Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's All About Perspective

We're driving to school...
Sam sees a nativity scene in front of a house.

Sam: What's that?
Me: Well, it's the story of Christmas...
Sam: Can you tell me the story?
Me: There's a mom and a dad and the mom is pregnant, but she doesn't have a place to have the baby.
Sam: So she had the baby in a sukkah?

Hmm. I see his point.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1,000 Mitzvahs {Review}

I received a review copy of 1000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life by Linda Cohen.

When Linda's father died, she took a "spiritual sabbatical"...what a great term. During that time, she embarked on a project to honor her father's memory - performing 1000 mitzvot...acts of kindness.

Note to purists: in the introduction, she explains that she deliberately chose to use the Americanized plural mitzvahs instead of mitzvot, and to loosely view the concept of mitzvot as "good deeds" instead of only "commandments."

The book is a restructuring of the blog that Linda kept throughout her project. The mitzvot (I can't write mitzvahs, sorry) are numbered out of order, but instead grouped by subject or type of project. I like that the various mitzvot that Linda lists are written as short vignettes, rather than merely prescriptions for action. Many of the concepts are things like "Mitzvah 943: Thank Someone for the Work They Do" - simple, and don't require a lot of work or materials to accomplish.

"Encourage Your Children's Initiative" to "Hold the Umbrella" - it's quite a stretch, perhaps, to consider these all mitzvot. But it doesn't lessen the power of the idea - living intentionally and mindfully can help assuage grief, pain, and loss. Ultimately, stepping outside our own bubble and helping others in small and large ways really does give us a sense of perspective and healing.

Check out the website:
and the Facebook page:

Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher but no compensation in any other way. Anyone else want to send me free books?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hanukkah Kit {Review and Giveaway!}

I was invited to review a new product from a company called Jewish Holidays in a Box. I love this idea. A simple kit for each holiday to help families learn more about the holiday and feel confident and comfortable with their celebrations.
Right now, they only have the Hanukkah Kits to ship, and I received mine over the Thanksgiving weekend.

A Hanukkah Bear - I See Me {Review}

I was given the opportunity to review a product from I See Me! - they create personalized books for children. I replied to the email and then promptly forgot about it.

So imagine my delight over the weekend when a package arrived for me!

I See Me has a full range of personalized books, but the one that I am reviewing is their Chanukah story, a sweet little book called "A Hanukkah Bear for Solomon." (They also have a book called "A Christmas Bear for...")

It's really a lovely book, with rhyming words and beautiful illustrations. The story is pretty basic - a child really wants a teddy bear, and throughout the week of Chanukah opens different gifts - a dreidel, gelt, toys, etc, and he eats latkes, lights candles, and eventually gets his sweet little bear on the last night.

The book is personalized on almost every page, which was really neat. I especially liked this page, which had gift tags for all the kids in our family. (They asked for this information, and I couldn't quite understand how it was all going to work out.)
I get a little crabby about Chanukah books that are focused on gifts, since I don't really feel like that is the main emphasis of the holiday of Chanukah. The nice thing, though, is that this book doesn't actually detail daily gifts as much as it helps to indicate that the whole 8 days are a celebration and family time.

There also aren't any pictures of people, which is really nice since families of all shapes, sizes and colors could read a book like this without feeling uncomfortable or left out. I filled out an information form, and I was asked for the "sender" of the book and gift. I used "mom and dad" but I'd imagine that you could put anything there and those names would be in the text of the book - "Then Mom and Dad gave him the last gift of all..." It would be so nice for a single parent family, or a same-sex couple, for example, to have whatever terminology they prefer. I like the potential for inclusion of everyone in a book like this one.

Solly is definitely not old enough to appreciate this book but I know that his siblings will love reading it and he will really like it as he gets older. It also came with a cuddly Gund bear that I know he will really like right now! The kiddo loves his bears.

Overall, I was very impressed with this product.

There is a bit of a lag time on orders, since it's all personalized, so they suggest that you order by December 3rd for Chanukah delivery!

I See Me also has a Facebook page, and they give discounts/deals on that page, so go and "like" them there if you're interested.

Full disclosure: I received this product free from the company. I was not compensated in any other way for my review and they didn't tell me what to say.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Did you write that song?

When I was a little girl I actually believed that my father WAS Paul Simon and Billy Joel.

After all, didn't he write those songs that he sang to me?

It was a bit of a shock when I realized that he hadn't written them...someone else had.

