Tag Archives: motherhood

Sheep Need Underpants, Kids Need Play… And You Need a Free Book

I am very excited to be hosting Lee Hull Moses today at The Blue Room. She is co-author of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People, available from Alban and from Amazon. Believe me, it’s good—really good. Smart and funny, eloquent and real. It’s John Wesley meets Tiny Fey.

We’re also excited to be giving away a free copy of this book. See the bottom of this post for details. And now, take it away Lee…

4766601577_93ec78a50b_b“Let go of your tongue!” the mother next to me shouts to her daughter, who is lining up with the other five-year-old soccer players in the middle of the field. The girl looks over at her, still gripping the tip of her tongue with her finger and thumb. “Let go of your tongue!” the mother shouts again.

The girl lets go long enough to shout something back, something about a hurt finger. Neither the other mother nor I can figure out what this has to do with her tongue, but then the coach blows the whistle and play resumes. The mom looks at me in exasperation: the things you never thought you’d have to say out loud.

(“Yes, sheep wear underpants,” I once told my daughter Harper, trying to move along the getting-dressed routine on the morning of the church Christmas pageant.)

This is our first foray into organized sports, and I have to admit, it’s not as terrible as I feared. I signed her up for this 8-week league partly out of peer pressure (all the other parents seem to have their kids in activities like this), partly out of guilt (she’s been asking for dance classes for years and we can’t seem to get that together), and mostly out of opportunity (a half-price Groupon offer showed up in my inbox.)

I thought she would probably enjoy it, but I didn’t think I would. It meant getting her to practice every Monday night, and games on Saturday mornings, and buying new equipment (and keeping track of it), and getting used to new schedules and people and procedures. I was wary of another evening commitment, and dreaded tying up our Saturday mornings – our only at-home family time. Also, there was this: I’m pretty awful at not being in charge of things. Most of the activities we do are related somehow to the church, and I generally know everybody involved and have made a lot of the decisions about how things get done. To be just another parent on the sidelines is a weird place for me to be.

So these eight weeks of practices and games and looking for the shin guards have probably been as good for me as they have been for her. And I have to say, I’m a convert. It’s been, well, fun. There’s something wonderful about 5-year-old soccer. Nobody keeps score. The teams are small so everybody gets to play a lot. There’s no ref – just the coaches, who nudge the ball back onto the field if it goes too far out of bounds. Everybody cheers when somebody makes a goal, regardless of whose team it is. I’ve heard the horror stories, of bad-tempered coaches and mean-spirited parents, but for us, it’s just been fun.

cover imageOne night recently, we were in the kitchen laughing, all four of us, in a few found minutes before the next thing happened – before I had to leave for a meeting, before bathtime needed to begin – and for once I was ignoring the pile of dishes in the sink and the mess on the living room floor. I don’t know what silliness we were laughing about but it doesn’t matter; I could see that Harper was watching us. She was laughing, participating in the silliness, but also she was watching. And all of a sudden I could see that she is hungry for this, this all-out fun we are having. This sort of moment is rare enough that she noticed, and soaked it up. More than any meal, this whole-family laughter feeds her, fills her up.

I forget that sometimes, I’m afraid. I forget that she needs us to have fun together, to know that we are happy.

I’m firmly in the I-won’t-martyr-myself-for-my-children camp. I like doing grown-up things. Reading books with more depth than the Berenstain Bears. Walking across the kitchen without stepping on smashed up raisins. Watching West Wing reruns after the kids go to bed. I like the work I do beyond my family, and often, I wish I had more time to do it. And sometimes – oh, I love my children dearly, but sometimes – the kid stuff, packing lunches and signing up for soccer and cleaning up the puzzle pieces for the eight-hundredth time, start to seem like chores that get in the way of what I’d rather be doing.

But my kids are not tasks we have to take care of, not items on the to-do list to be checked off.

My daughter needs those tangible things, certainly: food, shelter, clothes and shoes that fit. She needs me to sign the permission form so she can go on the field trip, and she needs me to remember to make her an appointment at the dentist. But she needs more than that. It’s her family, too. She lives here. It’s her life, and she needs me to help her live it. She needs me to listen to her stories. She needs me to ignore the dishes so I can play with her. She needs me to laugh, and mean it. She needs me to have fun, with her. She needs me to sign her up for experiences she’s never had and stand on the sidelines with the other parents and cheer my heart out, for her.

