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May 31 2013

Friday Night: Shabbat in Small Doses

By at 10:10 am

two small candlesShabbat was what sold me on Judaism in the first place. As a convert, it’s always been my favorite part of being Jewish. It was the first thing about Judaism that felt like it was mine, the first thing that made me feel like I wasn’t just doing it for someone else, this was what I wanted. For me, for my husband, and for my kids. It’s the foundation for me, it’s what keeps me grounded in Judaism. I don’t speak Hebrew or Yiddish, the emphasis on the Torah is sometimes confusing to me–but Shabbat, Shabbat I understand. Shabbat brings me back, week after week, to what I want most for my life.

So why is it so hardRead the rest of this entry →

May 20 2013

My Only Parenting Advice Comes Down to One Word: Rituals

By at 9:35 am

keren brown ritualsEverybody is ready to give you advice. Give them a pacifier. Put them to bed early. Learn to take care of yourself.

Most of this advice has many different sides to it and a lot of it is based on your personality. The only advice I ever needed and want to give is: Rituals. Make them happen. It is the little rituals that have changed my life. Rituals build the moments. Smaller ones and bigger ones that shape who your family is and how they interact. Read the rest of this entry →

May 3 2013

Friday Night: 30 Ways to Make Yourself Happier This Shabbat

By at 1:57 pm

woman reading book taking a napLet’s face it, folks. April sucked this year.

In case you’ve forgotten just how colossally terrible it was, let me refresh your memory. My town got bombed, and then my family and I were put on lockdown during a manhunt for the bombing suspects. Someone sent poison to a judge, a senator, and the President of the United States. The Senate failed to pass gun reform legislation, a small town in Texas exploded, there was a massive earthquake in China, and a factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 300 people. Syria may have chemical weapons.

It’s enough already. Read the rest of this entry →

May 2 2013

My Sensory Sensitive Son Will Only Wear His Shabbos Clothes

By at 4:04 pm

shayaThe first thing most people notice about my 2-year-old, Shaya, is his hair.

He doesn’t allow us to brush it so we have given up and allowed his crazy locks to bloom. Straight on the top and wildly curly underneath, his hairstyle encompasses his personality completely. Baruch Hashem we only have four more months till his upsheren. We joke that no one will recognize him once he looks “normal.”

Normal is all relative, especially when talking about Shaya.

The next thing people quickly notice are his clothes. Always in black and white, Shaya likes to only wear Shabbos clothes. It’s a running joke amongst our friends and family that our 2-year-old little boy is the most religious member of our brood. My husband doesn’t even wear a black hat nor does he wear the Yeshivish penguin suit. But Shaya loves to rock it out in his t-shirt tzizis and Shabbos clothes, flopping around in his one size too big Shabbos shoes. I thought my husband would have a heart attack when we bought those for him, but what could I do? None of the others were “right.” When you sit “fixing” shoes for 20 minutes until he’s okay walking in them and now you’re late for school, appointments, etc. I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles when it comes to Shaya. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 26 2013

Friday Night: My Husband is an Atheist and He’ll Do Shabbat

By at 10:01 am

two shabbat candlesticksI remember our first night as a family of three. We were in a small hospital room, just large enough to hold a bed for me, a cot for my husband, and a small bassinet for our daughter. I had been in active labor for days, and we were all exhausted from the birthing process. We carefully swaddled our new baby just as the nurse had shown us, and as we laid her down to sleep (HA!) between us, Josh suggested we sing the Shema.

I cried once more, yet another stream of endless tears of gratitude, but this time it wasn’t for the arrival of a healthy daughter. It was for my husband, this man who had been my rock for most of my adult life. Now, in just a few brief words, he had managed to help me find some stable ground once again, if only for a minute. By suggesting that we sing the Shema, Josh took me out of that tiny room, beyond the fear and exhaustion, and reminded me that we are part of something bigger. We had family, community, and the wisdom of an entire history and tradition supporting us. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 19 2013

Friday Night: It’s Almost Shabbat & We’re on Lockdown

By at 4:11 pm

challah on blue backgroundLast night my husband and I sat on the couch together and watched reruns of Saturday Night Live. Melissa McCarthy was hilarious. We laughed. It was good to laugh. I was glad to have my husband home after he was away all week on work. I went to sleep looking forward to spending the morning at a local park with my daughters and some good friends.

