Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I don't know what I did in some past life to deserve the great family I have. Or you know, maybe it's just having H1N1 or whatever this horrible illness is that brings on extreme guilt in my children, but check this out...

...right after they did homework and made lunch and right before they all went for flu shots, my boys picked the four little pumpkins growing in our gardens, and they carved them. The oldest even did some video magic so we could watch "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" while we carved, just like when they were little.

I am a lucky woman. I am gonna have to figure out how to get the flu EVERY year at Halloween.

It is funny though, this year when the boys were carving, and poor Charlie Brown was being bullied by all his friends, and I was picking through the guts for the pumpkin seeds, I had a vision. I remembered Halloweens from the middle years of our family when costumes were everything, and the "haul" of candy was extremely important. And I remembered the early years when cousins had to wash off the scary face paint so the littles woudn't be scared. And I remembered the years before kids when I would carve a pumpkin and yearn for the day I would be a mother.

Here we are, almost out the other end. For a couple of years now our kids have gone to a big Halloween party, and out with friends. They dress up like movie characters that make them look good (sorry kids, you know it's true!) and they are out until late at night.

It's almost here again, the days of carving a pumpkin by myself. But this end is so much better. This end holds the memories of my kids and the fabulous years of trick-or-treating, and negotiating about how much candy is too much, and carving the most amazing pumpkins. This end is good. I step into it with both feet and a big smile.

I really am a lucky woman. A really lucky one.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Raising UU Kids

I'm still sick with the dreaded "Con-flu"--oh man, it's really awful! So just for fun I'm posting something I wrote a while back. Hope everyone out there is healthy and gearing up for a fabulous Halloween!

I serve a wonderful Unitarian Universalist congregation as a Religious Educators. Sometimes on a Sunday morning after the service, I’ll be standing with a few parents, drinking coffee. We watch as their children tear around the fellowship hall with chocolate donut crumbs covering their faces.

The parents shake their heads, cover their eyes and ask me, “How did you do it? How are your children so well behaved?”

I laugh out loud and say “Oh, really, they’re just pretending to be angels!”

And for heaven’s sake, they’re teenagers! They misbehave in completely different ways, now. But then I wipe the smile off my face and try to pass along a few of the things that I’ve finally picked up after all these years of making more mistakes than I ever dreamed were possible.

Step into this raising children stage of your life with both feet, and your whole heart.

Somehow you were called to be a parent and when you signed those adoption papers or you opened that door to your grandchild or you birthed that child; however it happened, there was a moment when you said “YES!” to that call.

Remind yourself that this is the biggest thing in your life right now. Bigger than work or school or busy life; yes, we have to do those things, too, of course. But raising kids is really the Big Top of the circus and sometimes we have to remember that.

So, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, buy a ring with as many intertwined strands as you have children, put a medallion that says “love” in your wallet, whatever works for you, but make it a physical reminder that catches your eye. This helps keep it all in perspective. Oh, and you might want to wear some sturdy boots for that first step.

Claim your kingdom.

You are the grand supreme ruler of your family. Well, you and whatever partner in parenting you are lucky enough to have. Claim that. Yes, of course, you are a kind and benevolent ruler with only your beloved subjects’ best interests at heart. But don’t feel like you always have to get buy-in from your children.

Say “oh, I am so sorry that eating that whole bag of cookies I told you not to eat gave you a tummy ache” and make a sad face, and then pack that little cookie monster in the car and go to grandma’s house anyway. Don’t reason. Don’t argue.

This is why so many Unitarian Universalist children grow-up to be lawyers; we throw logic at them from toddlerhood. Yes, we do trust in the democratic process, and there is an important role for collaborative decision making in family life. This is not it.

You are the ruler, sometimes you really do know what is best and no, you don’t always have to explain it to your children, and even if you do explain it, you don’t have to reach consensus. Swoop in with your grand robes, offer gentle empathy, and then make your grown-up compassionate decision and move on.

Splash in the kitchen sink, clean to the “Bee Gees” and laugh out loud, a lot.

