Feb 26, 2013

Preachy Bubble Guppies...

I was so mad at the Bubble Guppies today. 

In general I don't mind them.  They are not a favorite in our house so we don't watch them as often as, say, Mickey's Clubhouse or Dora (gag), but they're cheerful, and not overly sugary, and their whole theme is school.  There are worse things.

Today they did an episode about going to the dentist.  The dental fish checked them over, told them they'd eventually lose their baby teeth so grown-up teeth could grow in, told them all about brushing and caring for their teeth, etc.  So far so good. I guess.

But then the Bubble Guppies left the dentist and got all preachy with the other sea creatures.  They came upon a crocodile and were all "Pardon us, but when's the last time you brushed your teeth?  You've never brushed your teeth?! OH, let us tell you all about it!"  And then something about clearing trash out of the water so he'd have better things to eat.  And I got confused because I thought the Bubble Guppies lived out in the open ocean, or maybe near a reef or something--how on earth did they even come upon a crocodile? Plus, oral care and environmentalism? Just how many agendas are the Bubble Guppies trying to cover within a single episode?? 

And I was all, "This is so incorrect! The Nile has the birds who come and eat the stuff from between crocodiles' teeth, which keeps them clean(ish)! I learned this from my real dentist when I was a kid--my dentist even handed out crocodile-shaped toothbrushes! Knock it off, you judgemental little mer-kids! What the heck are you teaching my children here?! Stupid, stupid NickJr!"

This was all in my head, by the way.  I didn't want to upset the Littler One.  But I was seriously concerned for his wellbeing.  I am not in favor of advocating for changing entire ecosystems just so the ad companies can sell more toothbrushes.  Brushing crocodiles' teeth, my eye.

But I dialed it back a bit when I remembered that the Bubble Guppies, to begin with, are talking cartoon mer-people.  Children of mermaids and mermen (presumably).  So, you know, I'm dealing with mer-children and worried about real-life reptilian biology.  It just doesn't mix.

This has happened before with Kipper. And I love Kipper. I'm all in favor of suspending disbelief, but it gets a little murky for me sometimes as to how much disbelief I need to suspend.  There should be some sort of baseline rule book on children's/family programming--

Level 1: Live people in live situations.  Plot lines can be exaggerated or unrealistic, but not magic or gravity-defying.  Examples:  iCarly, Silver Spoons, Parent Trap. 

Level 1b: Space Camp (the movie)

Level 2:  Live people who are in fantasy situations and/or delusional. Magic permitted. Examples: Kratt Brothers/Zoboomafoo, The Wiggles, Fresh Beat Band, Wizards of Waverly Place, Imagination Movers, Dino Dan, Small Wonder, Alf, Flight of the Navigator.

Level 2.5: Sesame Street

Level 3: Fantasy/animated characters in situations depicting or imitating real life or some semblance thereof. Some grey areas or rule-breaking possible, but generally discernible, if not believable. Sort of. Examples: Caillou (aka Cry-You), Charlie & Lola, Peppa Pig, Wallace & Gromit, Toy Story/Pixar (because they are deliberate and thorough about setting/sticking to rules, even in their fantasy universes).

Level 4: The purgatory of family programming.  Where were the test groups when the setting and rules were being established here? Because grown-ups are losing sleep trying to fit these into their mental structure and it isn't working. Stop judging crocodiles' oral hygiene and go back to your reef, kids. Examples:  Bubble Guppies, Max & Ruby, Gaspard & Lisa, Kipper.   

Level 5: Fantasy/animated characters in blatantly fantastic situations.  Some aspects may seem "real," but all rules are arbitrary and all bets are off. Even gravity. Examples: Octonauts, Jake & the Neverland Pirates, Shaun the Sheep, Agent Oso, Ni Hao Kai Lan, Pixar (because, really. Talking cars??).

To me, the disturbing part of all of this is that I have countless other programs queued up in my head, just waiting to be categorized. 

How about you?  What programming would you place into which categories, and why?

