Monday, April 30, 2012
My Monday's Musings today seem to center around women's issues. I had a long phone conversation this morning with my mother, in which we marveled over the regressive attacks on access to birth control and women's rights that are going on all over the country. Then I read this piece in Slate magazine about the new book The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. As I'm currently reading Reading Women: how the great books of feminism changed my life, it's a bit of a perfect storm in my intellectual life.
All of the politics around birth-control have got my ire up on an issue that I was pretty neutral about before. It just, honestly, felt like the issue was null to me. Who cared about abortion anymore? I thought it should be legal, but I also felt emotionally that I personally could never have one. And with the new excellence of birth-control, I remember saying to my mother a few years back "it's so easy to not get pregnant, that I don't see the big need for abortion services". That younger me really felt like we were heading into a Post-Abortion world in much the same way that it felt like we were living in a Post-Feminism world.
It's not feeling like that anymore. Suddenly, it actually feels like women are in danger of losing the ability to prevent themselves from becoming mothers. And, quite frankly, all of this is bringing out my inner raging feminist. I'm pissed.
And I'm not just mad about the attacks on reproductive choice. I'm not thrilled about seeing a re-post on Facebook that says that wearing babies facing forward is "cruel". If you are carrying your baby about with you, do you really need to be told that there is only one right way to do it? I was never a very good attachment parent, but now I'm being told more and more often that the things I did when my children were young were "cruel", "damaging", "unnatural", and even "abusive".
You won't be able to not have a baby, and once you do have a baby you are going to be totally taken over with this labor-intensive, time-consuming, "best" way to take care of that baby.
And the thing is, I used to like attachment parenting. I think attachment parenting is a great idea - up to a point. But sometimes we make compromises, sometimes we can't do it perfectly, and I think it's become a bit extreme to tell anyone that those compromises are abusive or cruel.
Frankly, I'm starting to have more sympathy with the argument that this intensive modern-mothering is anti-feminist. And up until recently I would have been passionately arguing the opposite! But that was before many of the less-than-perfect choices I made when my son was an infant (letting him cry, daycare, expressing milk but having him fed from a bottle) were described as abusive and cruel. With those criteria then I just really couldn't have gone to grad school and had a baby at the same time.
Let me get this straight - we will not be able to choose if we want to be a mother or not, and then once we're a mother we really can't do anything else except be a mother. I'm mad about this! And I love being a mother and being home with my kids! And it's real work, and there is no need to do anything else with your life if being a mother is what you like best! But I'm still mad about this! Mad enough to wade into more controversy than I usually take on on this blog.
If you attachment parent, I am not saying anything bad about you. Like I said, I love attachment parenting. I just think moms sometimes need to take the baby out of the sling, hand them to someone else, and have an identity outside of "mom" for a bit of time. But I'm not saying you aren't a great mom if you follow the methods to the letter. That's great, you're doing great, and please don't let anyone make you feel bad about yourself.
But I'm not going to feel bad about myself either (well, I'm going to try not to feel bad about myself, but boy that is hard sometimes).
And I hope the woman who has put her children in full-time daycare doesn't feel bad about herself.
And I hope the tired young mother who lets her baby cry itself to sleep so that she can get her homework done for college (been there, my dear) doesn't feel bad about herself either.
And the woman who didn't want to be a mother and had an abortion shouldn't feel bad about herself either.
And all the other people out there trying to be good parents and good people and still honor their own needs at the same time, I hope none of them feel bad about themselves either.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The last time I went to see my therapist, she pointed out that in many ways my problems could be described as "poor little rich girl syndrome". This bit of tough love from her did point out a reality to me: I am Blessed, and now what do I do?
I have almost everything I've ever wanted. I have a good relationship, a large extended family network, many friends, a connection to multiple circles of loving community, I'm healthy, I have two children (a boy and a girl, just like I wanted), I'm living in the town I like best, on a few acres in a home that is almost everything I imagined in a dream home, working my dream job, driving my preferred car, with my chosen pets, and the homeschooling lifestyle I desired.
