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This morning was our first go at a morning routine chart for the kids and it went terribly, as in 9-1-1 fire department bad.

Fire Truck on Our Street

The 6yo has been asking for ways to earn money recently, “Like a real job, mom.” I agreed that this was a good age, but I needed time to figure out what things are normal family responsibilities versus extra payable work. I polled friends about chores and allowance, I read articles, I hemmed and hawed. Then my mom died unexpectedly and it all got put on hold as we packed up for South Dakota for a week to do loads and loads of work, logistics, and mourning. It was a miserable time, but the thing about kids is that they stay so grounded, which helps our world keep on turning. They helped without complaint while we were there (or I tuned out the complaints, one or the other). But, as soon as we walked back into our house after the trip, Mr.6 asked me how he could earn some cash. I came up with a list of basic cleaning jobs he could do after the standard 10 minutes of post-dinner responsibilities, and he sprang into action. The kid scrubbed the toilet and mopped the floor, hooray!

But, what about the basic responsibilities for the rest of the day? I still needed to solve that part of the equation. Enter the Morning Personal Responsibilities visual chart. I typed it up and Mr. 6 helped me select clip art. It’s pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Morning Routine Chart Preschool Early Elementary

All clip art is from Microsoft Office

Now, we get to this morning. Mr.6 gets through the list with minimal reminders and help. He is clearly so ready for this! Mr. 4 on the other hand…I dare to ask him to brush his teeth by himself after we got the toothbrush ready together, and I leave the room. After a while I notice that he is awfully quiet. I go to the bathroom and find it locked. He unlocks it at my request and comes out with teeth (theoretically) brushed. I smell a horrible smell and run through if he opened any bottles, played with the electrical socket, etc. He denies any mischief and does his remaining steps with malaise, I can’t do its, and needing lots of help and attention either by physical or emotional need.

I start to smell the chemical smell lightly all over the house. I’m a super-smeller, so I wonder if it’s in my head. It smells like acetone, crazy-strong acetone. But, I haven’t painted my nails in about a decade. We don’t have that stuff in the house. I eat breakfast and consult Dr. Google. It could be in my head; it could be a Freon leak from the HVAC system; it could be a meth lab (we can check that one off right away). The advice is to call a heating company or the fire station. I go with the fire station.

I call 9-1-1 and wonder if I’ll get chewed out for my weird smell problem, but they say they will send out a truck. I frantically try to get dressed and get the kids geared up to go out in the cold. I hear sirens which makes me think we really are having an emergency, so I send kids out shoeless. The louder the sirens get, the more I start just leaving our gear trailing behind on the sidewalk to get away, to get to our fire-safety meeting spot across the street. When they arrive, a neighbor takes in the kids while the firefighters check it out. Them, “You smell acetone? Do you have any nail polish?” Me, “No, we don’t keep anything chemically like that in the house.” They go in and out of the house, getting out sensors. Another truck arrives. We wait and watch. Finally, a firefighter comes to talk to us. They have found the problem!

She holds up a…wait for it…a tiny, clear bottle of clear nail lacquer that is easily 15-years-old. Apparently it was open and tipped over in the medicine cabinet. How it even moved with us 7 years ago, let alone got a position in the medicine cabinet, I have no idea. Thankfully the firefighters were so gracious and kind to the children (and me). We got to have a good practice session on getting to our fire drill meeting spot.*

In the moment with the firefighter’s report, I was quick to call Mr.4 to a confession, but he still claimed no mischief. I know the bottle didn’t open itself, but now I’m backing up on my quick blame. After all, this is the kid who needs my help to put toothpaste on his toothbrush, open his water bottle to refill it, clip him in his car seat, put on tricky shoes, etc. So, could he really balance on the sink vanity, get in the medicine cabinet, and open such a tiny, crusty old bottle? I can see it going either way. No matter the culprit, it may be awhile before I ask him to brush his teeth on his own again. As for me, I’ll chalk this up to being highly- reactive from all that the past few weeks has brought our family and laugh that it’s just the kind of crazy kid story my mom loved to hear about.

the offending bottle
*Speaking of fire drill meeting spots, do you have one of these? Have you ever done a family fire drill? It’s a great idea!

