21 March 2006

Thank You, Snow. Now, Discuss Amongst Yourselves.

I had a snow day today! I had planned to leave for Big Conference in the Big City, but that big midwestern snowstorm dumped too much snow during rush hour for me feel safe leaving. Curious Girl and I spent the morning playing Bingo and Winnie-the-Pooh Memory and working with modeling clay. We made yeasted waffles as a snowy day treat, and then we went out to play in the snow. We shoveled, made snow angels, and sledded down our driveway until we got so cold we couldn't take it, and we came in for hot chocolate. A perfect winter day, and the whole thing felt like a real bonus as I was supposed to be at work far away.

We were standing outside, and Curious Girl was licking snow from the big accumulation next to our stoop. "There's more snow dropping down for us," she observed, gesturing up at the sky. "Thank you, snow." It really was a special afternoon.

So in the morning I will head off to Big City, and my first blogger meet-up. As I said in my last post, I'm looking forward to getting back home from this conference so I can get back to my regular writing routines (both online and offline writing have been suffering a bit this month. I've been reading blogs a little, but barely commenting. I miss commenting.).

One of my special writing tasks in April is Passover. I'll probably post more about that later, but in the meantime, I'm wondering what those of you celebrating Passover use for hagaddahs, and in particular, how you create kid-friendly seders. Last year, Politica and I wrote our own hagaddah for the seder we attend each year, which has grown to a pretty large dinner crowd with a majority of poeple who don't know many of the traditional blessings or songs (and who wouldn't endorse much of the tradition if they knew it). So we mixed in a variety of sources--including a rousing rendition of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" to evoke slave labor in Egypt on the theory that a roomful of singers are more attentive than a roomful of people not-listening to someone else sing unfamiliar songs. I started the evening with a make-your-own-seder-paper-plate craft, a reading of Sammy Spider's First Passover and another children's book. (I'm happy to share this cobbled-together source with anyone who's interested, although our little offering pales in comparison to Velveteen Rabbi's.)

This year, we've decided to host a seder at our house, an early afternoon seder catering to young children, mostly with lesbian mothers (we'll see how the guest list evolves). So now we're thinking about another approach to a smaller seder with more small people. One idea I had--inspired by Ron Wolfson--is to ask each family attending to plan one small part of the seder, so everyone is involved in setting it up. (Of course, another idea might be to use a children's haggadah like My Very Own Haggadah, although the children's hagaddahs tend to focus on the most traditional parts of the story.) So I'm curious whether any of you reading here have suggestions about young children and seders. (Curious Girl is very curious about death these days, so I'm wondering how she'll react to the Passover story this year. And I'm wondering just what to say about the first-born sons: last year one of the parents at the seder thought Politica was too graphic in discussing the plagues (although all the kids were certainly happy with her story-telling)).

I like reading hagaddahs. Some of the ones I've found most helpful in thinking about seders are A Night of Questions (a reconstructionist hagaddah), The Open Door, and A Different Night: A Family Participation Hagaddah, all of which have zillions of interesting ideas. Anyone have any others to recommend? There are some interesting women's hagaddahs, too.

So thank you, readers, if any of you want to talk about any of this in the comments while I'm off breakfasting with jo(e) and anyone else at our conference.

And thank you, snow, for giving me another day here at home.


Lauren said...

Have fun at the conference, especially the blogger meetup. Say hi to jo(e) for me.

Ianqui said...

Wow. I might actually be interested in the seder as more than just a family obligation if we used a haggadah that tried to engage me on issues I find interesting and relevant. 'Cuz the traditional texts just don't do it for me. Your seder sounds fun.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Alas, the seders we attend these days are family affairs with just some bare window dressing for content. It makes me quite sad, actually. So I'll be looking forward to living vicariously through your Passover posts.

Have a nice breakfast with jo(e)!

TDharma said...

what a perfect snow day, indeed!

i've been to some pretty raucous seders, but too long ago to remember exactly what the kids did to participate. I remember a lot of kid participation and fun. Good times, good times.

How can you go wrong with a seder that brings kids and lesbian moms together? Not...gonna...happen...

Genevieve said...

We do a lot of kid participation at ours, with ideas I gleaned from the Internet a while back.
We used to use My Very Own Haggadah, and as J. got bigger, we got a new family Haggadah that I like a lot. (Pre-J., we had one that followed the traditional outline but had great applicable quotes from various writers, activists, etc. sprinkled throughout.)

The big thing that helps ours work is that we don't go to the table till we're at the meal portion. No way are we keeping the kids happy sitting at the table while we read out loud etc.! We start the Seder in the living room with our Haggadahs.

We put a baby doll in a basket and float it down a blue silky for a river -- the bigget girl at our Seder is Miriam and runs along to make sure he stays OK and gets found.

We all sing Let My People Go, and When Pharoah Woke Up There Were Frogs in His Bed.

We get out lots of toys for the plagues: every frog in the house, every cow in the house (which gets tipped over for cattle disease), maracas for hail, sunglasses for darkness, little toy bugs for flies, locusts and lice. This year I think we'll add bubble wrap for boils. We don't play-act the slaying of the first-born -- that is a truly sad plague and nothing to play around with. This year J. is sad about that one, and that his Hebrew school teacher couldn't give him a good explanation of it -- he's going to ask the rabbi about it next week (she's very good with that sort of thing -- I couldn't give him an adequate answer either). I have somewhat mixed feelings on playing around with the plagues, but the first 9 seem reasonable to goof around on to keep the kids interested and lively, and we also include the taking the drops of wine out of our cup of joy for the plagues, and making that point.

At the part where we read about the Jews crossing the Red Sea, we get up and follow a leader (who has a cane for a shepherd's crook) over the blue silky for the sea. On the other side, we play tambourines and dance, as Miriam did.

Robin said...

I have really enjoyed all these great ideas about Passover. This will be our first try at Passover with the children. Thanks for the links to the haggadahs. We compiled one and we update it when inspired. (This year may not involve any updating.) Like the Velveteen Rabbis, ours has poems and stories in it. Ours is a lot shorter, though. Maybe I will post it on our blog? I'd love to see yours when you're done, if you don't mind! Robin (The Other Mother)