Archive for December, 2011
We learned how to play the Hanukkah Dreidel game last year when we were learning about Jewish holidays. I had no idea how much my children would love this simple game, but it has definitely become a traditional part of our Christmas celebration.
We learned how to play the game using the children’s book Festival of Lights by Maida Silverman. This wonderful book tells the history of the Hanukkah celebration which is one that remembers a great, miraculous victory that the Jewish people had over Greek invaders. While in power, the Greek ruler would not allow the Jewish people to study the Torah, which is made up of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He wanted to force the Jewish people to abandon their faith in Jehovah to turn to the pagan Greek gods. The Jewish people still met secretly to study the Scriptures, but in case monitoring soldiers came by, they had these little wooden tops that they would get out so it would appear that their meeting was simply a gathering to play a fun game. So really this game was a diversion that allowed these devoted people to continue to study the Scriptures under persecution.
There are four Hebrew letters on the dreidels, one on each side. The letters stand for the phrase “A great miracle happened there” as a reminder of God’s protection and intervention on the Jewish people’s behalf.
The first year that we played the Dreidel game, we just used a free printable dreidel located at this link. It worked just fine to find out how much fun this game is, but this year my kids requested a real top, and I discovered that they are very inexpensive on Amazon. I’ll tell you what, those real dreidels really spin! We couldn’t believe how they spun!
So, here is how the Dreidel Game is played:
1. Each player gets the same number of items. We chose to use 7 items each, simply because in the Bible, the number 7 is symbolic of God’s perfection, sovereignty, and holiness. We used jellybeans for our items, but any small objects are fine.
2. Each player puts one item into a separate, middle pile, called the Kitty.
3. Each player takes turns spinning the dreidel. The symbol that the dreidel lands on tells the player what to do. To make this simpler to remember, I made this card explaining each letter’s instructions:
4. When the Kitty is empty or only contains one item, each player must put one of their own items into the Kitty.
5. The game is over when one player has all of the items. Sometimes this happens pretty quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t. If the game seems to be taking too long, I simply put a time limit on it and say whoever has the most items at that point is the winner.
So, it is really a very simple game. It can also be pretty competitive! It has definitely risen to the status of a Prairie Family tradition that we will enjoy for many years to come.
P.S. Another part of the Hanukkah celebration that I have grown to love is this song, Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages) which is about the great deliverance that God gave to the Jewish people (the English words begin at 1:06):
Christmas Eve is a special event for the Prairie Family. In fact, several of us have commented that we actually enjoy it more than Christmas Day. Brock has said that when he grows up, he plans to spend Christmas Eve with us even if he can’t be here for Christmas Day because it is such a good time for us!
Cosette had an unexpected surprise when she went with me to the store to pick up a few last-minute groceries on Christmas Eve. Right when we walked in the door, we saw a friend from church who told us that they were giving away big Christmas lollipops by the checkouts. So, Cosette quickly found the right spot and asked if she could pick out lollipops for her brothers and sisters, and they said she could have as many as she could use! So, she picked out which ones she liked for each person, and we sneaked them home and hid them in the Christmas stockings as a special gift from her.
So, what else do we do to make Christmas Eve special? Well, we open our stocking presents, play a game of Dreidel (which I will explain in a post that I will write soon), and watch our favorite Christmas movie A Nativity Story. That movie helps us focus on the true meaning of this special time of year and really is the focus of our Christmas Eve celebration.
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Cosette has a new hobby: watching cupcake/regular cake shows. Her favorites are Cupcake Wars, D.C. Cupcakes, Cake Boss, and Ace of Cakes. She says that when she grows up, she wants to have her own cupcake specialty shop so she can go on these shows (especially on Cupcake Wars, so she can win a prize!) She has learned all kinds of techniques that she’ll actually have to try someday like marbled frosting. Just so she doesn’t forget all of the wonderful tips, she is taking meticulous notes to put away for the future. She tells me that I can help at her shop someday–probably running the cash register while she makes all of the yummy cakes. I told her that sounds like a great plan–I can’t wait!
A couple of years ago, I started having the kids draw names to give each other Christmas gifts. This has turned out to be a very good tradition because it helps them focus on what would be a good gift for someone else, not just themselves. They have a lot of fun planning what to get for each other, choosing just the right wrapping paper, wrapping the gift, and then surprising “their person” on Christmas morning. Sometimes they have a hard time keeping who “their person” is a secret! LOL! It’s also kind of funny how the kids often pick out the same types of things for each other. This year, for example, was a movie year for some reason. Cosette did not follow the trend, though. She got a marble clock for John that he has wanted for a long time. Unfortunately, the silly clock didn’t work when we put it together, so we are in the process of getting it exchanged. John has been a good sport about waiting. He knows it will be neat when we finally get it working.