You have to have fun with parenting and family life. It’s hard. It can sometimes be harder than the LSAT and the Boston marathon on the same day. You want to scream and retch and roll on the floor because it’s ripping your intellect right out to watch PBS Kids for one more second.

But you don’t have to! Fill up the kitchen sink, do the “dishes” and splash around. Bake big huge pans of brownies. Dance. Even if you have teenagers. Look at your child with brownie batter in their hair and soap bubbles covering their whole torso, yes, the teenagers, too.

This works really well if you play music that would horrify your children as they grow into the teen years. That makes for so much fun it’s almost too much. “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive….ah, ah, ah, ah…..”

Look into those big happy eyes and the see the silly smile. How can you help but smile, too? And hey, you get a big pan of brownies in the deal.

Use the democratic process.

No, don’t use this in times of trauma or with an urgent dispute. But, if you are deciding which restaurant to go to after a big long day of yard work, or where to go on vacation, then yes. Create a family poll. Have someone present a power point about which computer they want the family to buy and then vote on whether it’s a good idea. If it’s something you are willing to really let go to the vote, then do it.

This is a great experience in life, and sometimes we all find out that what we dearly wished for was not all we’d hoped it would be. That is a powerful experience.

Say, “Oh wow, did I screw-up.”

When you mess up, and yell about things that mean nothing, or make a bad decision or otherwise are very human, then say so. Say, “I’m so sorry”. This is how our children learn to own their own screw-ups. They watch us when we make mistakes. They see, and calculate and then they say “hey, maybe that’s just how I should be. I should say I’m sorry”.

Sometimes the last thing we want is to say “Oh honey bear, I shouldn’t have said that.” Or even “I am so sorry I put all that crabbiness on you, sweet child”. But when we can, on those few sacred moments when we are bigger people and own what we did, we offer the best gift, no gift wrap needed. Say it; say “I’m sorry.” Someday, you might even hear it back.

Go outside.

Spend some time every day under the big sky and if you do it with your whole family, even better. Go for a walk around your block at dusk, walk in the rain, garden, pull weeds, play at the beach when it’s cold and no one else is there. Leave cell phones and other little electronic gremlins in your pocket or back home.

Just be together and notice the snails and leaves and clouds and bugs. Yes, even with your teenagers, even if you have to bribe them with ice cream or fish and chips, do it.

Eat meals together.

No, not every meal all the time, but some of them some of the time. Everyone in the family needs to eat, so why not together? Setting the table and cooking together make the time even more special. Light candles, play good jazz, dim the lights. When you do, even eating beans and rice becomes elegant.

And don’t drill children about homework or cleaning rooms over meals. Treat these dinner companions as if they’re treasured guests. They are, of course. Before you know it they’re grown and off at their own tables.

Give your children real work to do.

Clean the house, dust, mop, make food, clean-up a river bed, give them real chores. Do real things in the real world and count on them to do their part. Yes they will complain, yes they will whine, it’s just noise, ignore it.

Our children get so used to having things done for them that they don’t always learn that the two things dangling from their arms are hands and that they can really help. If you go to the local teen center that serves meals before sending the teens out on the streets for the evening, your child will understand their profound ability to work, and just how important making bean burritos and sweeping up really can be.

Love your kids. I mean really, actively, deliberately; love them.

It’s not always easy. We’re tired; we have grown up problems that overwhelm us. But this one can’t wait. Do things that let your child know you love them. Tell them; say “I love you! I am so glad that you are my child! The day you came into my life was one of the very best days, ever!” Make their favorite food; snuggle.

Be certain that your child knows that you love them with every single cell in your body. No not just love them. Love. It is a part of every breath you take and every single thing you will ever do. You can give in to this. It’s not a psychosis. It’s a state of being and it’s called parenting. Give in. You’ll never regret it.

Go to Church. Just go.

Go as often as you can. Go every week. An intentional religious community has a deep influence on the development of a child and a family. It’s more important than soccer or sleep-overs and it’s worth taking a stand.

