Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Feast of the Assumption with Small Children: Take 2

     I'm really happy we were able to celebrate The Assumption this year. I think I mentioned in a previous post that, while we didn't celebrate The Assumption while I was growing up, it's a pretty special holiday for me. There was a huge party in Cleveland's little Italy while I was in college. It really had NOTHING to do with the Assumption, but the day really stuck with me. Plus, Mary has become a big thing for me within the past five years or so.  The Mom thing, the daughter thing, the feminist thing: Mary-focus is a given.
     This year the celebration was done in the Robson traditional fashion: by realizing The Assumption was the day before and deciding we would just do it today instead. There are lots of blogs written by women who are way better at this than me, and they had a million different ideas with special breads and prayers, and decorations and tablecloths (these women are very good at using table cloths). I was working under pressure, but I got the cliff notes. One trip to the grocery store, print off a coloring page and ba-bam! Assumption party done!
     There is one thing about doing these parties spur of the moment that I think benefits the kids. I tell them some details about the day, the person and the event, and they help me think of ways to celebrate. So, in the car on the way to the grocery store, I'm giving Amani a little crash course. "Mary, Heaven, blue, fruit, flowers, roses!  Break!" She did great. We found cookies that looked kind of like roses, and she wanted to get blue flowers to decorate with.  Because I hadn't thought about the coloring page ahead of time, Amani and I searched through Google images to found ones we liked. She chose one of the Nativity because she likes the story about baby Jesus best, which I would not have known if I had prepped the pages myself. While we were coloring, we got to talk in a way that I don't think we could have if we had chosen another activity.  She told me she really liked Mary's veil, and we talked about halo and why holy people glow.  We talked about how the angel told Mary she was going to have a baby. It was this quiet intimate time for us, that really made the day for me.
     We barely pulled it off, but we did it, and the kids really enjoyed it. I feel bad that I am not better about preparing these little celebrations, but I think I'll get better at it. Right now the kids are so little, that I figure even if they marginally get the idea of the holiday, it's a Catholic identity point.  They have like, five now. If we can make it to one hundred points, we unlock the identity achievement where they will call themselves "spiritual but not religious" when their adults. It's a long way to go, but I think we can make it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Did we lose a bet or something?

     You guys. Oh my God, you guys. I don't even know. The Trump thing? What the Hell is going on? Does anybody understand this? I am overly fascinated by it, and I need not to be, but I can't help myself.
     I mean, it's like watching a clown car on fire. It's so grotesque, but fascinating and really dangerous, but also completely of ridiculous.
     It makes me giddy. It does, and it shouldn't but I just can't help laughing. It terrifies me as well also, obviously, but it also entrances me. Ugh. I know, I shouldn't laugh, but I... I am a terrible person.

     I want to understand. I do. I have already spent way too much time on this trying to parse some kind of explanation. I get that there is a large portion of this country who feel marginalized and unheard. I get that there is a group of people who feel like their way of life is being threatened and want to go back to the 60s with white, Christian traditional values...whatever. But then they start writing about Trump and..I just lose it. I get this big grin on my face, and I just get giddy. It's all just so absurd. I've been reading a lot about Trump supporters. Hey! Here's some good news: Most Catholics don't support him but still, according to polls, two in five Catholic voters support him. still...HOW? How is that possible? See, there's that grin again. I can't...

     I do get the Life issue. Pew Research Center reports half of Catholics who are voting for Trump are actually voting against Hillary. And that makes sense- kind of. Hillary has made it clear that she is pro-choice and for many Catholics, the pro-life issue is the only issue. One person even went as far to say, "Abortion is regarded by the Church as the most important moral issue". I don't agree with that, but, you know, that is the main thing for some Catholics and I respect that even if I disagree.

     These pro-life people know that Trump was formerly was pro-choice, but now claims to be pro-life. They know he could just be pandering. They know that at one point, he said he would nominate his sister, a pro-choice extremist, to the Supreme Court. They don't care. What they care about is that that he said he would nominate supreme court judges that would overturn Roe vs. Wade and they KNOW that Hilary will not overturn Roe vs.Wade, so that's all that matters. They hate Hillary; Trump is not Hillary; there it is.

     Of course, there are a lot of people who hate Hillary in general; a lot to an irrational degree. Did you see the Republican Convention? The vitriol against this woman truly reveals the worst side of humanity. This clearly evil mentality does not seem to slow down some of the Catholic Trump supporters though. In fact, they take it a step further and pretty much just start vomiting pea soup. Hillary is tearing down a man's potential to be president. She consorts with the devil. She should be executed for treason. Above all, she is a liar; the most lying-ist liars who ever lied. Hillary is a liar, and Trump is not. For REAL. They are not joking.