I woke up to the news that we were on lockdown. Less than five miles from our home, thousands of police and SWAT are searching houses in hopes of finding a man implicated in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the murder of an MIT police office, and the shooting of a transit police officer. My uncle offered coffee to the cops in bulletproof vests carrying assault rifles through his backyard. His 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son were fascinated by the “army men” outside.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t wrap my mind around the image. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 3 2013

Free Stuff Alert: Debbie Brukman’s Jewish Songs for Kids & Tots

By at 12:31 pm

debbie brukman jewish songs for kids and totsLooking for some new tunes to spruce up your Shabbat celebration with the kids? Look no further than the new CD Shir L’Shabbat–Jewish Songs for Kids & Tots by Debbie Brukman.

Brukman, also known as the pied piper of Brownstone Brooklyn, has been sharing her kid-friendly Shabbat tunes as a music teacher for the preschool at Congregation Beth Elohim and leader of Shir L’Shabbat, a popular Saturday morning sing-along. But now you don’t have to be in Park Slope to enjoy her special blend of Shabbat tunes, which incorporates plenty of familiar Jewish preschool songs with lesser known Jewish melodies from Uganda, Israeli song festivals, and Debbie’s original compositions.

The CD features the incredibly popular “Dinosaur Knocking at my Door” as well “Bim Bam” and a live version of Debbie’s original “Shir L’Shabbat.”  Shir L’Shabbat: Jewish Songs for Kids and Tots is available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and DebbieBrukman.com.

But we’ve got one copy to giveaway to a lucky Kveller reader! To enter, fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner next Monday, April 8th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mar 22 2013

Friday Night: Do Passover Your Own Way

By at 10:01 am

plastic wine cupsPassover is my favorite Jewish holiday. A meal and story followed by an entire week of daily (albeit minimal) sacrifices made in mindful celebration of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt. Admittedly I can’t pass up an opportunity to smear horseradish on things and the beet juice variety literally makes me swoon. I’m excited to pull out the little book collection for our boys and tuck matzah into the afikomen bag I sewed myself. For eight days, the usual chore of dinner gives way to a food challenge where none of the usual players are allowed. And the last day I always get a text from my husband that says, “can we eat real food tonight?” and we head out for burgers after sundown. The kitchen is cleaned out and we start fresh when the week is over.

I am a Jew by choice married to a humbly secular tribe member. We light candles every Friday, pay temple dues and with each passing year grow more in our observance. Do we throw away every bit of chametz? No. We can’t afford to. What we didn’t consume prior to the holiday, we box up in plastic tubs and lock it away in our storage unit. Does that make us less Jewish? I hope not. To gentiles we seem like uber-Jews while Orthodox families may scoff at our attempts at Halacha. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 15 2013

Friday Night: I Chose My Kids (and Shabbat) Over a Job

By at 2:49 pm

fresh baked challahHere’s the thing. I actually did try to lean in. I updated my resume, sent it out, and dug out the blazer I only wear to interviews. I answered the standard questions about why I want the job (because biweekly midnight visits to the ER with croupy kids aren’t keeping me busy enough, apparently), what my weaknesses are (chocolate, pudgy-faced toddlers, and men who fold laundry), and how I would feel about being the only post-doc with kids (um, great?).

To be honest, I’m still not sure what happened at the interview. Perhaps I sabotaged myself. As perfect as the job was, and as much as my husband and friends assured me that we could make it work, I just couldn’t quite figure out how our family would function with both us working full time. I know millions of American families (including many of my neighbors and friends) do it, but all I could think about was laundry piling up, last minute emergency trips to the grocery store for milk, and strawberry-banana yogurt, and hushed but heated conversations about who was going to take a sick day to stay home with a feverish child. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 8 2013

Friday Night: BAM BOOM! BAM BOOM! BAM BOOM!

By at 11:55 am

baby girl listening to music with headphonesThat is how my daughter says, “Bim Bam.” As in, “Bim, bam, bim bim bim bam, bim bim bim bim bim bam.” Sing it with me if you will. I know this song inside and out. In fact, I am kind of an expert. I sing this little ditty approximately 4,000 times a day. Baby G is 18 months old, and Bim Bam is rocking her world. Baby G does not want to sing it herself, of course. In fact, she doesn’t actually want to sing it at all. She prefers to have it performed for her. By me. And who could blame her? I am the Lady Gaga of Bim Bam.

Little kids love repetition. You know that thing inside us adults that finds about 99% of things in the world annoying if we have to hear them more than twice? Yeah, little kids don’t have that. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When little kids find something they like, they like the hell out of it. As in, “Let’s make that thing I like aural and visual wallpaper for every waking second of my life–and then, when I wake up from my nap, we’re going to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! YEAH!” Read the rest of this entry →

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