Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quirky Grace Has a New Home

Hi everyone, I've moved Quirky Grace to my own place in cyperspace. You can enjoy reflections on parenting, irreverent spirituality, poetry, politics & abundant (most uncensored) life at


Thanks for sharing the journey!

Happy Christmas and a Very Merry New Year To You & The Ones You Love!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Years Old

Two Years Old

You're two years-old
Two years-new, growing wise
Still wild, occasionally tamed
Pulling hair with glee
Helping me sweep
Whirling CD disks like planets
"Different Song, Please," You say,
Forming words from the air
Epiphany! Miracle!
You're becoming you
Before my eyes
You're two years-old
Two years-new and growing wise

~For Gabriel on his 2nd Birthday

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy (Lead-filled) Christmas?

Now when you're about to deck the halls with bows of holly, you probably aren't thinking, "How delightful, my holiday lights are wrapped in lead, which is known to cause infertility, insanity and cancer." Unfortunately, this year, that's exactly what ran facetiously through my head, as my husband hauled our fake, pre-lit Christmas tree out to the dumsper -- wearing protective gloves, after reading those little paper tabs on the Christmas lights that actually say the strands of holiday cheer are chock full of lead and "other chemicals." God knows what.

David and our oldest daughter Nika trooped out to the Garden Center and bought a mini real tree and marched on CVS in search of non-lead Christmas lights.

Apparently, CVS doesn't carry any lead-free holiday lights.

"Deck the halls with bows of lead, fa la la la la la la la. Dawn we know our gay apparel, fa la la la la la la la, soon we will all be dead, fa la la la la la la la, tis the season for jolly folly, fa la la la la la la la la la!"

So our humble, scrawny little Christmas tree will have no lights. We'll stick with our one candle, which we light for advent each night. It is enough. Every night when we say what we're thankful for, Gabriel always says in his sweet, almost-two-year-old voice. "candle."

And I'll be sending a message to the EPA about what the *F&^#@* is wrong with us that we keep letting lead products infiltrate the consumer market place, putting our kids and future kids at risk. Because if they'd had lead Christmas lights in 30 BC, maybe Mary would have been infertile and a virgin birth and a fertility miracle just seems like overkill, in my opinion. Like having steak and bacon on the same night.

Happy (un-leaded) Christmas, and to all an un-leaded night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Time Traveling to get the Rose-Colored Glasses

Time travel would be so cool. Or it might be devastating. Either way, heading into the future would sure put the present in perspective.

"Enjoy 'em when they're little -- it goes so fast." So say nostalgic older parents who gaze with sentimental adoration at my babies, who truly will be no longer babies in a blink of an eye. And that's when I'll get to close my eyes, undisturbed, thank you very much.

If only I could time travel...taste the ache of longing for my babies, the twinge of pain recalling how many waste moments of pure love. If only I could see now with the Rose Colored Glasses of the future.

I am practicing for my New Year's Resolution, in hopes of giving myself a head start:

I will remember those words, savoring with sleepy eyes the precious little human beings who learn almost everything about life through my way of being, listening, seeing, loving, laughing, showing, opening, guiding and communicating. I will enjoy every bit of this timeless gift, dammit.

My attention turns to my breath, not in meditative peace, but in anxious observation of how patter-patter and shallow my inhalations are as I feel ready to explode with the incessant, relentless demands.

And then one flashing grin -- just one sends to the moon and centers my spirit on the miracle before me, her life a gathering celebration of creation and its Creator.

"You're making memories!" admonishes my daughter's Kindergarten teacher as all the harried parents are corralled from one craft table to next, helping our children create cheap and priceless ornaments. This is a Christmas Decorating tradition that's been going on at Haddonfield Friend's School for over twenty years.

"I still have my pinecone!" says the teacher. "And today my Kindergartener is jumping out of a plane. Trust me, you'll wish for this day again, when you could sit with your Kindergartener and make holiday decorations with them."

Meanwhile, I am trying to nurse Avriana with one arm, help Gabriel up on my lap with the other, while extracting sparklies from Avriana's mouth, holding her in place with my elbo and then leaning in to assist Nika in the very delicate process of gluing a cotton pom pom on the hat (I almost typed hate) of a plastic snowman.

That was last week, and already, I'm glad I went, not only because of what it meant to my daughter, but because of the lingering connection created by my willingness to enter into the insanity of Kindergarten parent-duties of of love for my big baby girl, whose growing into power, love and beauty more everyday.

Today was Gingerbread House Day. I was able to get a sitter for the little ones, and give Nika my full attention. Well as much of my attention as I could in between letting my mind wander to wondering where we'll be when David starts residency, or feeling annoyed at how the Teacher spoke to parents EXACTLY like the Kindergarteners: "One Two Three, eyes on me!"
But I got some good moments in their, between the graham crackers and the gum drops, and I keep adding more moments and by the grace of God, I will learn a little more everyday to live now by the Rose Colored Glasses of tomorrow.

