Prepare the Way

Little Mary and Joseph, waiting for Baby Jesus

Little Mary and Joseph, preparing a place for Baby Jesus

Christmas is coming, and it is time to prepare the way. There wasn’t any room in the inn. Will there be room in our hearts? When we see the Mother coming down the road, will we welcome her? Will we welcome her in the poor mother, and welcome him in the poor child?

These are the questions that Advent asks, and more and more Christians from outside the liturgical traditions of Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism are finding value in the questions and value in this season.

Our family is Catholic, so we’ve always kept Advent. We’ve lit an Advent Wreath week by week every year of our marriage. And now that our daughter Anna is old enough, she reads the prayers each week. We added an Advent Calendar this year as well. Each night, Anna opens another door and reads a short scripture verse about the coming of Christ.

And we’ve added one more tradition to our observance of the season. One that prepares the way and a place in our hearts through helping the poor parents who in Christ’s eyes are his poor parents, and the poor children who in his words are him. We joined a large group of volunteers helping a local business bring Christmas cheer to hundreds of families who can’t afford to buy for their own children.

We bought for three families, with eight kids total ranging from six months to ten years old. Anna helped us pick out clothes and toys, especially for the girls, and in three hours this evening we made an immeasurable difference in eight lives.

And tomorrow, Anna and Julia will help wrap the gifts. I’m staying home for that part. Given my lack of wrapping talent I’m more help not being there.

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When a Photo Tells a Tragic Story

Two black kids hold "don't shoot" signs.

Photo via Anne Helen Petersen and MotherJones.com

I saw this image yesterday on Facebook and it left me speechless. I’ve not been able to find out who took it—even after a Google image search—but whoever the photographer was, he or she has captured the danger that African American children face every day.

This isn’t just Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, it’s America. And those of us who by the accidental privilege of our skin color don’t live the life these kids must face need to see them. We can’t shut our eyes any longer.

A new day has hopefully dawned in Ferguson, a new page in the story captured in this photo on Twitter this morning.

But how long until it happens again? Other black men have died violent deaths this week. We don’t know their names, or their circumstances, but we know that families and communities are morning them.

And in this way, all of America is Ferguson.

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Bloggerhood Etc. 7/14/14

Newport sunset

Photo: Julia Ozab

The sun has set on our week-long Oregon Coast vacation, and it’s time to get back to work. Step one: catching up on everything I missed online. Here are some of the best …

Best Bucket List.Gonna live like I’m dying–a list of what I’d do/not do if I my time was almost up” by Elizabeth Esther.

Best Response to a Media-Driven Controversy.The Redskins Controversy; Let the Natives Speak” by Charles Martel at Turf Show Times.

Best Writing Advice.Paper Can Handle the Truth” by Natalie Trust at The Gift of Writing.

Best Special Needs Post.When the Waves are too Strong” by Shannon Dingle at Not Alone.

Best Satire.How to Breastfeed Appropriately” by Bunmi Laditan at Huff Post Parents.

Best Protest.Dallas Open Carry Guitar Protest Hits the Right Note” by the editors at The Dallas Morning News.

Best Question.Will American Christians Fail the Good Samaritan Test?” by Ed Cyzewski.

Best Comic.If Super Mario World Had Been Released on an App Store” by Commitstrip. 

Best Dad Post.My Son Wears Dresses and That’s OK With Me” by Seth Menachem at xojane.

Best Reality Check.This is What Happened When I Drove My Mercedes to Pick Up Food Stamps” by Darlena Cunha at The Washington Post.

Best Commentary.Christians Worship a Child Who Fled Violence in His Home Country” by Gay Clark Jennings at Religion News Service.

Best Book Trailer.How to Start a Family … One Owl at a Time,” a trailer for Melissa Hart’s new memoir Wild Within (via You Tube).

Best Movie Trailer.Wild – Official Trailer (2014)” the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir (via YouTube).

“What if all those things I did were the things that got me here?”

Bloggerhood Etc. 5/27/13

The snow-covered mountains and punctual trains of Montreux, Switzerland, summon childhood train sets, and the daydreams that accompanied them.

Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty

Last week, I departed from my normal best-of format to highlight a cross section of Apraxia Awareness Day posts. This week I return to my usual format, but with a special expanded link-o-rama. There was just too much good stuff to leave anything out, so here goes . . .

Best Travel Essay—International. “How Learning a Foreign Language Reignited My Imagination” by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic. Coates is perhaps my favorite essayist currently writing. When I read his work, I alternate between being inspired to write better myself, and contemplating quitting because I can’t ever imaging writing this well.

