So, what IS your opinion on raising kids?

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This seems to be the age where EVERYONE has an opinion and they all want to blog about it. Wait! What am I doing? Well, everyone but me is highly opinionated and wants to blog about it. Now that I’ve outed myself, here is my opinion:

I have “liked” this group on FB called Free Range Learning and it’s dedicated to homeschooling and unschooling and, for the most part, she posts some good ideas or tips on things to do with your kids. But more often than not she posts these articles about the latest research that links, well, everything she doesn’t believe in to how awful children will turn out if a family uses these practices.

Today the article is how spanking is linked to obesity. Then there is a smattering of comments from women who apparently don’t spank. So here’s my issue: I find sites, groups or movements like crunchy ‘mamas’ (why are they always called mamas?) that are devoted to raising kids in a specific way to be very judgmental and graceless. The main comments on spanking and obesity were, “low income and uneducated families usually spank and will usually have obese kids anyway” (I’m reducing all of the comments into this one sentence, of course). And this is the kind of BS that drives me crazy!!!

Moms already feel like they are failing  and they wonder if they are totally screwing up their kids due to all of the research out there, so why do other moms feel like they need to create sites to make them feel better about how they are raising their kids and shame others for doing it poorly?

Also, this research gives people more proof that “If your kid is fat, it’s likely that you spanked. You really should have nursed more, slept with your kid, wore them on you all the time, never had taken them to McDonald’s, never used a stroller and never circumcised.”

The reason I even read these sites is to find moments where they are celebrating their children and finding ways to encourage other moms rather than post stupid research off THE INTERNET (It’s the internet, people!) Research that has no grounding other than it presents a good argument and articulates a well written debate. Also, posting this “research” presupposes that all of the rage in kids and poor behavior is always linked to parents doing something wrong. Damn! Has your child never acted out in public, done something aggressive or thrown a fit? I thought those moments were sort of normal and even healthy.

I really have nothing against attachment parenting, crunchy parenting or the like. That’s basically how we’ve raised our kids anyway. But I have an issue with parents banning together and forming groups that judge and alienate other parents for doing it wrong. Most moms feel isolated already; feel like we’re doing it on our own and still wonder, almost daily, if our kids are going to grow up to be the next Unabomber.

So, my advice? Well, thank you for asking…..Stay away from those articles. They are ubiquitous on FB and besides, that research is more likely founded by a college undergrad who doesn’t have children anyway so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m sure that 90% of parenting is intuitive. Find a book or see a counselor or take a class to get some tools to get you over a hump. But if you’re paying attention, and most of us are, the answers will come.

It’s not even the articles that bother me so much. It’s all of the self-righteous comments that people leave after the article that really irritate me. I read a crunchy mamas site that started the circumcision debate and one women’s chime-in was, “I saw a boy flipping out at the store the other day and I knew that all the rage was because his mom likely circumcised him”. Oh barf! Get over your totally awesome and perfect parenting-self, mama! Embrace your fellow moms, even those who spank and sit at the park together, under the trees, and watch your kids play. They need a break from you too.

Here’s to raising kids and embracing all of our imperfections while doing it….sometimes doing it poorly!

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Art on the Ave

 

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Today was Tacoma’s annual Art On The Ave festival and, once again, it didn’t disappoint. I took the kids by myself (Matt was working) and they actually did really well. Oliver only wandered off twice and the second time I told him I’d take us all home if he did it again. That seemed to do the trick. Man, what must it be like to be a highly driven and highly curious kid in a rich, overly stimulated setting?

Art on the Ave 2013

Art on the Ave 2013

 

They were able to pound out some leather key chains, and chisel their names on metal, eat some handmade, gourmet popsicles from Hilltop Pops and ask me every five minutes if I could get them something from every single vendor booth we passed. Speaking of the vendors….I love to see artsy t-shirts but Oliver kept stopping by the tables where the shirts said things like “Pitch my tent” or “Are you staring at my boobs?”. He wanted to get the tent pitching one and I had to just buckle down and explain why it wasn’t appropriate for a kid to wear.