Because Today will evaporate, and all that'll be left is the love I gave and the love I let open the door of my silly, preoccupide heart.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock!" Could it be the knock of a child? Let the little children come, and so help us God, let us be Awake and Welcoming when they come, for we are each other's little Christs, everyday.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Best (low-cheese) Advent Books For Kids

I confess to owning a few cheesy religious books -- you know, the ones that use short sentences packed with oversimplifications that aren't even childlike, as well as jargon that adults barely understand -- all of which make the story sound like a basic, almost pithy catechism to be memorized.

My son, bless him, has unfortunately become a big fan of Patricia A. Pingry's The Christmas Story, which in my humble opinion fits in the above-described category. I like to think my son has good taste, (what mother lacks this bias?) In order to maintain this belief, I am concluding he likes The Christmas Story on account of the rather lovely pictures of Mary and Joseph. My little boy likes to call the Holy Couple by name, pointing at them over and over, with shrieking delight. Gabe especially has a thing for Mary. He has, I fear, a crush on the mother of God.

Mary! That's Mary" exclaims almost two-year-old Gabriel, like he's in love, caught up in a sparkling epiphany of his own.

Like I said, the boy's got good taste.

Mary worship aside, I would like to introduce my kids to some better kids literature filled with the longing, truth and beauty of advent, with its crowning moment, the birth of God with us.

Here are my current favorites, all of which can be located on Amazon.

1. The Three Wise Women by Mary Hoffman, pictures by Lynne Russell

2. The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall, Illustrated by Buy Porfirio

3. The Little Shepherd Girl, by Juliann Henry, Illustrated by Jim Madsen

All these stories offer a unique perspective on their topic that brings alive the essential traditions we cherish, while expanding our eye's horizon and our hearts understanding in a way that is deep, yet childlike, although more applicable to kids four and up. The "up" includes people my age, and I'd bet my boots, well beyond.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wicked Sacrifices

In Wicked, the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she got where she got, Elphaba's father is a priest who has devoted his whole identity and life to fighting idolatry. He has sacrificed wealth and the wellbeing of his wife in this fight. I discovered this gem -- a nibble for all ministers to mull over from time to time as a cautionary tale:

He would prevail. He was their minister. He had pulled their teeth and buried their babies and blessed their kitchen pots for years now. He had abased himself in their names. He had wandered with an unkempt beard and a begging bowl from hamlet to hamlet, leaving poor Melena alone in the minister's lodge for weeks at a time. He had sacrificed her for them. They couldn't be swayed by this Time Dragon creature. They owed him. (p 13-14)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

America, Genocide and a Haunting Echo of "Once Again"

I just began a book -- which happens far more frequently than the event of actually finishing one -- called Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

The book got a Pulitzer, and a well-earned one. This is a thick, heartbreaking, yet objective read that you cannot absorb without feeling shocked to the point of confusion. Over and over the signs are clear: large scale human slaughter based on being one kind of people and not another is about to happen, and it's not even news until everyone is dead. Yet however depressing, this book is readable and captivating, as good journalistic writing is, and I'm going to see if I can open my eyes and get a better look at the picture, however gruesome or complex.

In the preface, author Samantha Power makes the point that "It is in the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost...No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and No U.S. president has ever suffered politically for this indifference to its occurrence."

As human beings, why on earth isn't genocide one of the top issues in the campaign climate these weeks and months? Can we make it important enough to get the matter of large scale human slaughter boosted above tax tug-of-wars and terrorism?

Can we make it important to intervene in genocide when we aren't sniffing after foreign oil?

A little piece of hope: I found this press release on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen today announced that they will co-chair a Genocide Prevention Task Force jointly convened by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. The Task Force will generate practical recommendations to enhance the U.S. government's capacity to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities."We have a duty to find the answer before the vow of 'never again' is once again betrayed," said Secretary Albright.

The "once again" buzzes in my hear, hauntingly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Little Shepherd Girl

A new mattress was on its way for our little boy, Gabriel, and the house was littered with colorful toys and recycling bags, whose paper contents had been emptied gleefully across the living room space, even trailing down the stairs to our entryway like like bread crumbs. Amazon.com boxes piled like skyscrapers in the corner by the door. There was no room for the mattress, and the delivery was about to happen -- any time between 1pm and 4pm.

David, my husband assessed the situation and announced he was going to take care of the recycling and went about it, leaving me upstairs with our three little kids. Gabe wanted to press the other song on the CD player; Avriana popped like a foghorn, and Nika needed help opening the Peanut Butter -- and a reminder that pushing her brother off the stool is not an acceptable solution to territory disputes. I adore my kids and love them more than life itself.

And yet...

My nose quivered, opening to the fresh air cleverly wafting in each time the door opened and shut between savory trips to the dumpster outside our condominium complex. I sniffed the cardboard on its way outside, and compared that with the poopy smell emanating from a small bum slithering around on our blue rug; the sound of sleet with the sound of whine.