      I can understand that. I don't mean I agree with their point, I mean that I recognize those words placed together as a semblance of thought. I don't like Hillary all that much, and when you consider how women with power have faced a lot of irrational hatred, the hostility towards Hillary is familiar.

     As for Catholic that actually support Trump, there are no guarantees. These people are performing gold-medal-winning gymnastic feats to rationalize their alignment with both Jesus and with Trump. It is truly spectacular to watch. They all refer to the "Truth", "dealing in reality", and the "Natural Law". They believe that our culture suppresses "The Truth". Liberals are irrational. Traditional Republicans are a charade. The media is a fiction. The Pope is a fraud. The entire Church has been immersed in "The Lie" since Vatican II. They hate Vatican II. They hate that it feminized their men and stopped the mass from being in Latin.
     They really love Latin.
     Because "The Truth"should really only be spoken if said in a language that no one actually uses.

"Truth involves the realization that our rule of law comes from nature and nature’s God, and not from movements in popular culture or populistic politics that come and go"

Got it, so not popular culture, not from populistic politcs = Donald Trump

     Trump speaks the Truth. He deals in the rational. He is a realist. He is a patriot. He is a warrior. He will protect Christians and restore Conservative values.

     It's true that Trump is brash, careless, and mistaken. His policies might be wrong, and his personality may be a diplomatic liability. He might have been married three times, and support the war crimes, but God uses all kinds of people to bring about his kingdom.

     Except for Democrats. He definitely doesn't use Democrats.

     Trump is Reagan. Trump is St. Don Juan of Austria. He is Constantine and John the Baptist. He is Silvio Berlusconi...but in a good way. He holds us "up on eagles wings". He "will deliver us from evil".

My friends, these people say they are Catholic.
They claim to follow Jesus.
They vote.

And that's when I stop laughing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Should children get to define their own faith?

     So I just read this fascinating article on child liberation theology. The premise of liberation theology is just so up my alley, and I very much need to learn more about it. It began with the political struggles in Central and Latin America Catholic Churches during the 50s and 60s, lead by Gustavo Gutierrez.  The central idea of the the movement is to move the focus of Christianity away from the powerful: the Magisterium, the rich,, the people "doing it right" who lecture outcasts on their sins, and instead refocus creating justice for the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed.  The essential tenet is that each human has the right to create their own faith, and that each human has the "God-given right to speak about God from their own unique perspective" without judgement or lecture from dominant powers.
     So any good liberal will immediately have the reaction of, "Well, duh, obviously", (and score seven lefty bonus points if the liberal says it while drinking fair-trade coffee).  However, when it comes to kids, I am not sure I am entirely on board with this idea.  Children developing their own theology?  How would that even work? For older children, I can see this as a possibility, and developing a person theology is a necessity to keep a teenagers involved and growing in their faith, but for children under say...nine, I'm not sure its a good idea.  For my daughter, Jesus lives in the same space as unicorns; I'm not sure that she is really able to theorize on  the nature of God...in the way I want her to.  It's hard for me to let her have her own faith journey, when I really just want her to believe exactly what I believe, because, you know, I'm right.
     Yes, I hear myself, yes I know that I am completely unfair.  Amani needs to have her own faith journey, and I need to be okay with that, because that is how authentic faith works.   I definitely don't want her to think that faith is dictated by some outsider, or that she needs to uncritically agree with everything any one tells her about Catholicism.  That said, I still think it is important to educate her on what our faith is, what it means, and how to develop the skills necessary for creating a fulfilling faith.
     According to the article, the parent, priest or instructor with a child liberative philosophy must teach a child the skills of "taking power, of becoming self-defining and self-actualizing".  However, like so many of these "what you should be doing" articles, the piece doesn't actually tell you how to do that, especially not with a four-year-old.
     The way I see it, parents can introduce skills by setting up an environment that promotes critical thinking.  I liked this article from the roots of action.  I like that the article explains that parents should establish that thinking can be fun, encourage their children to think, and praise them when they do ("Wow!  You were really thinking carefully about that!  Good for you!")  It has some good suggestion on how to set up an atmosphere at home that encourages kids to thoughtfully develop their own opinions, without disrespecting others. Their five suggestions include:

  • Encouraging kids to be clear in their speaking, and to ask questions if they are not clear what others are saying.  "Did what I said make sense?  Do you have any questions?"
  • Making sure children speak with accuracy:  When a child is arguing or complaining, insist that they don't exaggerate or (obviously) lie.  "I NEVER by you toys?  That's not true at all.  You need be careful when you speak, or people won't listen to you."
  • Support logical thinking: Challenge your child to explain their thinking process.  "He says he's a cheetah, huh?  Do you think that's true or he's just pretending?  How come?"
  • My favorite suggestion, and probably the hardest part, is to encourage kids to be fair when they disagree with each other; to consider another person's thought process.  "She said you can't come to your birthday party?  Why do you think she might have said that?  How do you think she is feeling?  Why might she feel that way?  Do you think you might feel that way if that happen to you?"