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I love our little art community in Tacoma and it’s great to see so many people come out for this  community event. We even had sunny skies and 80 degrees F. Last year Chloe watched the Tacoma Derby Girls have a go on the square and Oliver made buttons and crafts at tons of booths. The first year we came was, meh. But the last two years have been fantastic. Well done, Tacoma. Now it’s time for the Fall Free For All to rock it out a bit better.

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Daddy play dates

When you think of play dates do you think of moms getting together with their wee ones, sitting around the table knitting and eating scones, talking about life and what have you? Do you envision kids running around with food and drink crusted around their mouths and foul-smelling nappies in their nether regions as 18 month olds stretch and pull the toys away from one another screaming, MINE! while mommys sip green tea and talk about the economy?

When you think of play dates do you think of knitted beer hats and strong coffee while little girls play with dolls and the dads talk about bikes and wearing said knitted beer hat to festivals in order to get free beer? I know that’s what I think of. Matt has had a few stay at home dads who like to bike over to let our kids play together. I showed up yesterday and felt immediately like this was a play date of its own kind. How right I was….

Ye old Rainer Beer. Notice the fig newton next to the hat. Must have snacks

Matt. Maker of said hats. Hand knitted, yo!

Check out more of his awesome hats here:

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Halloween with children

I’ve loved this season so much more since having kids. There was a time that I sort of opted out of Halloween just because it didn’t seem to apply to me anymore. I wasn’t too into dressing up, although I often dressed as Princess Leia when I had my long hair (that was pretty rock!), and I wasn’t going to be one of the ‘big kids’ that you see going around trick or treating with a pillow case full of candy.

After having kids I never knew I would find Halloween to be so much fun! Trick or treating with a little person who is dressed as some sort of fuzzy creature is the best. When Oliver was two we took him out dressed as a fuzzy, green monster and he kept running into people’s homes when they opened the door. He didn’t really understand the concept. It was awesome! Now that the three of them are dressing up and actually understand that they receive free candy for knocking on a door, they are beyond stoked to head out into the cold air.

I know that there are a lot of people who believe Halloween has some sort of evil attached to it due to it’s history and, although I do respect them for it, I totally don’t understand their fears or what they feel they might be exposing their kids to with allowing them to participate in Halloween. Don’t we give meaning and power to inanimate things? A holiday, in itself, is no more evil than money is as an inanimate object. I’d be more concerned with the message we send them in dropping 50clams down on a Halloween costume for them every year. These days we’re more of a consumer culture than a pagan culture (we don’t seem to worship trees and fairies as much).

Every year there seems to be less and less kids out as parent’s growing fears of poisoned candy and razor encrusted apples seem to take over. “Let’s make it a safe holiday and all go Trick or Trunking!!!” Yes, it’s true. You can pull up in a parking lot while car’s trunks open up and the adults give all of the children candy out of their car. I thought we were teaching them not to take candy from adults in cars! If you don’t live in a neighborhood and this is your only option, I get it. But for safety reasons? I keep hearing that, statistically, Halloween is one of the safest times of the year for kids; they travel in groups and most of the neighborhood is already opening their door every few minutes to pass out blessed candy.

I took the kids out Monday and talked to our neighbors, saw children running around that go to Oliver’s school, watched parents out with their kids in their homemade costumes and was amazed with how many grown adults stayed home all night, sat out on their porches and talked to all the kids that came up for free candy. People got really into different ways to make it entertaining for all the kids. It felt so rad to be a part of a neighborhood with neighbors that we know or are still getting to know. It’s like the one time of the year where it’s ok to go door to door and have a two minute conversation with your neighbors while your child steals their candy. I loved it! I took our kids out with the intention of hitting only our street but we were having so much fun I kept going block after block. Then I waited until they slept to take out all of the Snickers and Almond Joys. Mommy tax!

There are even a lot of people in our own neighborhood who go to the nice, posh North End to gather candy, maybe thinking it’s somehow safer over there because the houses are nicer. Well, it’s all candy, folks! There just happen to be a lot more kids and families in our part of town so I saw TONS of people out all night long. It was a blast and I already have plans for taking them out next year. Here’s to enjoying a favorite of every child’s memory! Happy Halloween!

Is preaching at funerals a bizarre tradition?

