Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas recap

Text only for now - I'll do a photo entry later after pictures have been uploaded. Merry Christmas everyone!

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service at our UU church. The service was really lovely, if a bit long and hot. Fiona was fussy throughout, but she still managed to put on a good performance while acting as an angel in the Posada reenactment and singing for the Children's Choir. Both girls crashed immediately when we got home, although in Saskia's case it was more out of a desire to make Santa come faster than tiredness.

The girls woke us at 9:00, which was a great Christmas present to us. They rushed downstairs and came back up squealing over the Littlest Pet Shop V.I.P's that Santa left them. We let them go crazy opening Santa's gifts and unloading their stockings, then we made them wait (we are so mean) while we made tea before moving on to the other gifts.

In an effort to make the morning last longer, I have a rule that only one person can open a gift at a time. So we had a sweet couple of hours of leisurely opening gifts. I won't bother listing all their presents, just the top 3... For Saskia #3 was a "Totally Spies" computer game , #2 was her LPS VIP and #1 was most definitely her copy-cat American Girl doll, complete with several beautifully hand-made outfits from Grandma. For Fiona #3 was her Barbie doctor, #2 her LPS VIP and #1 was her first big-girl bike.

After opening presents I made my way to the kitchen to cook breakfast, biscuits and eggs was on the menu. I was surprised to find after we ate that it was already noon! We quickly phoned grandma and grandpa to thank them for their thoughtful gifts and then attempted to register the VIPs. And when I say attempted, I mean it. It took over an hour and the server was so slow they couldn't even play once they finally got registered. I know it's Christmas and all but come on people, shouldn't that be expected? Get some more servers or something, sheesh.

By the time I got off the kid's computers it was 1:30 and I was way behind on making dinner. I started on the chestnut stuffing while Paul prepared the goose. By 3:00 (note, next time I'm buying the chestnuts pre-cooked and peeled) we were allowed a short break. Paul took a nap while I set up a new MSN messenger account so that Saskia and Fiona could chat with their sister in Germany. Luckily Toni was online and we all got to chat for a little while, which was awesome. The girls really miss their sister and talk about her a lot. Hopefully now they will be able to talk to her more often.

After chatting Saskia and I went to to choose some new music for our MP3 players. She got a gift card allowing her to choose any 2 albums to download: she picked the soundtracks to High School Musical and High School Musical 3. I didn't get a gift card, but I DID get a brand new MP3 player for Christmas from Paul so I treated myself to 3 new albums (yes I'm bad)... Sarah McLachlan, Leonard Cohen and the new K.T. Tunstall. What can I say, I've been in a mellow mood lately.

It's nearly time for dinner now, I can't wait. In addition to the goose we are having rotkohl (red cabbage pickled in red wine and red wine vinegar) and knoedel (kind of like bread dumplings). Yum yum yum! After dinner we will probably watch a movie and maybe I can finally get around to playing with my new MP3 player. I can't believe how the day has flown....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Status update

Christina- Is busy trying to get ready for the holidays. Were they always so stressful? I've given up on family pictures and cards, as long as I can get presents out relatively on time I will be happy.

Saskia- Just joined a youth theater troop. She is going to be performing in "Alice in Wonderland" in March as a lobster in the Caucus Race scene and a flower in the garden scene. She's really excited and already fitting right in with the troop after her first rehearsal. She's also still participating in gymnastics and was moved up a level this session to Advanced Beginning. She likes the new challenges she's facing in her new class. Girl Scouts is still in full swing, with Cookie season starting in a couple of weeks, sigh. It seems like Cal/Nut just finished! And she's getting ready for a Christmas Eve performance of the Children's Choir at church. Although we've made a deal that with the new theater troop, she's going to take some time off of choir after January. One girl can only do so much!

Fiona- Is doing great with gymnastics. She seems to come to it naturally and her teacher said that after one more session they are going to be evaluating her for the invite-only class. I think it would be good for her as she's getting a little bored in the regular class. She's also having lots of fun participating in choir and is one of the most vocal kids they have, so she's really a joy to watch. In daycare/preschool she is progressing fantastically in her writing skills and understanding of concepts. I'm sure she'll be more than ready for Kindergarten when it's time in the fall. Lastly, she's been chosen to play Mary in the Christmas Pageant (she goes to a Lutheran school) and she's really excited about it.