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Over the summer of 2016, I spent 160 hours looking at the theology and ethics of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of my seminary studies. It was hard to spend that kind of time immersed in stories of injustice, contemplating racism, mourning over the little progress we’ve made, and trying to think of ways to be an agent of hope and change. But, however hard it was for me, it was only ten weeks. Many people live with these issues day-in and day-out and cannot simply walk away. That ability to walk away–to shelve the empathy and anger and uncomfortable smallness against such a giant evil–is a mark of privilege, of ignorance, or apathy. While I know many inclusively-minded people who embrace others no matter the color of their skin, racism is more than that. Color-of-the-skin racism is but one definition. The issue that is mind-blowingly complicated to me, the one that I cannot simply absolve myself of with kindness to all, is systematic racism.

In terms of systematic racism, the US has made little-to-no progress from King’s days on so many fronts: the urban poor, the war on drugs, mortality rates of Black mothers and infants in certain areas, stories of police brutality that are echoes of the Jim Crow South. If you are not sure what systematic racism is all about, I’m about to give you an example. I’m going to share my term paper research with you. I put a tremendous amount of time, prayer, heart, and tears into it. I’m nervous about sharing it. The mind-tapes say to me: it’s only Master’s-level work, I’m not an expert on birth or race, I’ve only been applying theology this way for so long , anything birth-related hits nerves fast, anything race-related hits nerves fast. But I pray that God will use it for good in some way. 

I want to offer a closing prayer up here, a word of hope, so it doesn’t get missed amidst the considerable footnotes (there are great quotes and stories in with the citations) and bibliography. So, read the paper right below the picture, and then scroll up back here when  you are done.

Dear God,

We could walk away from the heaviness we feel when we encounter stories of injustice.
But, may we not.  
May we instead find ways to
listen and support,
vote in the polls and with our wallets,
teach our children well,
and speak up as allies.

We echo Dr. King’s prayer:
“Eternal God, out of whose mind this great cosmic universe, we bless you.
Help us to seek that which is high, noble and good.
Help us in the moment of difficult decision.
Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world,
a better distribution of wealth,
and a brother/sisterhood that transcends race or color.’”

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday,
as our country moves into a new administration on Friday
which brings up so many feelings,
we offer a resounding
AMEN.

MLK Birth Racism Theology

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes + Kids Cooking

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It’s pumpkin processing day! It is a day that I love and loathe. I love it because it means FALL IS HERE and the yield is great! I loathe it because it takes a long time to cut the pumpkins, roast them, cool them, peel them, process, can up the puree, roast the seeds, and then clean up. OK, OK, if you’ve been over to my house, you know we pretty much never get the dishes done the same day. But, sometime in the next week (or two), Dave or I will have to do those dishes. Over the years, I have gotten better at the whole process (almost 8 years to the day, I wrote this post about my first attempt), but now the complicating factor is three adorable little helpers/distractors. 

Today, though, the stars aligned and the children played outside amazingly while I worked inside on this. I like to cook with the kids, but Baby T (16 months) is a wildcard with cooking right now. He loves to shove his brothers off of step stools, climb the Learning Tower and put his fingers where the knife is cutting or throw ingredients on the ground, etc. My go-to of wearing baby on my back doesn’t always work well with this one. He likes to be IN THE ACTION and will start clawing at my back and pulling my hair to get down. Needless to say, any sort of cooking is just hard right now. Yet, enter today! The lovely fall weather just made everything work out. I was able to keep the back door open to the screen porch and let Baby T play in the dirt pile along with V (5.5) and E (4) while they played away. In the morning I asked if they would like to go to the library, and for the first time ever I got a no. “We want to play a complicated construction game today, and we will need all morning–like hours,” V told me. Sure enough, they got intently into digging and arranging dirt, bricks, and streams of water into some sort of kiln-like structure. They shared tools and trucks peaceably for hours. It was amazing and rare! I still am shocked about it, and so, so grateful. It was needed after a ton of sibling conflict recently.