Feb 25, 2013

Keep Calm and...

His Highness and a friend made some really bad choices yesterday.  They didn't injure anybody, and the mess has been cleaned up, and since everyone is safe and all the things are back how they started, I'm already chuckling about it just a little.  But still, he earned himself some pretty stiff consequences.  There is grounding, and there are chores.  And worst of all he lost a lot of his independence for the foreseeable future.  I'm not sure that he realized before how much independence he had earned, but he is feeling it now that it's gone. 

We think of ourselves as fairly laid-back people. Since we had kids, we get a lot of comments on how laid-back we are as parents.  Which is interesting, because while I guess we do let our kids do stuff sometimes that other kids aren't always allowed to do, everything is the result of evaluating, and talking things over, and calculating the risks, and deciding yea or nay. Yesterday His Highness and his friend were out playing because we had already done the work of supervising for a while, and then slowly backing away, and we had built up that trust over time that he wasn't going to do anything overly-dumb or too dangerous.

And then they did a really dumb thing, so the bounds are pulled way in for now. We are not shocked or anything; six-year-olds are bound to make mistakes.  He gets to learn this lesson, and we get to let him feel the discomfort from within the safety of our family (and our neighbors who alerted us to what was going on--thank you, Neighbors!!), and he gets to work at re-building trust, and so the journey goes of growing up, a little bit at a time, eventually into a good man.  By the grace of God, and all that.

So today, after the Cat Daddy left for work, we went for a jog.  The younger two in the double-Bob, and His Highness on his bike. Seeing as how he will be indoors for the next two weeks at minimum, I figured it would be a good opportunity for him to let off energy and get some fresh air. Well, I can make a few guesses at his reasons, but His Highness decided that a temper tantrum was in order.  His helmet hurt, his arm hurt, his leg was bored, and it was all very tragic as we were starting off down the block on our regular route.  Double- and triple-checks were performed and, barring the sudden onset of illness, I was reasonably sure he was sandbagging.  So I went. And he lagged behind, crying and wailing along the way.

Some moms were walking by, witnessing the commotion, and commented "Some tough love, eh?" I smiled and said, "Yeah. He's very capable, just some dilly-dallying." And they said, "Oh, we were right where you are 10 years ago, we totally get it!" and all was kind and happy.

And he kept crying.  And I kept going, looking back over my shoulder, but maintaining overall forward momentum.  I crossed the street, and yelled back for him to wait, as a car was approching.  He did.  We did our zig-zag to the next long stretch, with him 100 or so feet behind, wailing the entire way, but still moving. 

Finally a car pulled up alongside me.  The driver was one of the ladies from before, this time concerned: "I know I said I was right there with you before, but now I'm really concerned about him riding these streets.  There have been cars that have come by, and there was a trash truck back there, and I'm just really worried now."

I said, "I really think he's doing alright.  It may not look like it, but I've been watching him the whole way, and he's doing what he needs to do to be as safe as possible."

And then we did that thing where we were kind and respectful, but sort of talked in circles, saying a lot of I-know-but's, before we each went on our way. During which time His Highness finally caught up to me, and we had our own little heart-to-heart where I told him he had some important choices to make, the first of which was whether he wanted to enjoy the rest of our jog, or be miserable.  And that I would let him be miserable, but we were going to finish our route either way and I hoped he would choose instead to have a nice time.

And guess what?  He chose to ride down that hill SO FAST, and we saw a bird that was SO BIG, and it was flying right down by the houses (we Googled it later and found it was a turkey vulture), and we got to take a detour because our normal path is under construction, and we had a really nice (if chilly) time the whole way back home.     

Still, my conversation with the well-meaning and kind lady, who didn't have the whole story, did make me think a little. I evaluated. I weighed. I re-played. And this is what I saw:

--When I told His Highness to stop and wait to cross, he stopped at the crosswalk and waited until the oncoming car waved him across.

