Minnesota Mamaleh: “Bestest” Family Time

FamilyOur life is kid-centered. We organize our day-to-day around our little ones and their activities. Zoo, Children’s Museum, Science Museum, we’re so there. BUT, I’m going to be honest with you here, we’re not necessarily as family-centered as we’d like to be. We’re not fantastic at everyday Family Time.

The kids are playing nicely? Quick! Let’s put away a load of laundry! What? All three kids are happily swinging and no one needs a push, an underdog OR a twist? What are you waiting for? Pull those weeds!

We sometimes get distracted by the things that “have to get done” and lose precious moments as a family.

Hence, set aside Family Time.

Focused, uninterrupted, unscheduled time enjoying each other. There are many ways that we try to separate the everyday craziness from weekend relaxation. Game Nights, Movie Nights, Kids Cook Nights, and so on and so on.

One of our favorite Family Time traditions are Friday night Shabbat dinners.

Candle Lighting

Girls Lead Candle Lighting

Among many other things, Shabbat is Family Time. It’s about separating the regular, mundane work-week “stuff” from the beautiful joyful beginning of the weekend. We think of it as a lovely, relaxed mellow family dinner.

Our Shabbats include an element of the traditional (prayers in Hebrew, candles lit, challah eaten and “wine” drunken).  What we like about these rituals is that the familiarity and predictability of our routines make it easy for our kids to know what to expect and to truly be a part of things. But above all we want our kids to find Shabbat dinners, and all Family Times for that matter, to be joyful, fun, not-to-be-missed activities. So, knowing that not everyone will view our Shabbats in the same light as we do, I tread lightly as I describe what I think of as “Shabbat: Our-style.” Here goes…


All In!

Challah at our house is sometimes plain and white. Other times it has sprinkles, chocolate chips and yes, we have had the occasional purple challah. We say the prayer over the challah hands-in-style and joyfully pull our first piece out at the same time (think: wishbone).

Wine is called “special drink” and rotates amongst everyone’s  favorites– the girls like pink lemonade and apple juice, I prefer white grape juice and Jason’s pick is blood orange soda.


Dear Elijah, We love you. Love, Kayli & Chloe

Jason calls filling Elijah’s cup “pouring one out” and the girls fill Elijah’s cup to the brim and leave a big chunk of challah for him, too because they’re so worried about how tired he must be going to every Shabbat in the neighborhood (yes, indeed, just like cookies and milk for Santa).

We sing songs that the girls have learned at school and some silly ones that lend a bit of meaning to the prayers we’ve said. The meal is anything yummy that Jason feels like preparing. He’s a fantastic chef and we eat gourmet on Fridays when he cooks. It’s a part of his transition from long hours at work to long hours at home. Over dessert we share the sweetest and, as the girls say, “bestest” part of our week, what we are grateful for, that we’ll hold onto to make next week even lovelier.

Shabbat this week started with the girls saying their own prayers over their preschool-made-candlesticks while Jason seared tuna and I sliced apples and Brody threw those apples. Kayli’s joyful moment was eating hot sandwiches and watching football with Daddy while everyone else was napping. Chloe warmed my heart when she added a piece of her beloved challah for Elijah. It was just honest-to-goodness fun and filled with treasured moments for sure.


Handmade Kippas

We cherish our Family Time together whatever form it takes even if it does mean that our traditions might not be exactly like everyone else’s. I will admit that every once in awhile it makes for an awkward moment. For example, if we’re sharing our Shabbat with another family who has maybe say, never used birthday candles in lieu of Shabbat candles because a little light is better than no light. Or on the flip side, if we are Shabbatting with someone who doesn’t usually celebrate it, it takes all of the self control that I have not to shout out, “google it at home! this is not how everyone does it!” And one of my favorite warm-fuzzy moments, when one of the girls belts out our “translation tunes” in the midst of someone else’s quiet prayers. *Sigh.*

Well, for better or worse that sums up one of our favorite family time traditions. Now how about yours’ Mamalehs? Let’s dish about YOUR “bestest” family time!