     Now God knows my children have opinions, and are very eager to express them.  Still, I think allowing them to share their feelings and opinions is an important way of showing them respect and make them feel valued.  So, if I want them to be able to share their thoughts, it's equally important to teach them to do it appropriately and logically.  As I say this, there is a part of me that is rolling it's eyes, "Riiiight, I'll just teach my children to logically explain why they are licking the bottom of the garbage can. That is definitely going to happen."
    It will happen though.  I think parents have to keep reinforcing this stuff with their kids, even though it is going to take their kids 30 years to get the fundamentals.  It's these kind of skills that are going to teach kids to be secure in thoughtfully doing what is right.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

How has Hallmark gotten on board with this?

     I am collecting Catholic celebrations that I can have with my kids. We don't do Church, and we don't even really pray (I know, I KNOW; I'M WORKING ON IT!!!) , but I am all about having tiny celebrations for any and everything.  In fact, you can just call me tiny-celebration-lady, because it's pretty much my thing.
     Oh my goodness, Catholicism has SOO many tiny parties.  There is one just about everyday.  I just love 'em: they break up the drudgery of routine, they set the rhythm to the year, and give this pattern for reflection, and kinda honor how ordinary things are sacred.  And so many of them are just really fun and have baked treats.
     I recently I read about "Candlemas", and now I am in love with it.  For starters, it's timing is perfect. Right when the post-Christmas blahs start, around late January/ early Feburary, you get this cute little holiday, Candlemas, on Feburary 2nd.  (Secularinos might know this as "Groundhogs day". Yes, you heard that right.  Candlemas is just another example of how the main stream media is stamping out our traditional Christian values and replacing them with their pro-groundhog agenda. Thanks Obama.)
     Like a lot of Catholic holidays, (if not all Catholic holidays), Candlemas is an adoption of a pagan celebration.  This one in particular has roots in the Gaelic celebration honoring Brigid, the goddess of springtime and general awesomeness.  Let's just peruse her Wikipedia entry shall we?  She's associated with "the spring season, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft", "wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare".  She's pretty kick-ass.
Candlemas Bells.  Squee!
     We never celebrated this in my home growing up, so I had to do a little research, (You can too if you want to check out some of the links below.)  The more I read about it, the more I came to realize that not only is this holiday pleasantly feminist and perfectly times, but it is simply hands-down adorable. Something about it is so endearing: candles and springtime, lambs, and planting gardens. With all the adorable symbols and hopeful themes, naturally there are just a ton of cute ways to celebrate: holding little feasts with doves and candle-shaped cookies, or reading stories about sheep or going to a sheep shearing. So cute!

Sigh. We didn't do any of those things.

But, you know, maybe we will some day; or maybe you will, and you can tell me how it went.

    What we did do is say, "Happy Candlemas" to people, looked out the window for signs of spring, and then two days later planted some tulips.  Amani liked it.  Whenever she sees spring flowers she shouts, "Thank you Candlemas!"  In my book, that is a complete score.



Links for background on Candlemas:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/candlemas.html
http://patch.com/new-jersey/riverdell/bp--a-lamb-in-winter-a-history-of-brigids-day-and-candlemas
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03245b.htm

Sex, Lies and Duck Bills

     We have got to do better by our girls.  Seriously.  With the recent explosion over Miley Cyrus and then the tragic suicide of a victim of statutory rape, the "slut shaming" of our girls needs to stop.  This article by Kimberly Hall, which has been making the rounds on Facebook finally pushed me over the edge this morning.  In the article Ms. Hall warns her sons' female friends that, despite the fact that the girls are charming, have many interests and seem like lovely people, even one sexually suggestive photo of themselves on Facebook will result in a "block" from the Hall boys' Facebook feed.  This stance is taken in order to protect her sons.
     I truly believe that Ms. Hall is trying to live a virtuous life as best she can, and that she wants to raise noble and virtuous men who respect women.  I don't think she necessarily harbors these young girls any ill will; she uses a tone that obviously tries to be motherly and kind.  That said, I am not sure what she is protecting her sons from.  Boobs?  Pouty lips?  Her sons' own sexual imaginations?  They are between the ages of 13 and 16 so...she is going to have a lot of work to do.
     Don't get me wrong: I don't think those girls should be posting sexually suggestive pictures of themselves on the internet, first and foremost because most of these poor girls really just end up making themselves look like ducks with back problems.
      And that is because they are stupid, immature kids.  We need to remember that.  They are not harlots out trick our men into having sex.  They worked hard on those photos, choosing their outfits, getting their hair so it looks a little like Selena Gomez's.  They want boys to notice them, to be with them, to give them assurance of their value and they are experimenting with what society claims is their only one true asset.  We are failing our girls and blaming them for it.
     And all this slut shaming- whether it be blaming a rape victim,
or a Facebook modesty post- really only exacerbate the problem.  Girls do not need to "teach men to love them for who they are" and men do not need to "protect a woman's dignity".  Such bullshit.  Society, especially the Church, needs to advocate for the value of women other than their physical appearance. Society, especially the Church, needs to realize that young girls have dignity regardless of their sexual status.  Finally, society- especially The Church- needs to advocate for socially acceptable ways for girls to gain power outside of using sex appeal.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I am a firm believer that all religious traditions should have at least some element of the ridiculous

