Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Treating Juvenile Haman Psychosis

A few nights ago I blogged about our Haman psychosis dilemma with our dear M: http://imasclassroom.blogspot.com/2011/03/haman-psychosis-unproffesional.html

Today I will share our thusfar successful correction program, along with some fun and easy purim crafts ;-). M's fear of Haman had developed three levels, essentially, walls around her fear, that we aimed to circle and knock down"
1) Fear of Purim entirely
2) Fear of the Purim story
3) Fear of the name Haman

Level 1: Over a week ago, in the car, Elie began discussing the story of Purim minus Haman- only focusing on the Esther and Mordechai saving the Jews part. This didn't go without a fight- Miriam wanted nothing to do with the story- but Elie persisted in talking about what a fun holiday Purim is and how we celebrate by eating yummy hamentaschen and wear costumes, etc... Elie kept doing this in the car for a few days as M got less and less uptight about the positive aspects of the Purim story.
While Elie worked on this daily project, I got in touch with a noted psychotherapist, who doesn't specialize in children, but did take interest and suggested that I try to get M to relate to the story first asking her to draw pictures. I didn't think it would work because M had sworn off even touching a Purim coloring book I got her, but after Elie's success in the car, I decided to try it out. I told M we that we would draw a beautiful queen (always a draw in the princess phase)... as she drew we named her queen Esther. I asked her to name me other characters of the story- which she knew, but was hesitant to get into. As I pryed them out, she was in fact interested in able to draw Mordechai, Achashverosh, and Vashti (left out Haman)- which was a big step to actually get Her talking about the Purim story. After she drew the characters and I labeled them, I told her the (haman-less) story using the pictures she drew= SUCCESS- we then made them into a "megillah" with some scotch tape and a wooden dowel-"megillah" having been another previously untouchable word or object revolving around "haman-psychosis."

Elie also made an alternate "name" for Haman as "bad guy," and created a ditty, "Mordechai super guy, bye bye bad guy." After a few days M would even sing along.

Level 2: In school, we had warned M's preschool teacher to try to shy away from anything negative about Purim and try to avoid Haman lest she deal with an unwanted meltdown... M's teacher agreed- but apparently, is not the only religious educator in the preschool program. M came home on Friday telling me that they made graggers in school and used them with the four year old teacher (the 2 classes get together sometimes)- I nervously asked her "why did they make that gragger noise?". Answered M: "We shook when Ms. D. said the name "Haymen" (Haman's English pronunciation...she's in a non-denominational school...).

Level 3:
Apparently in her 3 year old mind there's a disconnect between "Haymen" and "Haman." We began hinting at Haymen being in the Purim story, and while we could see M's shoulders tensing up a bit... No meltdown. Because Elie leins the Megillah at shul, he's been practicing while trying to say Haman in undertone. This Shabbos afternoon he decided to lein regularly while I played with Miriam nearby.
As soon as Elie got to the word "Haman" and Miriam looked nervous I asked her "do you like when Daddy leins Megillah?"
M: "He is too noisy when he says "the bad guy"
Me: Which guy do you mean?
M: "When Daddy says "Haymen," it's too noisy!"
Me: So any time you hear Daddy say that, let's bang on the table and say, "Too noisy! too noisy!"

It worked!! Essentially, we turned her fear of Haman into a FUN (yes, Fun!) reaction to just booing and banging out his name when the Megillah is read.

The next day we made our own Purim puppets our of popsicle sticks, foam balls, etc:

Look at that triangle-hatted one! That's "Haymen!" Though M still doesn't appreciate "Haman" in conversation, she now knows the (kid version of the) Purim story with "Haymen" involved, will Tell it to you, using the puppets..... and enthusiastically bang out his "real" name if you dare to mention it in her presence.

