Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On the seemingly impossible task of gently raising tough kids

     When my teenagers were little, I surrounded myself with like minded moms. Moms who co-slept, who baby carried, who fed on demand and let children self wean. We didn't spank or shame or isolate our children. Many would go on to homeschool. We were going to build more peaceful homes, and a more peaceful world.

     Ideals are a great thing, until reality sets in. I do not, for a second, regret any of the above parenting choices.But guess what? My kids still fought, and the world is still not gentle and kind. I still wanted to raise my kids peacefully and send them out into the world able to make it better, while recognizing the world I would send them out into might not return the favour. I did not want them to be hard, but I wanted their protective outer shell to be.

   This was anathema to the proper attachment mom. My kids were preschoolers when I started noticing that most of the kids around me were "very sensitive", and this only increased when we started joining homeschooling groups. I know some people *are* just born more sensitive, but it almost seemed like a point of pride with some of these moms that little Starshine was so sensitive that "Wallace and Grommit" gave her nightmares, or that Moonbean couldn't stand to have his hair washed and could only wear sweatpants and rainboots. It seemed like these other moms were purposely creating kids who would fall apart the first time the world was cruel to them, and I didn't want to do the same.
     Without compromising my base principles, I started raising them for the world they would inherit, rather than the one I wanted them to.

     Because I knew the world *would* judge them based on what they could produce, I didn;t settle for anything less than 'A' work in their schoolwork. Many assignments went back 2-3 times for improvement.
     Because the world would value their independence, they had to start riding public transit-alone- at about 12.
     Because "letting them be kids" sounds nice but I didn't know how to do laundry when I left the house at 18, my kids started chores as soon as they could walk. By the age of 5, they all helped with dinner, did their turn handwashing dishes, and did their own laundry from start to finish.
     Because someone out there might try to hurt them physically, I stopped getting in the way of their fights. We bought practice swords and took them to ken do. I'm a pacifist, but my kids can defend themselves.
     Because I knew the world might not be kind and kids verbally abuse each other to the extreme,we raised them with a healthy dose of sarcasm that allows them to laugh at insults.

     I wanted to raise kind, compassionate kids, who would in at least small ways, work to make the world better. And they are those people. They give blood, go on mission trips, volunteer with the homeless shelter and with Northwest Harvest. But they're tough, because the world isn't padded with cotton fluff and wallpapered in trigger warnings.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ready for Preschool? 4 things more important than numbers and letters.

It's the time of year when teachers are going through their back to school lists, planning our lessons, our classroom set up, and contemplating how we're going to do it all. Parents of first time preschool students are working to get their little ones ready for school, and I've learnt over the past two years that that usually involves drilling them in the alphabet, colours, and numbers. Most children are naturally curious about how we label the world around us, and it should be a topic on conversation with our little ones. Too often, that's the main focus, leaving some important skills unaddressed. Here are four skills to work on before preschool starts:

Eating at the table: This may seem basic to some and unnecessary to others, but if your child goes to school, they will probably eat there. Snack time at preschool is not just important to maintain blood sugar levels, but to teach children social graces. Many small children are used to grazing at home. While small, frequent snacks are healthy, walking around with a baggie of crackers is both a choking hazard and a hygiene issue. Your child's teacher will thank you if she doesn't have to spend three months reminding him that we eat at the table.

Queuing: When I homeschooled my own children, the emphasis brick and mortar schools placed on standing on line was often decried as part of making our children into mindless drones. But knowing how to stand on line is an important part of living in society. As tempting as it is to keep your little one strapped in the cart or run errands when they aren't with you, gently teaching them how to line up to pay for things will make them better citizens. We all know those people who never learnt the lesson, and who wants to raise THAT person?

Fine motor strength: Before your child is physically and intellectually able to write, her little hands need to be strong enough. Cutting playdough (with real scissors!), using tongs,eating applesauce and yoghurt with a spoon (rather than from a pouch) and these squeezing activities will make sure than when your child's brain is ready to write, her hands will be too.

Sitting through a story, in a group: Hopefully, your local library has preschool story time. If so, taking your child is one of the best things you can do for them: perhaps one of the most important. Sit with them and gently redirect them when they start to move all over. Aim for sitting through one story, at first.

