Friday, May 28, 2010

Nothing Like Nesting...

...To get some stuff done!! I've got four weeks left with number four and that in itself is a recipe for a little bit of well, good old fashioned nesting. Since I know for certain that I won't be getting anything done for at least a year (besides the daily/weekly keep-up of running a home and tending the children) I've been pushing hard to get a TON of stuff organized and put away. I still have a list but...these are a few of the more fun things we've been doing over the last week or so.

All weekend long we hung pictures all over the house. Here are just a few snapshots. We, well Steve, actually hung more than just these.

And there's even room and an empty frame waiting for #4. The frame below the boys' pictures holds the Watermark song, Invade. I'm not crazy, crazy into Christian music but I LOVE Watermark and have for many, many years. If you're interested, you can find the lyrics here.

Our little "office" in our room. Yes....that is facebook up on the screen. And why does it take 6-7 years to hang up diplomas? I don't know but I figured we both did a lot of work and spent a lot of money to get they should go up somewhere. And of course, AGO (Alpha Gamma Omega, Cal Poly's Christ-centered Fraternity) is representing as well with Steve's official membership all framed. Where would we be without AGO? Definitely not married. Thank God for AGO.

We also gutted the front and back yards throwing tons of winter-thrashed toys away and just got the yards ready for summer play. It feels so good to do these things.

But...the funnest thing of all that I've done over the last week is sew. Sew!! Anyone who knows me well KNOWS that I am not crafty at all. I have a sewing machine that I hadn't threaded in nearly two years. It took me over an hour to figure out how to get started again the other day and my husband, who is really good at reading directions, had to come and help me. But the nesting urges brought that machine back out and I have made a few very simple things.

There aren't ANY cute girl burp cloths out there so I made my own. I had the fabric already on the left which came from an old fitted sheet of ours that had a hole in it. Then, after my success with that fabric, I had to go out and buy some more cloth diapers and fabric to make more. I haven't finished them all yet but the swatches on top are samples of the other kinds of fabric I got. Those have been pretty easy and fun to make. I also got some fabric to make a blanket. We'll see if I can pull that one off.

But my favorite of all are the curtains I made for our front room. Remember the old sheet that I just mentioned? Well, the flat sheet was just fine and the pattern matches our walls perfectly. I've wanted to make curtains out of it for the longest time. Sunday night, I finally did it. And every time I look at them I just smile. I LOVE them. It's hard to see from the pictures because of the sunlight pouring in but you get the idea. I actually had to close the blinds in the middle to even get a decent picture!!

Yesterday I visited the doc and all seems to be going well. We're looking at a little less than a month to go at the latest. Still have lots to do but definitely enjoying these last weeks. A little bit more on Sabbath stuff next time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Children and the Sabbath-No Fairy Tale Here

I really do hope, as you've read these posts on instituting a weekly Sabbath Dinner in your home, that you haven't gotten the impression that our Sabbath Dinners go off without a hitch every single week. First of all, as you know, I have three little monkeys. My oldest is not yet five so you do the math...they're all fairly close together and not that old. So pulling off a Sabbath dinner with the children can be quite a feat sometimes. I also have all boys whose ability to sit still does not last super long. It's not that we don't expect them to sit at all but, we must also understand their limits. Therefore, we've had to make some adjustments as we've gone down this road of training them to enjoy our Sabbath meal.

Here is what I've found. Aim for creating the habit of doing the meal over having it go amazingly well. Just get into the habit first. Your kids may not get it. Who cares? They will in time. Nothing was ever built overnight. Think of things in the long-term NOT the short-term. If you do, you'll be more satisfied with your results. It always takes awhile for a new habit to be formed so get that down first and then worry about the rest later. It's important to create the habit for the repetition over time is what will speak to your kids.

Lower your expectations of neatness. Even though you're making this the loveliest meal of the week, as we all know, little kids just don't eat nicely. Expect messes and learn to laugh about them. Nearly every week somebody spills something (usually the fancy Martinelli's drink during the toast) and I've basically gotten into the habit of getting out my Spray n Wash and literally spraying the tablecloth while still on the table. It's much easier to see all of the spots that way and saves me time on washing day!! Your Sabbath meal is a great time to teach proper manners but it will take time and maturity (theirs) to teach them. So expect blunders and messes.

