Monday, November 30, 2009

It is Finished!

Before I forget, I must post my final post for NaBloPoMo! Maybe I'll get a prize! You'll be the first to know!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Day More

Hooray for the next to the last day of NaBloPoMo! What have I learned from this? Mainly that I don't have enough interesting things to say to last a whole month. There were some things that I definitely wanted to share, and there were some things that I shared simply because I needed to check off the "I posted today" box. I'm really glad that I finally got to write about my early church experiences, and I'm grateful for the alliteration in "Friday Flashback," because the jazzy alliteration itself seems to justify a whole post dedicated to photos. But really, this hasn't been a life-changing discipline for me. Not that I thought it would be, but mostly I just like discipline for the sake of discipline. Maybe that's why I'm such a good Methodist.

So, yeah, I've learned that blogging is a good way to talk about things that I really need to get out of my system, and a really good way to remember the cute/funny/interesting things my kids say and do, but as a daily discipline it's really not my cup of tea.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My First Advent

Since I was on maternity leave during Advent 2005, this is actually my first time to journey through Advent as a pastor. That's not exactly earth-shattering, I realize, but I feel like I'm finally getting to catch up on something I missed out on before. I did have to preach one week of Advent while on leave as it was required for my ordination process, but it still didn't feel very Advent-y to me. So I'm looking forward to it. That, and an early bedtime tonight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday

Two years ago at this time my dad was retiring from his lifelong job at the US Army Corps of Engineers and had a great bash.

We had an almost new baby in our house.

And because that wasn't challenging enough, we also brought home 18 more babies, too.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Girl Child

Whoever said that girls are easier than boys either never had girls or never had Clare. We've reached a new peak of independence. Tonight when I asked her to go get the green comb from my bathroom so that I could comb her hair, her brother got to it before she did and brought it to me. She squealed, whined, took it from him and RAN BACK TO MY BATHROOM WITH IT so that she could bring it from the bathroom. Later, when I picked out some socks from the pile of clean laundry in the middle of the hall, she squealed, "I DO IT!", took them from me, put them back in the pile, and retrieved them again on her own.

And to think that we're actually trying to potty train this child. There's a way to use this to our advantage, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Am I Thankful For?

Well, in no particular order, there's him:
And him:
And definitely her:
And him:
And them (and their families...turn around, Gina). That's my momma on the far left.
And her and all of her people:
And them:
And this:
And them:
And lots and lots of that:
And so, so, so much more. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Love's Liver

Jay had his every-six-months appointment at Vanderbilt today. The good news is that he hasn't gotten worse. The bad--or maybe expected--news is that he hasn't miraculously recovered. He and his doctor talked about statistics and waiting times and survival rates--what fun! But other than that nothing was new. He's supposed to go back in another six months unless his lab results show something unexpected.

I don't know that either of us would have expected this Thanksgiving to be so normal. Last Thanksgiving we had a houseful of family and friends who came to celebrate with us because, as far as we knew, that Thanksgiving might have been his last. We were still waiting to get an appointment at Vanderbilt, and none of Jay's other doctors were willing to hazard a guess as to how long Jay would make it before needing a liver. So we all crammed in our little house and ate and played and stayed up too late and made the best of everything.

This year our crowd will not be so crowded, and that's OK. It means that, as of right now, we aren't preparing for the worst. And for that I am thankful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Little Man

Joshua, Clare, and I went to the doctor today for Joshua's four-year-old checkup. He weighs 38 pounds and is over three feet tall (I don't remember exactly). And while height and weight and head circumference used to be the focal point of these checkups, today I was taken by Joshua's interactions with doctors and nurses. He was cooperative and helpful, and he the tear that was forming in the corner of his eye when the nurse took a little blood from his thumb never made it past his eyelid.

He answered most of the questions this time. I just watched him interact. I know I'm his mom, but I was pretty impressed. I guess this is what it's like when your little boy grows up!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

300!