Now what do I do? I have so much, and sometimes it feels like I can't keep up with it all.
Can you have your cake and eat it too? What if you are actually given three cakes? At what point is life just too good?
What I'm short on now, is the blessing of Time. But even that is all relative. If I take one thing at a time, and accept less than ideal or perfect all the time, there is Enough Time for it all.
Now I need to feel like I deserve this, and let myself Be. As long as I continue to beat myself up to Be Better, to Earn It, then I have problems. I want to accept and celebrate and feel gratitude for my blessings. I've been lucky, and it's OK. At some point, I have to stop Proving Myself Worthy.
We weren't born needing to earn the privilege of happiness. Life is not a test to be taken, so that we can earn the best grade.
Life is Good. Amen, and Blessed Be.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Here I sat this week, sharing a quilt with Hypatia, reading picture books to her, and trying to teach her to use her new spool knitter. Books that were lovely for all of that:
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco, is a lovely story about neighbors who become like family, and the little cat that is part of the bonding experience. As usual with Polacco's books, she touches on big issues of race, history, discrimination, and death, but in such a light and loving way that the children see the bad stuff but don't lose the love in the process.
With Love From Grandma inspired Hypatia to really want to learn to crochet. It's a simple story about the making of an afghan, and the passing down of it through the generations.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps is yet another nice picture book about Jane Goodall. Hypatia has enjoyed all she's learned about Goodall - she has the perfect life to inspire children, I think.
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton is an African American folk tale, about people flying away from slavery. It's beautiful, and the writing and language is just lilting, but of course it's also sad.
Piggy Bunny is about a piglet who doesn't dream of being a pig when he grows up - no he wants to be the Easter Bunny. His family and neighbors don't understand, and they want him to just love himself the way he is. But when Grandma and Grandpa come to visit, they help him get a bunny suit and see himself in a new way.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
I have been journaling for a long time, but in this last year, I find that I actually need three different notebooks for the different practices that I'm doing. It may soon be four books, as I think I soon need to separate my Religious Education related thoughts from my personal spiritual practice and self-reflection thoughts.
There are many different ways to pursue journaling as a spiritual practice, and I have not tried them all. So what I'm going to describe is just what I do, not a prescription for The Way of The Journal.
I keep a general journal with me in my purse, and pull it out to jot down thoughts that occur to me during the day. I also use that journal when I'm reading, and I record quotes that strike me from my reading and write responses to my readings. Spending some time every day writing, copying thought-provoking passages, and then writing a response to them is my primary daily spiritual practice.
My other journals are for more specific needs. I found that I needed a place to record what we did in our homeschool, and also my observations about the children. Here I jot down the facts of what we did, and how they did, and my thoughts about where we should go next with our studies. I purchased a day planner for this, so that the days are already recorded and if I miss a day it is obvious to me. That keeps me honest on making daily observations.
And my third journal is my solution to the emotional burden I was beginning to feel of carrying other people's joys and sorrows in my heart. I am told things in confidence, and asked to provide pastoral care to members of my congregation, my outside friends, my family, even by virtual friends I only know through reading their blogs. What do you do when someone asks you to "pray for me"? What do you do when you have just spent an hour lovingly and actively listening to someone speak of their pain and sorrow and worry and stress? I was letting all of this weigh my heart down too much, and in recent months more and more people have reached out to me and asked if we could just talk - if I could just come listen for a bit, hold them in my heart in love, be a sounding board for their worries. Of course I will, but then what do I do?
That's why I started the "Sara's Cares Book". A simple lined journal, to record everyone that I'm holding in my heart right now. I use initials, and I write down what they are going through right now. I like to also record joys as well - it feels better to have the book hold some positive stuff too. And I go back through the last month or so and re-read it regularly, thinking again of each of those people. If they are still in that place of stress or sorrow, I write them down again on the new day's entry. If they are doing better, I put a little smiley face or a heart next to the original entry. It's helpful for me to see all these sorrows easing, these worries resolving, and these stresses finding release.