This was my favorite:

Except, of course, he changed the words to be "little sleepy girl" - so I was certain he had written it.

Now I sing this song to my own children.
For the last ten years.

For the first time...just this past week, David said to me: "Hey, mom, is that a song that you made up or one that someone else wrote?"

No, David, I didn't write it. A man named Paul Simon wrote it.

And the spell was broken.
But he didn't seem to mind.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Thanksgiving Tradition: Challah Turkey

Me: Guys, I'm going to make turkey challah for Shabbat. I'm so excited.
David: Ew, are you going to put turkey in the challah? That's disgusting.
Me: Yep, turkey in the challah. Doesn't that sound good?

I seriously had the kid going for a few minutes...then he realized that I, their vegetarian mama, was NOT putting turkey into my challah.

Instead...voila, a new tradition is born:

After all, the Shabbat after Thanksgiving is actually
Yom Sheni shel Thanksgiving...
(the Second Day of Thanksgiving)

Need advice: My challot do not have good definition of their shapes.
What am I doing wrong?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kiwi Bread?

Me: So, guys, I got a new oven. What should we bake to test it out?
Sam: Kiwi bread! 
Me: Um...what's kiwi bread?
Sam: You know, kiwi bread! It's so yummy. Make kiwi bread.
Me: Yeah, that doesn't help you know what kiwi is?
Sam: Yes, it's green.
Me: {totally puzzled}
Sam, after a few minutes of thought: OH! I mean ZUCCHINI bread! 


I couldn't find the recipe that I know I've used in the distant past (um, at least a year does he remember these things?) so I turned to Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes are always winners. This one was no different. Definitely a keeper.

(I left out the nuts and raisins. My kids are purists.)

The only edit I made was to coat the inside of the pan, after greasing, with cinnamon sugar. Which just makes it even better.

Now, does anyone have a recipe for Kiwi Bread?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'm thankful for feetie pajamas and babies who sleep past 5am.
I'm thankful for colored pencils and blank sheets of paper.
I'm thankful for unlimited reading time and overwhelming choices of books.
I'm thankful for music that plays in my head.
I'm thankful for the ability to ignore the sales and know that I have enough.
I'm thankful for a laden table and for children who have never known hunger.
I'm thankful for the tradition that guides our lives.
I'm thankful for the words to say what needs to be said.
I'm thankful for comfort in silence.
I'm thankful for the interestingness of life.
I'm thankful for warm sticky kisses and curly little heads.
I'm thankful for wiggly toes and loose teeth.
I'm thankful today and every day for the many blessings that fill my life.

Blessed are You, our God, who has created us, formed us, and brought us to this day of gratitude.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Here come the animals!

I'm not a huge animal fan.
Okay, that might be an understatement.
I am *not* an animal person.

My kids, on the other hand, generally love animals. Especially my Sam.
He has begged and begged and begged (did I mention begging?) for a pet.

Dogs and furry creatures are out.
So he started in on lizards.
And snakes.
And toads.
And turtles.

For the record, no. And no. And no. And no.

But Sam loves animals.
So for his birthday, I splurged.
I invited Lil Critters and their (gulp) animals to come to my house.

Um...I think I didn't notice that a tarantula was on the list. But I digress.

Sam was in heaven.

How cute is my little birthday guy?
(And even Solly got to pet a tortoise!)

Blessed are You, Adonai our God,
Ruler of the world, Creator of all life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lizard? Iguana? Gator?

Sam asked for a Lizard Cake for his birthday party this year.

How did we do?

Is it a lizard?
Is it an iguana?
Is it a gator?

Does it really matter?
He loved it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Matters: Donors Choose

Monday Matters is a new series at Ima on and off the Bima. I'm featuring some favorite charitable organizations on Mondays.

I think Donors Choose is a really cool way to spend your tzedakah money.
The teachers post the projects that they hope to get funded, and the donors decide where and how to spend their money.
Here, for example, is a project in my own backyard, in my own county.
Here's another one.

Don't take my word for are some famous people talking about DonorsChoose.

One lucky commenter on today's post will get a code for $25 to spend on DonorsChoose...any way you want!

Leave me a comment telling me about a teacher or classroom experience that inspired you...
I'll choose the winner on Thursday, in honor of Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

WHAT is that?

Yes, that's a tarantula in my hand.

But I was assured that she was friendly.

P.S. I missed a day, yesterday, of NaBloPoMo. But I'm not giving it up...

