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    Entries in holidays (6)


    hundred dollar hanukkah: the gifts

    As I said in the post that introduced my idea for a hundred dollar Hanukkah, this year we decided to set a budget of $100 and limit our gifting to one present for the whole family per night. When last I left you, I showed you how George and I made a little menorah which would be our family's first night gift. As promised, I'm back to share what's in store for the other nights (well... six of them, anyway). But not before you get in the mood with the Maccabeats. Take it away, boys!

    My favorite Maccabeat is the one that looks like Neal Schweiber, how about you? Okay, now that you're in the mood:

    First Night - DIY menorah. Candle cups (2 packs): $1.69 apiece; wood for base: $1.20 (1.99 with a 40% off coupon). Paint we had. All from Michael's. total: $4.58

    Second Night - Movie and popcorn. Where The Wild Things Are (from the somewhat puzzling discount DVD bin at Michael's): $6.99; Popcorn: free (well, paid for at some point, but in the pantry). I'm cautiously optimistic about the movie choice, as George has a love/hate relationship with Maurice Sendak as should all children have with dead geniuses. total: $6.99

    Third Night - Photobooth style family portrait. 8x24" canvas: $5 ($9.99 with a 50% off coupon from Joann); large photocopies of pictures of each member of the family: I'll be generous and say $2; Mod Podge we had. A more detailed post about this is eventually forthcoming, but it's an idea modified from this blog post found on Pinterest. total: $7 

    Fourth Night - Homemade pajama pants for everyone. Our house is kinda chilly, and nothing says holidays like a family in matching flannel pants. I have a ridiculous stash of fabric, so these were free! total: NOTHING! 

    Fifth Night - Gift certificate to Big Scoop Sundae Palace, our local goofy ice cream joint. I should've thrown in an extra dollar or two for the jukebox; oh well. total: $15

    Sixth Night - Poppa's Pizza Pile-Up game from Value Village. Balancing is a particular interest of George's, as well as things coming suddenly crashing down, and our whole family has a soft spot (on me, it's the middle section) for pizza. A respectable collection of games is something I look forward to amassing, and this is the first we've bought specifically for play with the kids.  total: $1.99

    Seventh Night - Tickets to the Seattle Aquarium. A splurge, but (I think) a smart one as outings like this go. Kids under 4 are free, and it'll be nicer to be inside the cozy aquarium than it would be trudging through the mud at the Woodland Park Zoo. George's birthday is also on the seventh night, and I wanted to make this gift something to look forward to, since he'll have plenty of new stuff to focus on. total: $40

    Eighth Night - As the sun sets on the last night of Hanukkah, we'll be finishing up George's third birthday party. I have a special outing planned for that evening, and don't want to give too much away -- even Nathan doesn't know what we're doing! -- but wanted to close the holiday with something we could all make together, to use forever... or until someone breaks it. I'll take pictures. total: $20

    GRAND TOTAL: $95.56

    This was such a fun way to celebrate what is, in actuality, not a super big Jewish holiday, but one I get a little aggro about people forgetting in a peppermint and Burl Ives-induced fog. Still to come this month: a bowling afficionado turns three, a Solstice for which I have perhaps unwisely promised a certain youngster he may stay up "all day long and all day night," a smallish Christmas and a thirty-third birthday for the hardest working, baby-slinginest papa there ever was. Oof. Remind me to never have another winter baby. 


    hundred dollar hanukkah: DIY menorah

    I really wanted the gift our family opened on the first night of Hanukkah to be one that at least one of the kids helped make (and, let's be honest, Zelda's talents don't exactly lie in crafts, so it was all on George). Being a DIYer, I have a tendency to take on all of the holiday handmaking and this leaves me burnt out and annoyed: NOT something I want to model for my children. In the DIT (do-it-together) spirit of this Hanukkah, I limited my own handmaking to one project and chose an easy craft that George and I could do for very little money, that would still be useful. 

    We have a beautiful menorah that I dearly love, and I hope that someday the kids will fight over whose family inherits it. But I have a more candlelight the better policy, and what's more Hanukkah-appropriate than a menorah? 

    I found the candle cups in the woodworking section at Michael's for $1.69 per 5-pack. I bought two packs and a piece of wood from the same section for $1.99. I used a coupon, so it was 40% off, bringing my total to $4.58. 

    We hot glued the candle cups to the board and doubled up the middle two for the shamash. 

    George went crazy with some royal blue and turquoise acryclic paint, and I filled in the spaces he missed, per his request. I'll probably seal it so the melted wax doesn't ruin the paintjob, but otherwise it was a very toddler-friendly project and turned out really well: a yearly reminder of George at almost-three.