    I started reading The Catholic Home some time back, and I've been trying to integrate some of the ideas into our house.  The author suggested trying to wean our house off of the more secular symbols and introduce a few more faith-related.  With regards to Easter, she suggested that we try to downplay the Easter bunny and eggs, and decorate more with lambs and crosses.  I don't know how much we are downplaying the Easter bunny and egg thing; we definitely aren't giving up our neighbor's annual Easter egg hunt, and she can pry Cadbury Cream Eggs from my cold dead hands- but the lamb symbol actually fits very nicely into one of my favorite Easter traditions.  
    Every Easter when I was little, my mom made a carrot cake in a lamb mold, and frosted it with coconut frosting.  She left a the nose and ears unfrosted, placed raisins for the eyes, then sat him on a silver platter in Easter grass, sprinkled with jelly beans.  

     Then, usually, his head would fall off.

     One year, the frosting just refused to hold the back and the front of the lamb together and the little guy just split right down the middle.

     The cakes I've made for my own family have fared just about as well.

     I don't know why it is so hard to make this lamb cake, but it really is very difficult, and I have to say, I find it hilarious.  There are all kinds of cute little lamb molds you can buy that are much cuter and probably easier to complete, but I like to go old school.  I use the old-fashioned, Nordic Ware mold and really get a kick out of seeing how it turns out.  We do a spice cake, because though carrot cake might be more seasonally appropriate, spice cake is way better.  Also, coconut is a no-go at my house, so we just do standard vanilla frosting. Unfortunately, this year- I don't know why- the frosting just kept rolling off the stupid cake.  Not only would the back not stick to the front, but the poor little lamb's face just kept melting off like he had looked into the Ark of The Covenant. Poor little guy. I lay him down on his back, frosted him really fast and the stuck him in the fridge.
     It worked, but when I took it out it felt like it weighed 15 pounds, and sort of looked like it had been made out of Elmers glue.  Amani, who had been very excited to help me decorate the little lamb, jammed several banners made out of drinking straws and hand-drawn pictures of the Easter bunny.
     Frankly, I think it makes a very interesting commentary on the way secular society is overwhelming the original message of Jesus' sacrifice.  I'm sure that's what she was going for.
     It still tasted good.
    At least the head stayed on.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Celebrating Lent with Children: A guide for the lazy and forgetful

     I'm taking the integration of Catholic customs a little bit slow around the house.  Now, I love holidays and traditions and little parties and stuff, and believe me, I have all kinds of celebrations all planned out to execute someday, but the kids are still little, and I barely have the brain space to remember what day of the week it is, let alone where we are in the ecumenical calendar.  So, while some of our "celebrations" essentially amounted to discussing what Amani did in preschool, we have plenty of time to get fancy later.

Lent, blah, blah..yay! Pancakes!
     Fat Tuesday was met with a lot of enthusiasm.  We were babysitting for a friend that day, so her two little ones got to celebrate with us. We did it full affect: chocolate-chip pancakes with syrup.  One year we did some ham and beans in honor of Mardi Gras, and maybe one year we'll do  a king cake, but I thought pancakes were enough this year.  I tried to explain that Lent was a time without of treats, so we were having lots of treats now, but I'm not sure how much that sank in; pancakes can be very distracting.

     We didn't do Ash Wednesday.  I know. I know.  Ash Wednesday is a big one Catholic-wise: official start of Lent: reflection, remembering death, sin; heavy heavy stuff.  We just didn't get to it this year.  Next year we'll do something.

We did do other things for Lent though.  I checked out "The Easter Collection" from the library and read a few stories.  It's a nice book with lovely illustrations.  Most of the stories were a little above Amani's level, but she enjoyed looking at the pictures and liked story about the children waiting for a man named Easter.  I pushed the words "sacrifice" big time around the house, reminding everybody that that Jesus scarified for us.  And we made pretzels, noting how they look like crossed praying arms.

See, Ash Wenesday: book and carbohydrates.  That's what it takes around here.

So now we are in Holy Week, and while we are not batting one hundred celebration-wise, (Can I spin watching Paw Patrol in pajamas as a traditional Palm Sunday celebration?) I've still got some stuff we can get to.  I'll let you know how it goes.