Because I have nothing else interesting to say, and because it is almost midnight, I will simply celebrate that this is my 300th post!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Flashback Friday...on Saturday

Three years ago we were just getting settled into our new house. We planted a garden and, soon after, found out that I was pregnant with Clare.
These are our greens.
Joshua hanging out while I picked greens for supper.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving

Jay and I are working on the old Thanksgiving menu. We feel like we've covered just about every option in the book and are going back to good old turkey, dressing, gravy, rolls, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (because what good is an eat-everything holiday if you can't somehow incorporate processed junk from a can?), and sweet potatoes. Oh, and pumpkin pie and apple cobbler, of course

So what are the Thanksgiving staples you can't live without?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three Reasons Why My Son Lived to See Another Day

Joshua has been, shall we say, nap resistant for the past little while. I put him down for a nap and, regardless of how exhausted he obviously is, he gets back up and visits me in my office while I'm working. I discovered today that he actually enjoys the part where I chase him back to his room, even though I'm usually yelling at him all the way. This time I toned down the yelling--like I didn't at all--but I took my anger out on his door when I slammed it shut. But, of course, back he came. It's a wonder he lived, but he did. Here's why:
  1. I put myself in time out. Oh yes I did. I locked the door to my room and decided I didn't care what he did. Turns out he played with Legos. And I calmed down.
  2. When I finally opened the door, he came in my room, folded his clean underwear, and put it in his drawer. All without being asked to do so. And I smiled a little bit.
  3. He came back, stood in front of me, and indicated that he needed to use the potty. I said, "Do you need to use the potty?" And he said, "Nope. I'm just touchin' my penis." Except that he said with drawl, so it sounded like, "Nope. I'm just touchin' mah pay-nis." And I laughed.
And he lived.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church-Related Injury

Without sounding too much like Pollyanna, there is part of me that is grateful for my experience in this particular church, even the bad stuff. I imagine that there are plenty of Christians who have wonderful, formative, and transformative church experiences without ever feeling rejected or unwelcome, and that is, of course, wonderful.

But part of me is grateful that I know what it feels like to be rejected by the church. I think that it can enhance my own ministry and make me better able to sit with people who have been shown the door like I was. And it also helps me remember that people can do the most damaging things with the best of intentions.

Are there any other church-related injury stories out there that anyone wants to share?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Then the Bitter

I didn't go to church much while I was away at college, but I always went back to my this church when I was home during breaks. One of the very last times I went was the Sunday after I graduated from college. I had decided to go to seminary to get an MDiv with a specialization in Pastoral Counseling, and I was so excited to tell my church family my plans. Jay was with me. It was one of the first times--if not THE first time--that he had ever been to my church. He didn't grow up going to church and might have been a little leery of the whole thing, but he went with me because he's a good sport.

All was well until the service was over. I had told a couple of people about my plans before the service had started, and apparently word had spread. Jay and I were standing up, getting ready to leave our pew, and I was sharing my news with a few other people. As we headed toward the door, a group of four or five church elders came toward me. They literally back me up against a pew and formed an arc around me. I don't remember their exact words, but it was clear that not only were they not pleased about my decision to go to seminary, but they were also very concerned that I was a) going to a Methodist seminary, and b) going north of the Mason-Dixon line to do so. In fact, I've never been clear about their primary concern because I've only ever been able to hear the sound bytes in my head:

"They'll just tear your faith down and leave you with nothing."
"How can you think this is a good idea?"

Mostly I just remember the panic. And, of course, the fabulous impression this was making on my soon-to-be-fiance whom I wanted so badly to love these people as much as I did.

I laughed it off and went home. That afternoon I got a phone call from one of the women in the church telling me that there was going to be reception after church that night for high school and college graduates. Since I was, in fact, a graduate, she invited me to come. Big mistake.

Jay and I went back to church that night. We were eating some cake, visiting with some folks, not worried about much, when the pastor came over to "talk." He asked me by what authority I had made the decision to go to seminary (I'm still not sure what that means), if I was familiar with the seminary's statement of faith, and if I had done enough research about the school to make a good decision. This line of questioning was not pastoral; it was accusatory and humiliating and demeaning. And it still makes me question whether he took issue with my choice of school or my choice to go to seminary as a woman. I'll never know.

I cried. I sat in my chair and bawled. Jay sat in his chair and boiled. There were plenty of people who tried to be comforting, but the best offer anybody made was that maybe I should go to a more evangelical school in Boston, as though the draw of the school was its location and nothing else. Unable to stand anymore, we left. For the last time.

I went to a few Bible studies that summer, but I never again stepped foot in that church. The last Bible study I went to had the leader asking the rest of the group for suggestions of steps I could take if asked to, say, give answers on a Theology test, should the "correct" answers be at odds with "what I really believed." Yeah, I was done after that.