Photo by Tracie Bonjour

My friend Caleb is a funeral director and a writer and he’s just  posted a hot topic of discussion  regarding whether or not pastors should preach a gospel message or salvation message at funerals; namely, eternity is upon the departed so get your own life right in God’s eyes. Right now the topic of where people will spend eternity is huge considering Rob Bell’s new book, that I have not yet read, Love Wins. Boy, this poor guy is being slammed out of the evangelical window right now for some of his comments in the book regarding hell and whether or not a loving God creates an everlasting hole of perpetual torment for ‘unbelievers’. If you ask me this sounds more like a night out at Denny’s. With this in mind I do think it’s timely that Caleb posted his thoughts on preaching salvation at funerals since eternity and whether or not hell is for the heathen is such a huge discussion point.

I’ve been to funerals that were heartbreaking but precious as we all grieved the loss of another life. Then I’ve been to funerals where I kept wondering who this stranger of the departed is and why he’s saying the stuff he’s saying. I know a lot depends on what the family wants to be said, the same is true at weddings. I’ve even been to a few weddings where the couple actually wanted the unbelieving family members to know that time is a-tickin’ and they better take stock of their lives soon. Then we all had cake with butter creme frosting and boogied to Michael Jackson songs. Mazel Tov!

I personally believe that death is an intriguing part of the human experience and that we as Westerners seem to want death to be wrapped in a tidy bow for a variety of reasons that I don’t fully understand yet. Maybe grieving families want the attenders to know there is a heaven and a hell and that, as we face the death of a loved one, we need to keep our own vulnerability in front of us. Maybe we hand the keys (so to speak) over to our pastor to officiate the service because this is the role of the pastor in our church; a leader, a shepherd, a guide to the flock, anointed to bring a gospel message, one who orates better than the rest of us?

I guess at the heart of it I find preaching salvation at a funeral to be in poor taste considering death is such a huge loss for people to walk through as it is. I believe death has its beauty and also has the potential to draw out the strength and connectedness in an entire community so, in my opinion, when you have a pastor in front preaching about heaven and hell you lose this dynamic element of mourning that a community needs to experience in order to move forward. In this case someone’s death has become a platform to deliver another Sunday service message and a funeral isn’t that, it’s much more exceptional than a church service.  I guess it can serve as a gauge in reminding us of our own brevity in a short life but, in general, as far as the amazing event of a funeral goes, I think the preaching is better left for Sunday morning. And again, by preaching I mean letting the participants know “there is eternity and we will spend it somewhere so where will you spend it?” end quote

Could it be that preaching a message of salvation at a funeral, by the pastor, is a tradition that not too many people question these days; sort like wearing black at a funeral or wearing white at a wedding, or shaking a stick at a witch under a full moon (ok, that last one is just made up)?  Does preaching belong at an event as profound as a funeral?

God Bless This Feast

Easter

 

There is an  online literary magazine  that I subscribe to, and LOVE, whose latest issue is about feasting. Reading the poems and prose in this issue has brought back a lot of memories from Wisconsin. Some days I really miss our community dinner crew. Now that there is some distance and time between all of us I feel I have this perspective of how profound and simple our meals together were. I’m pleased to hear that they are all still meeting together, being a loving community, eating and making good food and raising children together. I’m sad we aren’t a part of that anymore and some days I long for another ‘group’ to feast with.

We cooked lamb and drank red wine on a Thursday.

In the Springtime we roasted asparagus and made fresh bread to hold our cured meat.

There was a small farm which gave us ribs and raw milk.

Manuel fried crepes, Brandy tried her luck at her first turkey, Sarah gave us her culture infused into spring rolls and spicy noodles. Tiffany’s desserts….bliss. Something I always looked forward to. Chocolate spread over a sponge cake, silky and brown. I remember the Passover that was our gift from David and the nan and chorizo from Danielle.

Red wine, mojitos and summer ales. Fire side chats, swatting mosquitos while our skin sweated and our hair frizzed in the humidity. We talked about politics, art, children, culture, missions, movies, music, and our own personal spiritual journeys of faith.