When you go week after week you create a history, a tradition. Children need that. At church there are elders and peers, there are people who care about you and your children in particular and there are people who will bring you soup if your dog dies. There is no other way to make the same combination of belief, values and community come together. None. Just go. You will be so glad that you did.

I’ll bet in just a few years the parents from my church who had the little speed demons will be drinking coffee as their teen lounges at a table with church friends and the parent of a donut crumb covered little one will ask them “How did you do it?”, I hope they laugh just a little, smile, nod and pass on a few humble things they have learned about this amazing journey of raising children.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dreaded Con-flu: Top 10 True things about being sick

A couple dozen of my closest colleagues and I have come home from the LREDA Fall Conference and promptly been put to bed. We have fevers and really sore throats. Our lungs hurt and of all weird things--itch! It's the dreaded...

Con-flu! So in my addled state I am writing the Top Ten True Things about being SICK

10. I can watch a whole season of 30 Rock using the instant option on Netflix. Excellent.

9. Having already been gone a week, only an angelic spouse will step up to all the cleaning and cooking alone again. I've ordered a halo for mine.

8. Being sick makes me stupid. What? Oh yeah, can't follow a thought from step one to, wait where do we start again?

7. Coming home with fast deadlines and an illness that makes me stupid seems like it could jeopardize fabulous GA programming out of LREDA. But it won't.

6. When coffee tastes awful, I must really be sick.

5. Just because there was one confirmed case of H1N1 at the conference doesn't mean I have to quarantine myself, does it? Does it? OK, yes it does. ((waves at children))

4. Garlic works on the virus, AND the quarantine.

3. I don't have time to be sick. Why is it we always get sick when we don't have time to be sick? When do we ever have time to be sick? Are these related??!

2. A little dog curled under the covers must have medicinal properties.

1. The number one thing about being sick with "con-flu"? I'm so grateful it hit after I was at HOME!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Where is the 2010 LREDA Fall Conference gonna be?

Hmmm......not quite sure.

Let's see.....I think maybe there's fabulous music. And you know....Jambayala!

And hey! Maybe even some service work! Yep. Oh yeah.


New Orleans.

October 20-26. Do Not Miss It!

LREDA, Beyond Belief

What an amazing day. I had a morning with people who serve their faith by coordinating their regional areas as LREDA Chapter conveners. We talked about how we can work together and where to go next. Very cool.

Then I met with UUA staff members from the congregational life staff group. That was a very interesting conversation. And a very good lunch!

Then after three great hours of working at the registration table and meeting many people, really, like 200 people from the US and Canada, we had our dinner and opening.

I loved the homily from Mr. Barb Greeve. It spoke to so much of what I feel as one of the first from the generation who grew up in this new faith called Unitarian Universalism. He rocks.

And the the Rev. Dr. Thandeka came up and talked to us.

Can you even see her way up there? I was so tired, I was standing at the back of the room hoping for a really fast get away.

But there was no getting out of this one. She told us that really, we have the tools to change this world. We've always had them, right there. The big red button. Just PUSH it! Come ON! Love. Love beyond belief. Beyond Belief.

OK. Got it. If this is 15 minutes of Thandeka, what is a whole morning and Peter Steinke and also phenomenal music going to feel like? Note to self: head may explode.

A very fun night in Providence

The fun thing about working really, really hard for days is that when you get to kick back a little, it's really, really fun!

And then you might get to go see an amazing church that's been around for a reeeaaaaly long time. On the west coast I don't think we have any churches that are this old--except maybe missions.
First Unitarian Church of Providence was gorgeous! The pews actually have little doors that latch from back in the days when you bought your pew, or a little later when you (scandalously!) rented your pew.

The pulpit that blogger James Ford preaches from every Sunday is a whole flight of stairs up. A whole little flight of stairs! Cool. It was beautiful to see, and lovely to stand in the space with my dear LREDA colleagues! What a great day.

And there are more days to come....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LREDA Board meeting--day two!