Stick to your liturgy but adjust as needed. Decide what is essential for you to do as a family and stick with it. If it needs fine-tuning great but try and keep things as similar as possible so that your kids know what is coming next. Sometimes we have great weeks and the boys all sit and listen to us read and talk about one another. But often times, that's not the case. Usually we're reminding one to stop singing, another to please put his napkin down and the baby to stay in his chair. It may seem like they're not taking in any of it. However, be encouraged...they ARE!

A few Sundays ago Psalm 127 was read for the Old Testament reading that week in church. Isaac shot me a look and said excitedly, "Mom! Mom! That's what you read for Shabbat!" And if you were to ask either of the older two to fill in lines on any of the passages that we read, they could do it. I'm telling you that as encouragement. They've heard those passages read over and over...even though many times it doesn't seem like they're listening. It's going in. You just have to keep going. Even Joshua, this last week anticipated the Gloria Patri singing at the end and threw his hands up in the air, before anyone else, when it was time for all of us to sing. These small little glimpses of understanding will keep you going and you will be blessed with them from time to time.

Lastly, just laugh about it all. Some weeks nothing special happens and it all seems like so much work to pull off which can leave me wondering if it's worth it. Other weeks, the boys bless us so much with their humor, personalities and charm that we talk about them affectionately until we go to bed. Sowing joy and good memories around the table will only bless. So relax, smile a lot and laugh.

It's just such a mix of beauty and tough reality that really, in the end, we just have to look to the future. It's sowing time. It's not going to be perfect and we'll make more mistakes than we'll ever mean to as we seek to build our family in the Lord. We don't know what God is going to do in our children's lives but we pray that He saves them. And we hope, that we can do all that we can to sow His truth into their little souls over the long-run and that He will grab their hearts.

So no fairy tale here...just a realistic hope and longing that in the end, after years and years of toil, they'll get it and His truth will be written on their hearts. Really, what more could a parent want?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fun and a Link

Thank goodness it's Friday. My belly is getting bigger by the day and my strength is quickly flying out the window. It's so humbling at the end, to remember you just can't do it all. I had been teetering on the edge of sheer, physical exhaustion for a few weeks but this week sent me over the edge. It's official. I'm in the home stretch. My near 20-month-old Curious George loves to remind me of this reality. Truth be told, these days, it doesn't take much.

This week is Steve's last week of classes and next week is finals. After next week, he will have completed his fifth year of teaching. We're still amazed that we're here sometimes and how God orchestrated it all to come to pass. We're definitely very thankful.

That's my handsome husband running the show with his clipboard...recording times and grades! I just loved this boat design as well. Very clever.

Every May, all of Steve's Physics classes have Boat Races in the pool. It's the last project of the year before finals and it is so much fun. The kids are only allowed cardboard and duct tape and then they have to race another boat to try and get the fastest time. Usually, most of the school turns out to watch and cheer on the boats. Of course everyone loves it when the boats sink and students end up in the pool. Fun times! And every year the local news comes out and does a story on the event. So it's a very festive time. My boys and their buddies love to watch too. Steve is always so proud of his students and the designs they come up with and this year was no exception. They do a good job (and in my opinion, they've got a great teacher!!!)

Since it's Friday, and we're all glad it is, I thought I'd give a link to an excellent article written by Nancy Wilson on some shortcuts to doing a Sabbath Meal. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Why Behind our Liturgy

A couple of you have asked why we have chosen to have the liturgy that we do on Saturday nights so I thought it might help to explain it a bit more. Here we go.

First of all, in order to understand the why behind our liturgy, you need to know why it's important to have a liturgy in the first place. When you think of that term, does it scare you? Do you think of medieval, non-feeling, inauthentic, ancient faith when you hear someone mention a liturgy? I know I did for a long time. I always thought that liturgy, meaning an order of service, was a dead tradition. That is, until we started our Sabbath dinners. Now stick with me for a moment.

A liturgy itself is not the problem. You can walk into any church and find people simply going through the motions whether there is a deemed "liturgy" or not. And in fact, many churches who say they don't have a liturgy, really do have one. They just don't want to call it that. Every church has an order to their service and well surprisingly, it gives order to the whole thing. Without it, there would be chaos and people wouldn't know what was coming next and that would distract them from worship. A liturgy is meant to enhance and aid in people worshiping God because it gives them an outline of where they need to go. The term liturgy has just gotten a bad rap in the modern church age as many are trying to move as far from traditionalism as possible. And I'm not saying I haven't thought the same thing either. But I have come to see that a liturgy isn't necessarily the problem.

