Monday, June 3, 2013

Enjoying the Cape

Esther and her cousin played with the super-hero capes the other day.  They ran down the hall, capes flying out behind them, and cracking up when they almost ran into each other.
I wish the pics weren't so blurry, but you know, faster than a speeding bullet and all.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Aquarium-inspired Craft

I have been thinking about an ocean-inspired flannel board for a while now, ever since we did the felt Christmas tree with felt decorations.

After our trip to the aquarium, Esther's enthusiasm for fishies grew, and I was motivated to get back on track with this project. Here's the big picture:

And a zoom-in...

And another...

For this project, I grabbed one or two of each of the solid colors of felt at JoAnn's. They were having a 4-for-$1 sale, good deal! Then I grabbed a bunch of colored Sharpies and drew shapes, mostly with dots.  There are a few solid lines, but very few. You can see the faux-pointillism in the pic above, with a textured starfish and randomly-shaped reef.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Aquarium Trip

A while back, we went to the Baltimore Aquarium with family friends.  Esther loves fish, and raved for days about the "silly dolphins" who splashed us and gave us "mess hair" during the dolphin show.

This inspired me to get to work on a project I had been thinking about for a while... you'll see it tomorrow. For now, just a few pics from the day.

This is Gram, family friend, Esther, and FF's special teddy bear. This was the outside-under of the dolphin tank.

This is Esther busily adoring some turtles. We watch "A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventure" quite frequently on Netflix, a cute eco-friendly, kid-friendly, not-particulalry-girl-friendly movie that Esther enjoys.  She kept calling the turtles Sammy and Shelly, the main characters of the movie.

Gram took this on her phone. You can see we've been splashed by the silly dolphins. Here's my fearless girl petting some kind of hissing cockroach. It wasn't hissing at the moment, but that dude was huge.  And a cockroach. And she was all ready to pick it up and bring it home or something.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Super Esther!

I bought Esther a PJ shirt at le Target that has a cape velcroed to it at the shoulders. She called it her SuperWhy* shirt, and would wave the cape around. She always wants to be carried up and down the stairs, but I said, "SuperEsther can do it herself!" And she did! She ran up the stairs like the super-toddler she is.

She got to where she asked for it every night, and since I don't do laundry every single day, it was not always available. So I came up with these.

These are "capes" that I made from some of her too-small dresses.  I just cut out the neck in the back, and kept cutting in two diagonal lines from there to the bottom of the front, like a big triangle. These are dresses that have some kind of button closure around the neck so that the capes can come on and off, but I suppose you could just use any ole neck-band and just pull it over your kid's head, as long as their bigger-kid noggins still fit through the too-small clothes.

I'm trying to think of the super-hero names that might go with these...

*Super Why is a TV show on PBS/Sprout where these kids have reading/spelling/alphabet/rhyming superpowers. Reading as a super power? I am so on board!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Humility revisited

I spoke about Humility a while back... Here.

But I just found a quote that speaks to the topic so concisely:

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself. 
It's thinking of yourself less."

This is C.S. Lewis, who has some other very handy quotes and wise insights, but this one seemed to fit right in with what I was talking about...

So there it is. That is all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Weeks Without Esther

Every month, Esther goes to see her dad for a week. It involves a lot of travel (which costs a lot of money), but for a million or so reasons, it's what we do.
These weeks totally make me understand the Elizabeth Stone quote:

When my heart has traveled to a different time zone in a far-away state, my soul feels instantly deflated, darker, and less whole. I am grumpier, more tired, more sarcastic, and my sleep cycle becomes (even more of) a mess.

On the other hand, in the week before Esther goes away, I remember that she'll be gone soon, so I try to soak her in and snuggle her more.  And in the week when she gets back, I am so relieved and joyful that my heart has returned, that I revel in her presence.  (Of course, I still have to tell her to stop banging her spoon on the table, and I still have to remind her to use her words, but, I get to tell her to stop banging her spoon on the table! She's here, and she has words she can use!) In the week she's away, I think I'll be glad to sleep through the night without the weird noises from her monitor, or her crying out in the night or talking in her sleep.  But really, I miss the buzzing and the little mumbles. 

The darkness? depression? of her departure each month make it hard to do what I promised I would do: make time to take care of myself. You would think I could be more productive without my two-year-old around, but it's not true. I sleep. I zone out into my computer. I don't even sew/craft/knit more when she's gone.

I know this needs a change in attitude, a change in perspective.  I imagine that if I am intentional about doing things for me in this week, then maybe I'll begin to be a bit more ok with it. Maybe someday I'll appreciate the time, but I'm not there yet. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fuzzy blankie

One of Esther's fave blankies was given to her by one of my besties when she was just a few weeks old.  It's super-soft and super-cute, but Esther is getting way too long/tall for it.  So I decided I'd make one basically just like it: super soft on one side and pretty fabric on the other.

Esther's also into polka dots: she calls them bubbles.  The teal fabric was also from the remnant bin at JoAnn's.  The fuzzy stuff is slippery and stretchy, making it a little bit hard to work with.  But it's also wonderfully soft, and I spent the whole time petting it.  Luckily, I had enough left over to make myself a tiny throw pillow for my bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lacing Toy

Esther has shown an interest in tying my shoes lately.  Or maybe I should say, untying.  She really likes pulling the laces out of my sneakers entirely.