Turns out that sometimes, that’s what I need, too.

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bromleigh-and-leeLee Hull Moses (right in photo) is the co-author, with Bromleigh McCleneghan, of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People. She is also the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Rob and their children, Jonathan and Harper. She will be spending this Saturday morning cheering at the final soccer game of the season.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment, sharing your thoughts on this post and/or a similar sense of joy in the midst of the busyness of life. We’ll choose a winner Monday morning. Limit one comment per person per day.

Soccer ball photo credit: Great Beyond via Photopin

Friday Link Love: Stephen Colbert, the Art of Procrastination, and More on the Bombing in Boston

First, the links of self-promotion. My publisher, Chalice Press, is giving away free e-books this month in honor of Earth Day. Go there and get free stuff.

Next, the link of friend-promotion. I forgot a book on last week’s list of books published by friends. It’s The Benefit of the Doubt: Claiming Faith in an Uncertain World by Frank Spencer.

Anon!

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My Father’s Arms Are a Boat — Brain Pickings

A picture book from Norway. My children are outgrowing picture books but I’m sure not:

myfathersarms7

This tender and heartening Norwegian gem tells the story of an anxious young boy who climbs into his father’s arms seeking comfort on a cold sleepless night. The two step outside into the winter wonderland as the boy asks questions about the red birds in the spruce tree to be cut down the next morning, about the fox out hunting, about why his mother will never wake up again. With his warm and assuring answers, the father watches his son make sense of this strange world of ours where love and loss go hand in hand.

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Stephen Colbert Wears His Religion in His Punch Lines — LA Times

This whole article is MaryAnn bait:

There was a time when [Martin] Sheen’s brand of liberation theology drove social and political conversation. Now Colbert is its most visible proponent — if he wasn’t married and didn’t make so many jokes about “lady parts,” he could be this generation’s hot radical priest.

The brilliance of “The Colbert Report” is its refusal to dismiss or denigrate the religion with jokes that equate faith with idiocy or churchgoing with bovine surrender. Instead Colbert attempts to extricate what he sees as the essential message of Christianity from the piles of intellectual rot and political carpet bags that have been piled on and around it in the last 10 years.

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Magnetic Putty is Completely Amazing/Terrifying — Colossal

Is it ever: “Magnetic putty is just like any other putty in that you can handle it, sculpt it, and squeeze it in a fist as you visualize your enemies. But place it anywhere near a strong magnetic field and it will SPONTANEOUSLY ANIMATE and move to consume anything magnetic in its path like a voracious mutated slug.”

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The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity — Marc Andreessen

The guy invented the first widely used web browser, so he’s got some game.

This is a great list. Even the stuff I can’t emulate for practical reasons (I’m a pastor, and pastors have meetings) still intrigues me to think about. Here’s structured procrastination:

The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.

Generally in the course of a day, there is something you have to do that you are not doing because you are procrastinating.

While you’re procrastinating, just do lots of other stuff instead.

As John says, “The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”

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Two links inspired by Boston:

How Terror Hijacks the Brain — Time

Know thyself:

Traumatic events typically evoke a whole suite of brain responses, such as making people faster to startle, increasing their reaction time and producing hyper vigilance to any type of sensation that might be linked with the threatening experience.

And this warping of perspective is exactly what terrorists aim to achieve. “Terrorists are trying to induce fear and panic,” says Hollander, noting that media coverage that repeats the sounds and images of the events maximizes their impact. The coverage keeps the threat alive and real in people’s minds, and sustains the threat response, despite the fact that the immediate danger has passed.

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#PrayForBoston: Prayer as Meme — Elizabeth Drescher, Religion Dispatches

Prayer memes shared in times of crisis do something besides expressing traditional religiosity, calling us to God, to regular spiritual practice, or to worship. Rather, in an increasingly secularized America (the Land of the Rising None), praying or calling for prayer in times of tragedy seems to mark a kind of existential angst, sorrow, or confusion for which other words or gestures seem inadequate. Likewise, the impulse to pray holds a space that we may not even believe exists, giving us time to gather our less spiritually distracted wits about us. It is “true” in what it offers more than in what it is.

