Childcare

Lord God Almighty, you know that childcare is a tricky endeavor.

I remember when I had three preschoolers and the babysitter would cancel, and I would get to feel like a bad professional and a bad parent both at the same time.

Today, I still feel like “balance” is a misnomer for what it is a parent has to do to care.

As we enter into this new kind of school year it is with many deep breaths (Come Holy Spirit, Come!) and the attempt to set reasonable expectations.

You know, God, that caring for a child never ends.

How many times have I told my children “Nope, sorry can’t stop worrying and caring it’s my job” (although I do try not to worry all the time).

Help all those who have inadequate childcare in their life right now, which I’m going to guess is pretty much every parent of a young or disabled child. Please Lord, walk with them as they try to do all the things that need to get done.

Lord God, this is a new landscape. One in which we in my country are asking ourselves the very important question–do we care about our children? Is child-care a part of our community?

I’ll never forget the one church I worked at, where children ran around and were loud and were let to be children. And my baby was always being held by someone else. Because it was a church that valued nurturing my child.

When my child was baptized there, I knew they took their baptismal vows seriously.

Does the kingdom of heaven look like childcare?

Today I think it does, please God help us to bring that reality to this kingdom here today.

Amen.

All Prayers can be used/adapted with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

More Mundane Prayers: for surviving the Day to Day

Here is the Link for Pandemic Prayers and Resources: Top Posts are “In an Abundance of Caution” “The Lord is My Shepherd: What kind of Sheep are You” and “Masks: A Prayer”

Sacrifice of Isaac

This is a tough passage. This is the passage where, I don’t know how I feel about God, when the story begins “Take your son, your only son and sacrifice him.”

I want to say that we should never have to sacrifice our children, but then I think about the fact that its 4th of July, and that wars exist, and people have been asked to sacrifice their children for many reasons.

So I don’t know how I feel about God at the beginning of this story, but I do know how to feel about Abraham. As a pastor, I definitely understand him. He is trying to be there and  be responsible and hold fast to all of his commitments. When God calls him, Abraham says “Here I am” when Isaac calls on him, he says “Here I am”

“Here I am” for God and my family. I definitely feel that stretch. It makes me think of last Friday when I couldn’t make an out of town meeting and I was working and conniving to figure out how to get childcare for my special needs child to get there. How can I be both places at once?

And I feel for Abraham when he answers Isaac “God will provide the lamb” even as he has already promised to sacrifice his son. He is hoping, somehow for everything to work out.

And then part of me sees the humor in the ram that is caught in the thicket. I am, personally, very suspicious that the ram was there the whole time, but Abraham was so focused on trying to get through the horrible act of sacrificing his son, that he can’t see any other way out.

But isn’t that grace? Finding the path you didn’t see was there before? Ever have a solution presented to you that in retrospect was super-obvious, but your were so focused on getting through it, that you missed it?

This is why we need outsiders, and others perspectives. They help us to find the grace, the other path we might have missed.

So, I signed in to my meeting last Friday, remotely, feelings sad that I couldn’t be there in person, when my youngest, Ashburn, threw up. And I went and cleaned the mess and realized, I wouldn’t have been able to make the meeting in person anyway, and the online attendance was way better than trying to be there, because if I hadn’t been online I wouldn’t have been able to make it even with a babysitter, because Ash was sick. Grace is funny like that sometimes.

Like a child throwing up.

Or a Ram with its horns caught in the thicket.

Offering another perspective, another path, another way.

And that is why we gather and talk about who God is in our lives, so we don’t miss the other path, so we don’t miss out on the grace.

Esp. when its so obvious it makes us laugh. (And I just realized, this story does not require the sacrifice of laughter i.e. Isaac but instead welcomes/prompts it)

I’m not sure how I feel about God at the beginning of this story, but I know how I feel at the end, Our God is the God of Hope, the God of new paths, the God of laughter, the God of Grace.

 

Mother’s Day, one holiday in the life of a working pastor mom

For me mother’s day is getting up around 6am to help my children get ready for church.