It has taken a long time for me to realize that those men who approached me were really doing so out of concern. Maybe not for me, but they were nonetheless concerned. Maybe they were concerned that my decision to stray from what they believed was right was somehow a reflection on the church, somehow an indication that they had failed to teach me the right thing. As a parent now, I get that. That doesn't make it right, but I get it.

And the twist of the knife came when Jay and I were living in California. I received a package in the mail from someone from that church, I don't even remember who anymore. It announced a retirement party for the pastor, and requested that everyone create a scrapbook page of sorts for him and his wife. It took every ounce of my being not to take that scrapbook page and pour all of my hatred and anger and hurt all over it in pictures and in words. It's hard to believe that someone there knew how to find me all the way in California, but never tried to make any other connection.

So it hurts to look at those pictures I mentioned a few days ago. It hurts because it's like looking at a family that stopped loving me, that made it clear that I wasn't welcome to come back until I decided to play by their rules. And yet, even that experience has clarified my call to pastoral ministry: My church had it right, to a point. Where they stopped loving, I want to continue. Where they were humiliating and demeaning, I want to be gracious.

That church showed me the very best of what a church should be, and the very worst of what a church can be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

First, the Sweet

When I was in 5th grade or so, my parents decided that we should start going to a new church. The church that we had been attending had no kids my age and it was about a 30 minute drive from our house. I was already attending AWANA at the church were we ended up, and it was only 5 minutes from home, so it seemed a logical choice.

I loved that place. I was there every time the doors opened, and if I wasn't there, I wanted to be. As I was looking at the pictures that I mentioned yesterday, I saw the faces of so many people who loved me and nurtured me and helped me become the person I am now (although I imagine some of them would be mighty concerned about the person I am now). They were funny and generous and kind and giving and warm, and most of them realized that they needed to be the village for the young people in the church. The adults in that church were our prayer support when we went on mission trips, many of them were our mentors, and they all sincerely cared about who we were and what we were up to. They wanted us to be the best people we could be, and they wanted us to live our faith. But they weren't single-minded about church. Many were just as interested in what we were learning in Algebra as whether we could recite Psalm 23. I felt at home there, and I knew that I could trust any one of those adults with anything I was feeling or thinking. If every kid could have a village like that, the world would be a much better place.

Our youth pastor was amazing. He was a single guy, but not in an immature, "I've got too much to do before I settle down"kind of way. He believed that he was called to singleness so that he could focus on serving others through the church. And he did. We went on amazing mission trips and we had great outreach activities. He didn't give us a pass because we were young. We were expected to serve the church and serve others and to be serious about it. He expected us to study the Bible and be able to articulate what it meant for our lives. And he loved us. It was clear that his whole heart was dedicated to making us disciples.

So I wanted to be at church when I was growing up. The people there were the very best of what we hope others think of when they think "Christian." In my ordination papers I talked a lot about my love of this church and their love for me, and how much that love influenced my decision to go into pastoral ministry. I wish that every person who ever darkened the door of a church could have (most of) the kind of experience I had there. And my hope as a pastor is both that I can be part of creating that kind of church, and that I can help churches learn how to be that kind of church.

But there is bitter with the sweet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Memories

I just happened upon a collection of 150+ pictures from the 50th anniversary celebration of the church where I did a good bit of my growing up. So many of the faces are the same, albeit with a little more gray hair and a lot more kids. And I'm amazed that a place that caused so much pain for me can also hold so many sweet memories. I can't process much more today due to sheer exhaustion, but I imagine I'll have more to say soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Birthday Party


Today was Joshua's fourth birthday party, and boy were we ever lucky. Joshua had invited four friends whose families would also be coming, of course, and the weather was unbelievable. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining...it was great. That was a good thing since 24 people would have never fit into my house.
So we played outside, went on a scavenger hunt, ate good food, exchanged books, opened a few presents for Joshua, and had some cake. The best part was being surrounded by my village. The friends that Joshua chose were his friends whose parents are also good friends of Jay's and mine. They are the people whose children are precious to us and with whom we were trust our own children in a heartbeat. And of course my parents and Jay's parents were here too, which made everything as perfect as it could possibly be.
It was one of those days when I look around and wonder how I lucked out like this. How I got friends as good as these who love my children and whose children are precious to me. I trust them and love them, and their company is always good for whatever state my soul is in. I had a minute here and there to take it all in and it was good. And Joshua might've had some fun too.
This is the tree cake that Joshua requested, by the way. Why? We don't know. When asked what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday he said, "A tree cake." And there you have it.
The birthday boy's most treasured present.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flashback Friday