With them happy in the backyard, I excused myself to the kitchen. The weather was perfect for leaving the back door open to the screen porch so I could still hear all of T’s pips and babble and watch the three of them team together. Usually T has to stay in the porch or house  when I am in the kitchen (and then screams at me) because he gets into everything in the yard: climbs up the swing set ladder, picks mushrooms, etc. But, today he was happy to stay at the dirt pile and perfectly within sight and sound of me. Flitting in and out of the house to help him as needed, get everyone de-mudded and fed, etc. throughout the day actually worked well because it gave me breaks in the midst of the long process.  I actually think it was the most pleasant pumpkin processing day I’ve had! 

For the past few years, I have used “neck pumpkins” (Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash) rather than pie pumpkins (or even jack-o-lantern ones). They have such a sweet flavor and are comparatively easier to cut into than the super-thick-skinned orange variety. Plus, the slender, long neck is all flesh with no seeds so it yields a lot of puree. These two came from Great Country Farms

Neck Pumpkins Read more…

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In 2015, Mothering.com published a piece I wrote on Mommy Wars (also on the MG4LG blog). In summer 2016, I got to turn that article into a 45-minute talk for Mommy Con DC called Declaring War on Mommy Wars: Graceful Communication in the Midst of Conflict. Mommy Con is a nation-wide natural parenting conference that attracts over 1,000 visitors to its DC stop. Not only was it awesome to speak, but I got to hear information  on other interesting topics and visit all sorts of vendors, including Jessica Haney of Mindful Healthy Life who interviewed me early this summer.

Photo Credit: Mindful Healthy Life

Photo Credit: Mindful Healthy Life

Here’s the premise of the talk: Read more…

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DIY: Homeschool Car Magnet

Our family started considering ourselves homeschoolers last year, but this is the year that my oldest, V, is Kindergarten-eligible so we are “official” in the sense that we have declared our homeschooling status to the county. Last year, the kids wanted a school name and we settled on Fontanafax Adventure School. This year, their request was to have a school magnet to put on the back of our car. So, we made one! Magnets made to cover air vents are large and heavy-duty, so we used that as our base. Through a couple of discussions, we came up with this design:

Homeschool Car Magnet

The overall arrow shape represents Read more…

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Snow Day Fun: Mining for Gems

DC Blizzard 2016/Snowzilla actually happened! We got over 24 inches at our house. With the drifting, our cars became mere lumps in the driveway. Dave and V spent hours digging us out (not that a snowplow has come by yet).

Baby T’s first time in the snow was one for the record books in terms of snowfall. It was also memorable for us. T is the smiliest baby I have ever known, and it was a hoot too see him take that personality outside. At first, he just sat with curiosity as brothers dumped snow on him brought him snow, then he started reaching out to touch and taste and the smiles started. After awhile, he tipped  himself over on to his belly and scooted across as much of the sidewalk as he could with glee, just as he does inside the house. 

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As for indoor fun while snowbound, we decided to “mine” for “gems” by Read more…

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Sharing Gifts, Sparking Imagination

At the beginning of January, I got to give my first sermon to an all-adult audience. I’ve done plenty of gospel-sharing to kids and families, and I’ve taught other material to adults, but this had new nuances for me. So, yay!

My congregation for the day was folks in a memory impairment unit of a nursing home. What dear, dear people. I taught on the Christmas story since I knew they had not had a church service since November. I had some props like a fiber-optic angel (our tree topper) and a stuffed lamb (thanks to my kids for sharing their toy), but the most awe-inducing thing was the baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes. There were audible gasps when I held it because they thought it was a real baby, which clearly was a wonderful idea to them. No one was concerned that I had pulled a baby out of a bag, instead it was just sheer wonder that a baby would be there with them.

Baby Doll

 

Babies transforms everything, right? Read more…

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V Turns 5

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Five years ago we were blessed with our precious son V after a hard road to parenthood. He experiences the world deeply and notices things that others might miss. Read more…

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The Christmas Story in Pictures


Luke 2:1-:20

In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Everyone went to their own town to be listed. So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.

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While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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