14 posts categorized "Faith & Religion"

Happy St. Patrick's Day, but: How do kids celebrate?

March 17, 2014

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"What IS St. Patrick's Day?" questions have been coming fast and loose from the kids around me today. My best answer is "a celebration of Irish culture," but when I looked up the Wikipedia page on St. Paddy's Day I don't think I realized that the religious feast day in Ireland to celebrate the isle's patron saint includes a Lenten loophole -- restrictions on lush behavior are lifted. (Don't tell those people in kilts -- kilts? -- I saw already drunk on Friday night.) So I started describing how and why people drink like crazy on St. Patrick's Day.

"All people do is EAT and GET DRUNK?" came the angry rejoinder. I got a demand to "do something fun outside!" -- but other than hunt for four-leaf clovers or gold pots at the ends of rainbows, I can't think of a thing.

What do you do with the kids for St. Patrick's Day, other than wearing green and making (my favorite part) Irish food? Anything we can fit in before the end of the day?

What are your Winter Solstice traditions?

December 23, 2011

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Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, and I have read a few of your comments this month about your winter solstice traditions -- just enough for my appetite to be whetted, and not enough for any actual knowledge. You say they're simple and magical and lovely, but what are they?

At Hip Mountain Mama Blog, she talks of gifts and breakfast burritos (maybe I'll have those for day-after-solstice!). According to a great Chronicle post, gift-giving, bringing a tree indoors and decorating it, kissing under the mistletoe, jingle bells and reindeer are all connected to solstice traditions that only in the 18th or 19th centuries became adopted by Christianity. Helping those in need in the community does go back to the original St. Nicholas and early Christmas celebrations, but the concept surely didn't begin with him; in no time like the winter are the needy more in need. In pre-industrial societies, the poor would be the ones who hadn't stored up enough food for the winter. In that way, feeding others might be a very pagan thing to do. (Toy drives probably wouldn't have the same resonance.)

For all those who celebrated the season yesterday, either as an addition to or instead of a religious celebration, please let us know how you celebrated! I'd love to take a peak at your magical, simple ways.

Of the Great Santa Myth, and Faith

December 21, 2011

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There surely was a real St. Nicholas, of course (who would have given very few of our children the things on their Christmas lists -- his assistance of the needy, the sick and the suffering probably wouldn't have included a Nerf Vortex Nitron or the Disney Fairies gift set), but what we have today is all myth. It's the myth that sits our children on his lap, telling him their deepest desires; it is the myth to whom they write letters and make lists; it's the myth that appears in 1,000 permutations on TV shows and movies this time of year. It's the myth that signs his name on packages under trees and fills the stockings (then turns with a jerk...). it's the myth that gives a darn whether or not your kids are "naughty."

I've always been non-committal about the myth of Santa. My parents, despite the religious background that would seem to conflict with the whole idea of an imaginary present-giver, still signed presents under the tree "from Santa" and perpetuated the idea of a guy sliding down the chimney with a big red bag. I remember, one year, writing a letter to Santa and burning it; the idea, that the ashes would float up to Santa in some sort of readable manner, sure didn't make any more sense to me at five than they do at 38. But, I believe it, willing to take a leap of faith if it meant good things like lacy dresses and baby dolls. By my third or fourth lost tooth, however, I was all skeptic; I asked my parents not to sneak in and leave money under my pillow, no matter what! When they acquiesced and, indeed, I woke up to a tooth still in its place, I remember a little disappointment but mostly relief that the world's logic was preserved. I don't remember it being cold or harsh or sad; just helpful. Now I know.

 With my kids, I offer the story like I do Zeus or Achilles or Noah: a story that no one can be 100% sure of. That some people believe, and others don't. The boys are welcome to believe if they like. Most of those guys dressed up on the street certainly aren't the real Santa. Might this one be? Perhaps. If they want to believe it.

Everett, who at eight renounced God, the tooth fairy, Santa and the Easter bunny as myths all (to my disappointment; I still believe in God), is a staunch non-believer, and not quiet about it. This does not affect his brothers' beliefs at all. On Peacock Lane, the boys confronted a Santa Claus together, and Everett informed the others this was a fake Santa. A little while later, with Everett's attention elsewhere, Monroe encountered another Santa. This? The real Santa, he decided, with no one to tell him incontrovertibly that it was not. Even later, as Monroe had not seen Everett evaluate the man (so as to gather evidence for his reality or lack thereof), he remained convinced the second Santa was the real one.