So, if you're having a hard time with that term, know that I understand where you're coming from, but there's really no need to be afraid of it. Repetition and order teach us, who so easily forget, how to stay the course. God had his people, the Israelites, keep to certain ceremonies that had order and they also had an annual calendar that reminded them of the God they served. That's also another argument for looking more into knowing and following the church calendar (which I am just starting to learn a bit about and never thought was important at all before) but...I'm getting off-topic. The point is, we have a liturgy on Saturdays that is pretty much the same because it helps us know what is going on and it teaches our children, through repetition, how to worship God.

So that's the reason for the liturgy in the first place. Now I'll explain why we do it as we do. Again, know that this is our way. You can feel free to pattern your dinner after whatever you want to. It's your family. It's your style. This is just what we do. We follow somewhat loosely, a traditional Sabbath dinner in a Jewish home. That is why we light white candles and use white linens and such in a lot of our meal. However, I also got a lot of ideas from the article I've mentioned including the idea of praising each family member. Nancy Wilson also talks a ton about Sabbath Dinners on the Femina blog under Sabbath Living. I'm not sure if praising each family member is traditionally Jewish or not. I don't know where that comes from. But we liked it and used the same passages that Nancy Campbell, the author of the aforementioned article, had outlined for each person in the family. I do know that in a Jewish home the Father always takes the lead and bestows blessings on his family. How that plays out in your home, is really entirely up to you and your husband.

Here's the bulk of our liturgy:

Proverbs 31: The virtuous woman. Fitting for the husband to read about his wife in front of their children and then praise her for something she has done or just for who she is. We start with this because, as the husband leads, he loves his wife first. Therefore, she is the first to be praised and honored (yes...I love this).

Proverbs 3: This passage my husband chose for our boys. It is a passage written directly from a father to his son. We used to have a separate passage for each child but it got too tedious. It was meaningful but too much for the kids at their age. Maybe when they're older and can sit longer to listen, Steve can again choose a passage for each. Proverbs 3 is a beautiful passage relegating all the wisdom a father would want to pass on to his son(s).

Psalm 127-128: These Psalms talk about the blessings God gives to the man who fears him. They include a happy, fruitful home where the wife and children are flourishing, and remind the hearers that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. It exhorts the blessed man that one day he may see his "children's children" and how that is among one of the most cherished earthly blessings a man can have. That is why we read this passage for my husband.

Communion: We take communion weekly at church and our children participate with us. We see it as God feeding us. Therefore, we see it as fitting to teach our children more about the Lord's Supper by practicing it on Saturday nights. We pray for the bread (Steve does) and then partake. Then we pray for the wine and then partake. It's a time for celebrating and remembering. That's why we always dip our hands before, to symbolize cleansing (the kids love this) and ask forgiveness if need be, and then why we remember all that God has done for us by toasting at the end and exclaiming "God has been good to us!".

The Doxology/Gloria Patri: We usually sing the Gloria Patri, which is a traditional song that is sung at the end of our church service on Sundays every week. Sometimes though, we sing the Doxology. The point is to sing a short hymn together. It reminds our children of church and leaves a sweet taste in their mouths for the next morning. It also concludes our little order of service.

Then we eat!!

So that is pretty much it. It takes us about 20 minutes to get through the liturgy. When we have guests, it takes a bit longer as there are more people to be spoken about (no one gets left out!). Also, we give the kids a small piece of chocolate, at the beginning to remind them of God's goodness and sweetness in their lives. It also helps, practically speaking, as they get a little snack right off the bat and can then wait a bit for their meal. Sometimes I still dispense a small snack to the littlest ones (like puffs or cheerios) because we don't want it to be a horrible experience for them. We want it to be joyous. That usually seems to help and doesn't spoil their appetites too much.

Hope you're enjoying this little series. More next time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

6 Weeks Out

Yesterday marked six weeks until our baby girl comes. We've scheduled her c-section for the 25th and unless she goes breech on me and stays that way, she will be born then. (For more info. on why she will be born via c-section, check out past posts under labels c-section, VBAC, Isaac or Josh). If she is breech at the end, I'll have her a week early to avoid cord prolapse risk. So far she's stayed head-down and I'm past the point that my last two went breech at so we'll see. When she's born, I'll be 40 weeks and 1 day. I haven't gone into labor early yet...I've been very late with my last I should be all right to go right up to the end. If she can't choose her birthday, I can at least give her a full forty weeks. I'd love to keep her in there as long as I can even though it'd definitely be easier to go early.

