Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Sitting down at the computer now, it’s been a busy and beautiful day. One aspect of this blogging platform that I’m particularly enjoying and coming to appreciate is the journaling aspect of jotting down my thoughts and knowing they’ll be there to reference in future years, to grow and to learn from. After each chag, we have those recurring thoughts regarding what went well, and what we’d like to remember for next year. Well, here’s my report. Perhaps it’ll enlighten more readers than only myself.

1.     First Thoughts

Aka, my gut reaction. Purim this year was beautiful. The mishloach manos were delivered, cards sent, megilla heard, matanos l’evyonim given, and seuda had. However, I. Did. Too. Much. Purim is a time with so much potential. We can involve our young children in the preparations, affording them a deeper appreciation of what each mitzva symbolizes. However, in today’s age of social media, where so many of us are looking at others’ themes and family costumes on facebook, pinterest, or instagram, or even just passing on the street while wishing one another a “Freilachem Purim,” we’ve got to get back to basic. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have themes. I’ll continue to do so as it makes the preparations even more exciting in our house. However, I’ll scale it back im yirtze Hashem next year so that we can focus on what’s important; our relationships with Hashem, with each other, and with ourselves. Lesson 1: Tone down the details – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

2.     Choosing My Kids’ Costumes

This year, while on vacation I found the cutest costume for my son. It was great, it was perfect, and it was all Boy. However, I knew our theme had been chosen for the wrong reasons when my son was at shul, saw someone dressed as a clown, and said “I wish I were dressed up as a clown.” Puzzled, I reminded him that we’d had a clown costume that would have been just his size this year. He answered me saying “I didn’t know that was an option.” Lesson 2: Let the kids choose their own costumes – it’s their fun. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed and had a good time in his costume, but we have to realize that as our little ones get older, kids must be able to express their identities through their own imaginations and ambitions – and on Purim, the costume is their form of expression.

Another aspect of the costume thought process that I’ve noticed in recent years, is that (at least the little ones) are being asked to bring their costumes into school on Taanis Esther. Particularly on years when I’ve put a fair bit of DIY effort into a costume, I’m hesitant to send it in knowing that it may get dirty of damaged before Purim. In lieu of this, I pull out a dress up costume from the dollar store that my little one can wear to school that day. saving his real costume for Purim itself.

3.    Planning Ahead

I’ll write down the following deadlines now, so that perhaps I might remember for next year.

  • Rosh Chodesh Shvat – Have a theme chosen.
  • One week into Shvat – Place eBay orders (I’ve become a huge fan of ordering aspects of costumes extremely inexpensively on ebay. However these can often take more than a month to ship.).
  • Rosh Chodesh Adar – Have a list of card mishloach manos / card recipients completed so I’m ready to go shopping and place card orders. Have all DIY costumes DONE. Take pictures in full costumes if using for mishloach manos labels / notes.
  • 7th of Adar – Have cards filled out, stamped and sealed, ready to mail. Mishloach maos shopping should be completed (possible exceptions if food items might spoil). Have mishloach manos labels / notes designed and printed. Have seuda menu completed. Have all seuda decor bought, including paper / plastic goods.
  • 12th of Adar – Have mishloach manos packed, and ready to go. IF making real food MMs that need to be assembled last minute, purchase easy to close packaging with no fumbling, tying, or curling aspects. Open gift bags are ideal.

 Lesson 3: Plan ahead, and stick to the plan. In short, I may or may not actually stick to these by the book next year, because life happens. But I do know that I’m going to try my best. There’s got to be a game plan. A game plan was soarly missing this year, and I felt it in my exhaustion leading up to Purim.

4.     Mishloach Manos

So many lessons here. Lesson 4: Buy open top bags (gift bags) if giving real food MMs so that they can be assembled in advance with the fresh food component just being popped in easily on Purim morning. Lesson 5: If making a seuda, cut down recipient list to the bare bones, and send cards instead. Between the cost, time management of making mishloach manos, and then delivering, in addition to making a seuda, something’s got to give. If you’ve got the time, go for it, however if life is particularly busy (and whose isn’t) it’s fine to cut down. Lesson 6: Keep them simple. Lesson 7: Skip the homemade themed baking projects. There’s a good chance they’ll end up not being eaten, and are extremely time consuming. Lesson 8: Remember that we’re meant to spend more on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos – keep priorities in check.