Tomorrow on Think Out Loud, a conversation about Santa and whether or not we tell our kids "the truth" will take place, and the intro to the post and an email about it had me shaking my head.  "Spoiler alert: If you're a Santa believer, you might want to stop reading right now." Really? If you're a Santa believer, even the presence of doubt in others has you disbelieving? This doesn't work for anything else -- take any religion, ever. Even climate change deniers find a way to discount all scientific evidence that works against their theory. Can a radio show shake a kid's faith?

Not in my opinion, especially if a beloved big brother can't even change your mind. The Santa secret is safe, and here's the thing: it was always safe in the minds and hearts of the true believers. Even, if for just a few more years.

Teen Access to Birth Control: Have Attitudes Changed?

October 26, 2011

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I remember the debate, when I was a teenager, over birth control access in Portland schools. On one hand, it's positive to prevent teen pregnancy and (in the case of barrier methods) sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, providing birth control in schools is a tacit encouragement of sexual activity! (A worry that research suggests is unwarranted -- studies show no increase in promiscuity among teens who have condom access and education in school.) And schools aren't in the business of parenting!

When I was a teen, as the product of a very religious family, I felt only slightly different about this than I do now. I had no need of such things -- I wasn't sexually active myself. But I recognized that my classmates were, and didn't really think that it had anything to do with whether or not they could get condoms from the health center. I was in favor of birth control, though concerned about the parenting thing. Should schools be in the role of offering such advice? My opinion was, no.

Monday's Think Out Loud discussion about birth control access in Canby shows me that, despite two decades of research and supposedly loosening social norms, the debate hasn't changed a bit. Same story, different millennium. I'm a parent now, though, and I have to say that my beliefs have changed just slightly; now I believe that putting birth control in schools has nothing to do with parenting; parenting happens at home. Parenting is the stuff that should already have affected students attitudes toward sexual behavior before they get to the point of asking for birth control. I got parented in a way that kept me chaste through high school, but at no time in the process would I have gone to my parents to request access to birth control. I did not want to talk to them about sex (still don't, honestly). The more available birth control is? The more likely teens are to use it. I don't believe it has anything to do with encouraging the activity, tacitly or overtly.

Now that you're a parent, what do you think? Have your attitudes changed?

Halloween Costumes Verboten at Buckman; How 'Bout the Candy?

October 17, 2011

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However tempted I am to say something like, "Halloween was simpler when we were kids!"; it's just not true. When I was of trick-or-treating age, I was faced with an enormity of moral and safety concerns each October 31st. My family, very faithful Conservative Baptists, approached Halloween with great suspicion thanks to its age-old ties to the Devil himself. A few years, we went to church on Halloween for witch-free celebrations (that's where I got my first goldfish!); I always chose "good" costumes, princesses and fairies and, ok, I really only ever wanted to be a princess. Also, we had the specter of razor blades and poison, which must have happened one time ever, and yet most of our parents were sure there were razor blade vendors on every block. Beware of the caramel apples! Take heed of the popcorn balls!

This year, in Portland, we have a modern flavor on the ages-old debate over Halloween. At Buckman Elementary, costumes will be banned for the second consecutive year; the principal "says celebrating Halloween at school excludes some kids and can be very offensive." (My six-year-old's school, Grout, is allowing costumes but banning weapons and gory/offensive/skimpy "content.") This has brought up all the debates you'd think ("what's happened to childhood?" "Halloween is an American celebration" "children need to have the opportunity to use their imaginations and dress up, but I do not believe this needs to be accomplished through Halloween"), and a few new twists. A few commenters on Think Out Loud said that they were disallowed from costumes by their family due to strict religious beliefs, and they appreciated the opportunity to stand up for their beliefs (in one case) or to soak up the "normalness" of the culture around them (in another case).

I'm not very passionate either way on this one; costumes at school, for me, means I have to have them ready earlier (I'm a very-last-minute homemade costume aficionado). And I do understand that they are distracting from the learning environment, and agree that there are ample times outside of school to wear costumes. On the other hand, I disagree that Halloween costumes in particular create disparity and cultural discomfort. As one commenter said and I agree wholeheartedly: these differences are always apparent, and Halloween costumes don't highlight them more or less than any other day at school. In my experience, you can see the cultural/economic differences best in the clothing worn to school when it's cold and rainy outside. (And as someone who was once a very poor high school student and is now a high school coach, I'm telling you, the disparity issues only get worse and more obvious every day that goes by in public school.)

Want more reasons to feel ambivalent about Halloween? The candy. It's not just probably pretty bad for you and your kids (and even I let my kids gorge for a day or two on Halloween and a few other holidays; childhood, right?). It's also the product of child slave labor.