May we continue to enthusiastically bang out the name of "Haymen" and Amalek- Happy Purim!!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Haman Psychosis: an Unprofessional Psychological Case Study

Hello! Purim is in the air and Jewish kids all over the world are psyching up for a day full of fun, costumes, friends, and a ridiculous amount of candy. We've been having a unique kind of experience, which may or may not intrigue you.

Back to the subject:
Haman psychosis.
(Description of subject Before this week)
This is the condition in which an otherwise normal young child for no clearly definable reason reacts in a psychotically insane manner when hearing the name Haman (pronounced the Hebrew way, Hah-Mahn) or any word that is similar or hints of the name. By child I mean my three year old girl, M, by "psychotic manner" I mean crying and screaming and heaving melt-down for up to 10 minutes upon hearing the name at any place, any time, from any one.

By "similiar words" I mean that if one begins a word starting with "Hamah--" (there is a game, Hama, apparently, which my husband unfortunately discovered in mall while WITH dear M), the same reaction takes place. By "hints of the name" I mean that for the last while, M will not even go near anything or discuss anything having to do with Purim, as she knows that "he who must not be named" will possibly come up (thank you to our cousin for creating that association with Voldemort of Harry Potter).

We believe this phobia began at some point when M was around 15 months, possibly while we were at a community Purim seudah and the Megillah was being read on the microphone (no, we were not being yotzeih the mitzva, nor were most people) and when the rabbi read "Haman" there was an unbelievable noise from the loudspeakers which truly scared baby M. She was not old enough to really understand anything about Haman at that time other than that we had a finger puppet of him and she eventually became scared of that finger puppet too.

It's not even that Haman was an evil villain who wanted to kill the Jews which is why she is scared- we haven't really discussed that with her. M knows waaay more about the atrocities of Paroah and Anitiochus than about Haman- yet they don't scare her- it is a deep seated fear that we cannot reason with her- and until now has only been getting worse. M had been so scared of her own reaction that anything about Purim had been taboo in our house.

This situation has baffled many a family member, friend, and teacher, and we were really getting quite worried that she would always live in unexplainable fear of a holiday which should objectively be every kid's favorite!

Now that Purim is quite soon, we began a plan to tackle this psychosis of our otherwise pleasant and happy daughter. I will now share with you the plan and procedure of OPERATION HAMAN. Tomorrow, b"n.

Good night and stay tuned, thanks for reading!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Parsha Bag

Hello! We have been out of town visiting family and so Ima's classroom has been on break, but my husband and I thought this would be a good time to share the concept of a Parsha Bag.

Every Shabbos my husband Elie, along with our three year old M prepares a bag of "schtick" that represents different aspects of the Parsha, usually a bunch of different toys, chatchkes, random items around the house. This is generally the highlight of our Shabbos meal, and an excellent way to keep our daughter and guests entertained as well as educated in a fun way. Elie holds up each item, asks my daughter to identify them, and then asks (her or people around the table), "Why is ________ in the Parsha?!" And then hopefully someone, or Elie, explains in a way that M (and everyone else) can more or less understand. We'll give you a sample Parsha bag, see if you can come up with the answers.

This past week's Parsha was Parshas Vaykhel, which involved a lot about the Mishkan and a little about Shabbos.
Items in our Parsha bag:

A Firetruck
King Midas and the Golden Touch (book)
Silver Jewelery
A Sheep
Leather Baseball glove
Red block
Turquoise Frisbee
Purple Block
Piece of Wood

Ok I'll give you some space to think of the answers (don't look!!)- let me know how many you got! Answers are at the bottom:
Fire truck: We are not allowed to light a fire on Shabbos
King Midas: Gold used for the Mishkan and it's vessels
Gemstone-jewelry: Avnei Shoham (precious stones) for the Choshen and the Efod.
Silver Jewelery: Used for building the sockets of the Mishkan
Cinnamon: B'samim for the anointing oil and Ketores
A Sheep: Wool for curtains of the Mishkan, as well as a sheep for korbanos
Leather Baseball glove: Animal skins used in cover for Mishkan
Red block: Scarlet wool used for curtains, also Representing the "orot eilim me'odamim"= red ram's skins- the cover for the Mishkan
Turquoise Frisbee: Turqoise wool used for curtains
Purple Block: again... wool...curtains...
Piece of Wood: Wood used for mishkan including the Aron and the Shulchan