5.     Seuda

OK here I declare an unabashed WIN. I pre-cooked and stored foods in the freezer and was able to meal plan with detailed ingredient lists. More importantly however, I finally convinced myself that I had cooked enough food (Jewish mother syndrome anyone?). Lesson 9: Know when to stop cooking. Ask yourself: is this appetizer necessary? The decor side of things, well, that could have been done earlier. I’m going to give myself breathing space on this one, because had misshloach manos been simplified (see lesson 5 above) decor would have been done much earlier. One aspect of expansion I would like to consider for next year is to Lesson 10: Consider inviting non family members who may need a seuda. There are so many people out there, whether a single parent or simply a single man or woman, or maybe an older couple whose children have moved away, and would appreciate an invitation.

6.    Matanos L’evyonim

This is simply an idea I’d like to share because I love having one less ‘to do’ on my task list for Purim. Lesson 11: Find out if you can prearrange matanos l’evyonim donations. My shul has established a set-up whereby members arrange for our rav to be a shliach of our money, and it’s all arranged before Purim so that I know there’s one less task to be done on this busy day.

7.    Megilla

I really, I mean really like the shul where I heard megilla last night, however it was a very family oriented minyan, which meant there were many stalls in the leining waiting for kids to quiet down, which meant we got home late, which meant my little one was very tired today. In future years, I’m going to reread this post and be reminded to Lesson 12: Attend a leining that’s quick, and quiet if there is one available – again, this applies especially if planning a seuda in our home.

……Till next year!

What lessons did you learn this year’s experience that you’d love to share? Please comment below!

Bedtime Routine Rhythm

The further I come in my experience as a mother, the more I’ve begun to appreciate the rhythm of routine. From the first night home from the hospital, I began establishing a bedtime routine with my son that I’ve stuck with to this day, adding new elements, and adjusting habits as I’ve found necessary along the way. Children, as do adults, thrive in a framework of habit and familiarity. There’s something comforting about knowing what lies ahead, and that’s why, with very little tweaking, I’ve stuck with the same routine now for the past number of years. Want to hear more?

Looking back now, I’m not sure whether I even contemplated the thought or not, but I remember saying Shema with my newborn son, that tiny little innocent steddy-164932_1280waddled infant. These nighttime prayers that Jewish parents have sung with their children for generation upon generation mesmerized me. For years prior to becoming a parent this had been personal habit, and I don’t think I gave a second thought to whether or not a newborn should have Shema said to him – it just felt inherently right.

Soon, teething began waking him up at night, and so tooth brushing joined that nighttime to-do list.

As the little guy grew older, he continued to have that nighttime Shema recited, and as books became part of his day, they became a part of his nighttime as well. And this just felt right.

Looking back into my childhood, I remember the rhythm of a special time before bed being spent with one of my own parents. Whether it was a few minutes in bed being read a story, or have the inner workings of my nightlight explained, or being told about the stars and planets far beyond my windowpane, these memories have become an integral part of my inner child.

My mother, an avid reader herself, had long been helping with building my son’s book collection, and at some early point in time, I began reading to him, every night after PJs had been put on, diaper changed, and teeth brushed – and he was still a very little man.

He grew into a toddler, and snuggled down in PJs, freshly bathed, began picking out the books himself, offering a few words or animated noises to help me through the most familiar stories. Then Shema, and lights out.

He started daycare, then pre-school. Pretty soon he was wearing big kid jammies, and helping to brush his own teeth. Toilet trained, he would visit the bathroom before bed, have a drink of water, pick out a story, and snuggle down on the couch with me. Then Shema, kisses, and lights out.

That infant is a big little boy now, with after school lessons and playdates. A real social life – not my baby anymore. But he still comes home, has his supper, bathes or showers, puts on PJs, does his homework (!), brushes teeth, and then we snuggle down together for a chapter from whatever the latest book is that we’ve been reading. Recently we finished Charlotte’s Web, saying after each chapter “Mommy please don’t leave me in suspense!” Then he’d go and use the facilities, and head to bed. He’s now asking to say Shema without assistance (tear…). And then a goodnight kiss and hug.

Every night – there’s something comforting about that rhythm.

Please share your bedtime routine or rituals so that other mothers will be inspired. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Meal Plan Week 7 – Pre-Purim!

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Um, meal plan? Pre-Purim? Yesterday while out for Shabbos lunch my hostess apologized for serving on plasticware. My response? “You mean plasticware like I used last night so that I wouldn’t have dishes to wash after Shabbos?” Yes, it’s a busy week. No, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be too frazzled because we know that it’s really just a warm up for Pesach prep.