When I was little, I always wanted to shovel snow with my dad -- even if it was wet, heavy snow. I always choose raking leaves over sweeping the kitchen, stacking wood over chopping vegetables or wiping the table. It could be this remembrance that links me Sarah, the protagonist in a fabulous new Christmas story called The Little Shepherd Girl written by Juliann Henry.

Sarah wants to be a shepherd. She pleads with her to go out and watch the flock. Her Father's response at first, is traditional, even protective.

"No, Sarah," he finally said. "Daughters are meant for weaving and baking flat cakes. Only sons can protect the flock from a hungry wolf. That is just the way of things."

"But, Father," Sarah's voice rose, "you have no sons to bring the sheep to pasture! And why does my nose prefer the smell of sweet clover to that of bread dough?"

After I kiss my baby, nibble my toddler and read a story to my very own Little Shepherd Girl, who, like her mother, prefers to play outside, jumping rocks, than tending stoves or dressing babies, I ask David if we can switch places. Being an enlightened man (and certainly not my father,) he doesn't forbid my crossover into "his" territory, though he is caught off guard -- at least a little.

Soon I am outside in the chill, my boots slipping slightly on the sleet-covered sidewalk, with heavy bags filling my arms with life and strength and a sense of accomplishment. Air fills my lungs and I look up and thank God. And I think of Sarah, the little shepherd girl, who, on the Eve of Christmas is finally freed to follow her own North Star.

Caring for her sheep, and without abandoning a single one that first night out in the fields, Sarah, manages to shepherd the flock all the way to the manger, where she meets Baby Jesus -- ahead of her boy cousins, for that matter.

And this is my advent calling: To breathe the wild, fresh air of undomesticated life without abandoning any of my little lambs.

Each day may God open a new window, so I can see Sarah's North Star. And may it point me to the Baby Jesus, whom I discover in my own little ones when I come inside, my body tingling with air and life from beyond the kitchen where the little tots play.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why men love abortion - Undefined Section

This article is pertinent to my last post, Unplanned Fatherhood: Men and Abortion
Why men love abortion - Undefined Section

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Unplanned Fatherhood: Men & Abortion

Recently on the ooze, an article was written by Kimberly B. George, called TO CHRISTIAN MEN: Letter from a Feminist. The writing is precise, balanced and compassionate -- a call to engagement with the weaknesses as well as the strengths of historic feminism.

The write-ins in the comments section range from open-minded and grateful to vitriolic voices equating feminism with abortion rights. I'm not even sure why abortion is considered a women's issue. It is a couple's issue, human issue, and a social issue.

Yes, pregnancy happens within a woman's body. Look though, the critical facts related to abortion are connected with a couple, culture and society

First of all, consider how a woman finds herself with an unintended pregnancy: unless she stole sperm from the daddy bank and used a turkey baster, a man participated equally in the action. Her egg did not impregnate itself. Yet like the woman Jesus finds about to be stoned for being caught in adultery, I wonder, what of the guy's responsibility? He gets to run away while she gets stoned?

I think not.

Yet to equate feminism with abortion is pretty much a modern equivalent of stoning the woman and letting the man run off with mild encouragement to use a condom next time -- and if the guy's a Christian, perhaps his "brother" hands him a copy of Joshua Harris's I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Let me ask you a question:

What would abortion statistics look like if men took 100% responsibility for either practicing abstinence or safer sex, and for being a present, involved Dad if a pregnancy results despite safest sex practices?

Mothers, fathers and churches: Are you as hard on boys as girls when it comes to sex and unexpected parenthood? Do you equally encourage your young men to be responsible in their sexual conduct as well as to step up and be good, active Daddies if an error occurs and someone with whom your son is involved becomes pregnant? Or would you pressure your son to get the girl to give the baby up for adoption or otherwise "make it go away" so as not to ruin your son's future? A woman's ability to choose life is closely tied with her opportunity to have a partner in caring for that life.

I don't know very many women who would abort their babies if they knew they could count on their partner to be accepting, available and supportive through the pregnancy and in the ongoing raising of the baby into adulthood. I am not implying the boy and girl should rush into marriage - only that that they commit to sharing the responsibility of being good parents to the child they created together.

I want this: before a guy judges a woman about abortion, I wish he would ask himself, "If I got a girl pregnant when I was ---- age old, would I be a supportive partner-in-parenthood from conception through college and beyond?

If not, I wish this guy would shut his trap, preferably permanently -- or at least 'til he has repented and become ready to receive and offer grace, which is all we have, anyway.

All you guys out there who've been through unplanned daddyhood and been there for your kids and your partner, I give you credit.

God knows, we need Young Father mentors, just as much as we need crisis pregnancy centers and other support sources for girls and women experiencing an unintended pregnancy.