It hasn't happened in such a long time, that I almost forgot how fun we can all be. Between the day-to-day stresses of running a household, between my husband working, between the diagnosis of 7 yo and possibility of school for 9 yo, between the baby still not quite sleeping through the night, it is so easy to be constantly in a crisis managing mode, and oh-so-serious.
What we all needed was a break, and we somehow pulled it off this Friday night. We had no company, not even my in-laws. I made a very simple meal: curry cauliflower soup from "Manna from Heaven" that my kids adore, salmon, potatoes and salad. For dessert we had a banana cream pie from Walmart sale rack (9 yo said it tasted like fluoride treatment at the dentist, but it sure looked good!) On Friday morning the kids listened to Rabbi Juravel on the parsha from shabbat.com. I am not so comfortable with the amount of misrashim that he puts into story, but he gets kids engaged and they do know what is there, and are eager to discuss it, so for now, that is our parsha learning.
My husband got home early enough before shabbos to clean the house a bit. I am not talking spic and span, more so one can walk without stepping on Cheerios. The local minyan around the corner was not happening this week, so he stayed home for mincha and maariv. We even sang a bit of Lecha Dodi. My boys do not want to go to shul with him, so for them, it was not so different from a regular Friday night.
Once we made kiddush and hamotzi, and the meal got on its way, we started talking about the parsha. We give out jelly beans for answering a good question, and they are age-appropriate for each kid. 3 yo was not engaging, even though she heard quite a bit of the parsha, so I decided to do a bit of acting with her. I told her that she will be Miriam, and her doll will be Moshe. She loved having a mission to put her baby brother into a basket and watch him go down the river. My husband was playing the role of Egyptian princess, and 7 yo was his maidservant. A pool noodle (I had it under the couch to prevent the toys form rolling there, but it was appropriated as a weapon) was used as a long arm to reach the baby. My husband was pretty funny, claiming that he has no idea what to do with this baby, dangling the doll by one leg upside down. The kids were giggling. I sent 3 yo over, to offer to bring the baby's mother to nurse this baby. By this point, her real baby brother was trying to climb into the basket, and she was pushing him out, making space for doll Moshe.
Then the boys asked to act out Moshe and the burning bush. They assigned roles: 9 yo--Hashem's voice, 7 yo--lost sheep, 3 yo--snake, my husband as Moshe and I was the burning bush. The baby was just free crawling through this all. I got to wave the bright orange pillows, 3 yo kept jumping up and hissing, and sheep was bleating, and Hashem and Moshe has a very interesting conversation. The baby took off with Moshe's discarded shoes. The above-mentioned pool noodle became a staff, but then it morphed into a phone line. We all dissolved into laughter.
While I tucked in the baby, my husband read a good night story to the older kids. The whole night was just so nice and light-hearted, and fun.
As a baalat teshuva, I did not grow up with Shabbos. I did not go away to camp, and I did not go to Israel, so I do not have that amazing uplifting spiritual treasure trove of Shabbos experiences to tap into. Every now and then I get a glimpse of this alternate spiritual state that is Shabbos. I fret about it, I wish I knew how to maintain it and bring it to my family regularly. We keep Shabbos, we refrain from melacha and make kiddush. We daven, we go to shul and discuss parsha. And yet, often, that Shabbos feeling is not there. My husband might get called up, the kids sulk, I sulk, too much pressure to entertain and have company and go out, and socialize. I know it can be simple, but in the day-to-day living, it is so easy to lose track of how simple it can be.
I decided not to have people over any Shabbos that my husband might be called up. I also think that we need to establish one Shabbos a month when it is just us, and I can make a very simple meal, so that the emphasis will be on having a good time together.