Don’t worry if you’ve had to cut a few corners. Keep yourself relaxed and focused on your family. They’ll thank you for it.

So, what’s on the menu?? This week I’ve pushed my major Thursday shop off to later today (Sunday) so that I can start prepping and freezing for the Purim Seuda (meal plan for that coming up – stay tuned). So what’s on this week’s menu? Remember that accountability aspect I told you I love about blogging? Well, I’m going to wing it and create that meal plan NOW. :)

This week, the meal plan will begin with Sunday, not Friday as usual.

Meal Plan Week 7

Sunday: Vegetarian chili from last week in store bought taco shells.

Monday: Latkes still hanging around in the freezer (did someone say Pesach cleaning?) with cottage cheese and veggies.

Tuesday Pre-fast: Chunky squash carrot zuchini soup, whole wheat pasta with tuna, grapes.

Wednesday, Post-fast: Bagels, lox, cream cheese, veggies.

Thursday: Purim Seuda!

Tips for Keeping Purim Costs Down

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I’m writing this article 1.5 weeks prior to Purim. For the past number of years my mantra in managing household finances has been “I’m learning. This is a journey.” This year, my second year making a seuda in addition to prepping shalach manos, purchasing costumes, and matanos l’evyonim, I’m particularly aware of the inherent costs wracking up. And while I gladly accept the opportunity to be mehader the mitzva, I do still want to keep my expenditure in check. Well, inspiration is borne of experience, and that is why I’m going to share with you the lessons I’ve learned over the years, and perhaps you’ll stow them away for next year. I know I will.

COSTUMES:

One of the most widely accepted strategies for buying lower priced costumes is to purchase them in late October / early November when they’re put on sale to clear. But what happens if you don’t know five months prior to Purim what your kids are going to be dressing up as?

Ebay. Did you know that you can order kids’ Purim costumes for under $11 on Ebay, including shipping? Just search “kids costumes” and hit lowest price + shipping from their drop down menu.

Second hand and thrift stores often have costume stock that’s stored in a back room until October each year. Either purchase around then, or ask off season if they’re willing to pull them out for you to browse through. Picking up a teddy bear costume for $3 in perfect condition? Yes please!

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a significant Jewish population, you might be lucky enough to find secular dollar stores pulling out costumes prior to Purim, knowing that they can reap significant profit. Even if not, local dollar stores often have dress up memorabilia like various dress up hats, doctor sets, and accessories available for purchase year round. I buy these just to have on hand for the dress up bin at home.

If your community doesn’t yet have a Purim costume gemach, it’s time to start one! These are a huge service to the community. Due to the fact that so many families use costumes only for one year, especially if choosing to coordinate a theme, donating costumes and then being able to pick up gently used ones is a fabulous way to pay it forward!

DIY costumes aren’t for every balabusta, but can be so much fun for little ones to help out with. Though they can be time consuming, making a costume from scratch means you can make a costume literally for pennies by recycling materials around the house. Papier mache anyone? I’m actually partially DIYing my son’s costume this year, and he said to me today that he’s so excited for his costume “because it’s the first year we’ve ever MADE my costume!” Getting the little ones involved in the arts and crafts just adds to the dun.

Check out this link for a list of DIY Purim costumes with instructions that I’ve pulled together.

MISHLOACH MANOS

This is an area in which it’s so easy to get lost in the process and become overwhelmed, spending both more money and time than we should be allotting to shalach manos. With the upsurge of family themes and the need for the perfect presentation, women are spending hours and hours searching the internet for ideas, browsing store shelves for inspiration, and then finally having to put together the bags full of supplies on which you emptied your wallet and just lugged home.

And yet, guilty as charged. As mentioned, I’m learning!

#1 is remember the actual mitzvah. We give mishloach manos, of two different minim or types of foods, to increase achdus and unity with our fellow Jew, and to ensure that everyone has enough food to make their seuda. Perhaps there’s someone out there who otherwise wouldn’t be receiving any mishloach manos this year – this is the perfect opportunity to extend yourself. For more information on the mitzva, Aish HaTorah’s website provides a succinct and informative summary of the related laws and reasons pertaining to the mitzva.

How to we balance practicality with presentation?

Simplify.