--He was either on the sidewalk or hugging the curb at every point. No lolling about in the middle of the road.  Yes some cars came thru, but they passed by without incident.

--He slowed for the trash truck and looked at the driver. I was telling him to come on, but he waited for the driver to wave him across. 

I told him these things in our heart-to-heart moment.  I said, "Look, fussing aside, you're doing a really good and safe job on this ride.  You're screaming like a madman and probably making the neighbors wonder what on earth I'm doing to be so mean, but you're watching for cars, and being careful when you cross, and I'm proud of you for that."

And of course he responded, "You ARE a mean mommy!"

I said, "Well yeah, it's kind of my job!"

And it may or may not sound like it, but we were back on good terms.  He took off down the hill and all his aches and pains (and limb boredom--does this just happen in my family??) disappeared, which I had suspected would happen, but was still just a little bit relieved to see it in actuality.

To the lady in the car, thank you for caring about my kid, and thank you for not overstepping bounds after talking with me. I'm not sure what you or I might have done about it anyway, but thank you just the same.

I say all of this partly to write down a great moment. There are many crazy, overwhelming, bad-tempered, unkind, screwed-up, wrong call moments, so it's nice when I have a good one.

I also say it as an encouragement to all of us who are making decisions as best we can with the info we have.  Rest assured, we're rarely flippant or arbitrary. We try to be calm, but that doesn't mean we're not aware

Carry on...

Feb 22, 2013

A Mini-Round-Up, or What the Heck is SkerriB Thinking...

Like I've said many times, I have about three zillion blog posts in my head. Or beginnings of posts. Or maybe just opinions which may or may not develop into anything resembling a post, but regardless it's a big challenge to steal enough time to get them all down. And as for full coherence and overall technically solid writing, well, that's a someday-goal.

Thankfully, as I mull over my journey these days, and the issues I think about, and places where my heart goes, I have come upon several folks who say what I'm thinking much more succinctly than I could. I actually should probably tell them to quit stalking me, because reading my thoughts is creepy.

Donald Miller is a pretty popular author. My friend the Good Reverend recommended his book Blue Like Jazz about 10 years ago, and I loved it. I haven't followed him as much in recent years, but came upon his Storyline blog just this year. He and a few cohorts talk a lot about life as a story, how we all have our own, and how we can be intentional about living our stories. Also about how we can be way too hard on ourselves, and how maybe God invites us to relax a little bit and remember that in the end we're part of God's big story, so maybe it's okay to do our little piece and trust Him with the putting it all together.  Plus they serve cereal on Saturdays.

Addie is, like me, a "recovering church kid." There's a lot in that little statement, and perhaps I need to dedicate a post to exactly what I mean, but if you grew up in the evangelical world of youth group, mission trips, and lock-ins, and maybe have had varying degrees of angst about it along the way, then you might relate.

Lydia & Louise host a blog called Rants from Mommyland, which is hopefully self-explanatory. They do a great job of letting out the fuss without bringing others down, and fostering a "We're all in this together" vibe. Plus they are physically close-ish to me (well, Lydia is. I think Louise is in another state somewhere, which boggles my mind because technology still does that to me.), which is almost being like neighbors and/or BFFs.

So, take a look around, and you will know a little bit of what just might be running through my head amid my regular chauffeuring/personal chef gig...

Feb 17, 2013

Fun Little Surprises...

One of the blogs I'm into lately is Storyline, with Donald Miller and others.  This week, their Saturday Morning Cereal included this little gem. Take a look:

Normally I would say I'm not a fan of surprises, but I'm not quite sure that's accurate.  And either way, I love this video.  Having been a church kid my entire life, I can come up with all sorts of parallels, illustrations, and allegories tying it to God.  Let's take a moment and list a few, in rapid fire fashion...

...D. Westry is an artist/creator, God is an artist/creator...you couldn't tell at first what he was doing, but he knew all along...sometimes a change in perspective changes everything...sometimes we only get a clear view in retrospect...blah blah blah...