She also likes trying to tie things.  Here she is with my uncle after she untied his shoes...
So instead of having to re-lace my sneakers every other day, I decided to make Esther a lacing toy.  You've seen them: they're plastic shapes with holes around the edges and they come with shoelaces...

I found some laces in the clearance section of the shoe department at Target, but everything else was stuff I had on hand.

As the mother of a toddler, I have a few diaper boxes laying around.  They're good cardboard!

I have a few old coffee table books that have some great pictures but don't really serve much purpose in my life right now. I've been contemplating ways to upcycle them or their pics...

I tore out two pics and mod-podged (is that a verb?) them to the cardboard. I cut out shapes with a utility knife.

Then I used a hole punch to... punch holes (duh) around the edges of the pic.  BONUS: Esther learns about Van Gogh at a young age! 

I finally finished with varnish.  I deliberately painted it thickly on the edges and in the holes, and I applied three or four coats, front and back.

The finished product with laces!

This whole task made me realize that I will someday have to teach Esther how to tie her shoes.  That sounds like a really hard parenting challenge. Props to all you parents whose kids know how to tie shoes!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New favorite nightgown

 I mentioned I'd started sewing... it started with a quilt for my niece, which was supposed to be a day-of-birth present, but which ended up being a first birthday present! In between, I took a sewing class in which I re-learned how to use a machine.
For the class, we were taught how to make a reversible child's dress. It was fun and I learned a lot, but more importantly, it whet my appetite for sewing!

Since my first quilt, this is probably one of my favorite projects. It's a really easy pattern that involves a piece of elastic around the neck.  It's how you finish the top of the front, back, and sleeves, making it super easy to complete.  (The pattern calls for elastic in the arms, too, but I like them fluttery... and it's easier this way.)

The fabric is a cotton knit that I pulled out of the remnant bin at JoAnn's. It's lucky that Esther is still small, because the remnant bin is half off, and the pieces are all less than a yard! I had to work with stripes for the first time, which I found to be helpful-- I'm not always so great at sewing a straight line! The knit of the fabric meant I didn't have to hem the bottom ruffle, either.  Jersey rolls up with just a little tug, making it looked finished-ish enough.

Esther likes this one because it's comfy.  It's her first nightgown. Sometimes when I check in on her at night, it is tangled up around her chest (she is a shifty sleeper!), but I tug it down and she doesn't seem to notice.

Here it is in person, one night while Esther was doing my hair before bed:

Here's the pattern: Simplicity 5695


I've been sewing a lot lately!
I bought this machine from a nice lady on Craigslist... It's an old Kenmore, surely older than me!

I'll be sharing some of my sewing projects and some other stuff I've been doing...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things I never thought I'd say

1. That's enough broccoli.

2. Please take the marker out of your nose.

3. Please put your poop down.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spirituality of DFTBA: Surround yourself with Awesome

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.
3. Girls are awesome.
4. But don't get ahead of yourself: Humility

Surround yourself with awesome
Let's just say that lately, life has been less than awesome. I'm in the middle of a divorce, I'm unemployed, and I live very far from the majority of my friends. (I do live near family, who are awesome, and my bestie from High School who you met HERE, and who is also awesome.) That's one of the reasons I chose DFTBA to be my Lenten spiritual discipline. I need to try to at least approach awesome if I'm going to get the job I want, survive this divorce, and still be a good mom.

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time with my girlfriends from seminary.  We are from all over the country, in our mid-thirties, in various stages of family life, and in a wide variety of jobs (in spite of all having gone to school together!). Those who can make it gather annually in a city near one of our homes. We spend the time in food, drink, and usually some nice scenery. But most importantly, we immerse ourselves in each other.  You see, these ladies are awesome. And being around them makes me feel more awesome. They don't hesitate to remind me of my gifts, or tease me (appropriately) about my shortcomings. When we hurt each other's feelings, we discuss, forgive, and move on.  We talked about my job situation (or lack thereof), my family situation, and each of theirs. They reminded me how much I love leading worship and how much I love my little girl, while mixing delicious margaritas, introducing me to kale, making me a mixed tape (ok, CD), and fighting over the last bite of guacamole with me.

My friends from seminary are awesome (and I have an equally awesome group from undergrad). And I tell youth whenever I get the chance: choose your friends wisely. Pick people who have the same values, who will remind you of who you are, but who are different enough from you to challenge your way of thinking every now and then. If your friends don't make you feel more awesome, they're not friends.

How is this the spirituality of DFTBA? The people with whom we spend our time, the people who light up our phones, our facebook newsfeeds, who occupy the space in our brains and our hearts, also influence our spirits. When we're surrounded by negativity, it's hard to see Awesome. When we're surrounded by superficiality, it's hard to see the Image of God within ourselves.  When we're surrounded by voices that make us insecure, we begin to focus on ourselves so much that we forget the awesomeness of everyone else.  On the other hand, awesome friends reflect that divine image back at us, sometimes when it's hardest for us to see.  Awesome friends give us the gift of genuine laughter, but let us cry when we need to as well. Awesome friends celebrate our awesomeness instead of competing with it or downplaying it. Awesome friends help us look out into the world and spread Awesome to our neighbors.

