Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
and our little Miss Noodles got to explore. Man, did she need a bath. Stiiiiiiinky!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Michael Kusz, a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Seattle, Wash., and a member of the Youth Ministry Working Group, said, “As a youth in a small congregation, I see the need for change on a weekly basis. My church has less than 200 members, so maintaining a vital youth group has always been an issue. We are lucky to have six people come to youth group, and we usually only have three, despite the best efforts of our director of religious education and youth advisors. There are simply not enough resources available.”
“Serving youth, especially youth of marginalized identities, is a challenge for many small congregations,” Kusz said. “This is why I believe in the call to shift the center of gravity in youth programming to the congregational level.”
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Holy busy-days Batman.
I have three children. And while they are teens and a tween, they still need a mom. Kind of a lot, really kind of more than I had expected before I got here. Love it, really I do love the prickly tricky parenting in this stage, but there's no pass on mom time. For sure.
I have a dear husband whom I like, and like to spend time with. And he travels an awful lot now. So when he's here I want to drop everything and see him and when he's gone I'm the adult carrying the whole parent bag. Tricky transitions Batman.
I have a little dog. Oh, that! Yes it's like having a little child but psssssht. I love that! Next.
I have a job that is like a little glass of water. Have you ever accidentally spilled a small glass of water on the kitchen table? Isn't it amazing how that little bit of water SPREADS out so far and wide? Being a Religious Educator is like that. It could fit in a tidy small jelly jar, but if it spills out---whhhoooo boy, holy take-over-your-life Batman!
I'm getting older. I'm getting older and older and older--it happens EVERY DAY! How about that? But here's the best part: with the turkey neck and the permo wrinkles comes some
w i s d o m.
Just a little. But I'm liking that part. Holy sage-ing Batman.
Here is how I'm coming to mark the time. To find the spaces, the breathing room:
**Friday night is homemeade pizza night. Just is, bring a friend. Try hot dog pizza, have some fun.
**Sunday night is "out to dinner" night.
**After office hours on Friday I have a rule: NO MORE WORK UNTIL SUNDAY MORNING! No running around for craft supplies on Saturday. No writing the song that would just be perfect on Saturday afternoon. No learning guitar parts--if it's not learned by Thursday evening it's gonna be a Capella. Take a day off. Off. Off!
**I go for a walk every morning. Get up early. Go. yes.
**And I write. Everyday. Just write. Yep.
When we come to expect these spaces, the rest of it all just breathes a little easier. It is all good, all fine. All love and life. Holy gratitude Batman. And now......to the BATMOBILE!
Happy Holiday Weekend!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I was a young mother attending a "Raising UU Kids" class because even though I'd been raised UU, I needed help in the very, very Christian world I moved in through most of my days. Our Religious Educator had a sample of a magazine for us, the parents taking that class. I think if seven of us would subscribe to the magazine, one could get it for free, or if we had a child under seven we could get it for free, or if we danced seven times around the table we could get it for free....no, I don't think that was it. But somehow you could get a deal on the magazine. I remember saying "I'll just buy it! I need it! My kids need it! We UUs need it to be there, I can support it!" UU & Me, back when it was even a stand alone magazine.
For a few years I think my mother actually gave it as a gift to my kids. I remember sitting on the floor of my kids' bedroom reading stories from UU & Me. It was a great magazine. I remember the stories about Raychel. I remember the time they talked about how we say "and service is our prayer" at the beginning of the service, and my church didn't--but then I moved here and we did. It remember hearing it and thinking "Oh! Just like in UU & Me! Cool!"
When I became a Religious Educator, I bought compiations of UU & Me for our Stories for All Ages in my congregation. Just this week, I pulled up old issues to help me plan a fun game day for this Sunday. Just this week. Just a few days ago. Now it's going away.
Last year the lovely editor of UU & Me, Betsy Williams, put out a call for events that churches do that kids love, and I responded. I called in a youth to take pictures and our Un-Birthday Party was featured. Right in UU & Me. Wow. When it came out I held up the copy of UU World and UU & Me for our congregation to see. They applauded! I was deeply honored to be a part of something that was such a part of me.
I know times are tough. I know we need to pinch the pennies and squeeze the belts and make due with less. I know. I do. But.....