We had a great day today at our Liberal Religious Educator's board meeting. It was day two of our time together. We know each other a little more, it's really easy to laugh at silly things and we're pretty comfortable together.....kind of like people who might be shipwrecked in an island. Oh no not really! It's a fabulous group.

This morning we met with Mark Hicks, McLean Professer at Meadville-Lombard school for the ministry (one of our two Unitarian Universalist seminaries). He came to talk with us about inclusive ministries and LREDA. He may be a big fancy pants professor, and of course, he is. And he's wicked smart. But he is also so very kind. It felt so safe to talk about racism and marginalized groups and opression with him leading us through it. Wow, that's not easy. I realized I had some anxiety about it coming into this training. The last time I attened anti-racism, anti-opression, multi-culturalism training (ar/ao/mc in UU alphabet soup) I could hardly get myself out of bed the next morning I felt so much shame and guilt. But this time I could almost feel hope for our whole association.

Then in the afternoon we got to spend time with the LREDA Integrity Team, Helen Bishop, Lynn Sabourin, Pat Kahn and Jenn McAdoo. This is a group that does a lot of things, but the most visible this week will be that they help all of us as religious educators remember just what it takes to really inclusive of each other. This is simple stuff, but it's not things that we all remember to do. Things like: keeping the aisles clear so that wheeling people can easily get through. And things like: remembering to invite people to rise in body or spirit. Things like: being sure that there are restrooms that are easy for transgendered folks to use. Simple stuff in theory, but not always so in practice in a big hotel with 260 people. One of the best things I got to do in preparation for this board meeting was to read up on the history of this group. I love history. It's really all just about hearing people's stories. If you've not read it, chase the link and check it out. Interesting stuff.What a committed group of people.

I really enjoyed getting to spend a little (too little) time with them. But we got to have ice cream and desserts to celebrate a birthday in the room, and then after our work together was done, we came into a circle and sang. Wow. Three part haromony! How totally cool is that? Very cool, that's what it is, very cool!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LREDA Board Meets for 14 hours straight!

OK, OK! We didn't really meet for fourteen hours straight through! There were breaks. And we picked a restaurant for dinner that included a nice walk through downtown Providence. But we did start at 9AM and end at 11 PM. It was a great meeting though. How fabulous it is to work with people who can think deeply about what will serve a huge, diverse group of people. And still conspire to grab every "planter" in the place that just happens to look like a chalice for the opening worship on Friday? Great group of people.

We reshuffled some responsibilities to make things a little more streamlined. Looked over re visioning that was done three years ago to check in and see how we're moving forward. And we had all the reports today. That was an awful lot of information. Wow. But the really cool thing is that in represents a whole lot of work from a whole lot of folks. Dedicated, brilliant, giving folks. We are a lucky group of professionals. Beautiful people all.

And the hotel is gorgeous. There are little things, though, to tie in the hotel's history as a Masonic Temple. Given that my congregation meets in a Masonic Temple, its a little weird! Good, but weird!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LREDA Fall Con.....just getting here!

The chase to catch up was swift and crafty this week. Just as I thought I might finally have gotten nearly caught up, taa daaa, another something to-do popped up. But just like a good old fashioned “whack-a-mole” game, I handled all the pop-ups. We celebrated one birthday early and one birthday late and I was nice and early for my flight this morning. I’m used to flying “stand-by” so this whole holding a boarding pass and getting on when my zone was called was pretty amazing. I like knowing that I’m going to make the flight!

As I settled in for the long flight to Philadelphia, I chatted with my seat mate. Yes, she was connecting as well, headed for Florida. Why? For a master’s synchronized swim meet? No way! I swam synchro in high school! And then I coached for 10 years! Yes, I did! Funny, small, weird world! Who else would understand about putting steaming hot knox gelatin in your hair and what it means when the technical routine includes a front walkover and a heron? Weird small, itty bitty world.

The Philadelphia airport was lovely with fun live music and decent lo mein. My flight to from Philly was great, my good friend whisked me away from the airport and we spent a couple of hours catching up. After a little time in my room with my wonderful roomie, I'm ready to turn in. It feels kind of like today never actually happened, and still was packed full of tons of things. All good. All happy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


It was a really good day for our congregation. Here in Washington, we've been fighting some crazy legislation that has us voting to affirm a law that is already on the books in support of equal rights for families of all kinds.

