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Sep 12 2014

My Daughter Lost Interest in Shabbat When She Turned 3–So We Tweaked It

By at 1:11 pm

dancing-girl

We used to love Shabbat in our home. When my daughter was 2 years old we sang “Penny in the Pushke” while she put coins in the tzedakah (charity) box, swayed together to “Moving into Shabbos Time,” kvelled to watch her mirror her Ima’s motions for candle lighting, and melted when we rested our hands on her head to bless her. She loved the taste of grape juice and tearing a big hunk of challah when we finished HaMotzi (the blessing for bread). Every Friday evening felt richly relaxed.

Then our daughter turned 3, and our peaceful Shabbats steadily declined. She grew less patient with the blessings. She pulled on the challah so early the HaMotzi became “baruch ata… NOT YET… eloheinu… WAIT, DON’T PULL… HaOlam, HaMotzi–HEY, BRING THAT BACK!” She whined throughout the blessing over the wine, demanding to hold the grape juice herself. She had to be monitored every moment to not drink early or move in a way that would splash and stain. Our long musical Kiddush (blessing over the wine) was sung faster and faster, with less pleasure. During the meal she would dive under the table to visit our legs.

Worst of all–to us–was losing the blessing over our child. She started squirming beneath our hands, then running away until our once-intimate blessing turned into a chase around the apartment, and we were reduced to hurling the names of the matriarchs at our child’s back. Read the rest of this entry →

Motherhood Brings Out My Superstitious Side

By at 9:45 am

Alicia-Elija

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ki Tavo. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Sometimes, during these first few weeks of my newborn son Elijah’s life, I find myself overwhelmed by gratitude for him. I tend to write about the harder parts of motherhood, but in this moment I’m just bowled over by the beauty, mystery, and ridiculous cuteness of this little guy in a froggie onesie.

What do I do with all this raw emotion, this overwhelming love? Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 22 2014

What They Bring Home From Camp

By at 11:48 am

sleeping-boy

The voice mail came in while we were swimming. It was Saturday, the afternoon before Noah’s sleepaway camp ended.

Infirmary. 100.7 fever.

“Do you want to get him tonight or have us keep him here until pickup tomorrow?” the nurse asked. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2014

After Years of Upheaval, We Finally Have a Home

By at 10:46 am

Cara-Paiuk-New-Home

The early milestones in my life were not happy ones, revolving around death and displacement. I also was sick for part of my early adulthood and the years blended together into a blur without any milestones to mark the passage of time.

So, when I met my husband just over four years ago, it was almost as if my life started back up again in overdrive. Our milestones have been making up for lost time I suppose. Almost four years ago I had our son and 13 months ago our twin daughters were born. In the past five years, I have moved eight times and lived in four different cities. While all this roving around has been exciting, it has also been exceedingly stressful and exhausting. The time had finally come for the moving to stop.

Two years ago we landed in West Hartford, Connecticut, where we fell in love with just about everything and everyone who crossed our paths. We knew fairly quickly that this was it–the place we were going to put down roots and raise our children. We could think of no better place to celebrate all of our family’s future milestones. Read the rest of this entry →

May 30 2014

Blessing My Daughter on Friday Night

By at 9:55 am

shabbat-candles

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Naso. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

I can still remember the tingly feeling of holiness that went through me when the rabbi blessed me at my bat mitzvah as a pipe organ played minor chords, and a choir in robes sang solemnly. (In retrospect, I wonder if all huge Reform congregations in 1990 borrowed a lot from Christian worship. I’m pretty sure mine did.)

The pipe organ was a new twist, but the blessing was ancient. Rabbis all over the world have been blessing their communities with three simple lines from this week’s Torah portion, Naso, for thousands of years. That suburban Reform rabbi was continuing the tradition of the priests of Biblical Israel, reciting the words God gave for blessing the people of Israel:

May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine God’s face on you and give you grace.
May God give favor to you and grant you peace. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 4 2014

My Breast Cancer Scare Changed My Life and Made Me Appreciate My Blessings

By at 2:39 pm

biopsy

It all started innocently enough–with a nondescript letter from the hospital where I get my annual mammograms and ultrasounds (dense breasts, anyone?). It was included in the stack of mail that accumulated during our December pilgrimage to my sister’s ski house in Vermont (Christmas Day on the empty slope–a gift to the Jews, even if there are no available Chinese restaurants for dinner). The envelope’s only distinguishing characteristic was a sticker attached to the front. “Not a Bill,” it read. “Please Open.”