Bonus: Teacher's Coffee Order: Just joking. Maybe. Depends on your child's energy level.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

5 Teacher Gifts (that aren't scented candles)

 Teacher Appreciation Day is coming up, with the end of the school year not far behind, so it's time for a little real talk about teacher gifts. Now some people like my husband will say a teacher should never write a post about good teacher gifts. It's unseemly. So I'll tell you why I was so inspired.

Posts about scented candles on sale and how they make great teacher gifts.

Now it seems to me that everyone should know this basic rule by now NEVER get ANYONE a scented ANYTHING gift unless you know beyond a doubt they will love and use it. But given how many gifts I stash in my closet for my kids to take to white elephant exchanges, not everyone does. So here are 5 great ideas to give your kids' teachers that WILL get used.

Coffee Shop Cards: Even if the teacher doesn't drink coffee there WILL be a day when that drive through bagel saves their day. Bonus points for a card to that great local shop.

Amazon or Dollar Store Gift Cards: Your child's teacher is spending out of pocket for school supplies. Without knowing your child's teacher I know that to be true. Lighten the load!

Vitamin C and cough drops: Maybe not so much for middle and high school teachers but younger children are germ factories. Help a teacher's immune system!

UNscented hand cream and chapstick: See above

Your time: If you can spare an hour of your time offer to help your child's teacher with cleaning or arranging their classroom. They will be SO grateful

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What do American Christians really think about welcoming Syrian refugees?

     In the past week, a large number of United States governors have announced that Syrian refugees aren't welcome in their states.  While I'm not aware of a lost of the religion followed by these governors, most of them are Republicans, with the assumption that most of them are Conservative Christians. In the wake of this, there's been memes chastising Christians for their hypocrisy. Since the Bible- both Old and New Testament- are absolutely clear on how refugees and immigrants are to be treated, it's right to point out to any Christian who would deny refuge to those fleeing terror that they are, in fact a Class a hypocrite. But is that what the average American Christian would do?

     Rather than view the opinions of people like Bobby Jindall and Greg Abbott as representing American Christian opinion, I thought it might be useful to see what the presiding bishops and other leaders of American Christian denominations say. Of course, they don't represent the view of every member of their denominations; on any given day, people sitting next to each other in the pews will disagree on any number of topics. But as elected representatives and leaders of their faith they provide a much better lense than elected government leaders.

The National Association of Evangelicals "Anderson points to a famous story in the Bible, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped a traveler who'd been beaten and robbed after others passed him by.
"[He] came and took a risk, and helped, and invested his own money. People often know the story of the good Samaritan, but they forget how Jesus ended it. And his last words were, 'Go and do likewise.' So he's calling on Christians, his followers, to be good Samaritans," Anderson said.
Anderson said he hopes evangelical churches will continue to step forward and offer to house Syrian refugees. He pointed out that some are Christians fleeing persecution, but he said no one should be subject to a religious requirement to receive help.
"If a child is suffering, if a child, a family, has been forced out of their home, are we really going to put them through a religious test in order to protect their lives? I hope not," Anderson said." (Story here. )
The United Methodist Church  "“Syrian refugees are fleeing violence perpetrated by ISIS ─ violence that has destroyed their country,” McCullough said. “To blame vulnerable people for the acts of their perpetrators is unjust and inhumane. We must react not with hate toward one another, but instead with unity and resolve to see that these horrendous crimes are not repeated.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America :  "Yet, we Christians and all others of good will cannot let fear rule the day. Fear paralyzes, divides people, fosters distrust and clouds judgments.  We also stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who are firmly opposed to vengeful reprisals and prejudice. In particular, we are concerned for and committed to standing with our Muslim neighbors who are facing threats and acts of discrimination and hate by those who conflate Islam with terrorism.”

The LDS Church : Mormon Newsroom reports that Latter-day Saints around the world have provided aid for the past decade to refugees in the Middle East, in the form of blankets, clothes, medical supplies and food. 
The First Presidency thanks the members for their generous contributions that have allowed the Church to help previously and, to allow the Church to continue their donations, encourages members to continue to donate when possible. 

The Catholic Church  "I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization."

Presbyterian Church USA : "Choose welcome, not fear."  These are the words Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly PC(USA) implores in his statement related to the terror attacks that occurred over the weekend of Nov. 13, 2015 and support for Syrian refugees.