Practical tips for Surrounding yourself with Awesome:

  • Take some time to think sincerely about the people with whom you spend time. Do they share awesome with you? Do they increase your awesome?
  • If you're in a bad place with any of your friends, consider how you might reconcile with them in a constructive way, a way that might help the relationship come closer to awesome.
  • Consider where you make friends and where you might make new ones who could surround you with awesome. A place of worship? A class? At work?

Loving God, you gave us the gift of community-- people to love us and care for us, people we can love and for whom we can care. Thank you. Bless our friendships, and help us to surround one another with awesome.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To know or not to know?

Lots of friends have had babies, some knowing what they were going to have, and others opting for a surprise on the big day. People have all kinds of reasons, from looking forward to the big reveal, to being able to prepare in advance.

I had mixed feelings: on one hand, what does it matter? We would love any baby no matter what gender he or she may be. We had a girl and boy name (both family names) picked out, so that would be easy either way. It's not like I was going to paint a nursery pink or blue. I mean, we all know how I feel about that by now, right?  Even if I didn't have a strong opinion, Esther's dad did.  He wanted to know, so I was fine with finding out.

On the day of the 20-week ultrasound, we were excited. After a bit of time in the waiting room, the ultrasound tech came and got us, and I got onto the table.  The tech checked the head, heart, lungs, brain, arms, legs, and finally,the genitalia. The baby was (appropriately) in the fetal position, so it was covering up the unmentionables pretty well. Eventually, though, after a few passes from a few different angles, the tech concluded we were having a girl.

I was not surprised in the least. I felt like my soul had known she was a girl the whole time.  But suddenly I realized she was Esther. She was no longer an "it," but a "she," and not just any "she," but Esther Grace. I thought of my great grandmother and my mom and was overwhelmed with love for my girl Esther.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A gross and a funny

Esther is potty training right now. She just started with the 2-year-old class and thinks all those kids are super cool, so she wants to use the potty just like they do. The other night Esther was in the tub when she realized she had to "pee pee potty," so I ran over and grabbed her and stuck her on the potty, not quite realizing she had already started peeing en route. Luckily she didn't get me, but I had to wash the bathroom rug.

And the funny: Esther's vocabulary is expanding rapidly at this point and it's pretty hilarious to see which terms from that vocabulary she applies to a given situation.  The other day we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and E was snuggling with Grandpa. She reached up to stroke his chin, felt his two-day stubble, looked up at him and said, "Mess!"

Spirituality of DFTBA: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.
3. Girls are awesome.

Spirituality of DFTBA 5: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves
While it's great to remember we're awesome, and also great to remember that others are awesome, it's important to keep it all in perspective.  Being awesome, being made in the image of God, does not mean that we are, in fact, God.

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.” 
― Parker J. Palmer

Parker Palmer is a pretty awesome writer about vocation and teaching. This quote is an expression of his understanding of humanity.  We are awesome (the pocket with the gold), but we are mortal (dust). The mortality aspect of humanity hopefully gives us some humility.  When I say humility in this case, I'm not talking about thinking we're not great, not talking about being self-deprecating when someone compliments us. I'm not talking about thinking we're less than anyone else.  
Humility in this case means remembering our human-ness.  From dust (dirt in the book of Genesis, just a bunch of particles in science) we came, to dust we will return. We will die. This hopefully puts our own importance into perspective. Like the dust/gold duality, there is a good side and a bad side to having that perspective, to recognizing our humility and mortality. On the dust side, sometimes it makes us feel so so small in the grand scheme of life and the universe. It can make us doubt our importance. On the gold side, have you ever had one of those moments looking at a starry sky or the expanse of the ocean and thought how big the rest of the world/universe is? It's an awe-inspiring, joyful moment.

The other thing about not being God, is that we don't have as much control over life as we might like. We can't control the weather. Or the economy. Or a virus. Or when we're going to get a flat tire. Dust: it sucks to not have any control. Gold: we're not responsible for a lot of crap that happens in the world.

Even more important but less easy to accept: we don't have control over the actions, thoughts, or feelings of other people.  Dust: The lack of control over other people can be frustrating: we wish people would do what we want, or what we expect... We wish others would understand the things we want them to understand, forgive us when we anger them, read our minds to know what we need... But they don't. 
Gold: Understanding this lack of control can be extremely helpful. No matter how much I beg or cajole or manipulate, I can't make an addict give up his or her addiction. Nothing I do can make someone love me or not love me.  This knowledge is freeing. When I was a kid and my parents split up, I felt it was my job to make everyone's pain less somehow. I hid my feelings so that my sadness and anger wouldn't make my parents or sisters more sad or angry. I acted like my actions could control the feelings of others. Now I know it's not true. No matter my actions, others interpret them in ways I can't control. I can consider the impact of my actions on others, I can communicate my intentions to the best of my ability, but ultimately, I can't control how someone chooses to feel.