Best Travel Essay—Regional. “Visitors take the bait on Bandon crab dock” by Melissa Hart in the Eugene Register Guard. Unlike Coates, Melissa Hart always inspires me to write better. Not because her work isn’t just as wonderful in its own way, but because she’s a personal friend and a great teacher.

Best Letter to My Former Parish. “Dear Parents with Young Children in Church” by Jamie Bruesehoff on I am totally *that* mom. It’s a long story (which appears in my book with names change to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent), but this is exactly what a former parish of ours needed to hear.

Best Parenting Essay. “and to dust you shall return” by Nish Weiseth on her blog. Short and stunning. Wow!

Best Mission Statement. “Pursuing the Truth in Love” by Matt Malone SJ in America. A Catholic statement for a Catholic magazine.

Best Reminder of What We All Need to Say From Time to Time. “Forgive Me” by Rachel Held Evans on her blog. Especially on the Internet, we all need to apologize from time to time. I know I do.

Ring over The Capitol

Image: Ron Miller

Most Mind-Blowing. “If Earth Had a Ring Like Saturn” by Ron Miller on io9.
Awe inspiring pictures like the one above.

Best Reply to an Faux Controversy. “Yes, Pope Francis said ‘All are redeemed.’ Is that news?” by Terry Mattingly on GetReligion. Someone needs to calm “The Huff and Puff Post” down every so often, or at least counter their SCREAMING HEADLINES!

Best Defense of Good Writing. “The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences” by Tom Chivers in The Telegraph. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

Favorite Virtual Exhibit. “Dangerous Decibels” at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Educational and fun. Now I want to go to OMSI again.

And the grand finale . . .

LEGO X Wing

Photo: LEGO

The Largest (and Quite Possibly the Coolest) Thing Ever Built With Lego. “This 23-Ton, 5.3-Million-Brick X-Wing Is the Biggest Lego Model Ever.” Story by Angela Wattercutter in Wired. So geeking out right now!

Common-sense Parenting?

Six months ago, “tiger parenting” was the big fad. Now it’s “free-range” parenting:

(SHANNON PROUDFOOT, POSTMEDIA NEWS) Lenore Skenazy held her breath through the first Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day, terrified something awful would happen during the event she created, but convinced modern parents needed to relax and back off.

Now, with the second annual event this weekend, the New York-based founder of the Free-Range Kids movement senses a groundswell of people heeding her call to arms —and sanity.

“It’s about liberation,” she says. “It’s about liberating children from the bubble-wrap and liberating parents from their dread, not to mention from making parenting a 24/7 security-guard job, which we’ve kind of turned it into.”

Whether it’s called Free-Range Kids, slow parenting or just common sense, there’s a growing backlash against the “helicopter parenting” compulsion to micromanage a child’s life from sandbox to university.

I’m a firm believer in giving kids space to play outside. When I take Anna to our local park, I sit quietly on one of the benches and let her run around the playground and interact with her friends. I don’t micromanage her schedule—she has preschool, speech therapy, and gymnastics classes that take up a total of three and a half hours a week. The rest of the time is open for her to learn, play, and explore. But she’s only five, so except for her two hours a week of preschool she’s always within sight of me, my wife or my mother-in-law.

That’s not hovering, that’s common sense.

As she gets older, she’ll get more responsibility. She’s starting Kindergarten in the fall, and her school is within walking distance. I’ll walk her over on nice days and recede into the background as soon as I know she’s there safely. As she gets older, she’ll walk or ride a bike there herself, like I did when I was a kid. But I’ll still watch from a distance the first few times to make sure she does ok.

That’s not helicopter parenting. It’s not dropping your kid, via parachute, into a minefield either. It’s common sense.

There has to be a middle ground somewhere in the vast gulf between Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Lord of the Flies. Somewhere between a schedule packed with school, organized sports, music lessons, ballet lessons, and social events timed out to the second, and an unsupervised free-for-all in an abandoned lot filled with rusty nails and broken glass.

That middle ground is common-sense parenting.

Link

More Parenting Resolutions

Yesterday, I posted a list of ten New Year’s resolutions for parents. Here’s another one from a clinical social worker and therapist in St. Louis:

Beginning a new year is an appropriate time to reassess how well we are managing basic, ongoing commitments we have as parents.

Here are some primary parenting responsibilities, followed by some review questions.

Read On

I like this list a bit more than other one. The writer focuses consistency, which I believe is the most important goal of any parenting strategy. Are the boundaries clear? Are the consequences consistent? Are the parents working together toward the same goal? Kids need to know the rules, and the rules need to be consistent.

They’re our children, we love them, and we owe it to them to raise them right.