So the countdown has begun. I've got a list of things to do and we're all feeling excited about her birth. I can't believe I've made it to this point again and that we'll be meeting a new little one soon. At the end of Joshua's pregnancy (my third) I remember being really tired and at times, sick of being pregnant. I'm trying (that's the operative word-trying) to smile more, get through and be cheerful in these last weeks. I think they'll be more pleasant for everyone involved if I can just be cheerful. Isn't that what I tell my kids all the time choose to be cheerful. I think I need to take my own advice sometimes.

So here's to the next six weeks and the absolute adventure they're going to be. I'm sure I'll be tired. I'm sure there'll be days I'm exasperated and frustrated. But I don't have long to go and I'm excited to meet our little girl. And that's all that really matters anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This was our table last Saturday-very simple. It's all I can do right now but even though it's simple, it's still beautiful. Just remember, whatever you do, it doesn't have to be super elaborate...just special.

All right, it's time to talk Challah. I found this recipe in the Williams Sonoma Bread Cookbook that I actually just borrowed from a friend. I never tried any other recipe because this one turned out so great that there wasn't any need. You can check online for different recipes if you want. But this one is tried-and-true, so if you want to know you've got a good recipe, don't bother looking anywhere else. This one is excellent.

For all of you bread makers out there, I'm going to post the recipe first so that you can just get to it! For everyone else who hasn't ever tackled a project like this, don't worry! I'm going to walk you through making a Challah step by step with pictures and everything.

Also, just so you know, this will take awhile. Challah bread has three rises. Of course the better you get at it, the faster it will go. However, just a note of encouragement. I don't make this every Saturday. It makes such a huge loaf that I usually only bake a fresh Challah when we have guests or when we're out of it. Other than that, I cut my loaf up into three large chunks and freeze it. It freezes so beautifully. It's definitely the best fresh but it's pretty darn close even after being frozen. So I only make Challah bread every three to four weeks. Keep that in mind. Unless you have a HUGE family or a lot older children, you should be able to stretch your Challah out for awhile. And once you'd need to start making it more often, your kids will be older and it will be easier to do so.

So here we go.

Challah Bread (Shabbat Bread)

4 1/4-4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil (I usually use canola)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
Sesame seeds

Put 3 cups flour in mixer with paddle. Make a well and pour in water. Sprinkle yeast and 1 tbsp over water. Stir water to dissolve the yeast. Let stand until foamy (10 minutes or so). Add the remaining sugar, eggs, oil and salt to the well. Beat together the dry and liquid ingredients on medium low speed about two minutes until a shaggy mass forms. Beat in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the stiff, sticky dough pulls away from the bowl sides. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed adding flour 1 tbsp at a time if the dough sticks un til smooth and elastic, about five minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled deep bowl and turn once to coast it. Cover loosely and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours. Punch down and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour. Make dough into three balls. Roll into three ropes. Braid. Brush top with half of the egg mixture. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Brush loaf with remaining egg and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake until deep golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Put the 3 cups flour in your mixer bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour the water in. A digital thermometer works really well to make sure your water temp is right. If you don't have one, it should be very warm to the touch but not so much that you can't stick your finger in it. Sprinkle yeast on top and 1 tbsp. sugar. Also, a note on yeast. Buy it in bulk at Costco or online at It's roughly $5 for a whole pound rather than a $1 per tiny packet.

Let rise for ten minutes or so until puffy. Then add all the other ingredients to the well.

Beat together the dry and liquid ingredients on medium low speed about 2 minutes until a shaggy mass forms. Beat in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the stiff, sticky dough pulls away from the bowl sides. Switch to dough hook.

Knead on low speed adding flour 1 tbsp at a time if the dough sticks until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to an oiled deep bowl and turn once to coast it. Cover loosely and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours.

Punch down and let rise again until doubled, about one hour.

Make dough into three balls and then roll into three ropes.


Brush top with egg mixture. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Brush loaf with more egg mixture and sprinkle with the seeds.

