Monday, April 30, 2012

The Mommy Conflict

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 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

one bit of Sunday

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The parable of the Blind men and the Elephant, followed by blind drawing challenges.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I love this town

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Blessed

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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

The Reading Life

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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

My journaling practices

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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

Life is not a photo-op

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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

Homeschooling notes

A few things from our little homeschool, randomly selected because I had pictures of them:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

give a boy a bunny ...

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and you may not get a charming Beatrix Potter garden accessory as the result.  :)

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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)

A picture from Sunday

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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

The Reading Life

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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

The church was hopping

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Whew! I am exhausted and wiped out after a 13 hour day, but I am so pleased with our first go at having a weeknight dinner at church followed by activities for all ages. The new 1/4 time Connections Coordinator and I came up with the plan, and we did it as a Taco Potluck - everyone brought ingredients for tacos and then people could build their own tacos as they pleased. When we thought of this, we were hoping maybe 30 people would come.

40 signed up to bring something.

And 60 showed up!

The majority were older folks without kids, but there were still over 10 families present, and several parents got to participate in activities that they normally cannot do, because we had childcare available at church for the night.

It was great. Now I need to put my feet up and recover!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raising Happiness


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I would place this book on my "Must Read" shelf for good parenting. The author is the director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and also has a blog:

If you have read a lot of books about positive psychology or about intentional parenting, this book won't tell you anything new. But what Carter has done here is to collect and boil down the research and the Best Practices that studies have pointed to, and laid them out as 10 Simple Steps you can work on to increase the happiness levels in your home.

1. Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First (and fix your marriage if you have one)
2. Build a Village (who are the people that are out there to support you and your kids?)
3. Expect Effort and Enjoyment, Not Perfection (freeing yourself from perfectionism)
4. Choose Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Optimism
5. Raise Their Emotional Intelligence
6. Form Happiness Habits
7. Teach Self-Discipline
8. Enjoy the Present Moment
9. Rig Their Environment for Happiness
10. Eat Dinner Together

Carter describes the research, and also describes her own experiences with her two daughters. Carter isn't perfect - she's divorced, she's made mistakes, she's pretty humble - and that actually makes the discussion much more accessible.

It's never too late to change a few parenting habits for the better. This book is a good place to start that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Language Lessons

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One of the best things about homeschooling, from my point of view, is the ability to plan for each child a unique learning plan. We also can change the plan whenever we want to, and if something starts to not work or we get bored with it, we don't have to finish it.

Five in a Row was getting boring for me and Hypatia, with really the only parts of it that I loved being the booklist itself and the storydisks to color and paste onto a map, and the only part she loved still was the booklist. Well, we don't need to do FIAR to read wonderful picture books and pin up pictures of on our world map. We can take a virtual trip around the world in books on our own (and we will - I bought us a new big world map too!).

After I read a few reviews of other Language Arts options, I decided to give Language Lessons for the Very Young a try. It's a Charlotte Mason style curriculum, so it features picture study and poetry appreciation and lots of narration exercises.

The books were immediately appealing to both children, mainly because of the full color pictures, which are very nicely printed for the picture study lessons. I also very much appreciate that everything is included in the book, so there is at least one subject that I don't have to go hunt down a bunch of resources from the library for (makes my life just a teeny bit simpler).

So far, Hypatia is cruising through her book, not wanting to only do one lesson a day. It's a hit!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday's Musings: The "Know Thyself" Mother

Monday is my Sabbath day, my "day off". I do try hard to actually take the day off work, but of course there is still house cleaning, farm chores, children, errands, homeschooling, laundry, and all that jazz.

But, by golly, I can sleep in on Monday. I may not actually sleep (I'm a morning person), but if I wake up, I can just do whatever I feel like until the kids get up. Today, I felt like checking in my Mothering Personality Type. I've had this book sitting here from the library, and I just needed to take the time to do an online Meyers-Briggs test. It's been sitting there for two weeks, waiting for me to take the time to do the test. Well, today is the day.


