Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guest post: Kim Jong Il, Hanukkah, and Kindergarten

I am happy to introduce you to my husband, Matt, who has kindly agreed to write a guest post here at Most Days I Win. I've been asking him for ten months a little while if he could share some of his own perspective as a stay at home parent, and I'm so happy that he's agreed to join me here! I mentioned earlier that Matt was heading into Alyce's kindergarten class this week to introduce them to our Hanukkah traditions, and I'm delighted to report that he made it out alive and can share with us his adventures. Fortunately for us, he can go on forever. Thanks, Matt! Come back anytime. Also, thanks to Alyce's teacher for taking the video of Matt and Shira below.

Look, this is a difficult time. We will, each and every one of us, miss his winning smile, infectious laughter, love of impossibly twee indie rock, and the way his nose would wrinkle when he would condemn millions to starvation. Today, we mourn Kim Jong Il (here he is interviewing RenĂ©e Zellweger). To borrow the title of Mr. Burns’ autobiography, “Will There Ever be A Rainbow?”

How will we go on? We may rend our clothes, don sackcloth and ashes, or build a funeral pyre, but we must soldier on, for him. How, then, shall we find light to dispel the darkness? How ‘bout a barely literate former professor talking to a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds about Hanukkah? That’s the ticket.

First, enjoy Shira dancing to the Canadian National Anthem, which is not, contrary to popular opinion, “SK8TR BOI” (a song with lyrics almost as stupid as “Hey, Soul Sister”):

 Alyce’s teacher kindly allowed me to speak to her class about Hanukkah. Alyce’s school is quite old-fashioned in its unbuttoned celebration of Christmas, despite the fact that there is a growing non-Christian, especially Muslim, student body. It’s harmless enough, but I doubt this situation would pass muster in a larger, more diverse city. Anyhoo, here’s what happened:

With Shira packed in the stroller and Alyce strollin’ at my side--and by strollin’ I mean her foot speed might be a negative number--we padded down to the school. I had to wait out in the hall for about 20 minutes after class started so that the teacher could calm the usual madness and tears that accompany the beginning of any school day. This is when Shira took the opportunity to dance interpretatively to “Oh Canada!,” warbled out over WWII-era speakers by hundreds of grade schoolers. It sounded like they were singing underwater, but don’t think for a minute that sound quality stopped Shira from getting her groove on.

Called in, Shira and I encountered several dozen of Alyce’s classmates, all of whom were very intrigued by the trespass of a toddler, especially one wearing snow boots roughly the size of engine blocks. I started by asking if anyone knew something about Hanukkah. I received two answers: that Alyce celebrated it (as the class said in unison) and, from one rather intrepid student, that it was the time when Jews wrote on their hand, confusing the Hindu/Jain “festival of lights” (Diwali) with the Jewish holiday. Wrong, but fortune favors the bold, my friend. Clearly the teacher has made an active attempt to incorporate an idea that there are those who celebrate differently, and this is all Jews can ask in a great land of malchut shel hesed. Alyce’s teacher mentioned that a lot of Christmas specials she has seen this year have brought in Hanukkah, remarking in particular about this year’s Caillou movie.

(Side note: Caillou--what a putz. Here’s some dialogue from a typical episode:
Caillou’s Dad: Hey Caillou, want to learn to roller skate?
Caillou: I do, daddy!
Caillou’s Dad: Great! Watch this 15 minute dubbed Dutch roller skating safety film, and then will talk about it and all the bulky padding that you get to wear that will impair your balance and ruin any chance that you might enjoy it.
Caillou: Great! I’m gonna have a nap.)

So, we talked about the Hanukkah story, the students especially enjoying the wicked King Antiochus. Alyce piped in with, “Is there a pretty princess in this story?,” and, my favorite non sequitur, “Did you bring my Princess book?” We discussed the hanukkiyah (menorah), candles, foods, and games. They learned that Hanukkah lasts eight crazy nights. I asked them how many days Christmas lasts, and the eager responses ranged from six days to two weeks. Good times, good times.

The students, a really nice group, were especially enthusiastic about Hanukkah treats. Danielle and I prepared sufganiyot (powdered doughnuts, often filled with jelly) for the class. When I asked them if they would like me to sit there and eat all of the doughnuts by myself in front of them, I nearly caused a riot. Lesson: Don’t mess with people’s doughnuts. Check.  We also purchased some lovely colored, translucent dreidels for the students. I explained to them the rules of dreidel, which will prepare them for a life of gambling, a safer bet, to be fair, than a BA in the humanities.

When it was time to ask questions, students came up with these gems: “It was my birthday yesterday,” “Can I go to the bathroom?,” and “Is Alyce’s sister allowed to eat markers?” The answer to the last question, if you are curious, is “no.”

Lastly, no class-wide Hanukkah discussion is complete without a screeching 19 month old who treated the classroom like Godzilla treated Toyko. Although barely mobile in her engine block shoes, Shira terrorized Alyce’s classmates, sitting on their laps, yelling in their ears, pilfering their dreidels, and just generally wreckin’ up the place.

All in all, though, a rousing success. I look forward to talking to the class in September 2012 about the Fast of Gedaliah.

Editor's Note: Proof that he actually did this.


  1. Love. Matt LaGrone, you make me want to convert to Judaism.

  2. Omg I think I snorted beer out my nose laughing

    My ffavorite part of the whole thing was Alyce giggling with her friend completely ignoring her papa...

  3. good job matty!
    you are a great papa!!!

    love cousin lisa

  4. So hilarious. Also way to keep it classy with the mad tv clip. Also, "classy."

  5. Jo school invited children to pick their favorite holiday and have a family member introduce it to the class. Jo picked Good Friday. Yes! So in between learning about Diwali and SinterClaus my husband described to a bunch of second graders the day God was tortured and died. Actually, he had Johanna read a chapter of her Martin Luther King book entitled "It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming!" and he talked (in good Menno radical fashion) about Jesus (who like King in America) challenged the established power of the Romans.

  6. That was the best Hanukkah post ever! Thanks Matt!!

  7. "I explained to them the rules of dreidel, which will prepare them for a life of gambling, a safer bet, to be fair, than a BA in the humanities." Classic. Matt, you're hilarious and honest. Great post!

  8. Yes, I laughed a lot, too. And to think I live with this hilarity every day! I hope Matt will write more here, with or without references to Kim Jong Il.

    Jo, I'm still laughing about your daughter picking Good Friday. And the Romans.

    I think this post is the clear Hanukkah winner.

  9. Great post!
    I don't think Matt made it into Reis' class to do his presentation but Reis WAS singing a dreidel song today :)

  10. Matt, your presentation to Canadian young 'uns is remarkably similar to my presentation to American undergraduates.