Another thing about humility, is knowing the world doesn't revolve around us. For better or worse, people aren't thinking about us all the time! Gold: No, it is not likely that "everyone" was wondering why you wore the same pair of jeans two days in a row. Gold: Your friend's grumpy face when she was talking to you was because of her headache, not because she was disliking you.  Dust: People aren't thinking about you all the time.

Ok, so how does this fit into the spirituality of DFTBA?
Find a place in nature that reminds you of how big Creation is and how small you are.
Put something special in one pocket and an ordinary rock in the other.

And for Esther?
Two-year-olds do not actually have the cognitive/psychological development to get this stuff yet. Babies really think the world DOES revolve around them. 

Consider this substitute in the serenity prayer: 
     God grant me the serenity 
          to accept the things I cannot control
               courage to change the things I can control;
                    and wisdom to know the difference.


Friday, March 1, 2013

A Mighty Girl Heroes: Inspiring the Next Generation of History Makers! / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

A Mighty Girl Heroes: Inspiring the Next Generation of History Makers! / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl:

'via Blog this'

DFTBA: Girls are Awesome!

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else

Spirituality of DFTBA 4: Girls Are Awesome!
This post reminded me that Japan has a cool/fun tradition of having Girls' Day every year. It's a day to celebrate the girls in our lives, to fuss over them and celebrate that they ARE girls.  I don't know much about the background of the holiday, but it sounds like fun.

Especially after episodes in which women are derided and nine-year-old Oscar nominees are insulted in front of large national audiences. Yeah, Seth McFarlane, that was pretty awful.

So in honor of Girls' Day, and to spite Seth, I'm here to remind us all that GIRLS ARE AWESOME!

First off, God made both males and females. Both were created in God's image. The Bible doesn't say, God created the one with the penis in God's image, but the one with the uterus was just a knock-off.  No, it says, So God created humankind in his image,

And the fact that scripture calls God "He" doesn't mean God is a boy. It means our (ancient and modern) grammar systems are too limited to come up with a singular personal pronoun that is gender-neutral.
The second description of God's creation* of men and women, the rib-from-Adam's-side thing, is equally silly non-proof that men are in any way superior to women. First, "Adam" comes from the Hebrew, adamah, which means something more like dirt-thing or mud-person or earthling than, humanoid-with-a-penis. And even if women were specifically created second, we all know the 2.0 version is better than the trial model anyway.** (Though this is not generally true with movie sequels!)

That said, for a long time, society, including and sometimes especially the church, have been telling women and girls that they are not awesome, that they are inferior biologically, intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. This is categorically UNTRUE.

I would like to say we're smarter than that these days, and many of us are, but there are still examples in contemporary progressive societies, let alone in more traditional cultures, of  misogyny, paternalism, sexism, chauvinism... Whatever you choose to call it, it's there.

I grew up being told that, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better!" I know this is kind of reverse-sexism, but I needed to hear it: I was at my great-grandmother's doctor appointment with her and my mom, and I guess we were talking about how the doc was making Grandom feel better, because I told my mom that when "I grow up to be a man, I'm going to be a doctor!" I'm sure she told me it was pretty unlikely that I would grow up to be a man, but she also assured me that I could be a doctor as a woman, too. (I'm obvi not a doctor, but I am a minister, also a traditionally-male field.)

I wish that the world had changed enough in the thirty-ish years since that incident that I didn't feel like I would have to spend Esther's life telling her the same thing. Alas, I fear this is not the case.

Reel Girl is a blog dedicated to the equal portrayal of women and girls in films, especially in children's movies/media. The author has found a consistent ration of about 1:5 of female to male characters in children's media. Oh, and an odd note: there are basically NO female characters on cereal boxes.

My mom, a teacher and the director of a preschool & daycare for over twenty years, said that kids are picking gender-traditional toys more than ever in the last few years. As in, "I'm not playing with that, that's for girls!" Or the reverse.  Toys are SO gender-marketed these days, that even a casual glance in a toy store shows you where to shop depending on the genitalia of your toddler.

Pigtail Pals/Ball cap Buddies is a blog that tries to fight those gender role assignments for kids.  There's no reason why a boy can't like purple or a girl can't like trucks.  One of their logos is "Colors are for everyone," fighting the belief that girls should limit themselves to pink, purple, and sparkles, while boys get just about all the other colors, and especially not pink, purple, or sparkles. They talk about all kids being, "Full of Awesome" and encourage kids to think outside of the box.

That said, there's nothing wrong with pink, purple, OR sparkles.  I'm a fan of all three myself. But they're not the only colors I like, and I would hate to think I could never wear blue again because it's a "boy color!" When we found out that Esther was a girl, I was terrified imagining the piles of pink we would receive. Again, this isn't because I dislike pink, but because I like the other colors, too! I want Esther to pick her favorite color because SHE likes it, not because she's been told (sub-consciously or by some little girl/boy in her preschool class someday) that she HAS TO like pink because it's a girl color.  (Of course, if she really does like pink, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue.)