I will miss you UU & Me. We all will. A lot. Good work, Betsy and all of you who made it happen. It was a wonderful resource for many, many families for years. You made a real difference in my life and the lives of lots of us; the UU parents out on the front lines.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
And then I had to rush home and see little Noodles. She spent a little time in the kennel while my husband ran to the grocery store, but look what else he got! New chewies! So Noodles doesn't need to chew on checkers pieces.....or retainers.... any more! Oh well, we're much more dog proofed now. She likes to sit on her princess throne in the sun and chew on a chewie. Who wouldn't? Do they make them in vegetarian pig skin? I might just try it.
And someone has noodled her way right into my dear husband's heart. Look at all the work you can get done with a fur ball of love on your lap.
See? It's easy! Just snuggle until she goes to sleep with her chin on the table and there you go! The perfect work environment!
And really, this is what Noodles the dog thinks would be the best solution for that darn kennel.
I love having a little wiggly fur ball in the house! Just love it. Everyone should go get a little dog, just remember to lock up all the retainers in the house! Yep. Love it.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I knew that if I just went browsing a the local shelter I would come home with a very large, very old dog with behavior problems who was on major medication. My heart is still so raw, I wouldn't have been able to say "no" to big brown eyes and hopeless stories. But this time in the pet market we have some specific needs: I don't think I could handle losing another dog anytime soon, so an old dog was not a good idea. I live with four males. I need a little female energy in the house, so a girl dog was a must. And our lives are so far flung and will probably become more so as the kids grow up and move away, so a dog that could easily travel with us was also important--under 15 pounds so she could fit under the seat of a plane was my benchmark. Picky.
We wound up going through Petfinder and found a little black furry angel ball. We brought her home yesterday and she's already claimed us as her family. Our oldest son said "She's gonna think she doesn't need her legs anymore, you all are carrying her around so much!" So? We gave her a bath, she was "supposed" to sleep in her crate last night but it never even made it in from the garage. She slept with us. In the morning it was just the two of us up, getting ready for work, and she was whining, looking around. I think she knew that there were other people that were supposed to be here, but she didn' t know yet where to look for them. So I took her up stairs and showed her where they were sleeping. Everyone got woken up with a wiggling fur ball bounding on them and licking their face! "OH! THERE you are!" It's been heavenly.
I knew that I needed a dog in the house, but I didn't realize how much everyone else does, too. I can't remember the last time I've seen my husband smile and laugh so much. And I see some "My Dog Skip" type moments with the youngest two. Even the oldest who isn't much of an animal person says "cute little dog" when she tickles his ankles with her whiskers. She's a love, noodling her way right into everyone's heart.
Never underestimate the power of a warm little fur ball of love! Life's good!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The youngest son's play was a smashing success last night. The middle schoolers chose the play, cast the play, did costumes and sets and worked like crazy. And last night they shimmered in the spot lights! People guffawed! People clapped not out of politeness but because it was really good! And our child? Yep, the bumbling Prince Charmeless, thief.
Middle Son won Tae Kwon Do tournament number three--in a row. He has been worried that the people he's been training with are bigger and have longer reach than he does. But speed and sheer force of determined will won out. He's limping around today from some tough hits, but he has a nice big trophy and bragging rights for a while longer.
We get to go meet this little dog today to see if she'll be a good fit with our family. Oh please oh please oh please oh please. Her name? Noodles. Oh, please!
Three Good Things
Thursday, May 14, 2009
"Hey!" I said, "You had to look at me to see if I was old enough to buy wine!"
"I'm 42, that's two times old enough! You made my day, you totally made my day."
He shrugged, handed me my reciept and said "you look good."
Poor deluded man. But, I'm still smiling.
Monday, May 11, 2009
But they're my family and I love them and they are l o v e l y.
And not at all in a healthy mental state of being! They're fighting over who can grab each other's elbows. And they're holding each other in these Tae Kwon Do holds that can break each other's arms. And during quiet family times they'll yell out "penis!" and then another one will yell the same thing. It's called the "penis game".
I really need to get a FEMALE dog in the house right now. Now. Like right now! Female, girl dog.
And did you know that the floppy part of your elbow is called a wenis? It's not really, but if you lived in my house you would have long and impassioned conversations about it. Yes you would.
Oh it's a wild ride. And nope, I would not trade it for one second of normalcy. Not one.
But I am getting a girl dog.....wonder if the Humane Society is open at 11 pm?
Happy Birthday to me. And thank you for these boys. Amen, again.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Yep. Living with teenage boys. The testosterone drips off the walls. Drips.