All decent and reasonable things. In fact, after my initial viewing, I watched it again and found that my view was unalterably shifted.  I can now only see it in light of the end product, because now I know what to expect. Perspective is indeed a profound thing. But it's not what makes me grin like a big dumb fool every time I watch.

No, what keeps me clicking back to the 2:03 mark is the delight for everyone involved.  The judges and audience going from "Eh, whatever," to "Wow, cool!" The artist giving a smile, knowing he created a wonderful surprise.  He didn't have to do it that way, but he chose to throw in that little extra zing, and you could tell that it gave him great joy (plus, he won the contest and a trip to Costa Rica, and that certainly doesn't hurt matters).

I love when that happens.  It can't be all the time, because then it would be ordinary and expected. The ending of the video is still good now, it's just not quite as brilliant as when I didn't know what was coming (although now there is something to be said to being in on the secret). 

I think God enjoys it when he gets to take some little snippet of life and make it an unexpected delight.  Just because he loves us.  And I sure enjoy it too--I mean, goodness knows there are plenty of hard things about life.  A little cheering up is always welcome...

Feb 15, 2013

Mr. Nipples Goes to Parochial School...

Several months ago now, we were getting ready to walk His Highness to school one morning, and I got this call...

"Hi, this is So-and-So from the Lutheran Preschool and Daycare up the road. Um, your cat is here?"

"OK. He's not lost or anything, but thanks for letting me know. He'll come home on his own."

"Can you come and get him? He's in the parking lot where parents drop off their kids, so I'm worried about him getting run over, and he was walking around the playground, where the kids go out to play. And some of our kids have allergies, [blah blah blah]..."

"Well I'm heading out to take my oldest to kindergarten right now, but we can swing by after that and see if he's still there."

"OK, thanks."

And so after kindergarten drop-off we kept on walking (I walked. The Littler One and Tiny E were nestled comfortably in the double-jogger), through the neighborhood and up & around to the Lutheran church (which is where the preschool is), just over a half mile from our house.  By this time Nipples was long gone, but we took a trip through the parking lot just to make sure.

In general I like to remain as inconspicuous as possible, but as luck would have it we arrived just in time for the afternoon preschool drop-off. As I was walking along, pushing a bright yellow stroller amid a line of minivans and crossover SUVs in varying shades of taupe and silver, I caught the eye of the person directing traffic, who also happened to be communicating with those inside the building via radio. I momentarily thought about ducking and running just to make things interesting, but those responsible for young children can get pretty hardcore (using nice voices and kind words, but hardcore just the same), so instead I walked over to say hello.

"Hi, I had gotten a call that my cat was here, so I was just stopping by to check in."

"Oh yes, that was me who called you. He's gone now, but he was over there, where the children play sometimes."

"You mean that space at the edge of the woods? Ah, that's probably how he got over here then, through those woods."

"Yes, thankfully no kids were outside at the time. We have some with allergies, plus he's an unknown animal, so we try to have the kids steer clear in general."

"I understand. Usually he doesn't stay--he might say hello, but he shouldn't cause any problems. If he does please let me know and I'll see what I can do. If it helps, he's had all his shots and is a friendly guy, especially with kids."

"Ok thanks. I have to get back to letting these cars through. Have a nice day."

"You too!"

I have to say that when considering career possibilities, never once did I expect to become a PR director/liaison for my cat. But sometimes these things come about by way of necessity, and with that portion of the day accomplished, the kids and I headed home.  We got about halfway home when who should come sauntering out of the bushes lining the walking path, but Nipples himself.

"Well hi Nipples, I hear you've been having a fun time exploring today."

"Yeah, I stopped by the church. Said some prayers. Worked on my catechism a little."

"You realize we're not Lutheran though, right?"

"Speak for yourself!"

"Well, I mean, it's OK if you want to be Lutheran.  They're more liturgical than our non-denominational leanings, but we agree on Jesus and all of that, I think. I just want you to be aware of your heritage is all. You want to walk home with us?"