The same thing goes with the princess trend. Peggy Orenstein's book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter is all about the specific marketing that Disney and others (even Sesame Street!) have done to create this princess-crazy girl market.  I have nothing against the princesses (besides the fact they are generally a bunch of helpless women waiting around for some guy on a horse to ride them off into the sunset), but I do want Esther to be able to play with any toy and every toy she wants. Again, if her favorite thing ends up being tea parties with the princesses, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue and sip invisible tea right next to her. But I will continue to take her to the zoo and point out trains tell her that girls can do anything they want.

Ok, so how does all this fit into the Spirituality of DFTBA?

  • Ladies, remember you're awesome. You are more than your boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots. Men, women are awesome. They are more than boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots.
  • Women, what are your assets that have nothing to do with your appearance? Congratulate yourself on those.
  • Men, compliment a woman on something other than her appearance.
  • Support causes that stand up for women, whether in media, education, or in laws about violence against women.

How do I do this for Esther?

  • I encourage her to play with all kinds of toys.
  • I watch as gender-balanced TV with her as I can. Doc McStuffins, a female doctor whose mom is her doctor-role-model is my current fave. 
  • I never tell her "you can't do that, you're a girl." 
  • I try to dress her in as many colors as the stores let me. (Hint to the stores: if you want me to buy an object, make it in a color other than pink! I get so excited to see anything outside of pink/purple, that I buy it whether I love it or not!)

God, thank you for men and women and for the ways we reflect your image. Help us to treat each other all as awesome, and help us to help others see the AWESOME in all of your children. Amen

* Yes, there are two creation stories.
** Yes, I believe in evolution. That doesn't mean the Creation stories are false, just that they have a deeper meaning than your average science text.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

dip it stick it

Last post from Esther's birthday party... and no picture to go with it, sorry!

To go with the monkeys & drums theme, I made drumsticks.

Living in the south, I've had lots of good advice on how to fry things, but I baked these.
Here's the method:

1. Dip in milk
2. Dip in flour
3. Dip in egg
4. Dip in breading.

The milk helps the flour stick, the flour allows the egg to stick, and the egg makes the breading stick.

I set it up like an assembly line with a bunch of mixing bowls.

As for the breading, this can vary depending on what you're cooking. For the drumsticks, I used breadcrumbs and added lots of spices (not quite 11 herbs and spices, but still good!):
     garlic powder
     chili powder
Then I baked it till it sizzled and the chicken was thoroughly cooked inside.

When I've made fried green tomatoes, I used corn meal for the breading (plus salt & pepper but that's about it... I think next time, I'll use some red chili powder for some kick). Then I fried them in about 1/2 an inch of oil in a skillet.

One more thing-- This totally makes a mess. You end up breading your fingers repeatedly, leaving you with drumsticks of gook on your thumb and at least two of your fingers.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spirituality of DFTBA 3: So is Everybody Else, continued

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.

Spirituality of DFTBA 3: So is Everybody Else, continued

Knowing that everybody else is awesome has lots of implications, some of which I discussed the other day. I mostly talked about people with whom we interact, like family, friends, and even casual acquaintances.

But what about everybody else? I mean, the people who live far far away and with whom you could never interact. I mean, the people nearby with whom you can't interact because they can't afford to go to the same coffee shop/ bookstore/ grocery store/ movie theater/ bar/ concert venue... that you do.

Knowing that EVERYBODY is awesome means thinking about the rest of the world. It especially means thinking about the people who aren't generally thought of as awesome. If we truly believe that God created all of these people supremely good, then even the people the rest of the world shuns, are awesome. Poor people, gay people, people of different races and religions, they are all awesome.

There are lots of ways to learn about everyone's awesome. I personally love a novel or memoir to learn about other cultures and experiences. (Reading Three Cups of Tea and Reading Lolita in Tehran gave me a new perspective on Middle East politics.) Documentaries are another option.  And of course there's the web. You have a question about Islam/ LDS/ Presbyterianism/ Buddhism/ Hindu/ Catholicism? Look it up.

If all people are awesome, then all people should have the same basic rights and opportunities. Jesus said this when he said, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." If we would fight for our own rights and opportunities when they've been denied, we should fight for those rights and opportunities for our awesome neighbors.

The Vlogbrothers call this decreasing world suck. In other words, if the world sucks, it's because someone isn't being treated as awesomely as they deserve. There are lots of ways to decrease world suck, and they're all pretty awesome.  Nerdfighters, the online community created by the Vlogbrothers, have created all kinds of opportunities to decrease world suck, even creating a foundation for that very purpose.

Recently Esther and I went into Philly to participate in One Billion Rising, a demonstration protesting violence against women. It was a small step in acknowledging the awesomeness of everyone, in this case, the one billion women in the world who are victims of violence.

DFTBA 3: Concrete tasks

  • Read a memoir written by someone from another culture.
  • Watch a documentary on poverty.
  • Consider a right or opportunity you have or had, that others don't. Give thanks.
  • Consider a right or opportunity you have or had about which you feel passionate. Google organizations that help provide that right or opportunity for others.