What came out of our times together was the sweet smell of feasting. Enjoying and savoring rather than consuming and rushing. Five years of feasting together,  taking time to slow cook the ribs from the freshly killed pig off the Trautman farm. Rolling out the dough by hand. Picking the herbs from our hand grown gardens. Juicing the watermelon to make the adult, summer drinks. Cranking out the noodles made from floury, pale dough and gooey, yellow eggs yolks. While others may eat out of the can, standing over the sink, we wanted it slow, together. Grabbing a snickers bar while you drive is normal these days but the flavor of real food, enjoyed by friends who laugh and yawn together as the night stretches out is rare.

Thank you, old friends for the feasting. I see cast iron skillets and think of you. Red wine reminds me of our winter nights and pork on a stick over the fire makes me think of our summers together. Enjoy the late nights together still. Bon Appetit and God Bless your feast!

Someone give me a HUG

Soooo…. I just had to be dorky and write this title since tonight I went to my first HUG meeting. Sounds like a support group for insecure and lonely people, doesn’t it? It’s an acronym for Hilltop Urban Gardens. A few weeks ago, when I was starting to have a few freak out moments, wondering what the h-e-double hockey sticks we had done moving to the Hilltop, I just decided that I needed to find out what is going on out here in terms of groups to connect with. I went on Facebook and just typed in Hilltop. I found some people actually just started a lot of groups called “Hilltop”. It’s like starting a Facebook group called Texas and hoping that people will “Like” it. Sort of a long shot. Well, I did find HUG in the mix of everything and decided to Like it. Tonight I actually went to the meeting, the very first meeting, and ended up running into a girl I know and also the organizer did a Master Gardener program with my  mom so she knows her, and now me. So reassuring to start running into people who I have a small connection with.

 

This is something I’ve noticed about this area, we all live close together. Profound, I know. People who are here are very aware of how intense it can be to live here but so far everyone we’ve met loves living here, even with all its craziness. I’ve lived in other cities where you meet up with people but they often live on the other side of town from you, not unusual. Here I’ve been fascinated how many of us all live just within a few blocks from one another, it’s like an actual community. Imagine that!

 

The meeting was great. I’ve always wanted to be a  part of an urban gardening program. In Madison there were tons of community gardens but individuals basically did their own gardening alone. People rented a plot and just grew stuff. I wanted to be a bit more involved with the aspect of food justice and that  hadn’t developed there yet. If I wanted to be a part of that I knew I’d have to start something and I  am not in a position to take that on at this point in life. So tonight I was very inspired by our tiny little group of gardeners who want to develop a program that ties a neighborhood together. I was even able to bring my ideas to the table, which I was a bit reluctant to do since I’m so new to this area and even though I grow food I’m still fairly new at it. I’ve only been doing it for 5 years and everything I do is self taught. Some of these people have taken programs and college classes in agricultural development.   I’ve also never had a garden in the NW so there is a lot I still don’t know about gardening in this climate.

 

The idea on the table was a Harvest Party. They wanted to get ideas in that category, just ideas thrown out. No right or wrong, just ideas. I wasn’t sure what they wanted so I just wrote “Eat family style, rather than buffet style, at tables to create a hospitable atmosphere”. They loved it. It sparked a lot of conversation on what it means to draw people together and empower them. I also realized that I was in a room with gardeners and not outreach coordinators, something I’ve been doing a long time, so I could actually see that I did bring something to the table. I also suggested that we mix aesthetics in with The Farm, as it will be called, in order to show the beauty of agriculture and use local artists to contribute. Looks like we might fuse the Hilltop Artists In Residence to get more people involved.

 

In short it was a rad night. I’m finding a place for myself here in this urban jungle. It’s funny how much Matt and I talk about this place and it’s quirkiness, how this isn’t what we were planning to thrust our family into but here we are. In a sense we’ve always wanted this but we’re still adjusting to it and  taking it all in. Our neighbors still have a toilet in the back yard and it’s an anomaly to me, lots of things around here are. This place is a strange plus and minus of events and scenery. Today it was horribly gray in the sky but there was a rainbow above, a double rainbow even (I know….”It’s full-on a double rainbow!!! What does it mean???”) The lovely lives next to the unlovely all the time around these parts.

 

I’m excited to see a garden spring out of a vacant lot. Beauty for ashes! Dirt, food, flowers….I’m inspired by the commitment some of our neighbors have to make this place matter….