I had a fun morning at church. Michael scanned the pictures from the Robert Munch book Love You Forever, and we showed them on a big screen as I read the words. I taught the congregation a little melody I wrote to go with the song the mother sings:
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
I played a very simple accompaniment on the guitar and we sang all together. The book has some fun humorous parts, like the naughty boy who always says bad words when grandma comes over and the wild teen and the picture of the mother driving across town with a ladder on her car so she can climb into the son's room and rock him if he's really asleep. The congregation laughed. The mother is good though, even when she thinks she lives in a zoo she still crawls into his room at night and if he's asleep she picks him up. She rocks him back and forth back and forth back and forth and sings. We turned the lights down, people sang together, I could see many, many tears on the faces of our loved ones. And I almost coudn't go on when the mother gets older. But I did, and we did. It was quiet and dark and filled with love for our little ones in the room whether we were related to them or not.
We also had a baby blessing, one of the little ones just three weeks old. What a gift to be able to participate in that deeply meaningful ritual with families. And now some of the babies that I did my first baby blessings with are almost three. Oh put a book on their heads and tell them to stop this growing up thing. Please.
Our older elementary kids skipped right past their story and experimented with dry ice for the whole morning. They had a great time, engaged, took responsibility for safety and wore their gloves and safety glasses the whole time. They had fun together and that was a huge success. Our little ones had fun with I Love You Sun, I love You Moon and We Are Saved by Something Green, our middle schoolers explored ethical eating at Pike's Place market. Our congregation held it's second annual Frog-squatch extravaganza rummage sale with Frog-squatch the mascot.
I hope it was successful. I'm trying to minimize the things I own, I have all I need, and I have enough volunteer hours in this year so I stayed far, far away.
My family pampered me for Mother's Day. Even the songs played on the ipod in the car reflected Mother's Day. Norah Jones? Mama Mia? Total sacrifice on my boys' part!
We had a perfect picnic at Alki Beach. Salmon and brie and capers and Peligrino. We came home and I had a nice little nap. I worked all afternoon, then we had amazing burgers with every thing, and grilled veggies and brown rice. The guys showered me with gifts, including the good garden tools we can use to weed our hill! Ha, their own demise......cackle-snort-giggle. My boys picked out a great ipod player I can use while I soak in my lovely tub of bubbly water, and my husband got me silver hoop earrings just like the ones Kate from Jon and Kate plus 8 wears, in WHITE GOLD! I feel spoiled rotten! I am spoiled rotten.
Or really, probably what it is, well you know...
thank you. amen.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
This year we have a musical theater production of Seussical Jr. This is twice as long as anything we've ever done. We had try outs and a team of people who cast it in the fall. We've built amazing sets and set pieces drawing on the talents of our graphic artists and engineers. Our costumes look to be done by professional designers. And our advanced drama class is doing a production that is all dialogue and it's an hour and half long, it has beautiful sets painted by one of the actors, lovely costumes and a dedicated team of sound designers.
My youngest is in both plays. My oldest son is the assistant director for Seussical, and though he denies it my middle son is the assistant director for the Sleeping Beauty and the Beast performance and he does stage crew for Seussical.
(Horton and Gertrude....you should see these two play "sniper" against each other with nerf dartguns......not so much this affectionate)
There's been DRAMA around our drama. We need microphones. Some of our kids are little, with little voices and the places we preform are big. Even though we're all in the same school district, we can't use their wireless mics. We might damage them and they are super expensive. So we've been fundraising all year. Soup lunch after bulb sale after coupon book after bake sale. Super expensive. When you put children and money and opportuntities together you get near people's senstive spots, near their hearts. Tempers have flared. Meetings have been less than pleasant. It's a he said-she said-I heard-who said mess.
But here's the thing; we must not be too dysfunctional. There was a big talent show marathon day with an outing afterward, and hey.....we all got along. Yesterday was a four hour practice for one show followed by a three hour practice for the other. We just compared anxiety dreams and ran for coffee. No trauma, and (snort) no drama!
I think this is what living in community is. We all care, we feel strongly and sometimes speak strongly. And then we move on. I guess this is healthy, loving community. Good stuff for our kids to see.
(JoJo and the Cat, who will be at a birthday party later today with Horton and Gertrude......we are lucky, and check it out--of these four leads, three are mixed race. We really love our school!)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
1. Religious Education Leadership School taught me about the systems that do exist in churches and the systems that can exist in churches. I had read pretty extensively about systems theory prior to RELS but the way it is presented and the context it's given have allowed me to have a much deeper understanding of how my congregation actually functions and how it could potentially function. I can see a difficult situation coming and work to change things so we have less trauma.
