. He plays with one specific girl because he's going to
I really admire this kid. I don't get a lot of one on one time with each of
my kids, but every time I do, I learn something new. Today I realized that my
oldest child has it in him to stand up for what he believes, for what he wants.
He – and by extension the rest of the family - has been having some issues with
another boy in his class not being so nice, almost bordering on bullying and we
have been trying to give my son the tools he needs to stand up for himself. It's
been very slow going, but we work on it every day and little by little I see it
I think that's a big lesson of Chanukah - having the self-confidence to stand
up for yourself, for your family, for your religion, for your ideals. Chanukah
is about knowing that even when someone else - in this case, the Greeks - wants
you to be something else, be someone that you are not, you need to say, “you
know what, I’m good with myself, I don't care what you say”. I'm going to like
math and I'm going to play with my friend even if she's a girl and I’m even
going to ignore the kid that’s bothering me and just walk away. That’s a lot for
any kid; most adults have trouble doing that.
The menorah can teach us the same lesson. As opposed to Shabbat candles,
which are very internal, very personal, the lights of Chanukah candles are very
public. With a season dominated by red and green, these candles sit on
windowsills in homes everywhere and declare to the world that we are still here
and that we’re pretty proud of it too.
The world can bully us, the world can make us feel bad and feel that perhaps
we should change our ways. But like the Maccabees, my first grader is teaching
me that it’s okay to be a little different, to like what you like and to do what
you do, and to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, even if the world (or a
classmate) is doing something different. Maybe we can all take a lesson from a
little first grader and learn to let our inner Maccabee shine through, right
alongside those Chanukah candles on the windowsill.
*What? Doesn’t everyone keep a graphing calculator on their dining room
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos Chanukah!
Josh and the kids love potato latkes and I hate making them. Not a good
combination. So we compromise. I make them once a year, they're happy and I
grumble the entire time.
I feel like I have been extra busy lately and just extra tired. The thought
of peeling all those potatoes and then hauling out the food processor was
completely overwhelming. I sat and sat (my favorite thing to do besides lying
down) and thought about ways to get out of doing all that work. And then I
thought, "hmm, instant mashed potato flakes. You don't have to peel those. I
wonder what would happen..."
And this is what happened*.
I made 8 servings of instant mashed potatoes in a pretty big bowl and set the
bowl aside to cool off. I used rice milk instead of real milk to keep things
pareve here. Then I added 3 eggs and 3/4 cup flour to the bowl and mixed until
it was combined. It still looked like mashed potatoes but now it had raw eggs so
I had to remember not to lick the spoon. Although now that I think about it, I
always lick the leftover brownie batter from the bowl without thinking twice and
that has eggs in it. Yum. I wish I was making brownies instead. But I digress.
By the way, at some point you should add some salt to the mixture. I forgot
to and while these latkes tastes pretty good, they can definitely use some salt.
Heat up some oil in the frying pan. Drop the potato mixture into the pan. I
want to tell you what size spoon to use, but I don't know what size to call this
spoon. It's the big one that you might mix things with that came with your
silverware set. Let the latkes brown on the bottom; they take a while. Flip them
over and brown the other side. These little guys are crunchy on the outside and
soft, kind of like mashed potatoes (duh!) on the inside.
Serve warm with applesauce or (and I stress the "or" part here) ketchup.
You can do sour cream if you like, but just the thought of that makes me feel
like I need to leave the room.
I will stress that these latkes do not tastes like your grandmother's hand
grated latkes. But they are definitely good enough to pass off as
This recipe made about 35 latkes. Plenty.
*This is what happened first though. That whole story up there sounds so
nice and normal. Think of recipe in head and watch it work. Yeah, so that's not
how it really works. What happened first was that I attempted to fry the mashed
potato mixture without adding any eggs or flour. Nothing good happened. In fact,
bad things happened. Specifically, this:
The latkes (and I use that term loosely) did not brown, stay together or
firm up at all. They burned and crashed. But you know what, nu nu. Live and
Learn. And then add some flour to bind everything together.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
Here's a look back at what we did last year. Enjoy!
Make pretend latkes. No grating, no frying and fat free.
A fun and fast sponge painted tablecloth for your menorah table.
Chanukah cards crafts from cardstock and paper. All you need are scissors and glue.
Foamie dreidel cut outs hanging from the dining room chandelier. Fancy :).
Menorah Challah. Fun for everyone.
Big mama Chanukah Latke. Delish. Use this recipe to make regular sized latkes too!
Chocolate Chanukah Lollies. Yum.
Huge dreidel shaped Fruity Pebbles and Rice Krispie treats.
And of course, Chanukah isn't Chanukah anymore without the Maccabeats. Love them.
Here's their new song.
And last year's classic.
Happy Happy Happy Chanukah!
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)