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It’s been an ideal time of year to see historic houses, and we stumbled on this one just as we were driving to one of Ezra’s band gigs.  Who knew this little historic gem would be nestled amidst the factories of an industrial neighborhood between Queens and Brooklyn (Ridgewood) ?

Vander Ende–Onderdonk House is a historic house at 1820 Flushing Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens It is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City.  The original house on the site was built in 1661 by Hendrick Barents Smidt, from land that was granted to him by Peter Stuyvesant.  Another part of the structure, expanding from the original house, was built in 1709 by Paulus Vander Ende.

Clearly it’s got us thinking about adding a ‘dutch door’ to our house!

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We finally made it out to the newly renovated ‘Theodore Roosevelt House’ or Sagamore Hill .  It was a perfect day for running around the natural surroundings quickly, and getting a tour inside. The man received so many interesting gifts from kings and leaders and diplomats all around the world, that this summer home is more like an interesting art museum than anything else!

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I wrote this ‘Home Shuling’ piece for my synagogue’s newsletter, and thought it would be fun to share here.  Enjoy!  Hope it’s useful:

I’m still in the dark about why the summer is so quiet during Jewish life. That great big expansive gap between Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah is made up of 3 whole Jewish months where nothing occurs… Tammuz, Av and Elul are as sleepy and quiet as summer should be. On top of that, it becomes too hot to think about baking challah together or roasting a chicken for Shabbat. How does a reformed Jewish mamma keep the Jewish life alive in her home when all the Sunday school is done, holidays seem stashed away until Sept, and summer starts?

For starters there’s Jewish sleep-away camp to consider as a way to keep the momentum going with Jewish learning. As an Israeli friend of mine said: this seems to be the hallmark experience for most Jewish kids growing up in the north-eastern states of America. But being from an Italian-American family – I was always a little baffled about sending kids away for the summer. My brothers and I spent lazy, steamy summers laying around, getting bored. Or perhaps we sometimes tended my dad’s garden in the yard, went to city pools, rode bikes around alla ‘Stranger Things’ – until we got old enough to hold down summer jobs to pay for college.

My kids love laying around bored, and hate sleeping in any kind of ‘different smelling bed’ than the ones in their bedrooms. So for the moment, the “Jewish learning through summer” is all on me. And it got me thinking of a few ideas for summertime activities that will keep the Jewish learning alive in our home until high holidays:

1.) Have the kids keep a summer journal of ‘mitzvahs’
If even sparing a mosquito a swat, or doing something as big as helping out at a food pantry – ask your child to write down how they FEEL about doing these things. Even gratitude is a mitzvah .. in that you stop for a moment and thank G_d for something positive.

2.) Swim Swim Swim!
And don’t forget to remind your children before swim lesson that this is in the Talmud (Kiddushin 29a) ! Yup, there is a list of things that parents are obligated to do for their child after birth, and swimming appears on this list (but somehow feeding, shelter, and care do not. Go figure.)

3.) Watch some lazy-summer-day Jewish-kid programming: On rainy days I find Shalom Sesame to be a lifesaver. I know my kids have far outgrown the muppets – but there is something so incredibly reminiscent and comforting about hearing Hebrew and learning Judaism from these familiar lovable characters. It’s worth taking a peek even if your kids are no longer toddlers. Because the show is produced in Israel, it’s steeped in cultural tid-bits that make you feel like you’re visiting another country or watching a foreign film. Give Jewish Grover a try:

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Ezra making me more holy with every pool trip ; )

 

I was invited to speak at Zoe’s ‘Multi-culture Day’ at her school, and got a chance to see all the projects they’ve been working on this year. The walls and bulletin boards are jam-packed with all sorts of cool projects: all about pulleys on the science board, heroes on the writing board, Spanish and English key words and 3D shape facts on the Math board. I don’t think I was doing this much in second grade! But it all looks so fun, I kinda wish I could go back to grade school. We will miss this sweet little school when Zoe leaves this late spring. Ezra went through here up until 2nd grade as well, and we wished we could keep them in this warm, nurturing, creative environment forever. (Plus they let this mamma come in and add some creative flair to backdrops and bulletin boards sometimes.. which I love). But it’s off to ‘bigger girl school’ in the fall – thankfully many of her classmates will be going with her.

Apparently Ezra and Zoe’s dad was inspired by the petals too!  check out these gorgeous photos by gregkessler.com –

 

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Louie puts his paw up for spring!

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Spring is here!

I love that the city put in these amazing cherry blossom trees on our block.  For one brief week in the spring we get trees full of pink flowers and then – bam – it’s like someone sneezes and they all fall off the trees all at once!  Nothing like a blanket of pink petals under your feel.  Even Louie is afraid to soil it.

Meanwhile Zoe is prepping to be a ‘Lost Boy’ in her school’s upcoming “Peter Pan” play.. we’ve been working on adding scraps of fur and twigs to her costume (but of course she wants it to be ‘glamorous’ at the same time).  I should add that Zoe has been studying to present ‘The Life of Coco Chanel’ to her class.  Check her out below – beret and French accent ready to go!  And we made a trip to Boston for cousin Sophia’s Holy Communion.  These girls and their heels!  Adorable..

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the neighbor’s magnolia tree

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thanks to Aunt Semi for this photo

Everyone with a kid here in NYC LOVES the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) – not just because the rooms are huge and little ones can run around, but also because there are tons of exhibits to see.  It has everything from dinosaurs, to body systems, the big blue whale room and biodiversity room are kid favorites too where sleepovers are often held (especially after the success of the ‘Night At the Museum‘ series).

We got there this week to see their ‘Senses’ show:  a fun exhibit that kids can handle, sniff and be dizzied by.  We had a lot of fun learning how different animals and insects see with heat instead of color for example, and then got to get outside to Central Park nearby to put our own senses to work.

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and then ahhhh .. get outdoors for some sense-stretching in Central Park!

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