Unfortunately, all 3 of us are sick right now but we are hoping a day home will get us better so that we are able to participate in all the great things we have coming up. Wish us luck!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jesus, Christianity and me

Of all the topics I could choose to blog about after my long hiatus, of all the titles, that is the one that will make the most of my readers (aka friends) go HUH?! but it fits, so bear with me...

To give a little background, I was raised Methodist in a heavily Christian home. Somewhere around the age of 16, after intensive involvement in the church, Bible study and lots of youth camps, groups and a stint on the Methodist youth Council I decided that while I respected the teachings of Jesus I did not follow the Christian belief that he was the son of God. This belief was so heretical in my church that I was dropped from the Council and I quickly found myself completely separated from my Christian life. Now I won't lay the complete blame on the church, I was exploring my own paths at the time and wanted a separation. But the experience did cause a great rift to develop between me and ANY Christian-labeled teachings.

Fast-forward 16 years to now. Over time I have come to realize that while I still do not believe in the Trinity or the Immaculate Conception, among other Church teachings, I do believe that Jesus was a great teacher and holy man. I believe he was a prophet, like many spiritual leaders of the ages. And I believe he would cry (or laugh) to see how his words have been twisted by the Church and many of it's followers.

I also believe in a God. Not the God of the Bible or the Torah or the Koran, but the God that all of the contributors to those great works were trying to understand. The God that Jesus, that Mohammad, that Chief Seattle and countless others talked about. The God that all humanity has been trying to describe for all of our history and the one that is incapable of description. I have long felt that be you Christian, Pagan, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist or any other following, we reside with the exact same God, just under different names.

So, what does all this rambling have to do with this post you may ask? I apologize, I needed to give a little background, now on to the meat of the thing.

I am a Unitarian Universalist. I am so because I believe in the precepts and tenants of this faith. I believe in humanism, in tolerance, in social justice and protecting the Earth and all of the other things which are so central to the UU faith. Yet for a long time, I found the UU faith sadly lacking in FAITH. There wasn't much religion to our religion. Happily, the Reverend at my church has been working hard to fill that need and I thank him for that. It's been a balm to my soul to discuss these topics again, and I feel a part of me growing that has been stagnant for at least 10 years. I have been continuously surprised to find that I am not the only one who has these ideas about the teachings of Jesus. In fact, I just started reading a book called "The Gospels According to Jesus" by Stephen Mitchell that expresses my beliefs in a much more profound and thoughtful way than I have hear. It's been a joyous to learn that others appreciate his teachings on love, forgiveness and living in the Now (i.e. Kingdom of Heaven) outside of the traditions of the Church.

A separate and yet related struggle for me is one I've been having with the Lutheran daycare my youngest attends. Since she started full time this fall, I have become aware of a heavily Christian curriculum in her classroom, including weekly visits from "Pastor" and Bible lessons. I've been worrying a lot as to how these lessons would affect her beliefs later down the road, that they may "convert" her at a later date. Yet at the same time, I've been mourning the lack of moral teaching for my children in our UU church, the teaching which I received as a child growing up Christian. Because it is the morals of the stories that impacted me as a child, "be honest, be kind, do unto others as you would have done unto you." Those teachings were missing from our curriculum at my UU church, even though they are the basis of our faith. Happily, we have begun a curriculum this year covering World Religions which begins to touch on these tenants, but we have more to do. But that's another post all together...

To wrap it up (if you're still with me) I came to the realizations that:

1) What am I complaining about with Fiona's daycare? She's getting the moral teaching that I wanted her to have
2) What a beautiful opportunity her schooling is giving her for me to discuss my beliefs with her
3) No discussion of the teachings of Jesus can hurt my child or myself
4) I'm happy to welcome Jesus back into my life. Not as the Son of God to a Christian, but as a teacher to a student. I think I'm finally ready to learn...