Creator who made us all awesome, clear our minds of misgivings about others and help us to see your face in all people, that we may decrease world suck. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A sweater for Esther

I had three different colors of this cotton-ish yarn that I bought on sale from a local yarn shop a few months ago, and I've been wanting to make something with them for Esther.  I was worried about how long they were, so I added just a bit of the leftover pink from Esther's birthday sweater.

I found the pattern HERE.

It's a quick and easy knit because it uses fairly big needles.  The pattern's author did some color-work in the torso, but I just stuck with the stripes. Again, I was worried about how much yarn I had, and using two strands at once would use it up too quickly.

I ended up with mere inches of each color when I was done, so my caution paid off!

The left shoulder has a split in it. It allows room for it to slip over a kid's head. I added the blue button and made a loop out of a tiny crocheted chain from the pink yarn.

So far, I haven't been able to snap a picture of Esther wearing it.  She has vehemently protested putting it on.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spirituality of DFTBA 2: So is Everybody Else

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

In the Spirituality of DFTBA 1, I talked about how God (or a miraculously minute statistical probability of existence) makes you awesome. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are created in God's image, you are supremely good. Don't forget-- you ARE awesome!

Here's the catch: so is everybody else.

I know, I know, if everyone is awesome, doesn't that mean that nobody's awesome? No. Because awesome means "awe-inspiring." It doesn't just mean "cool." And let's be honest, everyone is not cool. Thank God. But everyone is that statistical improbability, everyone is designed uniquely in the image of the divine, and everyone's existence should inspire our awe. Everyone is awesome.

This belief, if we truly internalize it, has far-reaching consequences. On one level, it could easily influence our immediate relationships. There's a good chance we already think the people we love and adore are pretty awesome. It's part of why we adore them. But we often take them for granted and forget their awesomeness. I'm thinking especially of family and sig-oths. Living with someone and spending time with them day-in and day-out sometimes allows us to overlook the awesome and focus on the annoying. What if we remembered their awesomeness more often? What if we told them about their awesomeness on a regular basis?

Right now, I live with Esther and my mom. I am still stunned and amazed by Esther's awesome on a regular basis-- when I remember she used to be just a blob in my uterus, and now she's speaking in (short) sentences and and asking me to snuggle... I tell Esther on a regular basis how amazing I think she is. My hope is that she'll grow up and believe it. But I don't say much to my mom. I tell her "thank you" for the stuff she does to help me (which is a lot, by the way), and I am grateful for her presence and influence in my life. But I often forget to think of her as awesome. She is awesome, of course-- she's smart and funny and creative and one in a bazillion, and she loves me and Esther fiercely. Unfortunately, I think I take that for granted as we live together. I'm sorry, Mom! You are awesome!

Other relationships like co-workers or friends could also be improved by an attitude of DFTBA. I had a co-worker who was so chatty that I was afraid to step into her office if I was in any kind of a hurry. Her story-telling used to drive me nuts until I realized she wanted to over-inform for fear of under-informing me. It changed my perspective, helping me to realize she was being awesome by going above and beyond in trying to help me. I still had to carefully time my visits, but I also knew to say, "that's just what I needed," as a way to end the conversation and thank her for her help. Reminding ourselves of our co-worker's (sister's/friend's/teacher's) awesome won't make his or her annoying go away, but it changes our attitudes toward him or her.

Even the people we encounter in a nominal way on a daily basis are awesome. The cashier at Target, the librarian, the next door neighbor, the bus driver... they're all created awesome in the image of the divine. This is India Arie's description of seeing everyone as awesome.

The next entry will be about even-farther-reaching possibilities that come from remembering that everyone is awesome.

Concrete tasks for remembering everyone is awesome:
  • Give someone a genuine compliment every day. It will make you come up with a reason you think they're awesome, but it will also pass on the awesome.
  • When you pray, give thanks for someone.
  • Listen to the India Arie song above while you're on your commute. Look at the people around you and remember that they're awesome.

God, thank you for making me awesome. And thank you for the awe-inspiring people in my life. Thank you for ___________________, who showed me awesomeness today. Help me to see you in the faces of your people with whom I interact. Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trip to Philly

Esther and I went into Philly last week for V-Day.  One Billion Rising was V-Day/The Vagina Monologues' huge worldwide movement. One of my best friends helped plan OBR, so I just HAD to go.

For the sake of adventure, and also to avoid all the drama of parking in the city, Esther and I took the train. She's a fan of Thomas & Friends, so riding the choo-choo was very exciting.

Yeah... she looks excited, doesn't she?

OBR took place at Love Park, home of the famous LOVE statue.  It was the first time I'd seen the statue, and I have to tell you, it was smaller than I expected. Of course, we still took a picture!

It's in a historical and touristy part of town, right next to the Visitors' Center and City Hall. The City Hall has an archway underneath with four sculpted columns. Each column is decorated with a cluster of people holding up the ceiling at the top... they look like four stereotyped races of people. I can't decide if it looks more like historical racism or a symbol of inclusiveness, but I think it's some odd old-fashioned well-meant combination of the two. At the top of the arches between the columns were four animals, a bull, a lion, an elephant, and some other strange cat/wolf-like animal that Esther decided was a pig. She kept pointing at this thing, which truly looked like a werewolf, and saying, "Oink, oink!"