This practice is really helping me to compartmentalize, to keep my own emotional life separate from that of others, but to still care and actively hold others in my heart. And now, whenever someone asks "please pray for me" or "send me good energy for ..." I have something I can actually Do. I write them in my book. :)
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Everything I'm about to say was already said, better, on this post at The Power of Moms. Reading that got me to thinking about my own habits of looking at blogs and Pinterest, and comparing myself (negatively) to the images I see there.
I've been blogging for six years now, and bloggers who blog about their personal lives get into the habit of taking pictures "for the blog".
It's no secret that blogs with lovely pictures get better traffic. And now there's Pinterest, to further feed our hunger for inspiring pictures.
But, I've never really become all that interested in photography as a hobby, and I'm also not too interested in taking the time to stage the background of my home to make a better picture. After all - if we aren't careful we start to think we have to live in a magazine spread every day of our lives.
I'm trying to live an intentional and thoughtful life, not a "pretty" one. But at the same time, I can find myself comparing my life to the pictures I see on other blogs and on Pinterest. So I spent a few hours playing "circus tent" with my kids. But wouldn't it have been more worth my time to make them a healthy snack that looked like a circus?
I cook my family dinner almost every night, but it's not photo-worthy. I clean and do the laundry and run the household - and none of that is going to make a lovely photo either.
How about you? Does searching for a lovely photo of your life ever detract from living your life?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The kids asked to add in Home Ec, and Hypatia has been working on making her own crazy quilt and Carbon has been baking. This is completely their idea.
Besides the science we've been doing at home, Carbon is also taking a Science class at the Y and also some workshops at the local Children's Museum. The class at the YMCA is tiny, with a super-energetic young teacher who just graduated from teacher school. She's been asking the kids what they are interested in and then planning the future classes around their interests (except that Carbon said he wanted to make a "nuclear reaction" and she had to say No to that). The picture above is the "cloud in a jar" experiment, from the day they explored Weather. Carbon really enjoys all his science classes.
Last week for Nature Study I didn't have anything planned so I said "why don't you just go out and find some pretty flowers and paint them". They were thrilled, and Hypatia reported it being "the best lesson Ever!". Apparently getting to pick flowers is pretty cool.
We made stamps by cutting up a mouse pad. This was our art lesson that went with Millions of Cats and was a riff off woodcut technique.
We also practiced masking off areas and then water-color painting, another art lesson that riffed off Owl Moon. I'm still loving all those StoryBook Art lessons.
Monday, April 23, 2012
and you may not get a charming Beatrix Potter garden accessory as the result. :)
He was inspired by Bunnicula, so now we have this fun fellow in our flower bed.
(this was a kit from Hearthsong. If you click through you will see how they show it being painted)
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
things are not going to get better
sad to say - but they're not.
A huge thank you to www.uuintergenerational.org
Not only does the website describe the why and how of doing intergenerational worship (and the struggles and pitfalls), but there are many many scripts posted there. Yesterday we did our adaptation of The Lorax as found on the website. And it felt like it went really well! The kids who were in the Story did a great job, and we had the debut of our new Children's Choir as well.
Friday, April 20, 2012
We had a little burst this week of reading Jeanette Winter's books. I had originally borrowed all three of these from the library for Women's History Month. Um, yeah - that was March. But better late than never!
Here we explored three very different women: Hildegard von Bingen, Alia Muhammad Baker, and Emily Dickinson. All three women followed their hearts, and took paths that were unexpected, and it's always good for my children to learn of women following non-stereotypical paths.
In fact, a week ago when we were doing our history lesson and learning about Muhammad, Hypatia stopped me and asked "why are all these people, like Jesus and Buddha and Muhammad, all men?"