It's making some of us a little frustrated with the system. But leave it to the great minister I work with to pull together a group to make something good happen.

We grabbed a corner just two blocks up from where our congregation meets, and we marched. Not just our little congregation, but a whole interfaith presence.

There were the United Methodists, three congregations from the United Church of Christ. Some folks from the local synagogue were down on the next corner near the farmer's market. I know more than 50 of us all together carried signs and marched. We had kids and elders and even a couple of dogs. What a great real life demonstration that we don't have to believe alike to love alike.

It was a good day.

(the pics include some of the different faith communities represented, a photo of the clergy from the congregations--yes, all female,the minister, our RE chair and me, and my youngest son!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dick and Jane go to LREDA Fall

I love my job. I get to work with a great minister, and a wise congregation. I get to hold fresh babies and chat with surly 13-year-olds (oh, wait, that one is my son.....) but the biggest reason I love my job?


Yep, colleagues who write things like this fabulous blog:

If you are going to the Liberal Religious Educators Association's Fall Conference this is a great primer on what to expect, even if you've been to lots of them, it's still great information about the local culture. If you know someone who is going to LREDA Fall Con, send them to this blog. If you just like to read funny stuff, this is a great blog! My favorite post is about workshops.

"All of the workshops will be good, so if you don't get a seat in one, just move on to the next. It'll be G-d's way of telling you that you need to learn something else.
If you don't believe in an personal-interventional-type G-d, then it's probably just your fault for being late."

Love it!

And oh holy mother of all travel, I'd better at least start thinking about what to pack! LREDA board meets Wednesday at 9 sharp, and I have to fly all the live long day on Tuesday to get there!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today is my middle son's birthday. When your middle child can remember things from a decade ago, it's a sign. (I'm gettin' OLD!) He's such a fine young man, though. I can hardly believe that he grew up in the chaos and shambles of a family life that we've sometimes had in the past decade. But he did. And he is. A fine young man.

Today we went to the Department of Licensing and changed our driver's licenses to reflect our new names. That was done so fast I could hardly believe it, "Tickety-Boo" all done. But then we went to the Social Security Bureau. And they held up some flaming rings for us to jump through. We failed and so we have to go back with some magic incense or maybe a bribe? Is this a dark and corrupt middle eastern country? Remind me? Anyway, I also tried to change the kids' names at their schools. Even our homeschool school needs forty million more steps. Or three, you know. It's not easy.

Today I sent the two oldest boys off to a Youth Conference. Our youth group at my church has pretty much imploded, so the boys attend University Unitarian Church in Seattle. I registered them, paid their fee and added a donation, the eldest drives there every week and on Tuesday nights for OWL. He usually picks up the daughter of a local minister who also needs a home church. Today on the way up I drove, don't want him driving home after no sleep all weekend. And it was kind of the "van of misfits"; you the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph?

(the regular "Island's of Misfits" video did not allow embedding, but this one speaks to me in ways I can't quite explain....just watch!)

I feel like we're saying:

"Hey, here are the kids who don't have a home church because their parent works for a church, and you's kind of hard to make that whole thing work...."

But I think they'll have a great weekend. All three of the youth that were in my van are dedicated Unitarian Universalists. They are committed to the beloved community. And hey, they just want to have fun! They all seemed so amazingly level headed and ready to jump into a difficult situation where they only kind of know what to expect. Well, except the eldest, who could live the rest of his youth at youth cons.....which is just about what he'll do since he turns 18 on Tuesday! He'd be fine walking into a UU Youth rally down south or a youth retreat in Romania. To him, they're all "his people".

All good.

And there we go. Weave it all together and there it is. A life! No doubt. A life. My life.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blustery Days

The wind must be affecting the passage of time here in blustery old October. Whooosh, it goes....flying right on by so fast I can hardly sink my teeth into a minute. Off it goes.