I get their clothing (laundry being the only thing my husband doesn’t like to do AT ALL). I actually had laid out our clothing the night before, but my leggings for under my tunic on a rainy day (which prob doesn’t matter because I’ll be wearing a robe anyway) seem necessary so the dears at church don’t feel cold due to my sticking out legs. I want to wear my tunic shirt though, my parents sewed it for me, and I wore it for Easter but they weren’t around.

Luckily I find some black tights that will do just fine and easily find another shirt for the 5 yr old. He has a lot more clothes then the older ones as he inherits everything. Then and get back to work to get the kids ready.

I tell almost 9 and 5 yr old no electronics this morning (some days its easier to have them distracted, sometime the fight to get off is not worth it)

My husband comes and they give me a gift card, which I sort of saw when 5 yr old accidentally got excited and tried to give it to me when my husband was out of the house, I convince my almost 9 yr old to rehide the gift. Dad explains that I’ve been working really hard and need to relax, because gift cards are not excited for small boys.

Luckily 7yr old boy (who is autistic) sleeps in, so he comes down for 10 minutes of “Scooby Doo Toys” (youtube; because originally thats what he watched on it). I sneak in his meds as he’s watching (the easiest time to do it) quick before we go. I think about that he’s not up during the present time, but it would probably confuse him as its neither for him nor he picked it, plus he has his own present for me, so I decide that will do for his part of the present giving.

My parents come over because they came up from Philly for the weekend, we all went out to eat the night before for mother’s day (with babysitting!) because then I can concentrate on the worship service. Which is beautiful and perfect, but the significance of the day is still real. I think about this as I think of those electing not to mention mother’s day in church, because its a secular holiday and it hurts. I feel uncertain as to letting the only voices being non-church ones is the way to go. But hey, I’m blessed, so I celebrated some Saturday and do a lot of my thinking today.

Then I look for my black shoes. One pair has been sitting in the “shoe bench” cupboard because the ballet straps look just silly with a lot of outfits, but I can only find one (of course). Look in the basement where I foolishly sometimes take off shoes to change to clean pajamas down there, then the upstairs bathroom where I do the same, finally I look under the couch which is miraculously almost clear, but sure enough my other pair of black dress shoes are there.

We get everyone dressed and ready and going out to the car, and I run back in for tampons, because nothing says mothers day like preaching with your period (seriously the things I reflect on theologically are SO nerdy, did I mention I’m still 33 yrs old the Jesus age…yeah I’m obsessed)

We go to breakfast at Panera, like we do every Sunday, its my survival coping mechanism for Sunday.

I ask my mom and dad to pick up 20 carnations for all the women of the church, and then we head off to church planning to meet them. (Yay for help in getting things done)

I’m on my way to church, still thinking about how to mention all those for whom mother’s day is hard. Reflecting, that its most of us. Who has entirely happy memories/associations with mothers day? I’m lucky in my mother and mother-in-law’s support, but my grandmother is no longer around and that makes me melancholy.

Then I’m old enough to know people who struggle with infertility and miscarriage, to know of those who are yet unpartnered and are trying to figure out what to do with their wish for children, I know people in the queer community for whom mother’s day is extra complicated, not to mention mother’s of children who are physically unwell, have diagnoses or struggle with addiction. I also know those for whom their mothers are just bad news. One friend said she finally has been able to admit her mother is a terrible person. I think on my father whose parents were abusive, the grandparents on that side that I never got to know well.

All of this is in the back of my mind and I go to my bookshelf to get The Runaway Bunny to read to the kids during children’s sermon. Thinking on how Psalm 139 is still my favorite, probably because of this book.

Then I do all the things to prep the church that my one faithful guy always does, but he’s out of town. I prep my office to magically transform into the choir room for 20 minutes and fuss all morning with my butterfly stole which now refuses to stay straight as a chain on the back has broken.

I print out the sermon notes, read over the scripture one last time and think carefully about the promise of baptism.

Right before service, my husband and I talk work schedule because the church’s Chicken BBQ is Tues and he doesn’t usually work then, so I have no babysitting. We talk about bringing the kids to the event and under what circumstances he might stay (boys are helpful) go (attitude everywhere) or just take 7yr old autistic child back. We clarify he CAN work Weds which is usually his day off because for once I have no important meetings.