2. At RELS I learned about being a leader. Now I've always been a leader. I was even a team captain at patrol captain camp when I was 11! But I learned about stepping into this role and about the implications of enacting that leadership in our congregational community. I notice that as well as the LREDA leadership positions I've been asked to fill in the years since RELS, I feel more comfortable in my role as a church leader and a professional Religious Educator. That confidence has allowed me to take big steps in our program that I'm not sure I would have taken. Good steps, things that have helped us grow by 15 more children in those two years (Like hiring teachers and creating a 2-3 year old class)
3. I made continental connections in the Religious Education community. While I appreciate my PNWD colleagues a great deal, to know people from all over North America expanded my understanding of how RE can work. It expanded my base of colleagues to reach out to with questions and for advice. And I learned just from hearing how things are done in Florida and Rhode Island and Colorado. This doesn't sound like a big thing, but you can compare it to being a well traveled person. You don't really understand about other cultures until you've been in them, and you're a better person for it.
4. Learning about Theology, Communication Skills, Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression/Multi-Culturalism (AR/AO/MC) and UU History. It was almost like a Renaissance Module on each topic, with truly excellent faculty presenting.
5. The last thing that I always get from time with colleagues is renewal and inspiration. This is vital in keeping us from leaving the profession of Religious Education. Helen Bishop, the dean of the school, uses music as her spiritual practice. At my RELS we all sang all the time--and made a cd of the songs we learned. I listen to that cd when I have decided that I'm resigning and that someone else is just going to have to finish the year, or start the year, or continue the year. Or figure out who is bringing flowers. Or recruit volunteers to teach or bring soup or whatever! It brings me straight back into beloved community. I remember that I love my work, and that it is really all worth every tough moment. I'm so thankful for that touchstone. This deep experience of learning and sharing and growing is much more powerful than GA, or a Renaissance Module or other things I've been to (I've not been to Star Island RE Week or The Mountain). The work we do is difficult work, and I am not sure I'd have stayed without the sustained week long experience of RELS.
For more information check out the PNWD website.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I want bacon.
I've been a vegetarian for about six, no seven years. I really don't miss meat. Sometimes, like a few months back when I ordered clam chowder at Spud, I accidentally eat bacon bits or something, it's fine. I'm not tyrannical about not eating meat. I just don't want to, mostly.
Except for now.
I think it's a microwave splatter that keeps getting warmed and wafts it's fatty pigness all over my house at the very worst times. A few months ago I started "circular" shopping. Hitting all the really good deals in town, finding them in the circulars. (btw, they come on Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday here in Seattle) I sometimes make a meal out of what's on sale. If I can get two pounds of bacon for five bucks, well then I'm making a breakfast-dinner. The last bacon I bought was maple brown-sugar bacon. Let me tell you, it's evil. We cooked it all up, and despite my warnings about super nitrates, I think someone (no one who actually lives here of course or at least not that they will admit) warmed some up in the micorwave. I think it might have splattered. And with my husband working out of town and my work and school and kid schedule maybe housework is something that other people get to do and all. So it smells like maple-y bacon every time someone uses the microwave.
I have a friend who was a vegetarian for years. When she was studying to be a physician, the more she learned, the less she wanted to eat meat. Years went by. She worked through pregnancy and birth and years of breastfeeding as a veggie. She was committed. Until the morning that her mother-in-law made bacon. Now at her house you can have a hamburger that her husband made for the kids and they didn't want. It's free range, it's hormone free. But it's cow. They're omnivores again. All because of.....
Maybe I need a month with a commune that has no meat and no facebook. Maybe I need to slow things down (HOW EXACTLY!?) maybe I need my husband to find a job that isn't this one or at least isn't out of town this much. What I really do not need though, is of course....
Crispy, sizzling, hot and maple-y bacon. Not at all. Please! No bacon.
Monday, May 4, 2009
But while the sun was still pushing through the clouds I was outside with our little friend who is very nearly two now. Peter was with me and we were just gladly following the little one around. She's so sweet and grown up now. I can hardly believe how big she's getting. We found some pretty flowers blooming near the front door of our school. I lifted her up and we picked a branch. We smelled them, " 'mell 'em?" "mama, 'or mama" so we picked another branch for mama. And as we turned she held them out to Peter. Peter made his "cute baby" face and leaned forward to smell them.
Peter's face went completely blank. He looked at me and I could see what he was seeing. Until he was almost 5 and we moved Peter spent hours climbing our huge lilac bush, way up into the tops of the branches. Through his expression, I could see the leaves in the breeze that he would see from the old lilac tree. I could hear the neighborhood kids calling and laughing. And I could smell the lilacs.