Joshua Christian Bernheisel, born November 13, 2005 at 10:18 a.m. 9 pounds, 5 ounces, 21.5 inches long. To read his birth story, go here.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Four Years Ago

My due date was November 8th, so I made my last Sunday of work November 6th. I made sure that the service would be covered by laypeople should I not be there on the 6th, but not to worry, Joshua had no intention of leaving. As the week wore on I stopped answering phone calls. I left the house only to eat spicy food and go on long walks. As far as I was concerned, Joshua was happy where he was and I was going to be pregnant forever, and I didn't really want to talk about it.

But there was that Tuesday, his due date. I was in desperate need of something to take my mind off the fact that I was going to be pregnant forever, so I got a haircut. When the girl who was cutting my hair asked me when the baby was due and I said, "Today," I thought she was going to drop a kidney right there on the floor. "Don't worry," I said. "He's not coming anytime soon."

Four years ago right now we were on our way to the hospital. I had been having contractions since about noon and they were getting worse, or so I thought. There would be another trip to the hospital this night, and I had no idea just how much my life was about to change.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

So I took this interim position with the understanding that it would last until January 1, and I certainly trusted that the DS would do whatever she could do make a permanent appointment by that time. The contingency plan was that if she couldn't make a permanent appointment, the church would continue with an interim until July, and I would get right of first refusal if the church still wanted me around.

Rock. Meet hard place. I was distraught, realizing how much I love this church and how hard this has been on my family. I mean, we're not suffering, but Jay and I are two ships passing in the night and my house looks like a tornado has come through--even more than usual. But what would I say if they asked me to stay. This kept me up many a night.

But an appointment has been made. There is a new pastor ready to start in January and as far as I know everyone is thrilled with the arrangement. My heart broke just a tiny bit knowing that our pastor/parish relationship would definitely be ending at the beginning of the year, but it also meant that I didn't have to make any difficult decisions. Let's hear it for no difficult decisions.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Job and a Calling (Part II)

So there I was, excited and not sure how it happened. Wondering how I could focus enough in the snippets of time I have here and there to write a sermon. Wondering how I, who hates to drive with a passion, was going to make the one-hour-each-way commute three times a week. But I was excited.

Our conversation took place on a Wednesday, and on that same day I also had a great conversation with the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. Between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. the deal had been done and I was thrilled. Not lazy. Not lethargic. Not dread-filled. Thrilled. I decided not to start that Sunday but instead went the next Wednesday. I spent the afternoon with the PPR chair and enjoyed dinner with the congregation, who turned out en force for potluck dinner and Bible Study. By the time I got home I was worn out. And happy. What made me even happier was that Joshua and Clare couldn't have cared less that I wasn't around. Phew.

And as I maintained my energy and enthusiasm I realized the difference between a job and a calling. Everything else I've done--or considered doing--since we moved to Jackson (other than taking care of my children, of course) has been a job. This is a calling. This gives me energy. It inspires me like nothing else has. It allows me to use some gifts that I haven't visited in awhile.

I still don't know what this means for my future, when I'll go back, whether I'll go back full-time or part-time, what kind of appointment I'd like to have. I do know this: No other experience in my life has cemented for my understanding of "call" more than this has. It is part of my soul now. I will not forget.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Job and a Calling (Part I)

It only took several months after we moved here to realize just how much the change from two incomes to one would affect our monthly budget, so I decided to pursue some freelance editing work. I would never dare call myself an Editor because there are people out there who really are Editors and I am just a poser. But I found out soon enough that there was pocket change to be made from my self-honed skills. So I have been doing freelance editing--and some writing--since January 2007. Some of it is really fun and some is tedious, but the spare cash has always been enough of a motivator to stick with it. For example, right now I am working for an HR firm and have been editing research reports. And most recently I edited the script for an eLearning course that they're getting ready to release. Like I said, some of it is really interesting.