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The Economic Logic of the ‘New Domesticity’ — Ann Friedman, New Republic

A new book, Homeward Bound: Embracing the New Domesticity, offers another angle to the lean in/opt out discussion:

Each of the lightning-rod articles that [discussed the opt-out ‘revolution] (Linda Hirshman’s in 2005 and 2008, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s in 2012) was primarily about what women are saying no to: women who don’t want to do what it takes; women who can’t have it all; women who are letting their careers slide; women who are walking away. These are all articles about the demands of the workplace, not the joys of the home, chronicling why women are pushed out, not pulled in. This implied lack of agency is probably why women on all sides of this debate tend to get so defensive—think Sex and the City’s Charlotte screaming, “I choose my choice! I choose my choice!” …

Still, these women are not exactly CEOs or congresswomen, and the number of women at the top of the professional world is still dismal. Feminism, many argue, has not gone far enough. But to hear many of the new domestics tell the tale, feminism has gone too far. In nearly every arena, second-wave feminists come in for some of the blame. They stand accused of pushing women into the workforce but failed to break the glass ceiling or ensure paid family leave. They’re charged with devaluing domestic skills like cooking to the point where we all got fat on fast food. But feminists “did not invent the two-career family,” Matchar points out. “The economy did that.”

As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, I care about breaking the stained-glass ceiling. And as a part-time writer, I like being here when the girls get home from school and being able to chaperone their field trips. So I toggle between all kind of contradictions and negotiations. Sounds like an intriguing book.

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Have a great weekend, everyone! We are going to see American Utopias at Woolly Mammoth Theater, in between shuttling kids to birthday parties. And you?

Friday Link Love

How much is too much?

Three Christmas Gifts — Faith and Leadership

I dug this up from the Friday Link Love archives, since I’ve started thinking about the kids’ Christmas gifts:

At a retreat on Christian life, I heard Susan V. Vogt describe a wonderful tradition suggested in her book “Raising Kids Who Will Make a Difference: Helping Your Family Live with Integrity, Value, Simplicity, and Care for Others.” A parent of four kids herself and a counselor and family life educator, she had tried her own experiments with gift giving, eventually settling on a simple yet elegant plan: she and her husband give each of their children only three gifts for Christmas — a “heart’s desire,” a piece of clothing and “something to grow on.”

I liked her idea immediately. Giving these gifts would ensure that the needs and wants of each child would be met, that each would receive an equal number of gifts, and that we would have a structure to help us resist the cultural message to run out and buy.

My friend Sherry gives her kids three gifts because “It was good enough for Jesus.” We’ve been doing that for some time, but I think we’ll try this approach too and see what happens.

Stay tuned: I think Caroline’s heart’s desire is a guinea pig.

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An Animated Open Letter to President Obama on the State of Physics Education — Brain Pickings

Apparently we’re not teaching modern physics in high school (like, anything after 1865). Is that true? Yeesh:

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Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother — Pregnant Chicken

This is making the rounds, and rightfully so:

As for the past generations that like to tell you that they raised six kids on their own and did it without a washing machine? Well, sort of. Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it – I used to walk to the store in my bare feet to buy my father’s cigarettes when I was a kid. As a mother, you cooked, you cleaned, but nobody expected you to do anything much more than keep your kids fed and tidy.

So much more awesomeness at the link.

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Mark Kelly Speaks to Jared Loughner — Huffington Post

Loughner was sentenced to seven life terms plus 140 years in prison for shooting Gabby Giffords and killing several others. Her husband Mark spoke to him, and to us as well:

Mr. Loughner, by making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life. To diminish potential. To strain love. And to cancel ideas. You tried to create for all of us a world as dark
 and evil as your own.

 But know this, and remember it always: You failed.

Your decision to commit cold-blooded mass murder also begs of us to look in the mirror. This horrific act warns us to hold our leaders and ourselves responsible for coming up short when we do, for not having the courage to act when it’s hard, even for possessing the wrong values.

