Monthly Archives: October 2011

We’re Not Freaks; We Just Don’t Celebrate Halloween


If you haven’t figured it out by now, I had a Christian Fundamentalist upbringing. And I’m not complaining about it. I think my parents did a great job of sheltering us as young children, and then letting us figure out life for ourselves as we got older. So there’s some things that my parents did that I’m doing differently and some things that I’m holding on to pretty strongly. One of those things is not participating in Halloween.

I’ve never been trick or treating. Two years ago I went to my very first ever dress-up Halloween party, but that was mostly because it was also a housewarming party for friends who’d just moved. I was a farmer, 1-week-old Josh was a pea-in-the-pod, and Anthony was Twitter. 

Growing up in Santa Cruz (hippie/wicca/occult central), the line was pretty distinct between light and dark around this time of year. We actually had neighbors who would hang black cats (real ones) from trees, dance around huge Samhain bonfires, summon spirits and all the rest. It was scary, and our family wanted no part of it.

As a kid, it made sense to me that we not participate in the dark holiday, and most of the families that we grew up with were of the same mind, so there wasn’t much peer pressure or feeling like we were missing out on something significant. We’d spend the evening handing out little comic books that my mom and her illustrator friend, Katie, made that had messages of hope and light. When we moved out of town and into the country, it was a night when our parents let us watch a bunch of movies and eat candy (a BIG deal, we almost NEVER got candy!).

Now an adult, those memories have stayed with me, and we have never celebrated Halloween since we’ve been married. It wasn’t too big of a deal for us until last year, when my cousin-in-law actually sat us down and told us he thought we were being crazy for keeping our kids away from this fun family tradition. And now Jonathan is in school, and all the kids are talking about trick or treating, costumes, and candy. Plus, it seems like, away from Santa Cruz, Halloween is more like any other over-commercialized holiday: a chance for WalMart to make a ton of money off costumes and candy. So I totally get why other Christians families don’t have a problem with the season, and I’m certainly not judging any one else’s decision.

Here’s some helpful links and alternative ideas (thanks Facebook friends for some of these!) with more history and info. 

– Have kids dress up during another holiday (like pilgrims for Thanksgiving). We usually did a “live nativity” at Christmas while a grownup read Luke 2:1-20.

– Attend or help with a church harvest party, carnival, or “trunk-or-treat” (where church members decorate their cars and pass out candy in the parking lot). I remember doing harvest parties a few times as a kid. When Jeffty was a baby, he was Moses in a basket, I was Miriam, and Christopher was Aaron.

– Celebrate All Saints Day by dressing up as a Saint. GREAT idea to pair with a history lesson!

– A history of Halloween and it’s traditions, including the Jack-O-Lantern and Trick-or-Treating (not a Christian source… has a scary graphic at the top of the page, FYI)

– A great blog post by James Watkins called “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” (LOVE his conclusion with 1 Corinthians 8:4-13, about how if it doesn’t stumble your walk with God, do it! If it is a stumbling block to you, don’t do it!)

So what will YOU be doing 10/31?

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Some Soapboxing


My little brother (#2 of 3) posted this video on the gender wage gap “myth” on my Facebook yesterday, and it inspired my impromptu blog/rant/soapbox lecture which I will share with you below. I realize that most of my blog is NOT feminist or political, but I obviously feel very strongly about this and I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts about the subject. So watch the video, read my commentary, and please add your own!

Personally, I think it’s a HUGE problem that girls are not encouraged towards the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I remember hearing “don’t worry if you don’t understand math; girls usually don’t.” Yes, I struggled with math and had a HUGE learning curve, but once I got it (in college), I got really good grades and actually enjoyed my classes. It’s not a field I wanted to CONTINUE studying (especially after taking Physics, where my professor basically dismissed all my requests for help), but I wonder if I would have caught on sooner if I hadn’t been told over and over that girls aren’t good at math. But if the fields that make the most money are not fields that girls are encouraged to study and be a part of, don’t you see THAT as being a big problem?

Secondly, our society is just not set up for women to easily continue working in their careers after having children. Child care is obscenely expensive, workplaces are often not flexible with parents taking time off to care for their newborns, sick children, etc. Even breastfeeding laws that protect a woman’s right to take more frequent breaks to pump or nurse are not well enforced (work places are supposed to provide a private place for this to happen and bathrooms do NOT count… but most women are only given a bathroom as the private place. Would YOU prepare food for your child in a bathroom?). Because of factors like this, WHAT CHOICE DO MOTHERS REALLY HAVE? We have to choose careers that allow the flexibility that mothering requires, and sadly, those careers don’t pay as much as other “choices.” I’ve personally worked exclusively part-time jobs since becoming a mother because I couldn’t find full-time employment that allowed me to also mother my young children.

Finally, I do appreciate his conclusion that to overcome some of these issues, we have to change the gender perceptions that woman JUST take care of children and men JUST earn money. There has to be a more even division of the household responsibilities and the wage-earning responsibilities. Growing up, we were SO BLESSED to have a dad who made enough money for mom to stay home with us (although she worked part-time when it was just 3 of us), and that was common among the families that we grew up with, but it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE in this generation for a mother to not work. And what about women who don’t find their sole definition in mothering? It isn’t wrong for a woman to be both a mother and a career woman. The Proverbs 31 woman is shown doing WAY more working than mothering her children… and she’s the ideal that Christian moms are held up to!

OK, one more point. *IF* stay-at-home-mothering is such a value to the family/society etc., than why is it not something that mothers are compensated for? I just calculated my salary from this website http://swz.salary.com/momsalarywizard/htmls/mswl_momcenter.html and, as a work-from-home-mother, my uncompensated work is worth about $63k a year! What’s yours?

Joy! The Choice and the Feeling.


My insomnia is back.

A few weeks ago, this would be a terrible thing. It was in the night watches that my dark thoughts would spin; endlessly looping in my mind. All the problems and difficulties in our lives would swirl around creating a hurricane of depression in my brain, leading to conclusions that were just more destructive and discouraging than anything. Yes, there were thoughts of leaving my husband, of suicide, of just walking away from everything. None of these are actually options for me… or choices that I would make, but the perpetual thoughts were there. I felt like I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t escape them, and for the life of me, couldn’t just go to sleep. Even for the time I was on medication, the nighttime battle was there.

I’d get up and pace to the couch where I’d cry and pray and beg for rest. Usually, the sun would start lightening the sky before my exhausted body would finally fall into a short nap before it was time to be up and back to taking care of the family.

I love my husband, but he didn’t understand. I love my children and my current role as stay-at-home mom, but didn’t find joy in that.

I’ve said before that I would battle it, that I would fight it, that I would choose to be happy and content with where I am. That would work for a time, but not for long.

My post a few weeks ago was about the basic idea of capturing thoughts. It’s an old spiritual discipline that I’d forgotten… but the basic idea comes from 2 Cor. 10:4-5:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments (imaginings) and every pretention (assertion) that sets itself up against the knowledge (truth) of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  

Pretty much, although I don’t have control over the thoughts that enter my brain, I do have the authority (“divine power”) to tell them to go straight to the pit of hell where they belong.

So I have been.

And you know what? I’ve had an awesome last few weeks. Yes, there’s moments of sadness (our home church’s women’s retreat is this weekend and I wish I was there with my friends… the coastal town where my family lives had a fireworks celebration on the cliffs that my kids would have adored…), but I can acknowledge my sadness without STAYING there. Moving on to the next thing, fixing the eyes of my heart and mind on Jesus and the joy that He’s given me in my day-to-day life. Even if I still can’t go to sleep, I remind myself to meditate on scriptures, sing songs to the Lord in my head, count my blessings, or even just get out of bed and spend some time reading my Bible until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

This has been so helpful. I can FOCUS on my kids, and I’m realizing anew what a total delight they are… and I can’t imagine enjoying them more or better if we lived anywhere else. I can wrap my head around the reality that we’re having ONE MORE, and she’s going to just add to the happy chaos that is our home. I can see my husband as a man, not my SOURCE of joy or happiness, but as my partner as we try to figure out our lives and family.

So today, when I was reading Psalm 9 in my quiet time, my spirit shouted “YES!” to these verses:

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!

Basic Crock-Pot Beans


The last few days have been PERFECT writing days… gloomy skies, wind whipping around the windows, rain pattering down in sporadic spurts… my kids are currently obsessed with LOTR (a habit I have fostered, nurtured, and whole-heartedly endorsed) so there has been lots of movie watching and role-playing. Which has obviously gone straight to my uterus, because we discovered we’re having a baby girl today, and have decided her middle name will be Éowyn (YAY!!!).

So naturally, I was NOT writing. I was reading. =)  In my defense, it was an amazing soon-to-be-published novel. And I will gloat more that *I* got to read it before you did when it’s all official like (because I’m just competitive like that). Anyways, all the reading, LOTR, and rainy weather have made me eager for low-maintenance, low-cost dinners. And while on the phone to a dear cousin who struggles (as I do) with meal planning for a hubby who NEEDS to know what’s for dinner (“Um…. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”), I decided to post the easiest dinner to make in the whole world. It includes a tool (Crock-Pot) and skill (cooking beans) that you MUST have to be an adult, in my opinion.

You’ll need to start in the morning and gather:

  • at least 2 pounds of dry beans (we prefer black or pinto beans)
  • a big onion
  • several cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • (Opt.) cooked meat (bacon, ham hocks, etc.)

Rinse the dry beans in a colander, removing funky looking beans (sometimes you’ll even find rocks… you DON’T want to bite on those!), any bean skins that stick to the sides, etc. Basically, clean them really well.

Dump your clean beans into your Crock-Pot and cover them with water. Because you can use any amount of beans, the amount of water varies. A good measure is your finger (this is genius: my husband taught me this trick): if you gently put your index finger on the top-most bean, the water level should be even with the second knuckle on your finger (brilliant, right?).

Now, skin an onion (chop off the top and bottom and take off all the dry skin) and add it to the pot. I leave the onion whole, because my kids don’t care for onion (they think), so when the beans are done, I just take the whole thing out. But you can totally dice it and mix it in with the beans. It’s up to you. Also, if you DON’T have an onion, onion powder or onion salt work just fine. Just sprinkle enough to cover the surface of the water.

Throw in some garlic cloves, either peeled, chopped, or pressed (we don’t believe there is any such thing as “too much garlic,” and it’s kept our house vampire and zombie free for years). Again, if you don’t have garlic, you can use garlic powder instead.

Add a bunch of salt and a few dashes of pepper (don’t you love my measurements?). This last batch I made I used up all our salt and it still didn’t taste salty enough for me. I recommend a taste-test about half-way thorough the cook time to make sure the flavor is right for you.

I’ve seen a lot of people add bacon or ham hocks to their meat. Leftover bacon never happens in our house, so we’ve never actually done this. And if we have ham hocks, I make split-pea soup. So anyways, I’ve never done this before, other people do and I bet it tastes yummy!

You can also add any other spice you want (and your kids tolerate): this last batch I sprinkled in cumin powder and a dash of chili powder. It went over fine with them.

Now fire up the Crock-pot for about 6 hours. Check it every few hours to make sure the water still covers the beans. If you have to add water, boil it first so it doesn’t slow down the cooking time. Although, I usually don’t check it… I’m generally busy… you know, reading.  =)

This way, when my husband wants to know “what’s for dinner?” I have an answer. “Beans!” And when he comes home, the house smells amazing.  =)

You can serve them in bowls with cheese and sour cream, or heat up tortillas and make burritos. Mmmmm.

Enjoy!

Wherein My Kids Make You Laugh


We have to keep our energy costs down during the “peak hours” of 3-6PM when the electricity costs twice what it does during the rest of the day. This usually means we turn off our A/C and retire to the pool for that time period. Thankfully, it’s ‘only’ been around 100 the last few days, so the apartment isn’t too hot when we get home. Yesterday, we didn’t start feeling warm until after I’d made dinner. That’s when I asked Jonathan (6) to go turn on the A/C.

“It’s not working, Mom!”

“OK, I’ll get it later.”

After tucking the kids in bed, I walked past the thermostat and flicked on the A/C without really looking. Then I went to bed with Josh (23 months). It had been a long day.

Anthony came to bed later and mentioned that it was cold. “So go turn off the air,” I mumbled sleepily. “I’m not the one who turned it on,” he shot back. Stellar logic.

At 4:30, I was awakened from a lovely dream of watching the snow fall outside our window in Colorado by PG-13 exclamations from Anthony about how freezing he was, and he finally jumped out of bed to turn off the A/C. “WHO TURNED IT ALL THE WAY DOWN?” he yelled (I’m sure our neighbors LOVE us).

Crap.

I guess when Jonathan said the A/C wasn’t working, it’s because he moved the wrong switch, and I didn’t notice it when I turned it back on. The apartment was about 55 degrees. The low outside last night was 79. Next month’s electric bill is going to hurt!

It gave us a great excuse to stay in bed a little longer with all the kids and then go hunting for our socks and sweaters before getting to the breakfast table.

At breakfast, the kids were looking at the prizes on the back of the Frosted Mini-Wheat’s box and “claiming” their prizes.

Jonathan: “I get the Legos!”

Hannah: “I get the Cars 2 DVD!”

Jono: “You know, they should have an iPad2. I’d win that!”

Me: “Jonathan, they have TOYS. I don’t think iPads are good prizes for kids.”

Hannah: “Yeah, Mom. That’s what HE said!”

Jono (with eye roll): “Mmmmoooommmm! She’s copying Michael Scott!”

I almost spilled the milk I was frothing, I was laughing so hard!

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