And as my Family Leave is drawing to a close (I have 1.5 years left) and I'm thinking about what my children's educational future will look like (home school? private school? public school?), my thoughts obviously turn to my future employment. Return to the local church part time? Full time? Find another job altogether where I can have summers off like Jay does? Stick with the freelance work and hope I can get enough business to make a significant impact on our household income? I've also thought about things like teaching Kindermusik or private piano lessons. Really, there's not much I haven't considered.

The thought of doing freelance editing forever makes me feel wilty and uninspired. Most other options remind me of how lazy I am and how willing I am to sit and do nothing as an alternative to doing something that would require lots of effort but that doesn't really interest me.

And then my District Superintendent left a voicemail message. When I first heard her I thought she might just be asking me to fill in for a pastor for one Sunday, but then she said she had an interim opportunity until January.

That's when I surprised even myself.

I considered it.

As I look back on it now, I realize how odd it was for me to want to know more. Even now I wonder why I didn't dismiss it outright, thinking that it wasn't the right time. That I was even interested in hearing more is still dumbfounding. And yet I didn't dismiss it. I even got a little flutter in my stomach. I wanted to call her back right then, but it was late, and I thought maybe I could wait until morning.

I planned to wait until early afternoon the next day, but when I got up I realized I couldn't wait. So I begged Joshua and Clare to play quietly together while I called her back. They did. I did. I got the details from my DS and got more and more excited. So what that it was a two-point charge? So what that it was an hour away? So what that it was in a town I couldn't even find on a map?

I called Jay and asked him to meet me while Joshua was at Kindermusik. In my mind it was a done deal. The only issue I needed to resolve for myself was whether it would require outside childcare. Outside childcare would be a deal-breaker, but if Jay and I could arrange our schedules so that it wasn't necessary, then I was ready to go.

I'm still amazed by the fact that I was so energized by the prospect when every other job prospect, real or potential, made me feel tired and lazy. I'm still surprised that I didn't immediately think, "No way." It still doesn't make sense.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Preaching

My first semester of my first year of seminary I took Introduction to Homiletics, just like every other first-year student. I assumed that the professor would provide the class with marvelous insights into preaching, a dazzling array of resources, and at least one formula for crafting the perfect sermon. What we really got was a semester of stories about preaching, but no clear guidelines on how one might go about doing it well. Each week we turned in a sermon outline, and each week we turned in a critique of the week's chapel service, but feedback was minimal.

In fact, it was only about a week into the semester that the professor, may he rest in peace, called upon the first victim, er, preacher. And I made the mistake of being the first person to offer feedback-positive feedback, I might add--on the victim's sermon. "OK, Red, let's hear you next week. Psalm 51." I almost threw up. I went home and called my aunt, also a Methodist pastor, and asked her what she did the first time she had to preach in class.

"I dropped the class," she said.

Great.

I decided not to react so hastily, wrote what I thought was a passable sermon, and tried not to puke in my shoes as the day grew closer. My dorm-mates dutifully gathered in my room the night before to listen and provide feedback, and I was on my way.

As I delivered my sermon in class, my legs nearly buckled under me and my hands were drenched with sweat. I'd always had nearly paralyzing performance anxiety, and such symptoms were detrimental to a piano performance. But the beauty of that day was that I realized I could be literally shaking all over with fear and it would have little to no effect on my sermon delivery. It was horrifying, but survivable.

Despite the fact that we had very little professorial guidance in the class, I heard some of the best sermons I've ever heard during that semester: Yahweh's defeat of Baal, Jacob wrestling with an angel, mothers who incorporated their children's wisdom into their sermons, people whom I never considered particularly wise at all sharing insights that made my jaw drop. Good sermons that to this day inspire me to draw everything I can from the text. My peers were my teachers, a gift for which I am always thankful.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Shouldn't Be Like This

I woke up today with a pounding head, a sore throat, watery eyes, and runny nose. It wasn't until early afternoon that I remembered that we had missed some of the fun Homecoming activities at Jay's school. I looked forward to a nap, but Joshua decided that he didn't need one, and that what he really needed to do what interrupt me every five minutes to tell me that he didn't want to sleep. When I finally gave up on the nap to do some yardwork, I hedge-trimmed a hole right into my favorite pair of jeans. The universe seems to have assigned a rule to me that I can only have one pair of fabulous, well-fitting pair of jeans at a time, so this was only a matter of time since I just got a second great pair of jeans a few weeks ago.