I'm glad she noticed, and we had a very good conversation to answer her question. And I'm also glad that there are picture books like these that can also open their minds to questions like that.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
- Good with one-on-one communication and closeness
- Good emotional support to my kids
- "Profundity", or that I'm drawing out the meaning of life for us all and helping others see deeper truths
- Details, and their ability to overwhelm
- Real life versus an Ideal, and my struggle to be happy with the former
- Giving too much
Sunday, April 15, 2012
I promise to be a good steward to the Earth's water resources. I will conserve water whenever I can. I will not waste water when I can help it. I will work so more people around the world have the clean, water they need. I will clean up polluted waters whenever I have a chance. I will not make water supplies unsafe or dirty. I will remember that what I do upstream can affect all life downstream. I will honor my spiritual connection to the web of all existence by protecting it.
(A lesson from Gather the Spirit)
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
- The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems. We read There's a Bird on Your Head and We Are In a Book! this week.
- The Mayor of Central Park by Avi. Her words: "at the end they do a big baseball game, and if the Central Park Green Sox win they get Central Park back, and if Duds (the rat that is trying to take over) wins then they take over. But the Green Sox win, and then Mud, the daughter of Duds, marries a squirrel. That's pretty much what I remember."
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, "at first, September, the little girl, got carried away with the green winds, and she had some good adventures, that's for sure".
- Space Station Rat in his words: "it's about a rat that was a lab rat and has never been outside, and it escapes into a space station and there is this kid whose parents are scientists in space and the rat gets found and a robot tries to eliminate it. And the kid saves the rat."
- Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. "It's about a person that wants a cat and her husband goes out to find one, and walks a long long way. Finally he finds a place where there are millions of billions of trillions of cats, and he thinks they're all so pretty he can't leave any of them behind. And then his wife said she only wanted one cat, so he said "which of you is the prettiest?" and they all said they were and fought and ate each other up. And then there was this little scraggly kitten, and it said it wasn't eaten up because it didn't think it was pretty and didn't say it was pretty. But it turned out to be a pretty cat after they'd given it lots of baths and fattened it up."
Thursday, April 12, 2012
“As parents, we are the primary religious educators of our children. They will learn their concept of faith, morality, responsibility, and justice from us” (Richards, p. 1)
“Many of us are concerned about indoctrinating our children with our personal beliefs. We encourage children to question and think for themselves, but in reality they want to know what we think” (Richards, p. 1).
“Eventually they’ll stop asking us religious questions and look for answers elsewhere. Many of the other people they encounter in life will not be so hesitant to pass on their beliefs, opening up the possibility that the vacuum we leave in our children’s lives will be filled with a belief system contrary to our own” (Richards, p. 3).
The book discusses how and why we should intentionally educate our children about religion, spirituality, and ethics, and it also hits many of the hot-button issues that confront UU parents in particular, such as interfaith families, a lack of concrete easy answers, and evangelizing and discrimination that children may face from other children.
What I thought of it
I honestly have to give the book a mixed review. Some sections were very useful, even excellent, such as the series of 7 chapters on how each of our 7 Principles can inform our parenting. Other sections just seemed to drag on, such as the chapter on spiritual practices that you might try for your kids. There were a few times I didn't really agree with the developmental stages as Richards described them. But there were also times when she phrased things in very inspirational and mind-opening ways, and our little discussion group responded well to that.
Overall, it is a useful book for UU parents, and I think these are conversations we need to have more of. How do we deal with the Bible with our children? How do we unpack our own baggage around religion so that we don't hand it on to our children? How will we deal with grief and death when our children encounter them? How will we handle it if our children engage with spiritual practices or religions different from our own?
What to do with it
UU parenting does present some unique challenges, and it might be nice if we just had some pat answers to give to those tough questions the kids ask. But, while there is no ultimate truth we can defer to in our parenting, we still don't have to do this alone. I would encourage others to gather and discuss these issues with other UU parents - these were some lovely and rich conversations my little group had.
(If any religious educators or UU parents out there would like to see the discussion questions I wrote for my group to use, just ask. I'm happy to share.)
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I had a special time with my daughter today, hanging out at a deli enjoying sauerkraut and playing "Go Fish". She was lovely, and we had fun, which has sadly been rare in recent weeks. One on one time felt lovely.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012