On Monday we all changed our names. The whole family. We went to court and stood and raised our right hands and poof.....all the guys have a new last name, and I just have a slightly different order to my string of names. For the little dog we're just going to do a "common law" change, but it's OK, she doesn't mind. The men all now have the 12th most common Korean surname. It means "leader" in Korean and "half" in Japanese. It's perfect for them. And I am so proud of them for doing this even though it is not easy to manage or easy to explain.

Yesterday we celebrated the middlest son's birthday. He's actually turning 15 tomorrow, but he will be off at his first Youth Con, so we rescheduled. We also went for x-rays because the boy is walking like a 90 year-old-man and got pulled from his soccer game on Sunday because he was clearly in pain. No fractures, but bad shin splints and even a metatarsal splint! This is what a boy with big drive does when he's in three sports--too much! Happy Birthday! Poor kid.

And the ramp up to LREDA Fall Conference is in full swing. It is going to be such an exciting event this year, with Unitarian Universalist Association past president Bill Sinkford receiving the McLean award, and current UUA president Rev. Dr. Peter Morales attending for a while, and our fabulous presenters: Rev. Dr. Thandeka, Rev. Dr. Peter Steinke, and fabulous musician Kevin Tarsa--well and all the regular in house talent we have with our Religious Educator Colleagues, too. So much!

And we just go on....and on...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Today was our first Pet Blessing at Westside UU Congregation. It was lovely, really lovely. And despite the fact that I could hardly speak because I talked about our dear old Emmathedog, the service went pretty well.

But I realized something pretty big.

I have deep, twining connections with my dear congregation.

As I was telling the kids about our good old dog, and our sweet little new dog there were big events in the story that all centered around our congregation.

When I was really sad about losing Emma, one of our young members told me that I'd never really lose her, she'd be in my heart, but that he still missed his old dog, too. That made me feel much better especially that first week.

As I was trying to find a way to help Emma let go of this world and move on, our Story Time teacher gave me the perfect way to honor her, and then to let her go. I would have waited too long if I hadn't had the way to move ahead.

And when she was gone, my friend and fellow RE Council member gave me a book that let me imagine what Emma would have been thinking......and it let me imagine that someday we might invite a new dog into our lives.

Then when it was time to think about a new dog, it was a mom at church who told me about "Pet Finder" and how to look for the right "little" dog, that's where we found our wonder dog, little Noodles.

How would I ever have done this without my church community? Even though it's supposed to be that "I" serve "them" there's a whole lot of "us" going on.

Thank God!

And thank YOU Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Thank you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Top Ten Ways to Like Your Kids

OK, I know I should be practicing the Story for All Ages puppet show for church tomorrow. Or finalizing the meeting notes for the new Story Circle Group. Or going over the information we've gathered about how other churches implement OWL when they're small and have no building. Or even preparing for our first youth group meeting of the year. But I just can't concentrate. I have had such a great day with my family. I was gone for just a few days in San Fransisco with my friends, but I MISSED my family. I missed my kids. And today we were together for almost the whole day. I'm still flying.

And I wonder, how can this be? Everyone laments the teen years; says your kids will drive you crazy, you'll be so excited to get them out of the house. Well, that's all true, sometimes my children drive me crazy. I have threatened to start hiding their shoes from them if they leave them in the front hall once more (I HATE when people do that, we have four official places for shoes to go in the house....tripping me in the front hall is not one of them). And they talk to each other in ways that they would never consider speaking to anyone else, which breaks my heart and makes me want to scream at them to stop hurting each other. This is no perfect house, not even close.

But the secret is; I like my kids. Really like them. They're lovely people, I enjoy being with them, I like to talk to them, I value their opinions and their humor and their commitment to the things and people that matter to them. I miss them when we're not together. Maybe it's some awful co-dependent relationship and I am completely ruining them as "Monster Mama"; in fact, that's probably it. But I'll share the things I think we've done that have helped us build a friendly parent-child relationship despite the fact that we still make them do laundry and mow lawns and floss their teeth and do their homework.