Not to mention that I'm simultaneously living through the Terrible Twos and the Firing-Squad Fours and realizing that Terrible really means Walk in the Park, at least compared to the Firing-Squad Fours, which are about to make me lose my religion.

Tomorrow may be better. We'll see.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Flashback Friday

Yes, a picture post. It's a cop-out, I know, but I'm worn out.

I tried to find a picture from this time ten years ago, but I didn't have a digital camera then and I don't have a scanner now, so we'll have to settle for five years ago.

*gasp* No pictures of the children? Yeah, well, sometimes it's fun to remember our life before children.
In October 2004 Jay ran the Chicago marathon.
And in November 2004 we went to Knoxville with my dad to see UT play Notre Dame. So young, so thin, so not jaundiced, so rested.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

An Unintended Sabbath

Everything was going quite swimmingly this morning until I began--or tried to begin--my return trip home from the Y. I turned the key in my car and heard...nothing. Not even a click. I assumed that I had left a light on and run the battery down, but the solution was not to be so simple--or cheap. I called Jay, who had to take a break from making breakfast, put shoes on pajama-clad children, and drive over to the Y. He tried to jumpstart the car, but the battery wasn't dead. We headed home.

We survived the day with very little trouble, actually. Jay took Joshua to playschool and got the car towed to the dealer while Clare and I had a relaxing morning at home--definitely not our usual Thursday morning routine. Then Jay picked up Joshua from school and brought him home. Then we waited. I don't drive a standard, so I couldn't swap cars with Jay for work. And so we waited.

Fortunately, I didn't have any big plans for church. I was really just going to work in the office, so I didn't miss too much. But it took me half the day to finally be OK with not going. I'm a little A/R when it comes to my schedule, so not going to work didn't feel very good. And, honestly, my little commute has turned into a happy Sabbath itself. I've discovered that it's quite easy to carry the carafe of my new coffee maker in the car with me, so lately I've been sipping my joe while listening to the audio version of Harry Potter. It was recommended by a friend and it's quite delightful.

So I stayed home and worked on other things and hung out with Clare and, amazingly enough, didn't keel over and die because my schedule was off-kilter today. Don't tell, but I might have actually enjoyed it. Just a little. Imagine that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More of the Sexy

Since yesterday's post on So Sexy So Soon generated some interest (at least on FB), I thought I'd follow up with some interesting quotes and ideas from the book.

One of the things that the authors stressed is that parents are most certainly responsible for the children's behavior, but that the media isn't exactly helpful. Regarding children who parents KNOW that they're dressing inappropriately:
"...the CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) presented the 'Have You Lost Your Marbles Awards' to companies that employed marketing practices deemed most harmful to children. The Most Harm to Families Award was given to the advertising agency that did research on how to encourage children to nag parents to buy the products advertised. The headline on the ad company's press release proclaimed, 'The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging is a Kid's Best Friend.' The copy below said, 'The Newest Nag Factor Study Reveals 21 to 40 Percent of Sales of Jeans, Burgers and Other Products Occur Because a Child Asked for It.' The complete report gave marketers the information they needed to take full advantage of the Nag Factor in their marketing campaigns--all at the expense of the adults who care for the children." (74)
Like I said, parents are responsible, but advertisers sure aren't helping any.

My friend Brooke mentioned over at FB about walking around the other day and seeing tweens in short shorts with attention-seeking text on the back. The authors mention in the book a story about tweens at a sleepover talking about ways to get their parents to buy them the inappropriate clothes that they wanted. I remember having at least one friend in high school who left the house wearing one outfit and changed as soon as she got to school, so this phenomenon doesn't seem limited to tweens today.

And here's an interesting fact about why play has changed since many of us were kids:

"But the floodgates truly opened with the FCC's deregulation of children's television during the Reagan administration in the mid-1980's, when pressure mounted to get government to deregulate all aspects of industry. Deregulation made it possible for marketers to develop products for children directly linked to children's television programs. And the program-length commercial, a program made for the sole purpose of selling products, was born. More specifically, programs were now used to market toys to children that replicated everything they saw on the program." Think He-Man (36).
And moms of boys? You're not immune. All that garbage advertising to girls to convince them that they need to wear certain clothes and be obsessed with shopping and generally woo males with their appearance just serves to make boys value those things in women as well.

