Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Turn off the Auto Pilot

I didn't realize how busy I was, until I noticed I was through the last few weeks getting things done without really thinking about them or enjoying them. Then I knew I was on auto pilot. Hanukkah is so busy because, if you know me, you know that I can't buy cookies, I have to bake them, and I can't not have Hanukkah decorations up, and I can't go through a festival without at least doing one project or craft...etc. etc. And with two little boys, all of this takes about 4 times as long to do!
I wouldn't change that for the world, but I do need to turn off the auto pilot. I went to a MOPS meeting recently (a great organization, by the way) and one of the things that impressed me was a quote the speaker repeated, "Don't let the 'getting things done' take away the 'joy in doing them.' That was so simple and yet very profound! It spoke right to me. I realized that as a fairly new mom and mother of two small children, I run on auto pilot a lot. And then I myself miss what's going on around me. Things go so fast when you have a lot to do that you blink and its all over. I've even found myself thinking,"Thank God that's over!" for an event that was suppose to be fun. What's my problem? I need to "stop and smell the roses," I need to "work to live and not live to work," I need to "have my cake and eat it to," and I need to (insert your own cliche here.)
Well, this message hits home for many people, especially parents. Between carting children back and forth to school, doctor's appointments, play dates, nursery or day care, church or synagogue, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, gift shopping, holiday parties, birthdays and the like, it's a crazy time of year. Actually, at my house, it's always crazy. So take the time to stop and enjoy each other. A good friend of ours told us once that it's not about the quantity of time you spend with your family, it's about quality time.
For Hanukkah we will do our family traditions and I will try to actually enjoy them rather than rush through them. We like to fry tostones. They are a Puerto Rican dish of fried plantains. They are so yummy and we make a point to make them on one of the nights, since the tradition is to fry things on Hanukkah to celebrate the oil that lasted eight days. Of course one day we'll make latkes. Then I make homemade Sufganiyot (jelly donuts), and Loukoumades (fried honey puffs). With little hands to help and a new deep fryer, these should go faster and be less messy...maybe.
Last year, our craft was to make a homemade Hanukkiah. If you don't have a menorah for Hanukkah, I encourage you to make one, especially if you have kids. We'll continue this tradition of making a homemade Hanukkiah every year. I think it'll be a great memory.
I'm even considering adding a family play to act out the story of the Maccabees. Judah wouldn't even have to change his name! Won't that be a fun family tradition? You can have a script for older children or a read along play for younger children so they can just act it out. One of the synagogues we use to attend had a Hanukkah play and it was great fun!
Whether you do projects, or cook special foods, play the driedel game, or just light the candles and say the blessings, focus on spending quality time with your family and acknowledging the provision of the Lord. That is what Hanukkah is all about.

The following two Hanukkiah crafts are perfect for toddlers or young children who cannot light a flame. They can make one of these homemade Hanukkiahs and still participate in lighting a Hanukkah menorah!

Hanukkiah Craft #1:

Items needed:
Felt - to cover foam
9 fillable driedels
hot glue
9 battery operated tea light candles

Cut foam to size about 25 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide x 2 1/2 inches tall. I used insulation foam which is only about 3/4" thick, so I had to glue three 25" x 2 1/2" pieces together to achieve the final height measurement. I also cut a small 3 " x 2 1/2" piece, and glued it at the top in the middle where the Shammash candle will sit. After all the pieces are glued together, I cut 1/2" holes into the top of the foam where the fillable dreidels will rest. Make sure to space them appropriately so that all 9 fillable dreidels will fit across. My holes were 1" from the ends, with 1 1/2" in between each. The Shammash hole was of course in the middle of the small raised block on top. Cut pieces of felt to coverall the foam areas, leaving holes in the felt where the holes in the foam are. Glue on the felt. Glue on any decoration such as ribbon, or beads. Glue base of fillable dreidels in their holes. Put in a battery operated tea light inside each fillable driedel.

Hanukkiah Craft #2:

Items needed:
Empty Cereal box
8 toilet paper rolls
1 paper towel roll
Felt - to cover rolls
9 craft foam blocks 3/4" x 1 1/4"
9 battery operated tea lights
Craft paint
Tacky glue

roll is meant to be the Shammash candle. Cut the paper towel roll to measure 6" tall. Cut the felt for the paper towel roll to 6" wide and 7 1/2 " tall. Glue felt to paper towel roll. I cut the cereal in half lengthwise in the middle. Then I folded the middle part in, with the inside of the box facing out to create a base for the Hanukkiah. Paint the two pieces with craft paint. After it's dry, glue one end on each base piece. The open ends should slide into each other about 2 inches. 5 candles should fit on top of the outside portion and 4 candles on the inside portion. Glue the foam blocks where the candles fit over them. This just stabilizes the candles a bit. Decorate with stickers or glitter glue.