Friday, November 18, 2011

First World Problems

The world is full of terrible problems.
So when I have what feels like a terrible, no-good, very bad day in which a few small things go wrong:

The new oven just doesn't work, so the birthday cake won't bake.
The coat I ordered was the wrong size, so I'm going to have to buy a different one.
The line at Starbucks was too long.

I just take a deep breath and remind myself...
These are first world problems.

I am so richly blessed.

(For a related and funny video, click here.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Prayers & Service

I know that in the past there has been a little bit of trouble with the website I was using to host these documents. So I've converted them over to Google Docs this year, here they are, one week before the big day...

Each year, I post about my Thanksgiving Ritual, based loosely on the idea of the Passover Seder. After all, both holidays center around the dinner table, shared with family and/or friends.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful American holiday. It's a simple concept, really - say thank you for the blessings in life and share a meal with those you love.

But often, the meal takes over, stress of family and needing a "picture perfect" celebration cause a little fraying at the edges. Creating an atmosphere of gratitude can be tricky when you're just trying to keep your 3-year-old from pulling the tablecloth off the table, don't you think? So many of us fret over family relationships, different customs, eating habits, and more. Giving everyone a shared purpose, a ritual, can help to ease some of the tensions of how and what to say when you sit down for the big meal.

Feel free to read all three and pick and choose from within them! Your family might be somewhere between the longer edition and the quick version.

The first, a Thanksgiving Seder, is the longest of the three - suitable for strong attention spans.

The second is a service for families with youngish children. This would work for those who have shorter attention spans and might go well with a little snack...some veggies and dip?
And finally, an ecumenical version. What do I mean by that? It talks about God but it's not particularistic, i.e. not really very Jewish. (I know that some of you loyal readers aren't Jewish or share your table with people of many faiths and still might enjoy this concept!)
All three include ideas for usage and suggestions for incorporating your own cultural and ethnic heritage. I hope you like it and I hope you let me know if you use it. To me, this very American holiday is made even better when we add our own traditions of all kinds!

May your celebration be full and enriching!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Double Digits

From this...
To this...
And all of a this:
 Doesn't every 10 year old request a homemade apple pie for his birthday party?
Reads three books at a time
Loves video games
Amazingly proud of his ability to make the baby happy
Never stops talking
Hates to get his hair cut
Has a hollow leg
Makes a mean chocolate chip cookie
Loves camp
Reads three languages (wow)
Sweet and kind and wonderful and caring

I'm so proud to be his mama.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Matters: Birthday Angels

This is a new series I'm starting here at Ima on and off the Bima.
Monday Matters will feature various causes and charitable organizations that I think are important. I don't have any affiliation with these organizations. For every 10 comments on this post, I'll donate ONE WHOLE BIRTHDAY PARTY through Birthday Angels! (But whoever commented one word per comment to increase the numbers...sorry, I'll honor it last week but not this week...nice try!!!! very creative!!!!)

November is birthday month in my house. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you'll know that since it seems to be all that I talk about this month!
I am so grateful that when members of my family have birthdays, we have cake, parties, gifts, special dinners...we don't go over the top by any means but we have the blessing of celebrating our years.

There are so many families and children that don't have that luxury.
In fact, according to Birthday Angels, one in three Israeli children can't afford birthday parties. Wow.

Here's what they do:

Isn't this a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday?

What's your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?

For every 10 comments on this post, I'll donate ONE WHOLE BIRTHDAY PARTY! ($36)

(But whoever commented one word per comment to increase the numbers...sorry, I'll honor it last week but not this week...nice try!!!! very creative!!!!)

A few years ago, when my birthday coincided with Chanukah, I wrote about Birthday Angels too!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life is good...

This is the Sunday Scribblings writing prompt for this week. Llfe is good. I bought a box of donuts for Sam's birthday last Tuesday. I'm proud to say I didn't eat one. David got some Target gift cards for his birthday. He announced what he wanted to buy and told me that there would be enough left over to buy each of his siblings something too. Mama mission accomplished. There are STILL many more weeks without any Jewish Holidays stretching before me. Life is good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Twisty Ending

A friend recommended a book on Thursday morning and I finished it by Friday afternoon.

It was quite good.

It was hauntingly good.

I can't stop telling people about it and and I can't quite stop thinking about it.

The book is called Before I Go To Sleep.
There's nothing Jewish about it. There's nothing parenting-ish about it.

It's just a story. (A good story, with a twisty ending!)