We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late.

We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence,
 not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing.

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How to Use If-Then Planning to Achieve Any Goal — 99U

One study looked at people who had the goal of becoming regular exercisers. Half the participants were asked to plan where and when they would exercise each week (e.g., “If it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I will hit the gym for an hour before work.”) The results were dramatic: months later, 91% of if-then planners were still exercising regularly, compared to only 39% of non-planners!

Why are [if/then] plans so effective? Because they are written in the language of your brain – the language of contingencies. Human beings are particularly good at encoding and remembering information in “If X, then Y” terms, and using these contingencies to guide our behavior, often below our awareness.

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Motoi Yamamoto’s Saltscapes — Colossal

Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto travels to the salt flats of Utah to discuss life, death, rebirth, and his labyrinthine poured salt installations. These are stunning:

Motoi Yamamoto – Saltscapes from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.

He began this process to help process the grief of losing his sister. Salt as an element in healing? That’ll preach.

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My Kid Won’t Swim the Olympics

Camille Adams, who will swim in the Olympics in London.

Caroline competes each summer with our pool’s swim team, and last week their coaches had given them an assignment to watch some of the Olympic time trials held in Omaha. It was fun to watch elite athletes swimming at the top of their game and to listen to Caroline’s observations about the different strokes.

I took particular note of Davis Tarwater, who was once described as one of the best swimmers never to make an Olympic squad. The announcers last week noted that he has a 30 hour a week job designing banking software for third-world countries. I wondered how having a job like that impacted his ability to train at the highest level. As it happened, he failed to make the team in all three events he attempted, only getting a slot in 200 m freestyle after Michael Phelps opted not to swim that event in London.

Don’t get me wrong–Tarwater is an elite athlete, holding a national record. And it sounds like he feels a sense of mission around his “day job”–I don’t think he’s doing it for the money. But it was a reminder for me of the roles that circumstance and privilege play in achievement.

The other day our swim coaches posted the ladder with the kids’ times thus far. In the 9-10 age group, Caroline is currently 6th in freestyle and backstroke and 4th in breaststroke and butterfly. Caroline is a good swimmer technically, and she loves the sport. She’s had some fun victories and finishes this season, but she is not in the top tier of her teammates. Then again, she’s competing against kids who play various sports year-round, including kids who swim competitively for a program that is supposed to be amazing but costs almost $2,000 a year.

The pressure to achieve, to give one’s kids the best of everything, is huge around here. As a mother, I am in it, even as I disdain it. I felt a little torn when I read the ladder this weekend. If we had the time, energy and money to invest in her swimming, maybe she would move up from the middle of the pack. But we just don’t have the extra bandwidth to make that happen. I already push my job to the limits of its flexibility; I wrote last week’s sermon on deck at the pool, for heaven’s sake. One of those elite swim programs meets at 4:30 in the morning. Yes, you read that right.

Caroline doesn’t seem all that interested in upping the intensity of her swimming, so I’m certainly not going to push it. This post isn’t really about swimming. Rather I’m struggling with how we talk to our kids about privilege. How do we understand our own privilege? How do we frame competitive events like a swim team in a way that encourages kids to do their best, while acknowledging that some kids have an advantage by virtue of circumstance?

And can we explain all of this to our kids in a way that doesn’t foster bitterness, but rather a hunger for justice? I don’t want my kids to resent the only child with the mom who can devote time and energy to driving them to extra practices. But I do want them to wonder about kids who don’t even have the advantages we do. Our upper middle class swim problems are small potatoes; read this article that profiles six people who live at the different levels of income disparity in the U.S. and extrapolate it out. You think competitive swim team is expensive? Have you checked out four year colleges lately? What does all of this look like for the Pallwitz kids (page 3 in the article), whose parents are barely making ends meet? What will achievement look like for them?

When the playing field is uneven at many levels, what does it mean to “do well”?

Friday Link Love

It has been a crazy week. Just nuts. On the upside, I am now finally, completely, 100% done with the book, revisions and all. Huzzah!

And anon!