When the Parsha is a little more happening (i.e., more stories and mitzvos) the bag can get a little more exciting- but this is the gist of what we try to do each Shabbos.
Another example from Parshas Beshalach (a little more exciting...): A toy horse and toy carriage (sus v'rochvo rama vayam), a Russian Doll (Avodah Zara), A poland spring water bottle (had pictures of trees, on one side wrote sweet and the other bitter- for waters of Mara), coffee and sugar (bitter and sweet- again, waters of Mara), different toy foods to represent Manna, a tambourine (for Miriam's tambourine), toy fish (for kriyas yam suf...)... ok, you get the point.

I give credit to Shoshana Schechter of Stern college who inspired us once during a class on webyeshiva by telling the class about some parsha shtick they do at their shabbos table with their kids. We've been adding to this and loving the concept ever since!

Give it a try at your Shabbos table and let me know how it goes (adults like it too!)
Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Parshas Ki Tisa

Thanks so much to my readers for liking my blog :-). I haven't had an "introduction" to the blog yet because I don't have a real message of inspiration to hand over. This is my outlet and way to let some family/friends in on our fun life, as well as a potential way to connect to other involved Moms who want to make their time with kids meaningful and possibly educational as well, and help our kids get the message that Torah and Frumkeit are FUN. This blog also gives me incentive to really plan our activities. Possibly as or most important, it's a reminder that being stay-at-home parent (or even just an involved parent) is an important and challenging job, and it doesn't mean you are letting your brain go to mush. Maybe that's a decent introduction.

Opening activity: read Parsha book: (ignores Egel... probably a wise move for little kids despite leaving out a huge part of the parsha...)

Interesting note.....The parsha book explained that the "Kohanim had to wash their hands and feet in the Kiyor before serving HaShem in the Beis HaMikdash". M gave me a puzzled look and asked, "and then do the Kohanim eat HaShem?" It took me a moment to realize what possessed her to ask that rather heretical question..... get it... "serving HaShem?" (lol) she associated it with "serving cookies...." Anyway, I laughed and realized that we should change that line to "before doing the mitzvos for HaShem in the Beis HaMikdash."

We talked about the mitzva of Negel Vaaser (which we try to do in the morning) and the fact that just like the Kohanim needed to wash their hands before doing important mitzvos, we need to wash our hands before we do all the great mitzvos we do as well (we listed some: focusing on being nice to (aka-not beating up...) sister, saying brachos and thank you, kibud av' v'em, etc). I'm happy to say that M seems to really understand that in her own way.

In this parsha, HaShem asks Moshe to do a census of the Jewish people by requiring them to each bring a half shekel. There's a lot to do with this:
MATH: the concept of a half is still challenging to M. I had her color a paper plate to make her "shekel" and we discussed how it is One whole shekel. Then (with new kiddie impossible-to-cut-fingers-or- anything scissors) we cut the "shekel" in half (I KNOW, i know, it wasn't really physically half of a shekel in the Torah. I'm just trying to make a point. I might have scarred her understanding for at least a few years. She'll get over it.) . Then I asked her to show me one half of a shekel- we practiced holding up "half" and putting them back together to hold up "wholes." It sounds silly but in my humble opinion a really important pre-math skill to learn- and she got it. We split a few more things into half, such as our banana snack, and looked at the "half" a cup measurements as we made some hamentaschen for Purim Katan.