I have talked before about how much I love to read. But sadly, for the last six weeks or so, I've been in a slump. A reading slump. Not because there aren't a million good books sitting right on my bedside table or lurking in my Kindle. But because I have been tired and working hard and...I just don't know.

But now? I'm back.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Three Wishes for 11/11/11

I'm participating in NaBloPoMo, which has now moved over to BlogHer. Today's writing prompt was "It's 11/11/11...make three wishes." So I did.

I wish that I could slow time down just a teensy bit. I don't want to stop time, I don't want to slow it down a lot, just a teensy bit so I can fully appreciate each moment, each funny thing my kids say, each hug and each smile. Just a teensy bit.

I wish each season had just one more minute. I look at the leaves, so beautiful in their fall colors, and the next second they are gone. I wish I had one more minute to look at them, I wish I remembered to look one more time. I wish I could drink in the full moon for just one more minute...but the next glance and it is gone.

I wish I had a recorder in my head to hold onto all the fleeting thoughts that seem so profound and wonderful at the time but don't translate into words on the screen. I wish that someone would figure out how to insert a USB stick in my ear and download every tiny memory so that I could hold onto them forever, and that I could just think a beautiful thought and translate it to words.

Hmm...I don't think I'll hold my breath for any of these wishes to come true, but I will revel in each moment and try desperately to hold on to each memory and smile and tear and giggle...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Behind the Scenes of Day 333

In a really unplanned move, I have been posting a daily picture of Solly on Facebook since he was born.

It started because I posted his first picture with "Day 1" as the caption...and it just...happened.
(I've written a little bit before about the Picture of the Day Project)

Many many people are now looking at his sweet little face each day and I even get cranky messages from some people when I am late to post the Picture of the Day. My kids are in on the action, sometimes helping to take the picture, sometimes wanting to be in the picture. Friends are excited to "be the picture of the day" and I joke that I could auction it off and somehow pay for college with that money. (or...not.)

It has become much much much harder to take the Picture of the Day.

The kid moves around a lot.

And my phone camera, with which I take the picture, is veeeerrrrryyyy slow.
Like a turtle. A flash-less turtle.

(And even though my husband says "just use your real camera!" I feel as though it would be somewhat untrue to the whole spirit of the Project, which didn't have a spirit to begin with but now seems to have a life of its own.)

So I want to give you a little "behind the scenes" tour of The Making of Day 333 (which was yesterday)

Here are all the pictures that I took...

All to get to this picture, which was honored to be called Day 333:

At this point, I take what I can get...but he sure is cute, isn't he?

When I announce to friends and family that I plan to stop this nonsense quit post less pictures of Solly after Day 365, they do threaten some kind of friendship mutiny.

But I think they'll get over it.
(I hope!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Birthday Parties {Need Advice}

This year, for the first time, the boys' birthday parties are not in exact proximity to their birthdays.

In fact, David's birthday party will be a few days before his birthday.

And Sam's will be 13 days after his.

We've had all sorts of cool parties...

A car-racing party
A monster-truck party
A secret agent/spy party
A Dora the Explorer party
Dragons & Dinosaurs party
even an out-of-the-house party

(and of course, B.B. (before blogging) there were some great parties too - a Lego party, a superhero party, a Lego party, a balloon party...and probably some others that I can't remember!)

But the drama of parties that are not in direct proximity to the birthdays themselves?


How do you handle the "oy vey" of trying to explain a birthday day and a party day...!?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Six is Awesome

From this...
To this... quite a journey!

Six years old...
full of opinions
learning to read
building with legos
committed to "fair"
loves his little brother
idolizes his big brother
fights with his sister like they are an old married couple
full of opinions
(I might have said that before, but it bears repeating)

and growing up more and more
every day!

Happy birthday, Sammy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Matters: Mazon

This is a new series I'm starting here at Ima on and off the Bima.
Monday Matters will feature various causes and charitable organizations that I think are important. I don't have any affiliation with these organizations. For every comment on today's post, I'll give $1 to today's organization, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

I am incredibly blessed.
I never have to make a choice between feeding my children and paying for electricity.
I never have to worry that my children are getting enough food.
I never have to worry that my children have enough nutrititive food.

In fact, my children have the freedom to be picky.
They have the freedom to bake cookies, and to have birthday cakes.
There is milk in the refrigerator, and vegetables in the crisper.

