by Hope Katz Gibbs
Just before Hanukkah arrives each year (usually in December), children of all ages begin preparation for eight nights of lighting menorah candies, giving small gifts, eating oily morsels, spinning the dreidel—and basically making merry.
Whether you grew up with the traditions, married into them, or are a child learning about Jewish holidays for the first time, take note: This holiday is the fun, easy one.
What many fans of the festival of lights may not realize, however, is that the story of Hanukkah that they grew up with is, well, a myth.
Celebrated on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev, Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over Syrian forces that desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem. When the temple was rededicated in 164 B.C.E., eight days of festivities ensued.
What about the story that miraculously a tiny bit of oil left from the massacre magically burned for eight days? Author Anita Diamant explains in her 1991 book, Living a Jewish Life: Jewish Traditions, Customs and Values for Today’s Families.
by Hope Katz Gibbs
The auditorium was dark and the audience quiet as a line of 3-year-olds made their way onto the stage. Many wore smiles, but a few tots weren’t so sure they liked being in the spotlight. When the music cued up, most of* the ballerinas in the Fairfax Tiny Dancers troupe recalled steps they’d practiced for months—all except for Samantha.
“The sweet thing got on stage and decided she wanted her mother,” says Tiny Dancers founder Donna Rathe, who knew exactly what to do. Without hesitation, the 51-year-old dance teacher stepped out from behind the curtain and began twirling right along with Samantha, and her now-confused partner Vanessa.
“I realized she needed a mother figure, and knew I was going to have to do,” says Rathe, who with ballerina Christine Magenheimer founded the Tiny Dancers studio in September 2001.
The audience roared with applause and the show, of course, was a hit. Although Rathe hasn’t had to come to the rescue before, she says it ‘s not unusual that kids get nervous when dancing in front of large crowds. And that’s exactly why she encourages parents to start their children dancing when they are young.
“Kids are natural hams,” she says. “Too often, as they get older, they start to clam up. Our goal is to teach these young children self-expression and self-esteem, and to be creative without any fear or hesitancy. We want them to be able to dance with their souls—not just their feet. And we want them to feel comfortable on stage. Usually, it works out fine.”
by Hope Katz Gibbs
Each fall, Lisa Simon starts to feel maternally challenged. She has birthday parties to plan for both of her children: Jessica turns 5 in October, Steven 8 in December.
“Since my son turned one, I always wanted my kids’ birthday parties to be terrific,” she says. “Only I never knew what would be the most fun, most affordable plan.”
The options whirled around in her mind. She could have it at home, but there was never enough room, and there was always a huge mess to clean up. She could rent a hall and have the affair catered, but that could get very expensive. Or she could take family and friends to the park—but what if it rained?
“Honestly,” she admits, “the whole thing made me a little crazy.”
Simon isn’t alone.
by Hope Katz Gibbs
Washington Parent magazine
Ready to face some of life’s most joyous, and stressful phases? Following are a handful of useful websites designed to get you through a few rites of passage: Getting hitched, pregnancy, and the parenting daze. Congratulations—and good luck!
The Ultimate Internet Wedding Guide: Missing anything for the wedding? You won’t need to worry when you log onto this site, which includes everything from a weather planner to a chat room with other engaged couples. The best part is the 1,300 links to other sites, which (might) help you take the stress out of potentially the most expensive day of your life.
Register Online: Visit this site to set up a free personalized page; all your friends can log on to find out what you want them to buy you. Include your photograph, wedding details and a personal note to all your family and friends. Then customize your list of wedding gifts from your favorite stores, catalogs or shopping service.
Parenting Q&A: Pregnancy and Childbirth: This site will answer just about any question you have about the nine months of pregnancy, from choosing a name to circumcision to birthing methods. It also provides parents-to-be with national and local resources and informative books.
Sabrina’s Pregnancy Page: This site from childbirth educator Sabrina Cuddy is packed with user-friendly, informative tips about topics like newsgroups and mailing lists for new parents. Click around and find out about the midwife nearest you, or subscribe to the free weekly e-mail newsletter.
Infertility and Fertility Information Page: There are literally thousands of Web sites about infertility, but the San Francisco Bay Area Fertility and Gynecology Medical Group site offers some of the best links, listing half a dozen topics ranging from adoption to infertility clinics and organizations.
Parent Time: ParentTime/Welcome: Your teenager has just had sex; what do you do now? Or are you more in the “Rituals of Toddlerhood,” stage? No matter what age or phase your kids are passing through, this site has something. This virtual magazine rivals the slick and glossy ones, but then again it is owned by Time and Proctor & Gamble.
The Parents’ Guide to The Information Superhighway: With facts, analysis and links to other sites, this Web site – the product of the National PTA, the National Urban League and the Children’s Partnership – gives an overview of the best and worst on the Web.
The Stuttering Homepage: Your kid starts to stutter. Common sense tells you to encourage them to slow down. Wrong! According to the helpful information at this Minnesota State University site, you should ignore the stuttering altogether (about 65 percent of under-4 stutterers outgrow it without therapy). Keep browsing for a list of resources including books, therapy suggestions and supportive sections for kids and teens who stutter.