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“How’s Chanukah going?” my friend asked me in the market yesterday.

In Israel, children are on vacation from school for most or all of Chanukah. And that means that I have spent most of Chanukah feeling like I did as a child when I was jumping in the ocean waves on the New Jersey shore. Sometimes, during those sunny and sandy hours of jumping, I would get sucked under and tossed around so thoroughly inside a huge wave that for a few panicky seconds I feared I would never ever find my way back to the sunshine again.

And that stuck-in-the-wave feeling is how Chanukah feels to me.

Chanukah is a tidal wave of kids crying for apple juice and fighting over a skirt “borrowed” without permission and exploding with laughter over a song they made up and blasting “Maoz Tsur” on recorder in my ear and a house that is turned upside down almost as soon as I finally manage to turn it right side up.

I looked at my friend and said, “I feel like I’m drowning in Chanukah.”

She nodded and I smiled, and then I returned home for my favorite part of Chanukah.

I chose my candles, and lit my menorah. And then, as I try to do every night of Chanukah, I sat for half an hour just watching my candles.

And for that half an hour I just sat back and enjoyed being stuck inside the Weisberg family Chanukah wave.

Rabbi Nivin taught us in his pre-Chanukah class that the lesson of Chanukah is that EVERYTHING is from God. And so that is what I have been thinking about every night sitting in the darkness on my living room sofa, surrounded by my family.

I look at my children. Laughing. Crying. Playing. Being.
Everything is from God.
I look at the flames of the Chanukah candles stretching up towards Heaven.
Everything is from God.
I look at the wave that swirls around and around and has swallowed me whole.
Everything is from God.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Pammy LZ


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If you read A Chanukah Wave you know that Chanukah is a real struggle for me. But over the years, I’ve taken steps to make it a whole lot better than it once was…
When I was a kid, I looked forward to vacations from school more than anything else in the world.

But for many years as a mom, there were few things I dreaded more.

The school-less weeks of Succot, Pesach, Chanukah, and summer vacation used to be so terribly awful for me since I absolutely need a few hours every day on my own. I need time to think my own thoughts and write my own stuff and answer your emails and get my endorphins flowing on the treadmill.

But for years, inspired by guilt, I would push myself to be like all those model mothers spending every moment of these vacations with their children at the museum and the zoo and the Jerusalem Forest.

And then two or three years ago, after too many miserable vacations, I did some soul-searching and I realized that I as a person must have at least 3 kid-less hours a day to function. At the very least, I need silent, focused time to write, to exercise, to rest.

And I decided that I was going to do everything necessary to get those hours for myself.

Since then, every vacation I have recruited visiting grandparents, babysitters, my older children, etc. in order to make sure I get my three hours a day—no matter what.

The truth is that I still do feel sort of guilty that I’m not joining those model moms with the camcorders by the penguin exhibit, but the guilt grows less and less as the years pass because I know that if I have those few hours for me, then I am a good mom. If not, I am not.

And in the end, I also see that our new way of doing vacations is a win-win situation for my whole family. While I still struggle a lot with vacations, if I have time to myself I am a lot happier. And my kids are a lot happier that they get to do the fun activities they love, and still return home to a somewhat happy and relaxed mother.

It’s like my parenting teacher Dina Friedman taught us last week. If you are feeling resentful of giving to others, then that means that you are not been giving enough to yourself.

Or like Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi taught us a few years back. Every mother needs a drawer of her life that is hermetically sealed just for herself. If she doesn’t have that locked drawer, then she won’t have anything to give to anybody else.

My locked drawer is my computer/exercise/rest time. Another mother’s drawer might be time to work on her art, or on her career, or to spend time with her friends.

What is your hermetically sealed drawer? Leave a comment to share what you need to give to yourself in order to be the best mom you can be…
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Moving reflections on the school Christmas concerts of my childhood.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Dr. Hemmert

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This morning, excited to be on my way to buy potatoes for latkes, I thought of an older couple I know that has “EVERYTHING.”

They’ve got the intensely successful careers that have brought them wealth and even local newspaper celebrity.
They’ve got the 2 BMWs with the matching Harvard stickers.
They’ve got the mansion in one of America’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

By contrast, I realized, on a material level I have sooooo little.

But you know what I remembered this morning on my way to buy those potatoes? I remembered that if somebody offered me a million dollars, a billion dollars, a trillion dollars, I would never agree to give up what I do have.

I wouldn’t give up this Jewish home, this Jewish family, this Jewish life. I wouldn’t give up the smell of frying latkes in my kitchen, and the eager faces of my children singing “Maoz Tsur” by the Chanukah candles, and this light-filled week illuminated by the exalted spirit of miracles past and present.

Thank you God for granting me this priceless gift.

Thank you, God, for making me a Jew.

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The Raffle Winner will receive this newly-released book

What do I love the best about Chanukah? So many things!
-I LOVE eating latkes with sour cream and homemade apple sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. (Though I don’t much enjoy the indigestion afterwards…The Festival of Lights and Tums)
-I love the relaxed early evenings hanging out with my family by the magical, Ohr-HaGanuz-ish light of the menorahs
-I love walking around the neighborhood with my kids and collectively ooh-ing and ah-ing at all the menorahs

What do YOU love best about Chanukah?

Leave a comment below about what you love most about Chanukah, and you will be eligible to participate in this year’s JewishMOM.com Chanukah Raffle. The winner will receive a free copy of the newly-released book Eight Winter Nights: A Family Chanukah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed.*

Eight Winter Nights is a collection of sweet and simple poems about Chanukah. The illustrations are also quite beautiful, soft colors as though they are lit by a menorah…And my kids loved it.

*Sorry, only residents of Canada and the US are eligible for this raffle. To participate in the raffle, please submit comments before Shabbat Chanukah.

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