Across the street is the Mason's Temple. I kept thinking of Dan Brown and Nicholas Cage.

As we walked around the block, we came across Macy's. Macy's isn't so exciting, but it used to be Lord & Taylor, and before that, Wannamaker's. Wannamaker's was a huge department store, nine stories of retail in the middle of the city.

It's also where my great-grandmother Esther worked. She was a seamstress and dress-maker in the ladies' department. She took the train from Frazer, her family's farm, into Suburban Station. The art deco station is right around the corner, and the arrival point for many folks from the suburbs who came into Philly to work.

Esther and I went into Macy's to get a glimpse of the place where Grandmom Esther used to work. It was another place I'd never seen in Philly. It's famous, historic, and connected with my family... I'm not sure why I never went before!

Wannamaker's was in the movie Mannequin, a 1980s classic starring Kim Cattrall before she became Samantha Jones. It has this giant eagle sculpture which is also a landmark. There's an expression, "Meet me at the Eagle," which was a catchphrase in advertising in addition to being a useful way to find a friend when both are done shopping.

Mr. Wannamaker wanted his store to be in itself an adventure and a landmark and an experience. The pipe organ that Mr. Wannamaker built is the largest operational organ in existence.  It had a restaurant and fantastic tile and marble architectural features. He had President Taft dedicated the re-build, and there's a marker on the floor where he stood. Macy's has redone a lot of the walls (something about taxes and square-footage), but there are still some pretty cool historical features and fixtures. Macy's only uses three stories of Wannamaker's nine. The rest were sold as office space. It's likely that Grandmom's work space was on a higher story, and has been remodeled.

Some friends I hadn't seen in a long time met us in the city and we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Esther was a bit out of sorts after the long day, but calmed down a bit after one of those friends took her for a quick walk around the block in her stroller.

We caught the train from Suburban Station and headed home, where Esther passed out in the car just moments after pulling away.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Spirituality of DFTBA 1: You're Created Awesome

(First I want to say that I'm a Presbyterian minister, so I'm coming at this spirituality from a Christian perspective. That said, it's a pretty progressive Christian perspective, and I don't consider it THE answer to the spirituality of DFTBA, just A perspective, and for that matter, MY perspective. Feel free to argue or agree as you so choose, I don't believe you're going to hell b/c we disagree.)

The newest scholarly translation of scripture (the CEB) translates the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis to say that after God created humanity, God pronounced us "supremely good."

Also within that story, scripture tells us that humanity was created in God's image.

I believe that being made "supremely good," in the image of a divine being is pretty awesome.

Here's a more scientific understanding. What are the chances that all the atoms, all the molecules, all the cells and hormones and whatever else it took to get you conceived and then born, were in the right place at the right time to make YOU? Not good. You are one in a bazillion (see how scientific I am?). That is awesome.

So the first part of the spirituality of DFTBA is: You are AWESOME!

Another way to put it might be, "You are awesome." Much of advertising media out there is designed to make us think we're not awesome... we need to buy these products, look like these models, be athletic like these people, drive these cars, acquire these dollars, all to become awesome. Realizing we're already awesome, without the car or the cash or the crap, is freeing. Knowing we're already awesome allows us to focus on other things that are awesome instead of the stuff that we think could make us awesome. Because we know it can't. Because we already are.

It's hard to get this concept through our thick skulls sometimes, and that's understandable, because we've been told from the moment we could be told, that we're less than awesome. Sometimes the voices are the media's, sometimes they're from our parents and teachers, and sometimes they're even our own. So how to make ourselves believe it? I've heard this stuff about being made in God's image for years now, and it only makes a little dent in all the self-doubt that still pounds away at me. A few ideas...

  • Put something precious in your pocket. Maybe a piece of family jewelry, or a beautiful stone or shell that you found out in creation... maybe a note someone wrote that told you how great you are, maybe that scripture passage, whatever. Whenever you're feeling the non-awesome creep in, put one hand in your pocket, and let the other hand give a peace sign (Alanis) to the negativity.
  • Tell someone else they're awesome. it will make them feel good, and will make you feel better.
  • Do something awesome.  A small act of kindness will boost someone else, but it will boost you, too.
  • Mute the commercials. It's bad enough having to watch, but then they tell you why you're not that awesome. And commercials are too loud, anyway.

Part of this DFTBA practice during Lent is about helping my two-year-old daughter Esther know she is awesome, too. My plan for her:

  • Every night when I tuck her in, I tell her she is loved and I tell her she is awesome/amazing/beautiful, etc.
  • Every night when I re-tuck her in, when she is already asleep and I am going to bed, I tell her the same stuff in hopes she hears it subliminally.
  • I read her stories with awesome female characters. This is one way I can control the images from the media that she is seeing.
  • I sing songs about God and use "she" and "her" as the gender pronoun, along with "he" and "his."
  • Snuggle her, hug her, kiss her, and tell her she's awesome whenever I want. 
  • When we say grace at dinner, I thank God for her, in front of her.

A prayer:
God, thank you for making me awesome. Help me to believe it, live it, and not forget it.