Funny how a scent can take you right back and put you in the body you had when you knew that smell.
I miss my four-year-old Peter. He misses his lilac tree.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
A friend shared a story from her childhood, her mother told her that the croaking out in the pond was coming from frogs.....and my friend was convinced that it was one really huge frog out there in the pond making all that noise. She was terrified! What we adults see as facts and precautions can be scary for our young ones.
How can we help our young ones feel safe? How do we walk the line, not inciting fear but acknowledging feelings?
Here's a start:
1) Teach your child how to wash their hands to get the most germs off: lots of soap, warm water, and rubbing the suds on your hands for as long as it takes to sing the ABCs. (My grandmother used to say make the suds so thick it looks like white kitten paws.)
2) Do you have a family emergency plan? Use this as a good excuse to make that plan. Taking action empowers us and a confident parent helps a child feel safe.
3) Keep family routines as constant as possible. Don't have family routines and rituals? Create some!
4) Be informed! Check out the CDC website and your local Health Department website.
5) Listen. Play with your kids whether that means play-doh or X-Box, spend time together and listen for clues to what's going on with their inner lives.
6) Laugh. Watch funny movies, play Mad Libs, buy silly string. Laughter relieves stress.
5) Talk. Get support from friends and family and your faith home if you are having big fears about a pandemic.
6) Make it fun. Watch this video, play dracula sneeze or sneeze-in-your-shirt!
7) For older kids, try this comic book about pandemic flu.
8) Buy cool tissue holders and send kids out the door with a couple of loose tissues tucked into pockets.
9) ....and you can make funky 'hanitizer' bottles, too. (thanks Little Birdie Secrets!)
10) And the most important thing? Hold your kids close, or as close as those teenagers will let you and let them know that we adults will do everything we can to keep them safe!
(Cross posted at Westside UU Congregation Religious Education)
Friday, May 1, 2009
I went to the zoo yesterday. I had been so touched that my 12 and 14-year-old kids wanted to go to the zoo with me on a group field trip with our homeschool-school. That is until one of the 8th graders pointed out that they'd be missing classes at school! Hunh. I'm a little slow, sometimes.
But it wasn't really only about missing classes. It was about being outside, and spending a day with friends. And checking in with the animals.
I spent the day walking the longest "thank you" prayer I've ever known. Our school is a K-12 parent partnership program with about 100 kids total enrollment. We're homeschoolers. We have no idea how to walk in a line, we walk in small clumps heads bowed together to chat, or giggle wildly or push and shove, depending on our stage in life. Many of us have known each other for years and years. We trust each other, we lean on each other. The kids know that even though that little five-year-old isn't their brother, he's a friend's brother and he might need a boost to really see the hippos. The boys and girls talk and laugh together. The older kids hold doors for the younger kids and no toddler ever tires a mom's arms becuse there are a dozen middle school boys and girls who are happy to carry her, too.
Lunches are shared. Water is shared. Hand sanitizer is shared. Someone starts talking like Jack Sparrow and soon the whole crew of kids have cheezy english accents.
Yesterday was the last day school groups could buy the group tickets for the zoo. There were dozens and dozens of busses lined up outside the zoo. And for me it was a stark contrast. I watched our kids and I watched those groups. Our adults had the same orange "Chaperone" stickers and our kids had the same drive to see everything. We had a bigger age range of course, from our newest little brother who is probably about six-weeks-old to a group of eigth graders who will be 15 in the fall. But the difference in the groups was stark. Yes, our moms and dads were frustrated with the kids who climbed up on the rocks again after being told to please get down, it wasn't safe. And yes our kids sometimes ordered each other around. But the redirection was gentle, our patience supported by the group of parents we happened to be walking with just then. We were there with our community.
I've always felt lucky to have been able to homeschool. But frankly, it's been a commitment that I take seriously enough to make it work. I want my kids to have just this. And if it meant I had to work full time swing shift, well then I did. If it means working 20 hours a week and taking no vacations and driving 12-year-old cars, that's fine. It's so worth it to have days like our day at the zoo.
The icing on the cake happened in the primate area. I was hanging back, watching six kids watch the animals and I noticed--no white kids. All our kids were mixed race. I was with two good women friends who are both white, but our kids were white and Asian and black and native because we're all in mixed marriages. I smiled.
I am happy to live this funky alternative life with it's funky alternative church and our funky alternative school and our funky alternative days. I'm still smiling.