I see a new couple and introduce myself, nope they are here for the cool inclusive-we-ordain-women-worship down the hall. This is often confusing because we also have a female pastor (me). I offer to walk them down the hall. I am trying to look at all of these as a blessing, though I wish we had a cool newspaper write up that drew visitors this week.

I look out, there are about 5 people in church, including my parents. I suddenly remember that Mother’s Day is a low attendance day for my church (in contrast to tradition, but right in line with modern day attitudes). The reminder actually helps me feel like think are normal.  I help with announcements and hear my lay leader jovially wish everyone a happy mother’s day.

Then people trickle in, and we end up with about 20 people, I hear my parents sing during the first hymn and immediately feel like its more mothers day (How do your children say pe-ace, how do your children say hooooommeee…).

We do a litany prayer and my voice cracks on the mother of those who have physical, emotional  or mental disabilities (which I smartly had put in bold as a group prayer). Then I say the part about children who feel motherless for whatever reason by myself (which is not something I feel) and hope its enough for those who are hurting.

I have the children’s sermon and its just two of my three, the other family’s children are NOT cooperating (which I muse to myself is totally understandable holiday are so oft overkill) so I read them the story and say a repeat prayer and send them back to their seats. Sometimes I have the kids give out the flowers, but it feels silly if its just mine. Plus my eldest will end up doing it all, and he doesn’t need the extra attention, even tho he’d love it.

I sermonize, I talk about baptism and God’s role as a nurturing and creating God. I talk about how mother’s day is hard, but motherhood is part of the church’s class. I preach about community and how building community is what faith is about (subtext: belief is one thing, community faith is another). I feel the hope, and talk about welcome as a part of nurturing. I think it was fairly focused, but preaching is an art not a science, so who knows.

During the Anthem after the sermon, I decide to hand out the flowers. One congregant goes and sees her sister who suffers from dementia. She usually has to leave during the last hymn, and I don’t want her to be without a flower. My mom jumps up to help, which is nice.

During the prayers of the people I emphasize those who mothers day is hard, or their mothers are far away.

Then the service draws to a close, I reflect about the balance, the sermon was happy and optimistic but the prayers were more mournful, I wonder if that worked.

We close service, and we pass the peace and go to coffee hour (snacks my kids call it). My parents run to go see my brother on Mother’s day too. Luckily no one is too sad because the kids are overjoyed by the donut holes, I give up trying to monitor how many they are having, seeing that my 7 year old autistic boy isn’t eating too many sweets for once, and is singing and dancing around the sanctuary. I hear a litany of what is being dropped in the entryway (where we now have coffee hour since we are renting out the fellowship hall) and try not to address it, because today is mother’s day.

Then I call for “Messy Church” and find that the family of recalcitrant kids have been refreshed by donut holes and them and another child who was late to church have joined my own for our more informal type of Sunday School.

I take them over to the baptismal font to talk about baptism. Meanwhile my 5 yr old immediately notices I didn’t get a flower (i.e. I didn’t take one for myself) and runs to get me one. Adorable, makes my day.

Then I talk about baptism and am pleased that the kids are super literate about what it is and what it mean. No doubt the involvement in the kids sprinkling all the adults with water as a renewal has helped. They say they belong to God and that Jesus loves us and we are church family. Then I ask if they want to write God on them to show who they belong to (Answer=Enthusiastic YES). I go and write God on the bottom of their shoes and some feet, realizing I didn’t ask any parent’s permission, but figure its harmless enough that its probably ok.  We triumphantly write God on shoes and bare feet and all the kids love it and start telling each other they belong to God. I start to think this has been the most successful part of the whole worship.

Then we go back to show the adults.