Inside was a form letter summoning me back to the hospital for additional scans of my breast. After consulting with the aforementioned-sister, who also happens to be an OB-GYN and multiple cancer survivor, we decided that there was no cause for alarm. I hadn’t received any ominous phone calls from my doctor. The follow-up appointment they scheduled was weeks away. And plenty of women are called back for additional views.

So I resumed my normal routine without panicking. Laundry. Lunchbox packing. Writing. Trips to Trader Joe’s. Schlepping to after-school activities. Rudimentary dinner preparations. The joys of typical suburban life. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 14 2014

Turns Out Shabbat and Valentine’s Day Have a Lot in Common

By at 11:43 am

shabbat

Tonight I’m planning dinner by candlelight. It will engage all five senses, with attention lavished on the tiniest details, including our wedding china instead of Corelle, and soup that requires a trip to the butcher instead of just a can opener. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but I’m banking on the kneidelach my husband likes: the firmer, the better. Ah, February 14th.

Isn’t this how Shabbat should always go?

My kids’ preschool director sent an email out reminding parents that “we celebrate love and caring all year long, but we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day at school.” Last V-Day, when my son found a cupcake in his cubby with the Post-It note reading “Baked with love in our kosher home,” he thought it was a happy coincidence.

No valentines, no candy hearts–would Friday be any fun? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 3 2014

Why Isn’t There a Jewish Blessing for Coffee?

By at 9:16 am

travel mug of coffee steaming

The twin tote bags are massive. My daughters could fit together inside one of them, and we’d still have room to spare. Yet my husband and I fill them each morning with all the necessities for daycare: sheets, blankets, bibs, extra clothes, sippy cups of water and milk. Each girl has a bag for her lunch. I try to send them with home-cooked meals and fresh fruit, but there are days where I cannot scrape together enough energy to slice their grapes into 16ths. Sometimes they make do with pre-packaged.

My 3-year-old invariably throws a tantrum. (Reason why my child is crying: I wouldn’t allow her to wear a Tinkerbell nightgown to school in eight degree weather). We calm her. The baby is sleeping and we have to wake her. I nurse her, change her, and dress her in record time. Her perfect, tiny nose needs a kiss. Coats, hats, gloves, and boots go on. My husband hauls the bags, and we shepherd the girls out the door and into car seats. I drive them to daycare, escort them into their respective classrooms, where their ever-cheerful teachers are waiting. I dole out breakfasts, hugs, kisses, and promises of fun with their friends. I tell them that I’ll be home soon.

Back into my car, I check the time. I have one spare minute before I absolutely have to get moving again. I exhale with relief, and enjoy my 60 free seconds. My loyal green travel mug has been patiently waiting for me all this time. I flip the lid and sip. Coffee. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 4 2013

Friday Night: My First Shabbat Alone Felt Terrible

By at 2:26 pm

shabbatca

I had been thinking about it all week. Josh was out of town for work, and for the first time in a long time, he wouldn’t be home for Shabbat. It would be my job to make Shabbat.

Seeing as how Josh and I have been lighting candles on Friday nights since we first moved into together nearly 12 years ago, this should be no big deal, right?

Wrong.

I had never led the blessings by myself before–I always had Josh to back me up–and I had never blessed the girls before. That’s his job. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t really want to do it. I thought about just not telling the girls it was Friday night. But Frieda woke up that morning asking if it was Friday, if we were going to do Shabbat, if she was going to get her beloved Shabbos guacamole and chips. (I’m from New Mexico. Work with me here.) Then I thought about telling them that we don’t do Shabbat unless the whole family is with us. But I realized I had just been away for a week, and Josh did it without me, so that wasn’t going to fly.

I had to step up. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 9 2013

It’s OK to be Overwhelmed by Happy Events

By at 11:59 am

boxes movingWe moved into a house recently. It’s kind of a big deal, I know. It’s a mazel to find a house you like, in a neighborhood you like, for a price you can afford. But moving is kind of like having a baby. It’s a wonderful thing, and everyone tells you mazel tov, and you’re happy and all, but OH MY GOSH it’s overwhelming, and even if you’ve done it before, you forget just how much of a pain it can be.

Since it’s such a happy event, I feel totally guilty for not being deliriously ecstatic about it. Right now, I kind of want to curl into a ball, but I can’t, because first I have to make sure that the Macguyverish gate is in place so the baby doesn’t climb up the staircase. Again.

The concept of First World Problems is a cute way of keeping perspective, but sometimes we just need someone to tell us, “It’s okay to be overwhelmed by your blessings. You’re not a bad person for feeling this way.”

Because it’s totally true.  Read the rest of this entry →

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