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Logo for “The Truth”

First, some link love family-style:

The Truth — APM

My brother-in-law Jonathan is the producer of this radio program, dubbed “movies for your ears.” They were recently featured on This American Life. If you like the cleverness of the radio plays on Prairie Home Companion, but long for something WAY less stodgy, check this out. Clever, quality work.

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Where the Hell Is Matt…One Last Dance — YouTube

I adored the 2008 video and always vowed to use it as an intro to World Communion Sunday. (Now I have the technology to do it at Tiny! Woo!) Maybe I’ll use this version instead:

Absolute joy.

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What Post-Baby Bellies REALLY Look Like — Daily Mail Online

Honesty and beauty:

A group of working mothers and bloggers have decided to tackle the growing pressure women feel to snap straight back into shape after giving birth.

Baring their own post-baby bodies, seven bloggers from CT Working Moms have embraced their stomachs, in an effort to liberate other women from the unattainable cultural beauty ideals plaguing today’s ‘bounce-back’ obsessed society.

In a photo shoot they have named the Goddess Gallery, the women hope to encourage new mothers to accept, and cherish, their changing bodies despite the ever-growing ‘body after baby’ celebrity worship, and the suffocating negativity that can come with it.

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The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work — NPR

Anne-Marie Slaughter is EVERYWHERE right now. Her Atlantic article is a tour de force. This capsule of her Fresh Air review gives you the gist of her argument, but honestly, you should read the whole thing.

“I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can, too). I believe that we can ‘have it all at the same time.’ But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured,” she writes. “My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged — and quickly changed.”

Those changes include recognizing the needs of both parents — and giving them both time off — when they first become caregivers. But the deeper problems, Slaughter says, are more cultural — and extend beyond the first months of parenting.

“[We assume] that the worker who works longest is most committed as opposed to valuing time management and efficiency at getting things done over the length of time,” she says. “And second, [we assume] that that time has to be spent at the office.”

I’m too close to this at the moment to comment. Maybe I will at some later date.

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Impromptu Puccini — Andrew Sullivan

I’m shamelessly reproducing Sully’s entire post because it defies abbreviation:

A male reader writes:

“My husband Jimmy and I recently celebrated our wedding here in Brooklyn, and my mom and her new husband came up for the festivities. This was a totally impromptu performance by my mom at the request of friends who just started asking her to sing something. Though I expected she would go with something from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog, Puccini is what she delivered. Absolutely brilliant. I’m still picking myself up off the floor. I’ve never heard her sing this and it’s one of my favorite pieces. The reactions of my friends Sarah (flower dress on the right) and Neal (lilac shirt next to her) are priceless …”

[Sullivan continues] A small reminder: Mitt Romney wants to ban these occasions by constitutional amendment across the entire country, and forcibly divorce those of us living happy married lives. What he hasn’t counted on are our moms. You think Puccini is surprising? What till Mitt messes with her son and son-in-law.

Do not miss the follow up post, either. The mother is a conservative Republican from North Carolina who is very suspicious of Obama and voted for McCain/Palin… and against Amendment One.

Love wins.

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Take My iPad, Please! — Forward

Leaders in the Conservative Jewish movement have offered some guidelines on technology as it relates to Sabbath. I haven’t read them in depth yet but obviously I’m glad this conversation is taking place.

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And in honor of my denomination’s General Assembly which meets next week…

Hey PCUSA, Stare Death in the Face! — Theresa Cho

Lately, I’ve been reading “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales. Using science and storytelling, he tackles the mysteries of survival – why do some have what it takes to survive while others don’t. It seems an odd choice of reading to correlate with the challenges of our denomination today, but you would be amazed how useful simple survival skills may give us the tools we need to survive. Gonzales says, “In a true survival situation, you are by definition looking death in the face, and if you can’t find something droll and even something wondrous and inspiring in it, you are already in a world of hurt.” As Christians and Presbyterians, we have a real opportunity here to recalibrate and look “death” in the face and see something wondrous and inspiring. I wonder if that is what Jesus saw when he entered the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. What Boy Scout survival skills did Jesus whip out in the depths of temptation. I imagine he didn’t only experience a sense of being physically lost, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

If you find my diagnosis of the church too optimistic–and some do–read Theresa’s article.