I check in with the parents and warn them about the shoes (1 hr later I realize the marker all washed off in the rain grass, but hey) and everyone is ok with it. so I then take the moment to tell the other adults about the great special needs baseball team my 7 yr old just started, crowing with proud that he loved it and it wore him out. (And realize once again what percentage of my time is spent talking about my autistic child vs. the other two, but try not to guilt myself about it)

On the way to the car, I say goodbye to the Nursery Care College Student who is heading home for the summer. Its her 2nd year for us, and she is working out whether or not she can do a 3rd depending on internship. I thank her profusely, as I know I’m the only one who pays her any attention, she’s not a member, just an employee, which is unusual in our close knit teeny church. She does well, and I want to be sure to tell her before she goes. Then the kids outdo me and almost know her over with a group hug goodbye. 🙂 YAY!

Then we hop in the car (with less fuss than usual), and head towards the playground, because now that the weather is nice we are trying to do that after church. On our way we discuss whether its worth going, because my husband has work soon and it will be a short visit. It looks like rain, if it rains would we have missed our chance? What if it rains while are there?

The kids tell us they are expecting playground, and are not asking for electronics, so we decide to go. 20 minutes of play actually works out pretty well. I sit a little and read, my husband catches Pokemon. 9yr old is super happy he hangs our with older cool kids, and no one really touches the oozing mudpie that is usually the sandbox.

We run home, my husband gets some food and goes to work at the library. I get everyone settled with electronics (totally forget to give them more food), read a short story written by 9 yr old. Lock the front door and go to take a nap.

2 hrs later!!! I wake up. Whoa, I must have been more tired than I thought. Shoot, I was going to originally kick everyone off electronics after an hour. Oh well, thinking my menstrual cycle probably has something to do with it. I go downstairs and kick everyone outside. 5 yr old is totally grumpy form lack of food (everyone else probably treated themselves to a snack) and begs for “new” mac and cheese, the one in the fridge will NOT do at this point in life.

I look at the clock, its past 4. I start mac and cheese, but the kids ate that last night, so I look for more supper. The fridge is basically empty and pancakes feel eh! for dinner. So, I decide its mother’s day, its ok to order, I order hibachi.

5 yr old helps to make mac and cheese, meanwhile 9yr old is outside and again playing with older kids (yay), One older neighbor who also is not neurotypical has a cool Motorbike!. 7yr old is ecstatic and dances about the yard because watching the motorbike is amazing.

7yr old wants to ride his bike (which he can get out of the trunk of the car with a little too  much ease). Luckily 9yr old comes in to tell me the bike is out, so I go to watch. (Just got the mac n Cheese finished in time) Bingo! Have worked out with 7 yr old how he can go up and down the duplex driveway hills into the street and have me watch from a vantage point where I can warn/help with oncoming cars when the few come it. Much better than running after the bike which was what I was doing til now (good exercise but the 7yr old did NOT appreciate it). He plays outside for an hr! Kids ask about electronics and I say after dinner.

Go onto phone and fb for first time. Try to do the mother’s day greetings and thank yous. Think about my sermon some more 😛 and how it went because this is what I do.

Have dinner.

Get the gift from 7yr old, its a hand in a HUGE block of ceramic. He fits his hand, I say is it for mama day. He says yes (I’m his “person” autistic kids usually have one main person they connect to) and hugs and kisses me, very happy there is a mama day.

Husband turns on Jim Henson’s Storyteller, because 9yr old is currently into Greek Mythology–going into 4th grade thats when I remember being into it, husband too, it must be developmental.

Surprisingly 7yr old turns off youtube and snuggles in to watch. Its adorable, My husband and I can’t move, he doesn’t get pajama pants and I don’t go to the bathroom for a good hour. Then he settles in, and we go about our usual things as the boy-boys watch.

5 yr old decides to make cookies with me. He has cute new apron of his own side and can read the picture directions. We decided to make baby cookies (not to be confused with babies which 5yr old told me Dada says “No Babies” which is true because dada VERY clearly told boy-boys we are not planning on more child-longs a couple of weeks ago).

Cookies are a success, and as their only 12 of them (24 mini-cookies) we feel ok about consuming them all! 5 yr old is very proud of his cookie making accomplishment.

We watch the shows until bedtime.

Its a long and good day (less meltdowns by boy-boys). And I’m not sure what it means, but for me this is mothers day, here and now, and it seemed important to share it.