Continue reading "Halloween Costumes Verboten at Buckman; How 'Bout the Candy?" »

Family holiday celebrations on Think Out Loud

December 24, 2009

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It's not Norman Rockwell any more, says the blog post introducing today's local radio hour, Think Out Loud. "In 2008 half as many people got divorced as got married in Oregon — leaving many children switching from mom's house to dad's at some point during their celebration. It means some families welcome their ex's new partner to dinner. It means family, and family scheduling, gets more complicated," it goes on.

Today's show is particularly appropriate for many of us, and dovetails nicely with some of our recent discussions. Topics of conversation included balancing Judaism and Christianity; relationships between adoptive parents and a birth family; Christmas for separated parents and divorced parents; and forging new traditions in non-traditional families. Comments from regular urbanMama contributor nopomama were included in the discussion, and single mama Jennie 7 joined the conversation with some thoughts on negotiating the holidays after her recent divorce.

"When does something you do, become a tradition?" asked the host, and this is sort of obvious (when you do it more than once, probably) but it's a nice way to open the conversation about our own traditions, new and old. What conventional and unconventional customs are your family, Rockwellian or no, doing this year? What would you like to do?

[Think Out Loud's "Family Time" show repeats tonight at 9 p.m. on OPB, 91.5 FM]

Law & Order stirs vaccination pot

April 29, 2009

I have vaccinated all my three boys more or less on schedule, but it is more inertia than science; when Everett was born, I wasn't in a community that questioned vaccinations (my husband's best man was a pharmaceutical sales rep, for one), and it wasn't until later that I started wondering if filling babies full of toxins was really the best approach. By then, it was almost time for public school, and I didn't want to face filling out forms stating my "religious" refusal for one child, but not another.

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But I know lots of you urbanMamas don't vaccinate; parts of Oregon have some of the highest rates of vaccination avoiders in the country. And last night on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, I felt as if I was seeing one of my friends on trial. After an 11-month-old died from measles -- and her mom, a distracted and turbulent Hillary Duff, buried her in a parking lot, thinking she'd killed her -- it was decided that the real "culprit" was a mom who'd decided not to vaccinate her son. The baby and the little boy had been at the same playground after he'd been infected by an Amish teen with measles. The city of New York put the non-vaccinating mom on trial for murder. Seriously?

Not only were non-vaccinators called out in scathing tones for their lack of medical degrees and their dispassioned uncaring for all others ("I don't make choices for those kids!" said the mom shrilly), but the way the writers portrayed the woman was unforgivable; on the stand, she goes on a rant claiming that the baby would have died anyway, because Hillary Duff's character was a "bad mom" (true, but really) and she was a "good mom" and thus she deserved to get off. She did, much to the disgust of most of the SVU crew, who kvetched about how she'd gotten away with murder. The ending was too complicated and horrifying to describe here.

I was shocked that such an extreme viewpoint, which took the "mommy wars" media invention and ran with it in the ugliest way, was firmly established by a TV show I've often loved as the moral right. Did you watch the show? What did you think? Will you be watching Law & Order again?

Getting your tree: Where is it coming from this year?

December 15, 2008

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I'm working on a project doing some freelance writing for a yet-to-be-launched green site, and I've been learning way too much about the environmental impact of everything I do (as if it wasn't already enough!). One thing I've discovered recently is that Christmas trees are often grown with lots of pesticides. I mean, I'm not eating the tree, but it's likely that my 17-month-old, Monroe, is getting his fair share of pine needle ingestion.

So I thought more about where to get my tree this year. In last year's discussion about Christmas trees, we noted a lot selling organic, "local" Christmas trees on 25th and SE Division (it's still there this year). I asked friends to recommend organic tree sellers and was advised to just buy anywhere -- after all, Christmas trees are a huge industry in Oregon (so not getting a local tree would be ridiculous) and they "grow like weeds" so very few pesticides are needed. On the other hand, this article points to widespread herbicide and fungicide use to obtain "perfect" trees.

I decided that we would get it through Cafe au Play, who's selling trees to raise funds to help open the planned family-friendly coffee shop and community center at 58th and SE Division. The trees are from Timber Ridge Tree Farm in Molalla and were very well-priced -- we paid $20 for a very lovely, big grand fir. I was unable to find out whether or not Timber Ridge used many pesticides; maybe next year we'll use capella's great idea: buying a new potted tree every year and plant it; after a few years we can start cutting the older trees down (and buying a new one to replace it) for our *own* Christmas tree farm. That sounds wonderfully "green." Where did you get your tree? Was its green-ness a factor in your decision?

It's Fat Tuesday! Are you (and your family) giving something up for Lent?

