Friday, December 3, 2010

Shalom Sesame

So Hanukkah started on Wednesday night and it went fantastic! My mom, brother and his fiance and my in-laws all come over to support me in my attempt to be Jewish and raise a Jewish son. I said the blessings in my best attempt so far at Hebrew, lighted the menorah, ate latkes (fried potato pancakes), taught everyone how to play driedel and gave A. his first gift for Hanukkah.

Now I had put in a lot of thought about what to give each night. I wanted it to be fun things but clearly tie into the holiday and the meaning behind it. Well, as much meaning as an almost two year old could get. This lead me to a 12 DVD series about various aspects of Judaism that Sesame Workshop (who produces Sesame Street) is releasing over the next year. Volume 2, Chanukah: The Missing Menorah, coincidentally just released just in time for Hanukkah, score!

I watched a few previews on-line and decided to buy the DVD. Now for $12.63, which is what I scored it for along with free shipping, it still seemed a little steep for a 28 minute episode but I knew A. would get a kick out of it. I was so excited to see A.'s response that I almost gave him the DVD before Hanukkah even began but withheld the urge and I'm glad I did. He loved it! He clapped along to the songs and loved to point out the puppets on the screen. Now how much he's actually absorbing of the meanings or any of the Hebrew is really any one's guess but it's not really even the point. It instead gets him use to hearing correctly pronounced Hebrew and seeing other children light menorahs too.

That being said my overall thoughts about Chanukah: The Missing Menorah is that while it is short and I wish the DVD was longer (or cheaper), the overall message and meaning of Hanukkah is there in an age appropriate version. The DVD mixes segments with well known puppets (Grover), the main characters, guest apperances and recordings of Jewish children explaining the concepts and demonstrating how they celebrate the holiday. In the end it explains in simple terms why the holiday is remembered, why it is important and how different Jews celebrate it.

My only dislike about Chanukah: The Missing Menorah is that all of the details aren't always exactly correct. The biggest example that stuck out to me was when the second explanation (with puppets) was given that Judah Maccabee lit the seven branched menorah to celebrate the Temple being reclaimed. This is actually incorrect according to most bibical scholars. The oil is believed to have been to light the ner tamid (near ta-mid), or the eternal flame, that hangs above the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept). The nine branched menorah traditionally used now is simply a reminder of the eight days that the oil lasted, not because it is what was originally used. Of course, while I personally understand that the point of these series is to give a basic understanding of Jewish religion, culture and traditons and is not meant to be all inclusive in details, I still wish that some of the details had been corrected.

Overall though, A. and my first Hanukkah is going fantastically and while it's new and a little scary, it's also very comforting. It just feels right.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cooked Homemade Play Dough

When I was little I loved that my Mom stayed home during the day. She watched other kids during the day and we always did the best activities. She assures me she had so many others she meant to do with us but in my memory, she was and is the perfect mom.

One of my favorite activities was when she made play dough. I loved the oddly comforting smell it makes when you cook it on the stove top and how warm and squishy it was right after it was kneaded into a ball. So I decided that I should make some for A. After all, I went to school for child development and planned daily activities for other people's children, yet I never plan any for A. So here is admittedly, the first planned activity with any specific goal (working on fine motor control) in mind.

Cooked Homemade Play Dough

1 cup of water
25 drops of food coloring
2 teaspoons of oil
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
1/2 cup of salt
1 cup of flour

Add water, food coloring and oil. Stir together. Add in cream of tartar and salt. Stir together. Turn the heat to medium and slowly add in the flour. Stir the mixture continually until a ball forms. Knead into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool.

My Commentary

So the directions state that you're suppose to stir the mixture until a ball forms. I still don't know what that means after making two batches, instead I just stopped stirring when it got stiff enough that it was hard for me to stir it. You just want to make sure it cooks enough that it isn't extremely sticky but doesn't get to the point where the color looks noticeably darker and very stiff to the touch.

Just make sure to store it in an air tight container and you should be good to go!