The Meaning of Children

There is  a great series about parenting, faith and life going on here.

Sadly I was too overwhelmed to officially attempt to join, but these are my thoughts.

I have known and loved so many children already, and its been a blessing. I cannot remember a time without young children in my life. I am the eldest of four children, my youngest sister is 10 years younger than me. She is about to graduate from college this weekend. At Oberlin I worked at Headstart, at Princeton Seminary I was the Children’s Ministry Coordinator at a local church, and then I started having children of my own.

Three

Three Boys

I like to say…I have all the stuff.

My children have taught me a lot about individuality and acceptance in that each and every one of them is unique and different.

My eldest (7) is a dramatic leader, he love performing, and projects. I like to say he’s like me without the adult super-powers. He is wordy and smart and argues about EVERYTHING. I do mean everything, he verbal processes every single decision.

My middle child (5) is different. He has severe communication problems and not so severe physical coordination issues. He is empathetic, easygoing and overall a complete sweetheart. I think he only can understand 10% of our verbal communication, yet he goes with the flow and throws himself into group activities with joy.

My youngest (3) loves cars, rockets, stars/moon and baseball and basically everything stereotypically boys…took three to get there, but we got one. He likes to entertain himself, and cackles cutely when he is making trouble.

My kids are not perfect, and there is no way to treat each of them equally, they are too different. In fact, parenting skills are obviously NOT the only thing that molds a child. However, I think they are comfortable. They know they are loved for who they are and their skill sets and trouble spots are accepted.

I often think of how God loves and accepts each of us. Of how when we ask people to be exactly the same, we are really saying that God does not have enough love to share it with those who are so different. Its too hard to love different children.

Having three different children, I think that I have enough love for each and every one of them, and my husband (which of course is yet another kind of person) and I don’t love them for being the same or different or perfect.

I love Franklin’s sense of momentous occasions

I love Westley’s way to lead you to what he wants by holding your hand.

I love Ashburn’s cackle of delight when something surprises him.

I love being able to love them.

For more articles be sure to check out some http://miheekimkort.com/2015/05/17/the-meaning-of-children-you-suck/ for the month of May and June

For parents w…

For parents whose children no longer like to watch the cartoons that their parents have grown to love, we pray. #backyardigans

Unvirtuous Abbey ‏@UnvirtuousAbbey 1h

Or for when Netflix takes said show/movie off of the stream and you have to figure out if you can/should you buy it?

Ex: Backyardigans, Cat in the Hat (the PLAY)<—Found for $6, Nutcracker Ballet <–ordered on Amazon Cloud

This year I will……

This year I will talk to dragons, I will spend the time I need to with fairies and fight off the bad guys with a sword.

I will flirt outrageously

I will laugh more than ever

I will be sure to build as many towers as I knock down, and remember that journeying to the castle is just as important as defeating the bad guy

I will improve my tea drinking ritual–because its more fun the more you do it

I will remember to sing loudly in the car, try new upsidedown and balancing thingies in yoga and throw more snowballs

I will wiggle more in my seat, draw more doodles and as a result become wiser than ever

I will pick the flowers

I will get my hopes too high on a regular basis, expect all  people I know to be brave & wise & good no matter what I might (or might not already) know about them and catch up on Dr. Who

I will exclaim over every baby that they are each the most beautiful baby in the universe—because every single one is, and spoil my cats while contemplating with my husband the fact that we’ve acquired a creature (baby or kitten) every year that we have been married.

I will make it my mission to make my job be more and more about people (and less about paperwork)

I will declare random vacations to go out and play in the sun

I will do silly things I’m not good at, I will play strategy games, draw, play music, etc. because those are the things I love

I will do something meaningful to support trans*/bi community

I will watch as many Disney movies as possible and get my haircut when I feel like it

I will remember never to eat the food in fairyland

I will let my kids be messy, allow them to have fun, and teach them to love people

I will play more practical jokes on my husband

I will enjoy God’s sense of humor!

I will get lost and have fun while I’m doing it

I will read many, many library books

I will chase rainbows…and sunsets….