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So it turns out that I'm (still) an INFJ, or for those of you not in the know on those little letters that means I'm:

Introverted (versus Extroverted)
Intuitive (versus Sensing)
Feeling (versus Thinking)
Judging (versus Perceiving)

I took this test last in 2009, and I had mostly the same results, although back then I was a raging introvert, and now I'm a moderate one, and back then it was a toss up between Feeling and Thinking, and now it is strongly Feeling. It's interesting to me to think about how my life focus has been different in the years in between tests, and that in fact my ways of being in the world have changed a small, but perceptible, bit.

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Apparently my parenting strengths are:

  1. Good with one-on-one communication and closeness
  2. Good emotional support to my kids
  3. "Profundity", or that I'm drawing out the meaning of life for us all and helping others see deeper truths
  4. Creativity

And my struggles would be:

  1. Details, and their ability to overwhelm
  2. Real life versus an Ideal, and my struggle to be happy with the former
  3. Giving too much

The book points to strategies to play to your strengths while remembering how to work around your struggles. I can see right away that one way I could do that would be to stop running around trying to have "a place for everything and everything in its place" all the time, and instead sit down on the sofa with one of my children and have a deep conversation with them. I'm also told by this section that I must remember that "although you enjoy other people you need to take time for yourself".

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Moment from Sunday

I've decided to start posting simple moments from my Sunday, perhaps with a quote or a link. The days are always so full, and it's hard to decide what moment to capture, but just as hard to try to think what I could ever say about it all.


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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.

(signed) ___________________________


(A lesson from Gather the Spirit)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Intentional Living: Money

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Money management is not one of my favorite subjects. In fact, I'm not a very good "money person". But, like it or not, money is a very important part of our lives, and so it's vital to be intentional about it.

After moving to the new house, it was pretty much a mystery what our budget would be. After all, we didn't know what the utilities expenses would really be, what other repairs or expenses we might face, or even what the change in commute would do to our gas usage. So we just had to sit tight and wait it for a few months, generating averages that I could use to figure this all out.

Now, we have a (winter season) set of data. One really bad bit of news for us is that it is expensive to keep this place warm and powered. Looking at all this, I need to reduce other budgets where I can - and this means food, basically.

I'm trying something new. I've broken down our overall grocery budget into subcategories, and then I've given a snack food budget to each family member. When we went on our latest shopping trip, I was carrying the clipboard around, writing down the cost of each item the kids chose. Each box of cookies, each bag of chips - the kids were carefully weighing whether they wanted this more than that. It was terribly time-consuming, but they narrowed it down and made their purchases. We brought them home and labeled them, and they can eat them whenever they like. But when the snacks are gone, they are gone.

Wish us luck!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Reading Life

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I've finally gotten smart and started taking a little cart on wheels with me when I go to the library!

This week Hypatia recommends:

  1. 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.
  2. 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."
  3. 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".

Carbon recommends:

  1. 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."
  2. 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

Tending the Flame

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Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting by Michelle Richards, is a new book by the author of the UU Parenting Blog at UU World. I received the book as a Christmas gift, and decided to do a parent discussion group at my church, where I was joined by three other moms over four gatherings focused on four different sections of the book.


What it's about

The main point of the book can be summed up by these three quotes:

“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

Sunshine to work in

We were blessed with four days in a row of lovely, warmish (mid-60's) sunny days, and we made the most of them.

Our new place is a lot of work. There are acres to mow, huge areas for gardening so that even as I've been digging my heart out I feel like I've barely made a postage stamp size vegetable garden, and then there is that unfinished pergola/patio that my husband is supposed to be building to put my hot tub on. Maybe he'll get it done by Mother's Day - a soak in my tub under my new pergola would make a great Mother's Day gift.

I think the hardest thing I did this weekend, though, was sitting still and letting my daughter paint my toe nails. It was nerve-wracking, I tell you!