Keep your list of recipients in check. Sit down and think to whom you need to give rather than giving to everyone you know. These days you can mail tzedaka cards instead of food which benefit community members and still show your family and friends you’re thinking about them. These can be prepared long in advance and mailed out prior to Purim saving the stress at crunch time. Mailing out cards has the added benefit of reducing the number of deliveries to make on Purim day.

Keep the contents simple. Remember there’s a requirement of only two minim, or different types of food. There’s no need to spend extra cash on food that will just need to be cleared out of the house before Pesach.

Offer real food contents rather than junk food. If you’ve seen my take on the amount of candy our children are eating, you’ll understand why I generally don’t offer sweets in my shalach manos packages. I do however aim to please. Whether or not you’re baking or cooking your contents, we can make a difference communally in our families’ health by offering healthy options. For inspiration, check out this post on DIY real food theme based mishloach manos options.

MATANOS L’EVYONIM

Related to the above section on mishloach manos, remember than we’re meant to spend more money on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos. Allocating our funds properly can truly make someone’s Purim a chag they’ll remember for years to come.

Wishing you a wonderful simcha filled Purim! Do you have tips on keeping Purim costs in check? I’d love your input. Please comment below to offer others your wisdom!

Loving Your Strengths, Your Struggles, and Loving Yourself

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I am a single mom.

I’ve struggled with whether or not to write this article, and to publicize to the world that this is my lot. This is meant to be the blog for the Jewish mother, and in establishing my online voice I’ve thought I had to comply with the vision of life that I had hoped would manifest itself way back when; the one that I figured mothers could identify with. I realize now that that ain’t so.

In establishing this blog, Bitachon Balance and Blessing I wanted women to see themselves in the message portrayed. You may be struggling with chinuch. You may be experiencing a difficult marriage. Money may be tight. Shalom bayis may be difficult for you to attain. But in my mind, you were married, and raising your kids. In my mind, only the minority are divorced.

This blog was the brainchild of a woman who has grown through adversity. My writing, my thoughts, my tefilos are laced with the wisdom I’ve been granted through the times I’ve lost myself in pain and had to reach back for the sky, putting one foot in front of the other for days on end. And now with the opportunity presenting itself to stand as a pillar of hope for others, I felt myself shying away from my reality. Well, no more. I know that this is the source of the gift HKB”H wants me to send on through to the public. (Well, that and some creative juices and fun projects!)

What makes a mother? You’ve seen discussion of this concept in earlier posts, and you’ll see it again in future, without a doubt. A mother is the woman who gives of herself to the next generation, who takes the moral decisions she’s made to carry her and others forward. From the bleakest depths of the earth Hashem has cut diamonds of us. In writing these articles I hope to inspire you to accept and own your war scars, wearing them as medallions around your neck. Be brave. Stand up and applaud yourself for who it is that you’ve become, and utilize that person to propel you into the future.

You have so much to give, as you. Never hide it. Love yourself.

What is it in your own reality that you fear? Learn to accept and to own that pressure point, because it will produce pearls. And if you feel comfortable doing so, share it below.

Meal Plan Week 6 – When There’s No Time for Meal Planning

So things have been a little busy around here. New to the blogosphere, I’ve been working on keeping balance between the blog posts (related to Purim) and real life (prepping for Purim) while looking keeping everything running smoothly in the house (in anticipation of Purim). Purim is one of the most festive times of the year, and with this joyous holiday approaching, mayyyybe I’ve let my meal planning slide a bit??

Well, as I’ve said it’s all about accountability. You folks are graciously anticipating the meal plan, and so I’ll create it for myself and the world out there. And my family will benefit throughout the week from my being that little bit more prepared.

Truth be told I did my shopping for this week with no meal plan in hand, and so this week’s meal plan is inspired by the ingredients I did pick up at the grocery store, as well as items I keep on hand in the pantry – for occasions such as this!

Friday night: Challah, chicken soup, roast chicken, brown rice pilaf, green beans, and hamentaschen.

Shabbos Lunch: Invited out :)

Sunday: Roast chicken, green beans, rice.

Monday: Big hearty vegetable soup – single bowl meal.

Tuesday: These fantastic crockpot baked beans and rice, and chopped veggies.

Wednesday: Vegetable soup from Monday

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner – eggs, pancakes, veggies.

What’s on your weekly meal plan this week? Please share below!

DIY Real Food Mishloach Manos – Theme Based!

If you’ve been looking to give out real food mishloach manos this year, this post is for you. More and more, individuals and families are looking to offer a healthy, cost effective alternative to the candies that are so prevalent on Purim. In going with the wish of many to tie in mishloach manos with a theme, this post is a compilation of many classic theme based food groupings.