There are millions of people in America who don't have enough to eat.
The new term is "food insecure" and I can only imagine how scary it must be to worry and wonder where the next meal is, if the meal will have enough nutrition, if children are getting enough.

"In this world of abundance, there is no excuse for hunger."
Mazon means "food" in Hebrew. They are the national Jewish organization dedicated to the cause of hunger, through advocacy and education, partnership grants and strategic initiatives. There is a dual focus on the immediate need to provide food and the long-term need to find solutions to the greater problem of hunger in our country.

You can donate here, online. Why not send a donation today?

For every comment on this post, I'll give $1 to Mazon.
Do you want to participate in Monday Matters? Share a favorite organization in your own post!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eleven Months!?

Time sure flies when you're having fun.
Eleven months!?

That is awfully close to a whole YEAR.
Where has the time gone?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

That's My Town!

I live in a very cool town, a suburb of Chicago.
For the last couple of years, we've had a local Pumpkin Fest.

Wait, I don't have to tell you about it, you can watch this clip from the new Rosie Show about my town:

It was quite fun to be a part of history.

Our experiences:

Does your town have any fun traditions?
I'm hoping that we don't stop doing the Pumpkin Fest just because we beat the record this year...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Yep, he's mine...

Sam, holding up a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup:
Mom, these have peanut butter in them.
That makes them healthy food.
Scourgify Calories...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keeping me up at night...

Have you found Pinterest yet?

If you haven't, just stop reading right now.


You don't need it.

This is not the website you are looking for...

Pinterest is my new favorite time-suck place to find cool things.

I'm sure that my calorie count has gone up since finding Pinterest since I see pretty food.

But sometimes you learn interesting things, like this one:
Source: via Marja on Pinterest

How cool is that?

It almost makes up for things like this:


And there are all sorts of funny things like this one:

What have you found on Pinterest?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The BEST Kind of Leftovers

I have blogged before many times on my feelings about Halloween. I'm just not that into it.

But I do like candy. And I consider the candy "leftovers" to be quite a treat.

So this year we immediately (um, on Monday night) used up a good chunk of candy in these cookies which are totally misnamed.

Compost Cookies...which should be called Manna from Heaven.

They're a recipe from some famous place in New York City. Seriously, they are amazing. Every cookie should have potato chips and candy in it.
Plus, my oldest child (who got a haircut, by the way) has become a big fan of the baking experience.
Look how nicely he used that knife to cut up all the candy we used! This is a great recipe to make with kids because of the candy selection, unwrapping, and also the crushing of potato chips....

In case you're wondering about the other aspects of Halloween, yes, we did those too. You can't go wrong with this cute face:

If you like recipes and talking about food (which apparently, I do lately), check out this month's Kosher Cooking Carnival, a monthly round up of food posts in the Jewish world.

I'm participating in NaBloPoMo...are you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I {heart} my CSA

Have you ever participated in a CSA? CSA is Community-Supported Agriculture, and you pay for a regular share. Usually CSAs are a summertime thing, but once before and now again I am participating in a Winter Share. Last time the share was once a month for three months, which was actually a little complicated. Too much produce to be eaten over the course of a month.

This time I'm doing a 10-week Winter Share, which works for me (summer is a little too complicated with all our time spent at camp), and we're in the third or fourth week of the season.

Here was my first delivery (it's actually more of a pick-up, but you get the idea):

In addition to the vegetables, we're getting 2 dozen eggs each week. I think I may have over-estimated our egg usage, but I'm finding ways to use them up.

I've been able to use almost everything we get, including an enormous butternut squash and a pie pumpkin, which I roasted, mashed, and froze for future use.

There has been an abundance of apples, which ended up being perfect for a huge batch of applesauce, made in my slow cooker:

 And after:

Simple recipe:
Peel and cut up a bunch of apples. Don't stress too much about the peels, a little bit of peel makes for nice color. Add in some water, I used about a cup. Add a little lemon juice, a bit of cinnamon and allspice, and I did put some sugar in but you could use honey or no sweetener at all. Cook on low for a while...4-6 hours was good. Then I mashed it up with a potato masher. I like it chunky, so I didn't worry too much about how fine it was.

A third went into the freezer, a third went into the fridge for eating, and a third went to a friend.

I look forward to many more weeks of my CSA this fall! (I do miss my garden, though.)
How are you enjoying the fruits of the season?

P.S. Welcome to's NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. As I've done for the previous few years, I'll be blogging every day during the month of November...join me!

NaBloPoMo 2011