United Church of Christ : " It is tragic that our country continues to witness the scapegoating and systematic collective punishment that it has known in the past.  During World War II, those of Japanese heritage were interned.  In former eras it was Catholics, Jews, and repeatedly Asians who were refused entry or inclusion into our immigrant nation. Today we watch still as a new manifestation of Jim Crow leads to the mass incarceration of great numbers of African-Americans.  We have experienced how fear and suspicion lead to institutionalized discrimination and systematic dehumanization of whole communities."

The Episcopal Church  "The children of Abraham have ever been reminded to care for the widow and orphan and the sojourner in their midst, who were the refugees and homeless of the time. Jesus charged his followers to care for the least of these and proclaim the near presence of the Reign of God – in other words, feed the hungry, water the thirsty, house the homeless, heal the sick, and liberate the captives. We cannot ignore the massive human suffering in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, nor in Asia and the Americas. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and our lives are bound up with theirs. The churchwide ministry of Episcopalians has included refugee resettlement since the refugee crisis of World War II.  It continues today through the leadership of Episcopal Migration Ministries, and I urge your involvement, action, and support. Read about their work below, and share these opportunities with friends and co-workers. You will discover anew the power of good news in the face of the world’s tragedies. "

American Friends  "We encourage governments to support the UN call for humanitarian relief funding for displaced Syrians. All international parties should act before the refugee flows further destabilize the region."

Southern Baptist Convention : "The resolution concluded, "We affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is 'Whosoever will may come.'""

It seems to me that the leadership of American Christianity and the people they lead,  overwhelmingly proclaim welcome to Syrian refugees.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I have been called to be prayerfully affirming

(Note- all links will be marked with an asterisk and will be footnoted)

     As we have (mostly) all shared and grappled with our own and others' responses to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, I've done my best to  sharing my own views in a positive manner, and quietly passing by differing views. I've found much more effective to stand by my own views, respectfully, and wait until others respectfully ask for engagement before doing so. That's where real change occurs.

     Not everyone takes that route, and the rainbowing of my facebook profile picture drew ire from one of my co-religionists, who felt I should not have overlaid our church with this symbol of inclusion.
Our 2015 Mexico Mission Team, before leaving to serve an orphanage in Tijauana

     The more I meditated upon it, the *more* I felt it was right and proper to do so. Of the people picture whose opinion I know (I don't know all their opinions), they overwhelmingly some down on the side of equality. And even if I didn't know some personal stories, anyone looking at a group of people that says should know that there must, statistically speaking, be gay, lesbian, or bisexual people present.
I feel this rainbow is right and perfect.

     But such opposition is about so much more than a photo. It's about people. Real people, who leave the church because of hatred and consider suicide in numbers much greater than the general population. Can we afford to respond with anything BUT love? And for people of faith, any faith, it's about faith. The two can't be neatly separated. I was made keenly aware this past weekend with my own and others' experiences at Seattle's Pride Parade.

     This is my second year walking with Open Door Ministries, a local ELCA ministry dedicated to full LGBTQ inclusion. Before the Pride Parade, I visited worship at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle, where our Northwest WA Synod bishop, Bishop Unti, shared the message. In his message, he stated that "as we walk today, we will be proclaiming the Gospel." Powerful words! We then all walked to the staging area together, and as we waited for over an hour, photos were taken and I had the joy of saying hello to a pastor who was a former youth worker in our congregation.

Local ELCA pastors who came to proclaim God's radical love with their feet.

     As we walked along the parade route, I stay along the outer edges as I like to connect with people. There's a lot of high-fiving and hugging. I was carrying a simple sign: just some old mountboard with "GOD LOVES EVERYONE" written in rainbow crayon. As I high-fived spectators, one woman held onto to my hand and said "God loves everyone! I really needed to hear that now!". She kept holding onto my hand, near tears. Somewhat unusual for me, I felt it was right to ask, "Can I pray for you?" She said "YES!" and threw her arms around me. Another woman who was with her placed a hand upon each of our heads. I prayed that she would know she is a precious child of God, that she would know nothing but love and acceptance, and that she would never forget that God made her and loved her as she is.

     And then I went on my way.

     I don't know anything about her story, but I feel certain something meaningful to her happened in that moment.

     Of course, Lutherans were not the only religious people who joined Pride. On the bus to Seattle, I got to converse with an elderly, gay, Vietnam vet who was joining his Episcopal congregation. He spoke of the double hell of coming out, switching congregations, AND being a vet of a war so many disagreed with. He spoke of how the congregation he originally left after coming out now has their Believe Out Loud status. It was such a privilege to hear this saint's stories.