Bake until deep golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy with your family!!

Don't be discouraged if it doesn't turn out. Practice, practice and practice some more. Sometimes my Challah totally bombs and I just have to laugh. I've made it so many times now and I still make mistakes. Just keep it going and do your best. Over time, it'll get easier and better. It's totally worth it so don't give up. Your family will bless you for your efforts.

However, also know that you don't have to make a Challah bread to have a Sabbath Dinner. If you're not a breadmaker, just buy a fresh loaf of your favorite bread every week. There's nothing wrong with that at all! The point is to be together to celebrate God's goodness and you can do that over a Challah or a loaf of french bread. It's all the same.

Good luck. And if anyone makes it, do tell me how it goes. I'd love to hear from you. If you have questions, I'd also love to talk via email (if you want to) to help you get things sorted out.

Now get to it!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Started

Before I dive head-down into this topic anymore, I want to stress the importance of starting your Sabbath dinners very simply. The reason I say this is that if you don't, you will probably become overwhelmed quite quickly and will be looking for the nearest exit to quit. So therefore, first rule of thumb-- start slowly.

Also, I guess this goes without saying but I should probably mention it anyway. Make sure your husband is on board. If he's not, don't try and push it. It'll make things awkward as well as God tells us not to lead. Like all things, pray and ask God to give your husband wisdom and wait. It's best to do things as your husband leads. If he's not for it, then maybe it's not the right timing.

If you're not in the habit of eating together on a regular basis, start with that and do the best you can with work schedules and everything. Get the children used to sitting down and then commit to staying home on Saturdays. If those things are already fairly well in place, then it's time to start planning your first Shabbat (Sabbath Dinner).

Items You'll Need (this is flexible though...use your own creativity):
A Special Tablecloth-one that you'll only use for Sabbath Dinners
Cloth Napkins-they put everyone in the fancy mood; although they're not totally necessary
Wine glasses-even if you choose not to serve wine, everyone loves a nice drink in a wine glass. Look for some special cups for your kids too. I got some old mini wine glasses from my grandmother who passed away and my kids love them. Check thrift stores. (Jenny, you should be good at this-I want to know what you find!)
Candlesticks-I recently got some awesome candlesticks for Christmas but for years we used these pittily little ones from Ross. It doesn't matter. You just need any old candlesticks and two white candles.
A Bread Basket-anything will do
A Challah Recipe-I'm going to give you one next time with step by step instructions and pics.
China-This is optional. I use my china quite a bit because it's fun. When else are you going to use it? However, I didn't start that way (remember start slowly) and I don't do it all the time. It's whatever I feel I can pull off well. That is key to this dinner. Do what you can do well. I use our everyday dishes often too so don't feel bad about it.
An outline of your liturgy-check out this article that I also linked to in my last post. But know this...this is your table and your Sabbath Dinner. You can feel free to do whatever you want.
Fresh Flowers-if possible, it makes the table look nice. Or you can go with some kind of simple centerpiece. Sometimes I just stick a candle in the middle of the table when I simply have no time or a lack of creativity.

Once all of these items are dialed in, plan your first meal. Stick with something simple and a dish that everyone likes. You want this dinner to be sweet. You don't want it to be a battle. For a long time we let all food rules slide on Saturday nights since our two oldest boys were quite picky eaters. During the week they had to eat a certain amount of different things including vegetables. But if they only wanted bread on Saturdays, then we didn't force it. That was what we did. You may not choose to do that. However, know that the mood should be light. And then try and have something for dessert. It can be as simple as ice cream. We don't have dessert every night but we ALWAYS have it on Saturday. It makes the evening special. When we have company over, I usually make a nice dessert. When it's just our family, I just make sure there's something. As my boys get older, it'll be more worth it to make a big dessert but for now, it's just not worth my time when they're happy with a popsicle. But again do as you please.

Now you're ready!! Next time I'll show you how to make a Challah bread. I'm also planning to talk about tips to making your Sabbath Dinner easier, how to help your children love Shabbat and how to be hospitable with your dinners. Also, as a side note, as you get better with these dinners, you'll be able to see how you can incorporate yearly holiday traditions into your meal as well like Advent and the lead up to Easter. It all pairs together very nicely giving you a great foundation to build on. I'll talk about our experiences with that too. But all of that is what's to come. I wanted to conclude with a quote I read this morning from the Femina blog. By the way, if you don't read it, you're missing out. It's always so excellent. I thought this was just wonderful and really beautifully illustrates why we would even want to put forth this effort to bless our family.