Another thing we threw into the exchange gifts for the girls this year were mismatched socks. Yes, you read that right: mismatched socks. I guess it’s “cool” to have socks that coordinate, but don’t necessarily match. I do have to admit that the socks are pretty cute on them, and there are definitely worse things than mismatched socks, I guess! 🙂
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The Sunday before Christmas, we had a Sunday School Christmas Party for the kids of our church. Our pastor had requested such an event to be a birthday party for Jesus, and it ended up being a highlight of this Christmas season for me.
We began our party with singing of traditional carols, and then we had a candlelight devotional that focused on God’s Light. These are the main points and verses that we used:
1. Jesus is the Light (John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 60:1-3; 1 John 1:5; Psalm 27:1)
2. God’s Word is Light (Psalm 119:105)
3. Jesus uses His people to be light (Matthew 5:14-16; Proverbs 4:18-19; Ephesians 5:8)
I had the verses printed off for the kids to read, and after each verse, we talked about what it meant and lit a candle. After all of the candles were lit, we talked about what gifts we could give Jesus for His birthday, and I was pleased that the kids said that we should give Him our love and our lives. We then sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, and the youngest children got to blow out the candles.
The kids all enjoyed a sticky, yummy craft/snack. We covered ice cream cones with green frosting and used various candies to decorate them as trees. Of course, there was frosting everywhere–especially on fingers–but that made it fun! 🙂
I had a couple of games that the kids could choose from to play. The younger kids decided to play a Christmas Bingo game that I made on the computer, while the older kids played Dreidel. I don’t know what it is about the Dreidel game that is so fun, but the Prairie Family kids sure enjoy it! We ended up having a simple tournament where the boy champion (John) took on the girl champion (Kara). Guess who won??? The answer is in this slideshow!
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Boy, I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into now……. (Not really!)
Our community orchestra is currently without a cello player. We had a sweet cellist last year, but she graduated from the community college and has moved on. We contacted a larger town nearby with no luck. Almost on a weekly basis the issue of no cello comes up in rehearsal. “Does anyone know someone who plays a cello or at least has a cello?”
Cosette and John have both expressed interest in cello from time-to-time, but we never took the leap because I myself do not play cello. It’s one thing to teach an instrument that I play, it’s another thing to teach one that I don’t play! I had discussed the possibility of borrowing a 1/2 size cello with another string teacher about a year ago, but nothing ever came of it.
Well, as I said earlier, each week at rehearsal, the topic of a cello player kept popping up. So, eventually I timidly said that a couple of my kids might be willing to try playing cello if they had an instrument. It was then that I found out that the orchestra actually owns a cello that had been loaned out to someone who was not currently playing in the group. Weeks and months went by, and whenever the topic of the cello came up, I’d say that if we could use a cello, we’d give it a shot. As time went on, however, I began to realize that maybe I myself should try out the cello. After all, I really can’t teach an instrument that I don’t play. Plus, my kids aren’t getting younger. Before you know it, they’ll be off to college as well leaving the orchestra with no cello again. So I decided to seriously discuss it with the conductor.
At first, the conductor was a little hesitant. He said I might have problems learning to play the cello. “The cello plays in a different clef than the violin,” he told me. What he didn’t know, though, was that my main instrument is not the violin. It is the piano. Trust me, I don’t have any problems reading the bass clef! Once I told him that, he was definitely supportive of the whole idea. The only remaining obstacle was finding out who actually had the cello, making the appropriate contacts and arrangements, etc. The lady who had been borrowing the cello was very nice to work with. I offered to share the instrument with her, but she said that at this time she just doesn’t see a possibility of playing with the orchestra, so she said that I could just use it. If anything changes in the future, we’ll figure that out later.
Now, the Prairie Family has a cello in our house. (Our music room is really crowded now with a piano, five violins, a cello, and a whole library of music! We almost need a new room!) I have ordered some books to work through, and as I learn the cello, I will work with the kids that want to try it as well. It won’t be an instantaneous fix for our orchestra, but hopefully sometime within the next year to year-and-a-half, they’ll have a cello player again! 🙂