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Blessed vs. Lucky

Each month, I preach a short sermon at a nursing home to a lovely group of people I have grown to treasure over the past year. One or more of my little guys helps with me with getting props ready or being involved in the message. Because of the varying levels of cognition–and to tap into that childlike place that stays accessible to a degree even when folks have memory impairment–I always add in some sort of creative, interactive, or seasonal element.  I thought it would be fun to share this month’s message with you about what it means to be blessed versus lucky. Here it is!

Around this time of year we see lots of green, joke about pots of gold, and hope to harness the “luck of the Irish”.  Now, what that saying even means isn’t clear, but it does have a nice ring to it. Some say that the luck of the Irish refers to Irish settlers striking is rich by finding gold in the American West. There’s a real pot of gold story! Some say the Irish had bad luck with the potato famine and other hardships, so referring to the luck of the Irish means you have no luck or bad luck. Some say that Irish people maintain good cheer despite so many hard times so the luck of the Irish is all about that perseverance quality, the glass half-full view of life. Whatever the saying really means, the good news is that Irish or not, we don’t have to rely on the whim of mere luck.  Instead, we can rely on God, the father; Jesus, our savior; and the Holy Spirit.

This is the point when my 4-year-old who has been proudly holding the up the glittery shamrock up for all to see flips it over to show everyone the surprise words on the back.

Matthew 5:1-12 Beatitudes

There is a legend that the real St. Patrick used shamrocks to help people understand the trinity since they have three leaves.  See, God,  Jesus , and the Holy Spirit—the three-in-one.

Today I want to talk about Read more…

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The mealtime battles have been intense around my house recently. So many meals begin with grumbles instead of gratitude. A dish loved one day is hated the next, then third day it becomes OK again. Plates get over-loaded with food and then it gets trashed. One child seemed to be subsisting on air (ok, fruit) with a negative impact on behavior. Of course, a kid is going to be crazy with fructose hyping the system but no protein to make those nutrients stick. Mealtime questioning, crying, and negotiation was taking over. (I think that last one is the worst for kid and parent alike. It dominates the meal for the adult, gives the child all sorts of attention for a behavior we don’t want to see more of; and it makes food a power struggle rather than about nourishment, enjoyment, and respecting feelings of satiety–not over-full.) One week I decided just to make whatever I wanted even if everyone else hated it because they were going to gripe about it any way. No surprise, but that didn’t actually fix anything.

End Kid Food Battles

 

Hubby and I found ourselves repeating certain mealtime platitudes endlessly, only to realize we were applying them in different ways. “Eat the food you have before getting new food” works differently when a kid serves himself versus when a parent scoops up adult-sized portions. And, how many meals should leftovers be re-offered for anyway? As a family that rarely has dessert, do we expect clean plates first or do we just eat the beet brownies whenever, however on those few occasions? With all of these questions, and so much frustration, the family decided that we should sit down and come up with some rules together.  Coming up with a morning routine recently has been helpful (despite a rough start), so we figured we’d formalize our mealtime guidelines, too. Here they are!

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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.  Read more…

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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. 

2016-01-24 09.20.50

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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