five things I missed

With two weeks of school left, I'm astounded at how the semester has slipped away. Because I've been writing every week for Christ and Pop Culture, I've been neglecting this little space, but at least five notable things have happened that I haven't recorded.
1. We were confirmed as members of Gethsemane Episcopal Church.

2. I bought six chicks (more on that later).

3. Owen turned two. What I love about this boy is his sense of humor, his side-eye glance, his very cuddly nature, and the way he says seriously, "Oh, gotcha," after I answer his questions, or "cookie, yum, good, fun! Sis? Have cookie too?"

Owen's a little bit obsessed with sports balls.

My parents swung by for the birthday party. And an old friend from our ELIC days came by, too.

4. Taylor celebrated Korean Week.

5. One of my students presented original research (conducted for my class last fall) at an undergraduate research conference at Purdue. I accompanied her and a friend. We were all glad to get out of Upland for a night -- and I was very proud of Gowoon's bravery and hard work.

for my son

I am a feminist for the sake of my son.

Owen is not yet two years old, but so much of his personality is already clear.  He has a great sense of humor, and he loves music. Before I even start the car, he's asking for the music to be turned on, and he already has preferred CDs and preferred tracks on those CDs.  He'll cry if I don't skip past the songs he dislikes, and he sings along with his favorites.  

Owen is sensitive, much more emotional than my firstborn is, more likely to dissolve into tears at a disappointment or a perceived slight.  He's cuddly.  He likes to play in our toy kitchen, pretending to cook and clean. He has a little bear he calls "baby," and he sometimes pretends that baby is hurt and needs kisses and cuddles. Like my husband, my son is deeply compassionate, quick to notice others' pain and to bring comfort to them.

Our culture is harsh toward sensitive boys.  In her national bestseller Stiffed, feminist Susan Faludi reports on what happened to men and "manhood" in post WWII America, and it isn't pretty.  Betty Friedan in the sixties wrote about how media had pushed a "commericalized, ornamentalized" femininity that objectified women, boxing us into narrowly prescribed gender roles.  Faludi finds that the same thing has happened to men, arguing that now "men and women both feel pushed into roles that are about little more than displaying prettiness or prowess in the marketplace."  The end goal for men, in a world of "superathletes, action heroes, and Viagra studs -- is seen as a new horizon of amped-up virility, a technologically enhanced supermanhood."  I worry about these kinds of pressures dampening the sweet, strong compassion I see in my son.

I'd like to say that the church rejects such damaging culturally-constructed definitions of manhood, but that is often not the case.  In fact, sometimes church culture seems more attached to cultural constructions of manhood than pop culture is!  In the church we see Mark Driscoll mocking "effeminate" male worship leaders and praising cage fighters. In the church (indeed, from Owen Strachan, the head of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), we hear that to tell a little boy that it's ok to play with a doll is an "unbiblical and socially disastrous teaching on sexuality and gender." Strachan goes on to say that "boys playing with dolls is foolish" and a sign of Satan's influence in our world.  Strachan can take my son's baby when he pries it from my cold, dead, mama-bear claws.

Feminism is about interrogating and dismantling the oppressive power structures that rule our world, structures that hurt men as well as women. It's about honoring and protecting the essential humanity of each individual, rather than ceding to media-driven role expectations -- roles created in large part by companies hoping to turn us into greater consumers.

I'm a feminist because I want my son to see all people as valuable human beings, created in God's image. I want him to reject culturally constructed ideas about what it means to be "masculine" or "feminine" and to embrace biblical truth about what it means to be human, male and female, created in the image of a loving God. So I'll teach him to love, respect, nurture, and protect; to danceweepsubvert, and sing.  I'll teach him how to turn swords into plowshares, and I'll warn him that power and domination are not the ultimate ends of manhood.  I'll tell him that the Bible does have a few things to say about what it means to be a man; and that it has a lot more to say about what it means to be loved, transformed, and made holy. I'll tell him the Kingdom is coming, and that it's here.

I want the church to be about these same tasks, dismantling evil power structures and critiquing the consumer-image our culture tries to bind us into, and I pray we as a church learn to do that better.  

In the meantime, I'm a feminist for the sake of my son.

A few things in October

1. This boy, 18 months old, curly tendrils round his ears, sweet tooth from his mama, talking all the time: this, sister, go out, cheese, shoes, cheers, and aha! there it is! He's obsessed with clothes and children's' vitamins and still loves to be held.

2. This girl, "drawing" letters everywhere she goes (most recently on the bathroom floor in colored pencil), newly interested in the game of Memory, Duplo creations, and complicated jigsaw puzzles. She says, " Let's watch a show on Parmesan," and means the Amazon Prime app, because

3. No TV. We canceled our tv service! Lest you think we've actually given up shows, never fear: Hulu, amazon, netflix and supply all our "needs".

And actually, Martin Clunes has been meeting most of those needs as Kipper (best, least annoying kids' show ever.) and as Doc Martin (new season on Netflix now- highly recommend).