February 05, 2008

Sugar_cookies I suddenly realized yesterday that Wednesday -- that's tomorrow!! -- is the beginning of Lent. I'm an Episcopalian by marriage, and my favorite part of the faith that's different from my Baptist roots is Lent. The concept of sacrificing something in concert with millions of others is a ritual that feels right in my bones.

Since I've recently joined the 'eat local' movement, I've been eliminating processed, industrial foods from my family's diet. One exception (of several) I've made up until now has been sugar -- though I've sworn off packaged cookies and candies and the like, I've been buying pound after pound of organic sugar and baking it into all kinds of high-glycemic goodies. I think that I'm giving up sugar (but not honey, as it's local and thoroughly part of nature) for Lent.

The problem with me giving up sugar is that, as chief baker for a houseful I've dragged along on mission: eat local, I'm forcing the rest of my family to give it up, too. Forced religion or good mojo? I can't decide. Are you giving up anything for Lent? Is your family, too, an unwilling participant in your sacrifice?

Children and their religion

December 04, 2007

There are many things that have got me thinking about this subject of late, and I know we have had short chats about it in the past -- "Why does Eleanor celebrate Annika?" and Religion after Kids.  Recently, our family been dealing with the loss of two loved ones, and our faith is surfacing.  We have also decided to prepare our oldest daughter for some of her first Catholic sacraments.  And, of course, with Hannukah and Christmas and many more holidays on their way, it's gotten me thinking.

Do you consider yourself religious?  What do you choose to pass on to your children?  What do you choose to NOT pass on?

Jewish Moms Group

February 16, 2007

Debby, the fearless organizer of JMamas, has arranged for another get-together.  See below:

Portland JMamas (Jewish moms) are getting together on Saturday, February 24 at 10am at Extracto on 2921 NE Killingsworth St., across from Milagros and Cup and Saucer. JMoms, Jkids, and even JDads welcome! We will be making plans for a family pot luck seder on April 7th or 8th (night 6 or 7 of Passover) so be sure to join us and bring your great ideas! For more information about the group, get-together, or joining our yahoo group, please contact Debby, [email protected]

Jewish Mama Get-Together

January 03, 2007

In a recent thread on urbanMamas on Happy Holidays, many Jewish mamas expressed interest in getting together.  If you're interested, please email Debby at [email protected].

I was wondering if the other J-Mamas (Jewish moms) who posted that they would like to meet could email  me privately so we can start planning a time and place to get together? I would hate to see us forget to do this with all of the excitement of the holidays (Chinese food and movies) and new year (Rosh Hashana the sequel???).  I look forward to meeting everyone.

UPDATE: Debby emailed to let us know she's had a great response of interested mamas wanting to get together. Join other Jewish mamas at an informal gathering on Saturday, January 13, 10am at Urban Grind.

Religion after kids

December 26, 2005

Erica's post got me to thinking about how my attitude toward religion has changed since I had kids. My beliefs are basically the same as they always were -- I'm a pretty secular gal -- but I do find myself drawn to the traditions of organized religion. Something else, too...I find religion connects me to the older generations of my family, if only by association.

My parents taught me very little about my religious and cultural background. It never mattered to me until now, when I find myself totally unequipped to answer my kids' questions about our beliefs and history. I'm scraping along, but it's pretty seat of the pants sometimes.

And so, I'm looking into religious education for my kids (Sunday school sort of thing). I hope to learn along with them. I also hope that, whatever religion they ultimately follow (or not), they will understand the religion they were born into -- even if our family doesn't subscribe to the particulars. They'll at least have a starting point from which to begin their exploration.

"Why does Eleanor celebrate Annika?"

On our ride home from school the other day, Jackson asked me, "Why does Eleanor celebrate Annicka?"  I found myself stuck.  I don't know how to discuss religion at all.  I guess my biggest concern is trying to discuss the idea of a God and/or Jesus without sounding like too much of a skeptic.  Jackson's question made me realize that I am pretty certain I don't believe in a God or Jesus.  But, I want to let him make his own decisions about religion.  As a kid, I went to Sunday school up to my first communion and attended a Jewish day camp.  I preferred Friday's challah bread and grape juice to Sunday's communion wafers. 

My concern is that I'm only showing Jackson the commercial side of Christmas.  I don't know how to explain the religious aspect of the holiday from an objective point of view.  Lately, we've been heading into the church after school (his school is in part of the church) because Jackson likes to check out the stained glass and the beautiful Christmas tree.  I find myself wondering if I should take him for a service one Sunday.  Or, maybe like me, he just prefers to admire the beautiful church interior and the enjoy quiet open space.

Does anyone know of a good way to introduce religion?  Maybe a book that presents all different religions and belief systems.  Is 3 too early to be trying to discuss religion?  I'd love any suggestions.