"I'd rather alternate between darting ahead and following behind, while throwing in a few annoyed meows every so often if that's alright, and then I may duck into the woods just for giggles & grins, but yes, I'll join you at the house shortly."

"That's cool.  Let's go home."

It was after this trip that we started to muse about getting Nipples one of those homing devices for his collar, if nothing else to see exactly how far he roams.  As of yet we haven't done it. We still could, but for reasons that will be revealed he seems to have tightened his radius, at least for now.

Because Nipples didn't stop with the Lutheran school, and he didn't settle for the parking lot...

Feb 12, 2013

Doing It Wrong...

This article was written several months ago now, but a few weeks ago it was making its rounds through Facebook.  It sparked some good discussions in my circles about helping your kids vs. letting them struggle sometimes, and when to do those things, and where the boundaries are with other people's kids, and so on. 

For me it really spoke to the idea of me being the mom, and having the prerogative to make decisions (even if they turn out to be--heaven forbid!--wrong). In the comments the author gave some clarifications that also made the article itself much less about whether you help or stand back at the playground, and much more about when you make a (sane, acceptable) choice, and others choose to undermine you. 

Then I read this article a week ago, and it really made me stop and think.  I totally make snap judgements as I observe other parents parenting.  And I'm not sure there's a way to stop that--we see, we evaluate, we add it to our mental structure of the world around us.  But I do think it's good to aim for my response on a good day: "That's different than we do, but that's OK because different families have different rules/approaches/issues," and not so much my response on a bad day: "Stupid mom is ruining her kids in one way or another.  If I was their mom we would do this and that, and it would be so much better."  Because it occurred to me that even if I did things exactly the same as I do with my kids, I would likely get much different results, because they are different kids

And that made me think about, first of all, making the clarification that I'm assuming things here.  I'm speaking within the confines of families who are providing their kids with a baseline amount of safety and love.  And even in this I have to be careful, because everyone has different definitions and guidelines, but let's assume that while the children may need therapy someday, their most basic needs are met and the parents are basically competent on most levels.  Good? Good. 

Which brings me back around to prerogative, and all the choices we have the freedom to make...and all the voices whispering back (or yelling. or giving us the stink-eye) "You're doing it wrong."  That was the crux of the article for me.  It's easy to see people doing "it" differently and take it as a personal indictment: "You're doing it wrong." Heck, even without anyone else I've got Contrary Kerri to contend with. 

And I know we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but for me it is very much about gathering some courage to say "It's my decision." Maybe out loud, or maybe just in my head.  But knowing my propensity for wishy-washiness, it's a good and worthy skill for me to develop.

How about you?  Do you find it easy or difficult to embrace your prerogative?

Flogging Blogging...

I've been flogging myself lately about wanting to blog more.  Most days it feels truly impossible to fit it in amid all the other things, but within the past two weeks I've come across two pieces of writing (one is here), both addressing the idea of fear often being an underlying reason for not doing something.  Now, I'm not one to jump to conclusions so I'm not saying the purpose of my reading them was necessarily about writing more on my blog...but I'm spending a little time considering what I might be afraid of. 

I do know this: writing clears my head, and when I don't write my brain gets jumbled.  So it seems reasonable to (attempt to) clear my head more and be jumbled less.  Also, the more I write, the easier the words come. Right now I sit and stare at the screen, attempting to pull words together in a coherent fashion, but in the times when I've written more consistently, it has become easier still to write more consistently.  Kind of like a writers' inertia sort of deal.

So we'll see what becomes of all this. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Definitely more stories about Nipples on the docket, though, and I think we can all agree that's a good thing...

Feb 2, 2013

A Year of Biblical Womanhood...