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Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter (and wrapping up Lent)

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Happy Easter to everyone! We actually had the most beautiful weather, the sort of weather that I wish we always had. Wearing Easter dresses and having outdoor egg hunts didn't seem ridiculous in this weather.

Easter as a religious educator with young children of her own is tricky, and luckily the Easter Bunny knows how early we have to be to church (7:30 am, folks!), and obliges us by not really hiding anything at our house. The baskets get filled and the dining table is arranged with eggs and flowers and loveliness, and the children wake up to that before dressing quickly and off we go!

It all went well, although Easter always feels like I am running a carnival, what with the Children's Worship, the coordination of the Egg Hunt, the general management of children that have already consumed a lot of candy and are hyper with sugar and excitement, then walking them all down the street to the park to do the egg hunt, and then running a Prize Table where they can exchange empty eggs for little toys and treats the congregation had donated for them.

In the midst of all of that, there was a moment in the guided meditation with the whole group that I actually felt like this is working, they are really internally focused and getting something out of this. And there was another moment as the kids were rotating between three volunteers who were reading to them the stories of Jesus, Osiris, and Persephone, that I looked into a classroom and thought this is working, they are really enjoying this and making connections between story symbol and their understanding of truth. And then there was the egg hunt when I looked at them and thought, this is really working, and they are all having so much lovely fun!

And after church we drove up to my Dad's house and had a big family Easter dinner, and my step-mother put on another egg hunt for the kids.

Easter marks the end of Lent, and I learned and grew from my Lenten practices this year. The fasting didn't last the whole 40 days, but was valuable while it lasted. I'm mulling over the spiritual value of fasting in general, but for me in particular it was a good chance to face issues of my past anorexia, my own health, my control issues, and when is something Enough. I also followed a Lenten practice of reading something "valuable" (I focused on books about Sabbath, Spring, Voluntary Simplicity, and Happiness) and journaling from that prompt daily, and that has been a wonderful practice for me. That I wish to keep doing even after Lent is over. The focus of readings will change as the seasons of my life change, but the practice can continue.

I hope you all had as good an Easter as we did. Now, we turn to the second part of Spring, the sunshine, growing, flowers everywhere part of Spring. Enjoy it!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dreaming, and working hard for dreams

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I dream of having this lush, abundant, amazing cottage garden outside my front door. I've got room, I've got a patio, I've got a charming little curved white picket fence, and we even found a pond out there when we were digging. It will be amazing, someday. Right now, we dream, we read books about cottage gardens, we make a pinterest board of inspiring garden pictures ....

but mostly I dig.

There is dreaming, and then there is doing. The doing is pretty exhausting. :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Good Friday

Is today the day that Jesus was crucified? If so, why is it called "Good"?

Ah, the joy of being able to Google and find out the answers. In fact, today I only had to get as far as "why is it called ...." and Google automatically added on "Good Friday". And here was the answer I found.


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This week I read and then it's spring to the kids. One of the parts of the book is that you plant seeds, and then you wait ... and wait ... and worry ... and wait ... are the seeds ok?

Lent has been like that this year. Maybe early Spring is always like that. We have sowed the seeds, and we've endured the rain and the mud. The stone has been rolled over the cave. Now what is going on in there? We can't see, and it is so hard to wait.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

dying

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I got a Ukrainian egg kit for my birthday this year, and we finally got to try it out. Of course, these dyes aren't edible - and that's kind of a bummer. But they are also really pretty! We had my husband's family over tonight, and everyone got to dye some eggs. A fun family tradition.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grandma Craft Night, Daddy Dates, and other family fun

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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.

And I reflected on how important it is to get a variety of arrangements for family time. We schedule "Daddy Dates" for each kid once a month, to get special one-on-one time with their dad. And we have other traditions, such as "Grandma Craft Night" when the kids go to their grandma's house for a craft activity with her.