"A valiant wife looks at her duties and assumes them with grace and dignity, and a brave heart. She does not faint or lose heart at the prospect of hard work over the course of many years. She sees the long-term impact of what she is doing and sets herself to the tasks that God has given her, like bringing up children, lodging strangers, washing the feet of the saints, and all those other things that fall neatly into the category of good works.

A valiant woman is one of the means that God uses to remake the world. She is the glory of the man. She takes what he gives her and glorifies it. He gives her a house, and she glorifies it and makes it into a home. He gives her a table, and she glorifies it with food, nurturing and feeding the faces around it. A husband makes love to his wife, and she mysteriously glorifies it, and a child is born. This is what God has made women to do. A valiant woman glorifies and beautifies. And it overflows." Nancy Wilson

And that my friends, is why we do what we do.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sabbath Living

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Psalm 128:1-3

About three and a half years ago, shortly before our second child was born, we began a tradition in our home that has become one of those things that has been life-changing for us. What was it you ask? Well, we instituted a weekly Sabbath Dinner on Saturday nights at our home. I'm sure you're thinking, what is a Sabbath Dinner and do you really do it every single Saturday night? Well, I'm going to spend a couple of blog posts talking about our Sabbath Dinner so that you all know what I'm talking about and to answer the second question...yes, we do it every Saturday. Sometimes there are exceptions like being out of town or a family birthday party, but other than that, you can find us with the candles lit, a Challah bread and us all enjoying our Sabbath meal, every single Saturday. We see it as a "get to" tradition rather than a "must do" tradition. Both my husband and I believe that the institution of this meal has been one of the most important and beneficial things we've done for our family life. Maybe after reading about it, you'll be encouraged to go and start your own, with your own family's flair.

This is how it all started. I've always been interested in Jewish culture especially since Christianity literally came out of Judaism. I think it is fascinating to look at their festivals and how much of what God instituted for them thousands of years ago points to Jesus, the Messiah. Someday I will eventually get around to starting a Passover meal (with Christ at the center) in our home right before Easter, but I haven't been able to pull off such a feat just yet! Also, when I was in high school, I had a few roles in plays/musicals, where I played a Jewish girl. As a sophomore, I was Chavah in Fiddler on the Roof (the third daughter who married the Christian...yikes!) and when I was a senior, I played Raja, whose true story of survival in a Nazi concentration camp was beautifully recounted in I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Both roles affected me tremendously and I longed to know more about Jewish culture and its connections with my own faith.

A couple of years ago I read an article in Above Rubies about the Sabbath meal and how the author had instituted a weekly Sabbath meal into their family's routine. I was intrigued. So, I brought it to my husband and he said we should go for it. Here were some of our reasons for starting this meal. We were at the very beginning of our parenting adventure and were really laying the foundation for many years to come. It was the right time to start something new. We wanted to set a precedent that we get ready to worship the Lord starting on Saturday and we wanted that to be around our table, together as a family. We wanted our children to look forward to it and be excited about it thus helping to lead them into being excited about Sunday morning. We wanted to foster good memories as well as teach the children good manners. So off we went.

We started very simply. I pulled out some old candlesticks I had gotten at Ross very early on in our marriage and I bought some white candles. My mom had wanted to get me a gift for the new baby on the way and I asked for a tablecloth and napkins. I then looked up a Challah bread recipe and just simply tried it. It's now a family favorite. I didn't totally know what I was doing but I love to make bread so I figured it would turn out at least decently. Now, I could probably make the stuff in my sleep I've made it so many times.