Top Ten Ways to Like Your Kids

10. Treat your kids with respect, and they'll treat you with respect. That's a whole lot easier to like.

9. Talk to the other adults in your life the way you want your kids to talk to you, yes even your annoying neighbor and your crazy Aunt Zelda. Kids watch everything, and copy it. Again, easier to like kind people.

8. Create chunks of time that put you in proximity to your kids, that way you can get to know each other. Tell them you want company at the library, need help choosing pudding at the grocery store, want help picking out the right pizza for dinner at the take out place. Talk about things that interest you and then; shhhh.... listen to what they have to say.

7. Find common interests. Like cars? Go to the car show together. Airplanes? Get french fries and park near the airport and watch planes take-off and land together. Music? Go to lunch time concerts. This builds common bonds that ferry you over rough waters.

6. Play games, unless like me, you hate games. I've learned to play short games, like "I Doubt It" while we wait for our food at a restaurant. But my husband plays poker and cribbage with the boys and while I'm a little green over the snorting laughter they have, playing those games would make me scream.

5. Be honest. But not too honest. Say "Yes, I'm crabby and having a really bad day", but don't dump on your children. I've learned this one from my oldest who was kind enough to explain it to me. He's right. Growing up has enough trouble built in, no need to add to it beyond a simple explanation.

4. Tell your kids that you appreciate them. Simple right? We tell our kids we love them, that we're proud of them, but do we get down to the core? Not too often. "I really appreciate your sense of humor, thanks for making me laugh" "Thanks so much for noticing that, you are so perceptive" "Hey, the way you helped your friend reminds me of just how very kind you are." Tell them!

3. Laugh together. Watch funny videos on youtube or old comedies from your childhood. Go see puppies or kittens who fall all over each other. Do Madlibs. Relax, enjoy. Childhood is really, really short. Trust me, my tiny baby turns 18 in a very few days. It's good to have memories of laughing together because if you're like me, you know they will have memories of you yelling at them!

2. Deal with your adult issues so that you are likable. Not sleeping enough? Figure that out. Stuck in a dead end job? Either accept it or figure out how to have a new job. Hate your house? Fix it or move. Living with an eternal crab will suck the joy out of a kid, and a crabby kid is a no fun.

And the number one way to like your kids?

1. Keep all the mess and busyness and chaos in perspective. It is a huge gift to share the life of a child! In about a week and a half they're going to move out and win the Nobel Peace Prize just like President Obama. So don't forget to relax and enjoy the ride!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alone in San Fransisco

Well, of course you're never alone in a city. It's one of the nice things about cities, I'm sitting in the Ferry Terminal building, drinking tea, watching the ferries come and go (no jokes about "ferries in San Fransisco please!) and sharing a table with other people. No one I know, just regular people.

The beautiful sunny days have given way to what I think is normal Northern California autumn weather; gloom.But it's just right for today. Everyone went home. One friend left for Florida last night on the redeye. And this morning the other two hopped in a zippy little Prius cab and headed for the
airport, going home to Minnesota.

This is why I feel so alone.

We had a spectacular trip. There was way too much shopping for me and not nearly enough for someone else. We ate a lot of great food, and also had dinner and breakfast in our room. We were gone from our hotel for 11 hours straight yesterday, and stayed in all of Sunday night.

Balance. And it was so good.

The best parts were:

The cable car to Fisherman's Wharf

The Japanese Tea Garden

The labyrinth at Grace Cathedral

And of course....just being together.

Stupid "have-to-go-back-to-real-life" craziness.

I know today more than I knew before that I am deeply blessed to have sisters that aren't related to me. Friends who are family; these amazing women in my life. Thanks girls. I really don't know who I would be without you.

And if you want to see the antics four forty-somethings can get up to when given a camera with video options? Check this out...

Monday, October 5, 2009

The best little life ever....

San Fransisco is beautiful. I know that no one else has EVER noticed this, but today, I did.