So, way back in October I found my way to Rachel Held Evans's blog.  This was around the time she was listed in Christianity Today as one of today's 50 Christan women to watch. Or most influential. Or something like that.  Anyway, on a whim I applied to be part of the launch team for her new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and to my surprise I was selected!  I then fulfilled the minimum requirements for being on the team (reading the e-copy that was provided to me free of charge, and writing a review on Amazon) and promptly dropped the ball as to doing anything further, such as posting about the book on my blog or Facebook account.  Sorry, Rachel Held Evans.  Also, I feel I need to confess that I signed up for Twitter only because it wouldn't let me submit my Launch Team application without a Twitter name.

And that's how, at the age of 35, I came to have "Write a book report" on my to-do list. And a Twitter account.

There's been a lot of buzz in several circles about this book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  There have been some brou-ha-has surrounding many factors, some of them because Evans calls herself an Evangelical, but has voted for liberals/democrats sometimes (heavens!!), and has the audacity to say she is egalitarian when it comes to women's roles in church, family, and life.  Also, some people got offended at the whole premise of her book because they thought she was poking fun or making light of the Bible.  And a part of me wanted to rush in and defend/vindicate Rachel Held Evans, because judging from her writings, she and I would get along great, and I really do appreciate the things she says and the discussions she fosters over on her page.  But then the other part of me got really tired really quickly, and I thought, Rachel Held Evans is strong and has a lot of supporters, and I should probably just stick to standing up for myself when needed, rather than trying to mount entire online crusades, and who knows if RHE would even agree with my defenses of her and her positions--

--and then I went cross-eyed, and had to step away for a moment and gather myself, and say "Book report, Skerrib. Focus."

And the truth is, I'm finding this one really hard to buckle down and describe, at least in a traditional book report sense (which may have more to do with my season in life and, consequently, lack of access to solitude and/or coherent thought, but I can't be sure).  For me, A Year of Bibical Womanhood came across not about debating women's roles (though it certainly raises questions and discussion), or sparking controversy (intended or not), or any of that.  It is the journal of a year in Evans's life, where she started with a "What if...?" and allowed herself to be in the process, submitting to the growth and maturation and refinement that take place in such journeys.

But for the sake of knowing what you're getting into, here are some bullet points--

--Evans tried, for a year, to follow all of the Bible's rules and commands regarding women.

--She did not try to follow them all at once for an entire year.  Some she followed for a year (like no haircuts), but most of them she split into categories, and focused on one category per month.

--She sought input and reinforcements.  Her references include an orthodox Jewish woman, an Amish woman, a woman raised in the Quiverfull movement, and many others (see the variety in "Biblical" approaches to womanhood?!?).

--When the time came to sew her own clothes she enlisted help from friends and family, as it was not exactly an area of strength for her.

--She rented a baby to practice motherhood.  It was a computer baby, and it sounded way worse than any of my real babies; even the needy one (who is now almost 4, and a delightful human being).

--She read and studied and read and studied, and included with each chapter a blurb about a woman from the Bible.  I was really impressed by this actually.  I could tell that she didn't just go in, extract a list of rules, and flippantly write about following them.  She really studied when it came to specific women in the Bible, as well as the overall topic of "women in the Bible."

I think this book appeals to a wide audience.  Those of us raised in the Evangelical subculture will likely relate to many aspects of her personal story.  Those who are really into women's roles will appreciate the exploration of different religions, denominations, and cultures with respect to, well, women's roles.  Nonbelievers I think might find it interesting, and will particularly appreciate Evans's gracious and humorous style.  Like many Christians, she is not afraid to laugh at some of our "religious" quirks. 

Haters won't like it.  Evans can be up-front and direct, but she is kind.

In conclusion, I thought it was a beautiful story, and I would encourage most everyone--except for the haters--to read A Year of Biblical Womanhood and see what you think.  You can buy it here. And then, if it floats your boat, go read Rachel Held Evans's blog here

Someday, when my children give me more than 30 minutes at a time to focus, I hope to write better book reports and even tell about things like "how this book affected me," but, um, somehow I have the feeling that a half-eaten bag of Reese's Puffs has made its way into my bedroom and will be strewn about if I don't confiscate it right now.  Seriously.