    Even though it won't be a surprise, I know seeing it lit up with candles will be exciting for us all.  



    hundred dollar hanukkah

    We are sort of always in the process of refining our holiday traditions. What felt manageable for a family of three isn't necessarily sustainable when you add another kid, and when the first one starts getting attached to certain aspects of different celebrations you sometimes have to do a little hustlin' to make things work.

    While I dearly love Hanukkah and all it entails (fried foods, especially), eight nights of gifts for four people felt overwhelming financially and ethically, and when it came to ideas I (the gift-giving engineer of the family) wasn't sure I had the wherewithall to come up with 24 presents, however small. Throw in the fact that George's birthday falls on the 7th night and Nathan's just a couple of weeks later, and the gifting can get pretty intense. To curb the consumerism and lighten my own load, I floated past Nathan the idea of eight nights of family gifts, and he agreed that it would be fun to try. I also set a budget of $100, which still seemed a little much to me, but when broken down, actually amounts to a VERY reasonable $3.13 per person per night. 

    It was challenging and so much fun finding things we'd all enjoy and in the end, my frugality meant that we could splurge on two gifts; I spent $40 on nights one through six.

    With a broader focus than just things to open and play with, I found myself with an abundance of ideas. Experiential gifts like museum tickets, a few new cutters and the ingredients to make cookies (similarly: a large terra cotta saucer "pizza stone" -- a trick learned from bowtie wearer extraordinaire Alton Brown -- and pizza fixings), and a homemade family portrait were all ideas I pocketed for another year when Zelda can better get in on the action. That said, I think there's a little something for each of us in every night's surprise, and I'm excited about what I hope will be a new tradition for our family. To see what we'll be opening this Hanukkah, check back before the holiday begins. I'll do a rundown with sources. 




    L'shana tova!


    chag sameach

    It's a cliché, but for good reason, I guess: mothering comes with a decent amount of guilt attached. Guilt that you're overindulging, guilt that you're depriving, guilt that you've made the wrong decision. Holidays shouldn't induce guilt, but they often do, and the Spring ones are no exception. This year, George noticed those dreadful pre-made Easter baskets in the stores. Specifically, he noticed the one displayed prominently at our local grocery store that seemed to have been made just to entice him -- containing not one, but two full-sized, "big guy" basketballs -- and he asked to buy it on more than one occasion. When I tried feebly to explain that, actually, those are Easter baskets and we don't celebrate Easter, but rather we have a very long dinner during which we read a story and eat some food ("Noodles?!" Uh, no...) and drink a lot of wine, well, he was unimpressed. Passover has no dreidel and gelt, no presents. It's an admittedly tough sell to a two year old, albeit one I'm more than willing to keep peddling, as these traditions are important. The least "fun" being, arguably, the most important. 

    So, as we sat around our hosts' seder table for the second year running -- as our friend led the meal in broken Hebrew befitting a crowd of Athiests, cultural Jews and... others -- my son ran around with his new little friend, having as much fun as a couple of toddlers could have at a Pesach seder. He spit out the maror, passed wholesale on the dinner and didn't live up to my dorky dream of joining everyone in saying cheerfully, "Next year in Jerusalem!" now that he actually could. 

    I felt bad for bringing a rowdy child to a seder, no matter how irreverent. I wanted to supply coloring pages, to make a cute felt envelope for the afikomen and pass out masks illustrating the plagues for any guests who were game to wear them, but my shit was decidedly not together. I wanted George to have fun, to see that he didn't need an Easter basket or a chocolate bunny, but I also wanted him to understand the gravity of a holiday without gimmicks. I failed, it seemed, on both counts. And felt guilty. 

    Despite all that, after a lovely meal with friends new, old and somewhere in between -- Zelda's first seder -- we came home and went to bed. The next day was glorious. Sunshiny. Springtime. I decided to give myself a break: that our cultural identity wouldn't be compromised if I indulged a little, to celebrate this beautiful season. After all, we've made it through the winter, and our modern, first world plagues: seasonal affective disorder, outrageous heating costs, perpetually damp pant hems and a lack of local fresh fruit, icy roads, waiting for the bus in the rain. Our chickens are laying reliably again -- as sure a sign of improved conditions as any -- so bright eggs may as well be hidden around their yard for a sun-starved toddler to find. 

    Find them he did. And he had a ball. More fun than his time playing around the Pesach seder? Who's to say? And does it matter? Cultural sell-out or not, I want my kids to have fond memories of childhood. While that might not mean they get the double basketball grocery store Easter basket, I'm pretty okay with the plain old wicker one, and eggs filled with dimes. And if later they decide to go back outside to hunt for worms?

    Yeah, much better than a stuffy church. Or temple, for that matter. Sunday best is relative.