I will go on as many adventures as I can cram in…

I will walk to nowhere

I will tell the stories that give my life meaning, and repeat them over and over again until they are true

I will be Katy 🙂

Baptismal advice for parents

Baptismal advice for parents

Baptismal advice
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, read to your children and provide them with quality children’s literature.  There is no substitute for stories and the life of the imagination for a child’s developing mind.  Children need to be able to encounter on their own terms (not in a preprogrammed “entertainment” format) stories that are subtle and challenging enough to become part of their ongoing imaginative life. Start with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and anything by Tomie DePaola, and from age 4 or 5 onward, give them C. S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Winnie the Pooh, E. Nesbit, Lloyd Alexander, The Wind in the Willows, Brian Jacques, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken, Arthur Ransome, The Phantom Tollbooth, Watership Down, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, and whatever else seems good at the public library.  (Harry Potter and The Hunger Games won’t hurt them, but won’t do much all by themselves, either.)  The three Christian virtues are faith, hope and charity:  to believe in the invisible, to go forward when all seems lost, and to love the unlovable.  A child nurtured on good kids’ books will know these three virtues intuitively, in his or her bones.  Nothing on TV comes close.”

DISAGREE About Hunger Games and Harry Potter (hello Hallows not Horcruxes anyone?) but the reading advice is right on (note what percent is fantasy?)

Would add Andrew Lang and my Fairy Tale list https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/fairy-tale-addendum/

Parenting Parable: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Once Upon a Time there (around Matthew 21) there was an actual father who had to deal with two sons. And this family was so typical, Jesus decided to use them as a guide to life. In this family there were two sons who’s father told them to go and work on the vineyard. The first son refused. The second son agreed.

But in an ironic twist, the son who refused changed his mind and went and did the work anyway, the second son didn’t go at all….

Then Jesus asked, which son did what his father asked (not which was the better son, not who was more faithful, just who DID IT) and his disciples answered the first

This is classic teenage behavior: My father (a behavior psychologist and pastor) likes to point out that usually while teenagers are giving you mouth, they are doing exactly what you asked them to do. Hence my father advises parents to look at actions more than words.

You want your kid to do x, y and z and he/she is doing it, great!

They don’t have to be happy about it…that might be asking too much

I have a congregant who complains about every bit of work that has to get done–she is a veritable saint, showing up to everything, serving on boards, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, working when work needs to be done, and is dependable and loyal as anything. I’ll take an entire congregation of such people (even if it does wear me out).

With my eldest, we’ve learned not to give him the opportunity to argue–this is a child who thinks no=anopportunitytoargue, maybe=yes and if-you’ve-given-an-inch=everything-is -up -for-negotiation. I call him the negotiator. So often I don’t tell him what’s going on (against my extroverted nature!) and just start doing it–going upstairs to brush teeth without telling him, taking all the other kids out to the car (because they are too young to argue, at least verbally), or reading the stories whether or not he is present. When I do this, he often follows, because my actions as a parent speak louder than words! Putting things into action means that I REALLY mean that we are doing this now, I’m not just talking about it…

What does this say about parenthood (esp. on days like yesterday when I lose it?) What does it mean about us as Christians? Jesus ends the parable by pointing out that the prostitutes and tax collectors are getting in before the church people for they believed and acted first. A lot of the Spiritual not Religious data says that Christians do not follow through on what they believe. The practical aspect of faith is missing.

As parents, I think this means telling and ACTING on the fact that we love our children. If we do not act out love–if we don’t practice REAL forgiveness, if we are not open and accepting of EVERYBODY, if we curse people while we are driving or tell our children that dressing up in high heel shoes is a ridiculous thing for a boy to do (my son’s experience in nursery school), if we mock the weak, demean the different and blame the poor for their plight, what are we teaching them?

How can we enact love? How can we, on the days we don’t feel like it–go out and pick the fruit of God? How can we return to work in the Garden of the Kingdom of God again, and again in meaningful ways?

We might not always want to do it, but that’s ok, as long as we know that our actions speak louder than words, and its never too late (even after we’ve refused!) to go out and work the garden.

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