     But the story that brings me the most joy? My dear LDS friend who walked with Mormons Building Bridges. My friend and her husband did not always advocate for LGBTQ equality. But then, about the time our state was voting on marriage equality, she began asking sincere questions. She had conversations with people of all opinions. Before too long, we knew her oldest child had come out. I watched her position evolve. She made plans to join this year's Pride. Her facebook friends learned that her next oldest child was also gay. My favourite, very favourite photo from all of Seattle Pride is that of my dear friend with her arms around her gay son, who was wearing his LDS going-to-Temple clothes with a rainbow bow tie and a sign proclaiming "I know my Savior loves me". Yes, yes, yes! May the love and acceptance they felt follow them as they face Testimony in church this week.

     So to my fellow Jesus people I say- May the radical and inclusive Love of God be with you all. Everyone of you. And may you extend it to all.

Related Links:

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Letter on SCOTUS ruling

Open Door Ministries on facebook

Mormons Building Bridges on facebook

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Maundy Thursday Reflection On "Deeply Held Beliefs"

I've been thinking a lot about Indiana's religious "freedom" bill, and why I oppose it. I'm a Christian, and all my part time jobs take place in the context of church childcare and teaching. I'm a private preschool teacher, work in my church nursery and two others, and provide MOPS care for two churches.

I meet a lot of parents in this context and to be frank, there are times their practices and beliefs are in opposition to my own deeply held beliefs. In contrast to Indiana's situation, discriminating against or treating LGBTQ people as second class citizens is against my beliefs about how Christ would treat these people, yet I serve people who WOULD discriminate. I serve parents who are against public assistance and socialized medicine, and we KNOW how Christ treated the hungry, poor and sick. Don't get me started on parenting. I have my own deeply held beliefs there, too, but I know to just keep them so myself. To use an example that's probably less personal to most others, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about disposable anything. Yet I don't turn parents away and tell them to come back with cloth diapers.

Because that's the thing about service-about being a SERVANT- which those of us in the Christian tradition celebrate on Maundy Thursday. Being a servant means being a servant to all- in love, without condition. Have Indiana's fundamentalist Christians forgotten that?

I'll leave you with a quote from Steve Inskeep on today's "Morning Edition" :
 I wonder if there are people who are uncomfortable as a matter of conscience with gay marriage who might, with reason, take that position - that their job is simply to sell flowers, that their job is to take photographs, that their job is not to judge either way, that none of us are put on Earth to judge, actually, that their job is not to judge the people in front of them necessarily.

(Full article here. )


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Superheroes, national treasures...children's librarians!

When I was the mother of a preschooler and toddler I was planning to home school, I discovered the Friday morning story time at one of our local libraries. It wasn't the closest library, but it was the most easily accessible by bus, which was important as we were a one car family.

Years passed. We added a baby and a minivan, and the preschooler and toddler became school age children. Story time remained one of the most important parts of our week: not only did it serve as the first practice sitting still in a group that my kids experienced, but we formed friendships with other homeschooling families that formed the basis for co-ops and playdates that provided the important social experiences my kids might otherwise have missed out on. As time wore on, the older kids would wander out and pick their own stacks of books, eventually novels, while the youngest still enjoyed story time.
Once, Friday fell after an ice storm and we tried to start out over an inch of ice for story time. We got stuck and a stranger had to turn our minivan around and point us back toward home. The kids all cried to miss storytime.

But all good things come to an end. Sooner or later, you give in and move on from preschool story time. The friends moved away, and I added first one, and then two mornings of work a week. With two high schoolers, I knew I wanted to ease my way back into the work force.

This year, I made a major life leap and took a job three days week teaching preschool (while maintaining my two MOPS jobs). When we started planning our community helpers units, I asked Ms Gerry, our children's librarian to grace our class with her presence. She ended up giving a 40 minute story time for our whole school, and it was a thing to behold. Energy crackling from her like a superhero of literacy, she kept nearly fifty kids from ages 3-5 engaged for that entire time. As I sat on the floor of my class room with about 5 little kids squished onto me, I felt transported back in time. And another thing- watching her, I knew most of my own circle time came from those story times of over a decade ago. I have stolen from the best.

If you know, our your children know,a children's librarian, know that aside from you, they may be your child's first best teacher. If you're an adult or close to it,stop into your library and thank your children's librarian. They are truly one of our national treasures, and our first line of defence against illiteracy.