4. Christmas music. When the first grey frost strikes- and it has- I find the hot cocoa and the holiday tunes hard to resist. So I'm still mostly abstaining, except for a quick Rosie Thomas binge. But there is this: remember four years ago, when Jack and I wrote and recorded a Christmas album? No, you don't remember? (Well, only blood relatives were allowed to listen, I believe.) Get excited: volume two is underway. That's all I have to say, for now.

Except. The Surfjohn [sic] Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Ice is coming to Indianapolis, so my Christmas season will be complete.

5. Call the Midwife. A new PBS drama about London's East End in the 1950s. Really, need I say more?

6. Third parties. . Would you ever consider voting for a third party candidate for President? You know I don't like to get political (except when I do, and I'll leave you to go sifting through the four year old archives for that). I never feel educated enough to really debate things well, but I'm thinking about voting for a third party candidate this year. I don't trust Romney, and I'm disheartened by the way Obama has continued Bush's moves to expand the power of the office of the president - not to mention his drone wars....frankly, I'm leaning Green. How about you?

(P.S. - Relevant magazine did a good series on Christians who vote different ways.

And, is your church participating in Election Day Communion?)

i fell in love again (all things go)

Lately I've been revisiting places which have strong nostalgic holds over me.

Like Denver. For three summers during college I spent time living at the base of Long's Peak, watching the sun set on Twin Sisters, soaking in beauty and living an undistracted, singleminded, physically present life. Driving from Denver towards the mountains last month just made me sad. I wanted to be 19 again, hiker, camp counselor, unencumbered.

At first, Chicago made me sad too. Chicago was where I had always imagined myself moving after graduation: working for a publisher, living in an apartment in the city with Mollie and our spiky-collared cat Beowulf, going to jazz clubs and basically becoming sitcom characters. Clearly, that never happened, but Chicago did become a special place of deep richness for me during the three summers I spent taking grad classes at Wheaton.

Coming back to America after the somewhat stark, spiritually barren, monocultural landscape of Vinh, it felt luxurious to be in green parks, hearing live banjo music, surrounded by the beauty of ethnic diversity. For the first time in months, I could go out anonymously, rather than being stared at as the one obvious foreigner in the city. I could go into a bookstore and browse titles in my native language. And at Wheaton my soul rested in the presence of friends who understood - because they had experienced it too - where I had been, what my life had been. I felt known and nourished by them. They let me talk, or they let me spend hours reading alone. I was flooded with gratitude.

The following summer, after I came home from Cambodia, Jack visited me at Wheaton, and we spent a week in Chicago when we were just five or six months into our dating relationship (see picture in sidebar, taken at Millenium Park!). We saw Andrew Bird play at the first ever Pitchfork Music Festival. We went to the Art Indtitute, and we did go to that jazz club, with Derek and Mollie, and I drank one glass too much. We got lost (this was before smartphones), and Jack saw me do my crazy walk for the first time.

I have always loved Chicago, and as we drove into town Friday night, accompanying our ESL students from Taylor, I started to feel sad. You can never go home again; and you can never go to Chicago again, or Estes, or Florence, or Taize, or Chiang Mai, or anywhere, can you? There are so many places I have loved, and I can never return to any of them. Even if the city is unchanged (it won't be), I am changed.

What I have loved about these places is partly imaginary, as all memories are, and even if it once existed, it never will again. What I loved is lost.

But by Saturday I realized that even if you can never step into the same river twice, you can still love the river every time, because I still love Chicago, in its earnest, unpretentious, midwestern big city-ness, and I also love sharing it with the coolest kids of all time.

patience and parenting and princess bikes

I'm not really one to tell people how to parent. (Or how to do anything, really; I have serious reservations about making general statements of "truth".)


I will say that one thing I've grown to appreciate in the three and a half years I've been parenting is the value of waiting.

When Rosie was a baby, I spent way too many hours reading books and making charts and wondering what I was doing wrong as I tried to get her to sleep through the night.

The more I talked to other moms, and read other blogs, the more I realized that there wasn't one right way to parent, and that the fact that Rosie wasn't sleeping through the night wasn't a sign that i was parenting wrong. For me, having patience as I taught my daughter that she was heard and safe and cared for was the right thing.

It was the same with potty training. I pushed Rosie to do it when I was ready and she wasn't, and it didn't work. Months later, when she was ready for it, potty training was a breeze. It took a day and a half.

So with the pacifier thing, I've been waiting. I ignored the doctor and dentist who suggested I get rid of it. Of course, I haven't been totally passive. We did restrict paci usage to bed or rest time only. And we have talked on plenty of occasions about what it means to become a big girl. But my intuition told me that I was not to be the one to force my daughter to give up her dearest comfort (the mere mention of getting rid of it elicited tears, every time) and "grow up". I kept thinking about the story Grams tells of Aunt Patty, stubbornly throwing her pacifier in the fire place and declaring she was done. I wanted to wait until Rosie was ready, like little Patty, to resolve for herself.

We had mentioned -in passing, maybe twice- that bikes were for big girls. And so on Saturday when Rosie saw the neighborhood girls riding bikes again, she came straight home and threw her pacifier in the trash. "I want a bike," she said. And she went to sleep that night, and the next, without even a single tear. On Sunday she picked this bike out, and today she has ridden up and down our street for about four hours.

Waiting until your kid is ready makes parenting so much easier.