And I had to take a lot of pictures, and sometimes it was complicated. think--think--think

We had the best dinner ever at a fabulous Mexican restaurant.

And we spent some time at the water, by the Bay Bridge.

And here the flowers are STILL blooming. It's gorgeous. And a little warm and lovely.

This is the ferry terminal.....and I absolutely must go back here very, very hungry. Because the food here looked to be AMAZING! Yum.

It's a great trip, I'm so lucky. And I never want to go back to regular life!

Well......maybe after a couple of days.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


California.....well, maybe not dreaming. Panic driven last minute packing? Oh yeah. That's it.

I leave tomorrow for a girls' trip to San Fransisco. I'm in that place right now of trying to figure out just why I thought this was a good idea.....I mean, really. Here I am frantically trying to tie up all the loose ends for work, and home and family and little doggy day care. Why don't I just stay home? It's so much easier.

Wait, what? Stop the Beach Boys music. What?

I'll give you three reasons why we don't stay home:

1. Girlfriends are the very most important thing for survival in the world. More important than food and water and sleep because without girlfriends why would life even be WORTH living anyway?

2. When you need to be horrible and awful and still loved, only your girlfriends can make that happen. And they do it with chocolate and flowers and wine.

3. Life is a fleeting butterfly that moves on silently before we even know it was really there, so we have to take time for the things that matter. Yes, family and home matters and little dogs and their daycare matter. But we wife/moms matter, too. And the best way to know this is to go away, and to become more of who we really are, and then to come back. It's so much easier to remember who we really mean to be after a girls' trip.

I'm feeling a little sorry for myself, because my girlfriends are already a few days into the trip. But I'll finish up my responsibilities tomorrow, and I'll head to the airport and catch the last few days of the trip. And whatever good there is, I will catch up on it and soak it in like the sun and the moon and the wind.

California um... almost ready to dream?

Oh yeah.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A little advice for parents about church

A very little bit, OK? Not a big chunk of advice. More like a chocolate chip sized morsel.
Go to church because you want to go to church. Find a church that meets your spiritual needs and feeds your spirit.

Find a place with sermons that lift you right out of your seat, and music that makes you soar. Go where "your people" are, whoever they are (political? social? cause? whatever...), and where you feel "I'M HOME" as the closing hymn rolls.

If you come to church because you think you "should" or because your kids "need" religious education, you'll just feel that church is one more parenting chore you have to knock off your list.

And that's teaching your kids something other than how to really "do" church.

This time of year we get a lot of "stealth" visits to our church. Someone, sometimes a man but often a woman will stop by the Family Ministry table or a church leader will walk up to me and introduce a lone visitor. I get a couple of questions and sometimes, if I feel a nice affinity I say

"So is this your stealth visit?"

Usually they chuckle "Yeah, I'm here checking it out. I don't want to drag my kids to a lot of churches."

YES! Do this! I totally agree! See if this is a good church for your family!

But when you're deciding, don't forget one really important family member: YOU!

Visit, research, check out all the programming for kids. See if the church is serious about serving families. Read all the materials you can find on the website, in the hand outs, from the classes. But if the services leave you cold? Your kids are going to feel that church is one more thing that you do FOR them.

The truth is that church is really best when it's done in community; when we come together to talk about the big questions and wonder about what the answers might be, together. Children, adults, teens, elders, leaders--ALL of us.

When people make their "stealth" visit to our church I tell them about the other communities around. I say "if you need more 'God' try one of the three UCC churches in our area" and "if you really want a larger UU church there are two big ones pretty close by...."

I mention that we're a community who really cares about each other but we also ask a lot of each person. There aren't very many of us, usually you have to pull a little more than your own weight.

So, parents: come, visit, see if a church feels like a good fit for all of you. And remember that you count, too.

I hope you'll come visit my church, and pick up our materials, and find that you really are home.

And then I hope you'll check off about 25 boxes on your volunteer interest form! Because we have got a huge, amazing and smokin' program going and holy mother of all cows we cannot do this without some amazing help!

Or you know....maybe you'll do this at your local UU congregation. It's all good!