Yikes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

So Sexy, So Soon by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne

This one just sort of jumped off the shelf at me when I passed it in the library. I thought my reading it was a little premature considering the fact that my children aren't even in school yet, but it turns out that it was perfect timing.

There was nothing particularly surprising in it--advertisers know exactly how to make your children want their products; television ruins kids for open-ended, imaginative play; advertisers rely on gender stereotypes to market their stuff; you know, the usual--although I was taken aback by some of the anecdotes shared by the authors. They mostly reflected a frightening amount of knowledge by very, very young children regarding sex.

The thing that I found most helpful was the authors' insistence that there is a big difference between sexuality and sexualization, which is something I knew but needed to be reminded of. Young children are always exploring what it means to be boys and girls, and thus what it means to be men and women, and that's developmentally appropriate (except when media encourage kids to explore those things in ways that aren't age appropriate, which seems to be rampant).

It was good that I had been reminded of that today as I listened to Joshua and Olivia's snacktime conversation. Olivia asked Josh if they would get married when they grew up. He seemed to thing that was a pretty good idea. She told him that she loved him. He told her that he loved her too. Then she declared that they would be getting married because they're friends and they like each other.

Had I overheard that conversation a few weeks ago I might have been a little unnerved, wondering what had prompted such a conversation, but today I laughed (and recorded it in real time on Facebook). They're noticing what's going on around them and trying to make it make sense in their own lives. Good life skills for them; good chuckle for me.

So the book wasn't really earth-shattering, but it offered some good reminders.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Two Princesses

Jay and I decided from the beginning not to introduce the idea of Halloween until one of the kids brought it up first, and it finally happened last year. There was lots of talk about Halloween at playschool, so Joshua came home one day asking what kind of costume he might have. He decided that he wanted to be a pumpkin. Easy enough. He wasn't exactly enamored of being dressed up, and trick-or-treating wore him out pretty quickly, so I wasn't prepared for the enthusiasm with which he approached the holiday this year.
Joshua and Clare and I were in Walgreens for some reason or another this past August when we happened upon a Halloween costume display. I asked Joshua what he thought he might want to be and, without skipping a beat, he said, "A princess." Great.

Jay and I brought it up a few times, asking whether he might rather be a prince or a knight or a pirate, or something else that might afford the opportunity to wear something flowy and, dare I say, pretty. But there was no changing his mind. So there we sat in front of the McCalls patterns. It didn't take but a second for him to choose the one he wanted. And that was the end of that.

Let it be known that I have no issue with Joshua dressing up as a princess. My concern was that someone might say something ugly to him and hurt his feelings. Call me overprotective. I dare you. So we had a semantics lesson: "When you add 'ess' to the end of a word, it automatically means it's a girl, so if you dress as a princess then you're dressing up as a girl." That didn't phase him a bit, of course. He loves girls. His best friends are girls. Who wouldn't want to be a girl?

"Joshua," I said, "some people think boys shouldn't dress like girls. Someone might say something to you that isn't very nice"

"Why?"

Why, indeed.

My mother made Clare's dress first since she would be a princess too. Heaven forbid Joshua do something that she doesn't do too. When Clare's came in the mail, Joshua was nearly giddy. He loved it. In fact, he tried it on before she did. When his arrived in gold--not pink--and with fewer bows, well, something had to be done. He insisted on adding more bows, which we did, and he did many a dance around the house in his new getup.
And of course everything turned out swimmingly. He claims that some people at school told him that boys don't wear dresses, and he answered by saying that he really wanted to be a princess. On Friday at library storytime, one of the little boys tried to trade his train engineer cap for Joshua's crown, and by the time we went trick-or-treating on Saturday night I was tired of worrying and just had fun.

And so did he.

Will he hate me in a few years because I let him do it? Maybe. But it was better than watching a heartbroken little boy whose mom wouldn't let him be a princess even though that was what he really wanted to be.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo

I decided to participate in NaBloPoMo this month in an effort to get back into the blogging habit. It's harder than ever to motivate myself to blog now that I also write a sermon every week. And now November 1st is almost over and I just remembered that I need to post that I might not fall off the wagon on the first day. Tomorrow I'll share the story of how I ended up with two princesses for Halloween, but for now, here they are: