"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fun with the Walker

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Little Drummer Boy

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Patrick discovered a drum (tea kettle) in the pantry.

A Sisterly Haircut

Notice anything new about Eva? Yes, she now has bangs, thanks to her sister's handiwork. I know there's no use complaining because pretty much everyone has a story about how they/their kids/their friends/etc. cut someone's hair. Nonetheless, I was not too happy about this unapproved, unsupervised hair cut, especially since Eva was due for her first professional haircut and a photo shoot next month. The very short bangs were initially at an unusual 45 degree angle, but I had my neighbor (a hairstylist) come over and fix Eva's bangs as best she could.

Of course, Maia lost her scissors as a consequence of the act, and she has yet to get them back. She keeps asking, when, and I keep saying once Eva's bangs are all the way grown out again. I'm not sure I'll stick to that, but we will see. A few days after the unhappy event, Maia and I had this conversation:

M: "So, Mom, I noticed that you moved your kitchen scissors."
TM: "Yes, I thought I'd better put them out of your reach now that you're on scissors probation. I wouldn't want you to use mine while you're waiting to get your own back."
M: "Too bad. I guess now I'll have to use your office scissors."

Next time I was in my office, I put those out of her reach too.

Kids' Ecumenical Conversations

It's always hard to say goodbye to a friend... this week Maia had to say goodbye to her good friend Quentin, who is moving to Texas. Quentin's dad has been working with The Relief Bus, providing meals to people in need in NYC. Now he'll be starting up a similar ministry down in Texas. Maia and Quentin first met at the park, and they hit it off right away, as did their moms who both went to college in Indiana and had moved to Jersey from Ohio.

Maia is still trying to figure out how all this religion stuff works. On the day we were taking Quentin to the beach with us, she suggested that his mom drop him off at our house in time to go to daily Mass with us. "I don't know if they'd like that," I said, "they're not Catholic, you know."

Later, on the way to the beach, I heard Maia saying to Quentin, "So you don't believe in Jesus?"

Quentin, whose family is Evangelical/Wesleyan, was taken aback, "Yes, I do! I believe in Jesus!"

Maia replied, "But you're not Catholic! And Grandpa and Nana are not Catholic and they don't believe in Jesus!"

Quentin showed his own five-year old understanding when he said, "I'm Christian! Everyone in the world who believes in God is Christian, you know!"

A few minutes later, they were both singing along to Veggie Tales' version of "Jesus is Just Alright with Me." Quentin's singing enthusiasm seemed to reflect his desire to prove that he really does believe in Jesus.

Untitled from Theologian Mom on Vimeo.

And a few hours later, after the trip to the beach, they were both asleep.

Today's Maia Quotations

While I was picking out some refried beans at the grocery store, Maia said: "Mom, that's funny! That Italian flag has a big eagle in the middle of it!" (Of course, it was a Mexican flag... but you can tell Maia's adjusted to living in a historically Italian neighborhood.)

Much to my chagrin, I discovered a few days ago that Maia had ripped holes into the Pack n' Play netting by using one of my kitchen knives. After much angst, today brought forth this remark: "Mom, I REALLY wish I was old enough to go to confession because then I could tell Fr. Jim about poking the holes in the Pack n' Play."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Meatless Mondays or Fridays?

Every once in awhile, I'll hear about something supposedly "new" and think to myself that it's something that Catholics invented a long time ago. Such is the case with these "Meatless Mondays." A friend of mine proudly told me about her family's efforts to have one day a week where they abstain from meat. Now it's made it into the NY Times. And guess what, Catholics have been having one day a week where they don't eat meat for... well, a pretty long time. It's still required by canon law, although here in the U.S. our episcopal conference has allowed us to substitute another sacrifice instead, though meat abstinence maintains a place of honor for Friday sacrifice.

Of course, there's nothing alliterative about "Meatless Fridays," but it is the day on which our Lord died. And that means the motivation is not simply all the natural benefits hyped by MMers... there's also a supernatural motivation and benefit. How can we make Friday meat abstinence "cool" again?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Pearls in an Oyster Shell

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Patrick in Motion

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I guess I don't have any good videos of Patrick crawling... but he is, and has been for awhile now. Above, Maia explains all.
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Patrick really loves the water. In the above video, he moves himself around the pool with the help of a floatation device (under the supervision of an adult, of course).
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Patrick also loves standing and doing "pull ups" on whatever he can. Above, notice also his attempt at a wave and a "hi."

In the next installment of Patrick in motion, look for "Patrick Uses a Walker." He's almost eight months and working on figuring out how to push the walker forward and still stay up. He seems to be on track to walking at 10 months, just like his sisters were.

Pure Delight

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Above, Eva entertains Patrick by jumping on some air-filled packaging bags. Patrick obliges her with laughter. Then Eva becomes concerned that Patrick is eating paper, and the fun ends.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Activities for the Talented?

"Dear Level Accelerated Girls Parents,

Congratulations your daughter has been selected and identified as a talented gymnast. You are cordially invited to move up to the Accelerated Gymnastic Team....
"Please be advised that team children are only entitled to a two week vacation per year.
"Injury policy: 2 weeks or less: Injuries that require two week break or less will not receive any price credit. For these minor injuries, speak to your coach about strength/flexibility/workout program that is custom designed to work around these minor injuries. 3 weeks or greater: tuition will depend on the extent of the injury."

The above is excerpted from a letter I received in the mail from Maia's gym. In case you can't tell, she goes to a "real gym" where they actually have teams that compete. Although it really shouldn't have, this brief letter through me into a state of confusion about what I truly want for my children...and what I should want.

Aside from vicariously living out my own unfulfilled gymnastic ambitions, are there any real reasons why I would subject my daughter to an accelerated gymnastics program, where at age five, she has to practice twice a week and only gets a two-week vacation? Or where at age seven she has to practice three times a week and starts competing on the weekend? And how could we possibly afford to pay double or triple or quadruple what we pay now, given that we consider Maia's gymnastics to be a luxury (or at least, an unnecessary expense)?

Of course, the first answer is that I want her to be successful at something she enjoys. With persistent training throughout the next few years, she could no doubt be improve her skill. Part of me feels bad about limiting her by not letting her do accelerated gymnastics. If she could be the next Shawn Johnson, who am I to stand in the way? But as Jeff noted, we specifically DON'T want her to be an Olympic gymnast. We don't want her subjected to that pressure, mentally or physically.

When I received this letter, I realized that I had not given much thought to my children's future in terms of activities. Or, I should say that I had not decided upon a plan. Because actually, I have given children's activities some thought, ever since I read a compelling article about the rise in athletic injuries among children, who spend far more time training in one specific sport year-round than before, and pay this price physically, not just in their childhood, but often in terms of permanent injuries. Conversation with "soccer moms" or, more accurately "soccer-chorus-baseball-theater-basketball-synchronized swimming-gymnastics-band moms" has confirmed my feeling that young children spend a little too much time in organized activities, as opposed just to playing with friends.

What's a mom to do? Well, I sought the advice of a well-established mother, with nine children ranging in age from 22 to in utero. A Princeton grad, married to another Princeton grad, and the oldest two kids now students at Notre Dame. Here are some of her tips for controling the activites with a large family:

1. Don't have your kids do any "gym" sports, like martial arts or gymnastics. They take too much time and money. If your child gets injured (or in their case, they had a daughter who became anorexic due to the pressure of her sports activity), it's all over.

2. Don't put your kids in anything that you personally don't like (unless they really insist). Her example was t-ball/baseball. She found games to be absolutely boring, especially because her kids sometimes had little or no action in the games.

3. Don't do travel sports. Kids can have fun and learn discipline and skill by playing local soccer games. No need to drive two hours away to compete.

4. One child-one sport per season. No overscheduling. She said she had a son in lacrosse and soccer at the same time, and neither coach was forgiving of the inevitable missed practices.

5. One child-one musical instrument. After experimenting with suzuki violin lessons, they decided just to stick with school band lessons. Practicing the instruments is a must for continuing because otherwise their failure is bad for their self-esteem.

6. Swimming is the best family sport. City swim leagues are the only sport where the age range is from 6-18. Have your kids swim, and they all practice at the same time and compete in the same meet. It makes it so easy.

7. Trial and error. You can just tell when something is not working out, and you have to be willing to let it go and learn from your mistakes. Don't get too attached to the kids' activities.

8. Don't let it stress the kids. Kids are kids. They shouldn't have extreme pressure in regard to competition (and those parent-coaches who say they don't care about winning are lying). When one of their younger sons was told in 7th grade that he needed to cut weight for a wrestling meet that was right after Christmas, they had him cut wrestling instead. Kids need to eat and grow and learn and be happy. Beware of athletic pressure on the kids. While their oldest two had eleven varsity letters each in high school, their third, who was even more a natural athlete, just couldn't handle the stress.

9. Big rocks in first. She said it sounds trite, but that's how it is. Mass and family Rosary on Sunday are top priorities. But after that, if there's a swim practice or swim meet, that's ok. They don't have a "not on Sunday" rule for activities. For them, academics always come first. Sometimes their kids have to miss a practice because they have a school project.

So, as you may have guessed our "talented gymnast" is not going to do accelerated gymnastics. We still don't have a "plan," but I think Maia's going to be a great swimmer, just like her mom, and all of her younger siblings.