People of other faith traditions, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Party: Cupcakes!

We had the Dum Ditty Drum cake at the party, but we needed some monkeys, too!
And, what flavor says monkeys like banana?

I used this recipe for the cupcakes, and this recipe for the Nutella icing.

Then I decorated the cupcakes to look like the monkeys who say, Dum Ditty Dum Ditty, Dum Dum Dum!

I used some Valentine's day M&Ms and sorted the whites and pinks. I used the pinks on the big cake and the whites for the eyes of the monkeys.
For the nose and mouth, I used a Nilla Wafer (yum!). I mixed a bit of milk with some gel food dye, and used a skinny paint brush to make the nostrils and a smile.
I read on one account of this (found on Pinterest of course), that the Nilla Wafers get soggy when applied to far in advance, so I waited till the morning of the party to apply them. They did get gross pretty quickly, but not so much soggy as stale.

Here's the finished product!
And here they all are, getting ready to be eaten!
We ended up with way more cupcakes than we needed, so we took them downstairs to the dining room of Nanna's nursing home. I tried to tell one woman what they were-- banana cupcakes with Nutella icing.  "Vanilla?" she said.
"No, Nutella. Um, it's a hazelnut spread. Chocolate and hazelnut."
"What did she say?" she asked the lady sitting next to her.
Generation gap, I guess.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

For Lent: DFTBA

My friend Hank and his brother John are famous. You may know them as the Vlogbrothers. This is their YouTube channel. One of their common themes is, "Don't Forget To Be Awesome," or DFTBA.

Also, here's a blog called Pigtail Pals, Ballcap Buddies. It's all about breaking down gender stereotypes for kids. Esther is 2, and even now, the bathing suits in her size are ruched to look like there are breasts. The toy options for kids are pink/purple or blue/black/red. This blog says that "colors are for everybody," and that kids are "full of awesome."

Finally, it's Lent. I'm a minister, albeit unemployed at the moment, and I have been struggling to come up with  some kind of Lenten discipline to take on. So when I saw this video, in which President Obama talks about his daughters and reminds John to tell his unborn child not to forget to be awesome, I thought, "Yes!" I will try to be full of awesome for Lent. I will try not to forget to be awesome as a spiritual discipline. And I will work on helping Esther know she is awesome, too.

Stay tuned for:
- the spirituality of DFTBA
- ways I can RTBA (remember to be awesome) on a regular basis
- ways I do/can help Esther know she is awesome now, and as she gets older
- the princess debate: are princesses awesome?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another Grossness

E loves her some chapstick. She is fascinated watching me put it on and she calls it Mou. As in, mouth.
She found a stick the other day and got the cap off (darn it! When did she learn how to do that!?!) and started smearing all over her face. And her lips. And her tongue. Then, "Mommy, mou?" And I let her. And it was gross.

The Party: Wardrobe

I knitted a little sweater and sewed a little dress for E's big day.

The dress ended up too big, but short. Luckily I included lots of extra fabric in the hem, so I can let it out and the dress can grow with her a bit.

I found the fabric at JoAnn's, but didn't really have an idea for it till her birthday rolled around.

Here's the pattern. It claims to be "very easy," but I had to Google some words and look up some videos to make it happen. I used elastic for the first time, and made poufy sleeves for the first time. I'm kinda proud of it.

Here's the sweater.

And here's the preview post.

I used  this pattern, but modified it to be a cardigan.

My Uncle Paul, or as Esther calls him, Pau Pau, gave her and all the kids at the party Mylar balloons. Here she is, so excited to be playing with them back at the house. I love the excitement on her face!

The cap sleeves on the sweater were too small for the short sleeves on the dress, especially b/c the dress was too big. But it's still cute and she'll be able to wear it any time.

She saw me knitting it, and I told her I was making a jacket for her. So the day of the party, when it was finally finished, she kept saying, "Mommy, chackie!" It was almost like she was telling everybody I made it.  : )

A few shots of Esther "helping" me knit:

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Party: Cake

The most important part of any party is the food... at a birthday party, the cake is central!
I made a chocolate cake out of a box and made it in two nine inch round pans. I made golden butter icing and dyed half of it green. The white is between the two layers and on top, with the green on the outsides.

Pink M&Ms line the drum, with pretzel sticks as decoration, pretzel rods topped with marshmallows as the drumsticks. Totally from Pinterest.

Here's the cake in action!

Esther didn't exactly know how to blow out the candle.

So I helped.

And then she ate a drumstick.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising

Today is the day!
Esther and I are taking the train into Philly so we can stand (or sit in a stroller, we'll see) against violence against women.  Check out their website for more information.

A lot of locations are doing flashmobs, but Philly is doing Zumba together. The dancing is an empowering way to channel the emotion around the topic, while displaying to the world that women are not going to take it any more.

If you're not attending an event (some locations do have events throughout the weekend), I encourage you to watch one of the many events worldwide on the website. There are live feeds there, and I assume lots of videos will be posted to YouTube later.

Another way to contribute to the cause: call you congress person and remind him or her to vote for VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act made it through the Senate, but we're waiting on Congress.  Here's some info here.