Sunday night dinner at my in-law's is also a weekly feature of our lives. My husband and his step-father have season tickets for the soccer team, and then sometimes they and my sister-in-law meet for happy hour after work to hang out and catch up. He has lunch dates with him mom, as well. The kids love to stay overnight with my mom, so that has been a way for my husband and I to have weekends away. My family lives farther away, so we see them less frequently, but we still see them every few months.

As a more dramatic example, we have taken vacations in various arrangements, such as just me and Carbon, or just my husband and his dad and Carbon, or the grandparents taking the kids, and that can be a wonderful bonding time.

"Family Time" comes in all sorts of arrangements. While it's important to have the whole family together, it's also important to get each person some alone time, to have one-on-one time, and to have other small arrangements. Family is definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal. It's more like a tapestry of relationships, and each bond needs attention, not just the overall woven piece.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

bluebird

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My latest reading kick has been books about Happiness. I got four at the same time from the library, but the one that really captured my reading attention was bluebird: women and the new psychology of happiness by Ariel Gore.

The book is an interesting look at positive psychology from a feminist perspective, and Gore delves a bit into the history of how psychology has pathologized women, and how popular culture has tried to convince us we are lacking and must simultaneously be constantly cheerful - both areas of discussion that actually throw some doubt onto whether women should buy into this whole Happiness thing at all.

(As a side note, those chapters of the book led to this conversation with my husband.)

Me: "Maybe cleaning my house is anti-feminist. What if I put that same amount of energy into trying to get you to clean the house? That would be more egalitarian."

Him: (after a pause) "I think you would just be really tired, and have a really dirty house."

Then, about half-way through the book (which could be a lot shorter if it had cut out the unnecessary and boring sections of quotes from the author's "group of experts"/women she knows), Gore switches from women's studies and cultural critique to a series of chapters examining different aspects of the happiness struggle for women: how hard it is to achieve "Flow" when you are interruptible and engaged in drudge work, motherhood in general, not placing value on our work/money troubles, and the whole love/hate relationship with domesticity. These chapters had less of the research, and more personal memoir, but they were still interesting.

And her conclusion about happiness resonated for me:

"Happiness, like some central seed, is contained within the pursuit."

and

Happiness is a kind of openness, we have learned.
So choose the risky road of power and vulnerability.
Be done with dull things.
Take your life back.
Free yourself from habits of anger and compliance - smoking self-destruction.
Eyes wide open to the world-as-it-is, we grieve.
And in the midst of it all, we rejoice.

...

Happiness is hard work sometimes, but it's good work. It's earthy work. And we are strong and agricultural people. We know how to cultivate a thing or two.






Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy April Fools

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Even though there was a ton of high jinks at church today, my kids were bummed that April Fools being on a Sunday meant that I was too busy to prank them this morning. So a few text messages home to my husband, and he knew he needed to set up a prank for when we got home from church.

We arrived, and right away they were asking "did you set up a prank for us?"

"No" he says, totally deadpan. "I forgot - isn't April Fools tomorrow?"

This resulted in great sorrow, and they sulked up to their bedrooms ...

Where screaming started - "Why is there a chicken in Cola's (the chinchilla) cage?!!!!"

Prank.


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And here is me at church this morning. The "April Fools Vortex" sucked me right out of my shower and into the worship service ... I arrived through the side door walking in behind a shower curtain (on a hula hoop). Thank goodness the Vortex dressed me! We were mighty silly in church this morning. There were clowns, the minister wore a pink flamingo hat, we had flash paper set to go crazy when we lit the chalice, I did my shower song instead of a Story for All Ages, and the music director walked out for his "mandatory 15 minute break after every four hymns" leaving the minister to direct the choir - and the minister donned a blond wig because our music director has longish blond hair. It is healthy for the ego to not take itself seriously all the time. :)

My Peeps

I've been wanting to do this with kids, and what better time than the April Fool's Sunday before Easter Sunday?



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