Our little liturgy (order of events) goes something like this:
1. I light the candles and say, "Jesus says 'I am the Light of the world.' He calls us to be salt and light." Now our oldest two recite these lines with me as I light. Each child also gets a piece of chocolate, to remind them of God's sweetness and goodness (as well as it is just plain fun), and they eat it as we begin to read.
2. Steve reads Proverbs 31 and then tells me something that he loves about me.
3. Steve reads Proverbs 3 and then talks about each child at the table telling them something he loves about each of them.
4. I read Psalm 127-128 and then talk about Steve.
5. We all dip our hands in a bowl of water to symbolize cleansing and then ask forgiveness of anyone we need to ask forgiveness for. This gets us ready to take the bread and wine.
6. Steve prays for the bread. Then we all pass the Challah and enjoy the bread with lots of butter!!
7. Steve prays for the wine. Then we toast each other and say "Cheers! God has been good to us!" We sometimes let our kids have a bit of wine but, we mostly let them drink a special Martinelli's drink or something of that sort.
8. We sing the doxology with hands in the air and then we eat. Most of the time, I try and make this the best meal of the week. However, we've been known to have Mac n Cheese many times when I just can't pull off a fancy meal (this usually happens toward the end of pregnancy). Again, this is a "get to" tradition...not a "must do" so if I'm tapped out...we go simple. The point is to be together.

Here are the benefits we've noticed. First off, we have a weekly, built-in time to praise one another. This has been huge for our marriage and our children. There have been times when Steve and I have been annoyed with each other and have been forced to say something nice about the other. This leads to us asking forgiveness before we take the bread and the wine. And other times, it's just nice to hear nice things from your spouse that probably wouldn't have been spoken if there wasn't a time for it. The same goes for the children. Secondly, we're forced to stay home on Saturdays which helps us to be much more rested for Sundays. Thirdly, we learn to feast together as a family and relish in God's blessings to us. Fourthly, our children are hopefully seeing how important it is to worship God and gain good memories from our times around the table. And there's many, many more.

So how to get started? I'll explain that one next time. As for now, just let it be something you think about. It's a huge commitment to make but, the payoff is tremendous and lasts for years to come.

And one more thing...this is something that has been a blessing to our family and so that's why I share it. However, it's not something that every family must do or anything like that. Your family might do other things that foster the same ideas and memories and that is great. We know lots of families who have this traditional dinner but do it totally different than we do which is so great!! The point I'm trying to make is do something that fits with your family's culture and style to get yourselves around the table in whatever way you can. It starts there. We've got to get ourselves there. This is just one way that we've really enjoyed being around one another and so I wanted to pass it on.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blind Spots

On Friday Steve and I had the opportunity to spend some alone time with #3, Joshua. I don't remember the last time it was just the three of us all hanging out. In fact, it may be that we haven't done so since he was a little baby. I didn't really think much of it at all. My parents simply wanted to take the older two out in the afternoon until bedtime and we needed to run some errands. So off we went.

Getting into the car felt like such a breeze. Three snaps and we hit the road. I felt lighter, focused and cheerful. Once our few errands were done, we decided to hit the mall play area and just let Josh play for awhile. I thought he'd be bored without his brothers. I thought he wouldn't know what to do with himself. But I was wrong.

This little monkey just glowed. He didn't stop smiling. For the first time in his life that he could remember, he had both of his parents focused just on him, smiling at him, encouraging him to climb higher and just enjoying him. He ate it up. After some playtime, we went to go get a cookie (totally spoiled his dinner later but who cares?!) and we let him throw some pennies into the water fountain.

Meanwhile, Steve and I felt like we were on a mini-date. Not much talking (from Joshua that is)...the quiet was delightful. We LOVE the banter of our boys but, a bit of quiet is welcome at times and can be quite refreshing.

All in all it was a simple afternoon but I learned a very important lesson. My little one-and-a half year old needs just as much one-on-one time as my older children do. I didn't think he'd notice that it was just him but he did. And he relished in it. This realization totally caught me off guard and reminded me that I can really miss some big things when it comes to parenting. I hate blind spots but am so glad that God gives us little glimpses of ours every once in awhile. It's God's grace to us. These little glimpses can open our eyes to things that we wouldn't have seen, thought of or cared about before. As humbling as they can be, I'm so so thankful for them.

I can't always get the alone time I think I might need which each child. But whatever I can get, I must snatch up and cherish. And when it comes down to it, I need to make it more of a priority. Joshua gets a lot of attention but not tons with me just focused on him. Precious little him. Just because he came third doesn't mean he doesn't need me and his Daddy just as much.

So I'm thankful for our little date. And I am thankful for the reminder. And I look forward to another time when it can be just us three again. In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to try and work some alone time in with each of my children on a more regular basis. Especially the younger two since Isaac gets a lot of alone time with me when his brothers nap. It may not be practical everyday but I can do it more regularly. If I can make it work for Isaac, I can do it with the other two. I just need to think it's important enough.