(( I've been thinkin g of trying explain the concept of everyone being like "half a coin" and we need other Jews to be complete... and I'd put a picture of her on one half of our "coin" and a pic of her 10 month old sister on the other half..... but I think that's really over her head for now. ))

To explain HaShem "counting," I reminded Miriam of her sticker chart that we add to when she goes to bed (and Stays there) easily. She loves to count those stickers a few times, she's just so excited about them. So that was an easy parable for me to use. "Just like you keep counting your star stickers because you love them so m uch, HaShem loves every single Jewish person so much, and so He loves to count them."

Today I printed out a picture of a pushka-like pitcher from chinuch.org (an excellent resource for Jewish educators ). She colored it with crayons and we cut out photocopies of half-shekels and let everyone in the family put one "in" and M glued and counedt them (again, more math skill-building).

"kiyor" out of three styrofoam bowls, some paint, and pipe cleaners (another idea from chinuch.org)-

Thanks for reading and have a Good Shabbos, and freilichen Purim Katan!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alef Bet and Parshas Tetzaveh: First post

This week we decided to try A NEW kRIAH GAME to make learning a little more fun and incorporate some physical activity. Our 3 year old loves to learn thank G-d, but as a three year old, has about a 3 minute attention span when it comes to focusing on alef bet and nekudot.

Alef Bet Obstacle Course
So I printed out large posters of the alef bet (some pictured below), initially just Alef through Daled, and some big cards with the different nekudot. M excitedly chose different spots all around the main area of our apartment to put the alef-bet signs, mostly on the accesible wall, some on places she had to climb over stuff to get to. To introduce the game, I made her run and touch each of the alef bet by calling out commands like "touch the letter that makes the sound "b" !" She loved this right away, so I made it a bit more challenging. I gave her the fiirst nekuda card ( a kamatz) which I called a "key", and called out sounds she should make ("Da!") she had to put the "key" under the letter to "produce" the sound, and then do "the dance," essentially hopping up and down saying the sound she made a few times. She LOVED running around, climbing over things, making each sound and showing me what she knows. When she completed each "level" (each nekuda key with all the letters), she got a small sticker. We got most of the nekudot with all those Alef Bet..... that's alef-bet focus for HALF AN HOUR, which I consider a huge deal for a three year old. We played this game another time this week to, adding three more letters. I think this game is a keeper and we'll keep making it a little more challenging :-).

Parshas Tetzaveh Activities

As usual, we started our parsha learning with our favorite parsha book, "Tell me the Story of the Parsha (below)
it's a little (ok, a lot) too yeshivish for us in some ways (i.e., Jews are only referred to as "Yidden", and some things are a little too midrash-y for us, but we make it up and change the words when reading if need be. This week's parsha was focused on the clothing of the Kohanim- most exciting was that of the Kohen Gadol.

After reading, M excitedly colored the pictures of the bigdei kehuna from aish.com (so, they were all blue, not gold, not multicolored. she has a thing with navy this week. oh well).

Then I got this idea from one of my most favorite blogs written by a supremely amazing woman: http://parshacakes.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html, who inspired us to make "parsha cakes" starting about a year ago. But we're only us + favorite local cousin this week, so we don't need a cake, this idea was converted into cookies.
Choshen Cookies:
The tapestry behind the choshen was woven with gold, white gold, red, yellow, and purple thread.
Used recipe for chocolate chip cookies (levana kirschenbaum), then seperated the dough into four balls, left one plain and dyed others red, yellow, purple w/food coloring, then gently blended the colors together, I think the results were great:

When they were cool and hardened enough, we put some "gold" background (frosting) and stuck on the "stones" of the choshen (jelly bellies). I'm not as creative/motivated/time flexible to do all the Torah-prescribed colors, but we had fun anyway, and I think M has a fun and understandable idea of the choshen at this point... (and excitement to serve and eat them on shabbos)
Ok,that's all for our first blog. We may or may not have time to reveal the contents of this weeks "parsha bag" another time.
Good Shabbos!