Where possible, the food suggestions in this post re “real food” based. What I offer are springboards for our creativity. Take a look, let your creative juiced flow, and remember that the mitzva of mishloach manos is about spreading joy and togetherness.

Enjoy!

 Doctor / Nurse

  • Apple (a day)fruits-320136_640
  • Veggie sticks and dips
  • Soup broth
  • Fruit salad
  • Salad in a jar
  • White chocolate covered pretzel sticks (thermometers)
  • Milk cartons
  • Orange / orange juice

Astronaut

  • Milk(y way) cartons
  • Cut star shapes from cheese pieces, melon, cucumbers, carrots
  • Star fruit slices
  • Cheerios (Saturn’s rings)
  • SUN-flower seeds
  • String (moon) cheese
  • Star shaped cookies
Photo credit: coolest-homemade-costumes.com

Photo credit: coolest-homemade-costumes.com

Construction Worker

The key here is that although assembly is required, it be extremely minimal, with very little effort or time required.

Photo credit: www.chabad.org

Photo credit: http://www.chabad.org

  • Build your own sandwich – Bread, cheese or deli, veggies
  • Build your own salad – Lettuce in container, chopped veggies, cheese, craisins, croutons, seeds, dressing
  • Build your own pasta – Pasta, shredded cheese, pasta sauce, sliced olives, grilled veggies
  • Build your own parfait – Yogurt, blueberries / chopped fruit, homemade granola
  • Build your own pizza – Pre-rolled dough (bake these most of the way through so as to hold their shape and lessen recipient’s bake time), pizza sauce, cheese, sliced olives

Kallah and Chosson (Bride & Groom)

  • Challah
  • Cake
  • Cupcakes
  • Grapejuice

Haman

  • Grape juice / wine
  • Hamentaschen
  • Triangle bourekas (can be dairy, meat, or pareve depending on fillings)
  • Triangle fruit turnovers
Photo credit: www.chabad.org

Photo credit: http://www.chabad.org

Shabbos Theme

  • Grape juice / wine
  • Challah
  • Kugel
  • Dips

Purim Theme

  • Hamentashen (mishloach manos)
  • Wine (seuda)
  • Chocolate coins (matanos l’evyonim)
  • A note rolled into a megilla
Photo credit: www,eventstocelebrate.net

Photo credit: www,eventstocelebrate.net

Curious George

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Farmer / Animals

Photo credit: www,thefoodies.org

Photo credit: www,thefoodies.org

Insects

  • Butterfly bag snacks
  • Bread and different flavored butter(fly)s
  • Raisins (ants)
  • Chocolate covered raisins

Bumblebee

  • Honeycomb cereal
  • Milk carton
  • Banana (yellow)
  • Little container of honey
  • Honey cookies

Flowers

  • Flower shaped cookies baked on sticks
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Vegetable bouquets

Painters / Rainbow

  • Sprinkle covered chocolate dipped pretzels
  • Fruit salad
  • Israeli salad
  • Fruit kabobs
  • Layered salad in a jar

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Pirates

  • Chocolate coins
  • Mini kabobs on sword shaped skewers
  • Bread sticks (swords) and dips
Photo credit: www,jewitup.com

Photo credit: www,jewitup.com

Sports

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Trail mix
  • Nuts *allergy alert – make sure to clearly label as containing nuts
  • Water bottle

Superheroes

  • Soup(erheroes)
  • Hero sandwiches
  • Super-foods

Airline Meal

Pack onto small rectangular tray and cellophane the entire package.

  • Fruit cup
  • Single serve cereal
  • Milk
  • Small water bottle
  • Baked dessert

Colonial Theme

  • Corn muffins
  • Popcorn
  • Mini pumpkin pies
  • Mini cherry pies
  • Apple cider
  • Jam

Fireman

  • Salsa and chips
  • Matbucha and rolls / pita chips
  • BBQ chicken
  • Grilled vegetable salad / skewers
  • Water bottle

Under the Sea

  • Sushi (stick with veggie varieties as fish poses health hazards not being refrigerated)
  • Can of tuna with packets of mayonnaise and pickle on the side

Clown

  • Popcorn
  • Homemade soft pretzels or pretzel bites with mustard

Beach Theme

  • Sand(wiches)
  • Pasta salad made with macaroni shells
  • Water bottle