Thursday, December 18, 2014

Secular Sponsorship and Service

secular charities
For years I have wanted to sponsor an overseas child through monthly donation-type of system. While I was in Australia the opportunity walked up to me on the street and introduced itself.

I was leaving the chemist and walking to my car when two women on the corner stopped me to talk about ChildFund Australia, a child sponsorship program. Totally secular.  **

I barely gave it two thoughts; 

I joyfully signed up right there and then at Wynnum Road and Algoori Street.

Since then our family has been sponsoring a little girl in Kenya named Linda. She and her brother Benson send letters to me at least once a month. I send my few dollars monthly as well as a nice, long letter from our family. I love it that the kids participate in the letter-writing and story-sharing.

This family has become very important to me. I have sent a few packages, though that is actually discouraged by ChildFund, and have been deeply gratified by the good it has done for this family. Linda is my child, but her entire family means so much to me. I often think about what it is like for her mother to put meals on the table each day and shoes on the feet of every person in the family. But she does it! And it is a thrill knowing that my help has made it possible for this ten year old girl to have what she needs to get a good education.

One month I sent shoes or sandals to everyone in the family. Sadly one of the boxes didn't arrive (hence the reason packages are discouraged) but I was so happy to know that at least a few feet were being adequately clad in that climate.

John and Liz encourage you to
sponsor a child through
Now that our family has moved back home to the US, 
I am still sponsoring Linda's family through the 
US ChildFund branch rather than through 
ChildFund Australia. Because, WOW, that is a fiduciary challenge with the different banking systems!  LOL

Please, if you are able, please sponsor a child!
If you prefer, you can sponsor medical advancements, community improvement projects, leave a legacy to the program, become an advocate, and more. Excellent programs are in the works for parts of India, Ecuador, and Belarus. Past projects include playgrounds and safe places for children in Afghanistan, USA, Ethiopia, and other places, mosquito nets in Africa, and so many other worthwhile projects.

The kids and I recommend ChildFund! I promise, 

it brings so much happiness to the heart of a small child
...and your heart will benefit as well.  ;)

**  ChildFund was a Christian Organization at it's inception, formerly known as Christian Children's Fund.

For More Posts Like This One:
We Want Peace 
Independence Day:  Free and Equal 
25 Ways to Pass On Love and Tolerance to Your Children
Family Values
How I Planned to be as a Parent

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Parental Confession

good enough mom, terrible parent, guilty mom
The other day Elizabeth and I were in the car talking when she got very quiet. We were driving on the highway so it took me a moment or two to notice that she had become introspective. She was looking out the window and dabbing her eyes.

She looked over at me and said Mom, when I am a mom I hope I am a mom just like you.


Honey, I replied, I'm sure you will be, then, if that is what you want to be. I promise you, though, I haven't always been this great paragon of motherhood before you.  

I went on to describe a few moments from her childhood where I went totally ballistic on her about...I have no idea what.

She replied Well, I don't remember those things, but you have mentioned them before. What I want to be like, Mom, is patient, supportive, permissive, and really and truly loving me as I truly am. Then she went on to tell me about recent times when, in her mind, I was the ultimate in loving.

Well, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that raising this daughter/being a mother to this child has been a constant learning process for me. I have done everything wrong. I have made mountains out of mole hills. I have made incorrect assumptions. I have been harder on her than I have been on John. I have been snarky. I have been childish. I have torn down things from the walls in my rage. I have been awful at times. None of the really bad stuff has happened in awhile, but I remember it clearly.

As the years have rolled forward I knew that I wanted to be the kind of parent that my daughter needed me to be because it was pretty clear that she was going to be herself, not some version of her that I had in my mind. So most of the change happened on my end.

I have learned so much about loving a child with this strong personality. At times I have cursed that personality. I have been proud of that personality. I have fought it, felt overwhelmed by it, criticized it, battered it, cried about it, been snide toward it. 

Yes, I have fought this child.

But one day I realized that, instead of fighting her and trying to get her to be...something else, I simply walked over to her and hugged her.  Long and hard, letting her know that I loved her so much.  And that changed the course of our entire relationship.

I realized that she wanted us to get along. She wanted me to love her exactly as she is. I realized that she was struggling too, not just being contrary. I became Pro-Elizabeth instead of Pro-Karen.  It made all of the difference in the world.

While I will never forget that time I took her Pretty Princess bed topper down in a fit of anger, (a thing that she doesn't even remember, a thing that I can't forget), I will also never forget that moment when she was proud of me, saw good qualities in my parenting, decided that she wanted to be like me, bragged about me to her friend.

All because I went where she was rather than waiting for her to come to me.

More Posts Like This One:

It's Going to be Worth It
Can I Rebel Now?
Shooshy:  Raising My Daughter
My Thirteen Tips For Raising Your Strong-Willed Child

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What if They Never Learn to Read?

What if my child never learns to read?
This might be the single biggest fears of young homeschooling moms, especially when the kids don't naturally take to reading like their mommas! Or when the kids don't behave as you imagined that they would.

I'm a huge reader; my daughter is a reader; 
John...not so much. 

Let me tell you, I have worried.

Conversely my daughter is practically math-phobic and I can't help her with that. I'm the same way. She is also homeschool-phobic, lesson-phobic, being-told-what-to-do-phobic, won't-participate-in-your-idea-of-a-lesson-phobic, and not-having-a-choice-phobic.

She started her dual enrollment this past summer, half lessons at the local community college and half here. This fall she had a full class load. My biggest fear was that she would tank. The classes, the note taking, the organization, the syllabus, the deadlines, the testing, the strict attendance expectation, etc.

She has thrived!  She has a 4.0 GPA.
She gets up on time, gets herself to class, has her work done, her reading done, her math lessons done, her papers written, her monologues ready for her theater class. Furthermore she is pushing herself and adding another class next semester, her choice.

So, of course, John can read.
He skipped the Magic Tree House level and went straight to reading his high school level textbooks...and ALGEBRA! It wasn't that he couldn't. It was that he wasn't interested, wasn't ready, and didn't freaking want to.

Don't worry, they're learning!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tea and Biscuits for Atheist Parents

Why do I have an atheist parenting blog? I mean, without the religion part, isn't it just... parenting?!
Why do I spend so much time getting atheist parenting information out there into the ether? Once a person finally let's go of the shackles of their religion, isn't that... enough?!
In that case, why do I feel the strong need to blog about atheism and atheist- or humanist- or skeptic-related issues? Isn't enough that I just AM?!
Isn't this just giving me a label: atheist?!
What is the point?!

Some people have asked me why I have an atheist parenting blog, why I blog about atheist parenting in particular. For the people who feel this way about posts and blogs labeled atheist parenting, I appreciate your skepticism. Is it possible that my writing is offering simple basic rational parenting support? 
Yes, I guess that is very possible. 

At the same time, there are many parents out there who are new to living a secular life, new to raising children without the traditional ways, people who are hidden atheists or people living in seclusion due to their secular choices, afraid to be open and yet determined to raise their children as skeptics and as happy people, and looking for those few voices out there who can offer them understanding, community, advice, or just a general feeling of being normal. Many first-generation parents are seeking in earnest and I am proud to be available and open and willing to offer my support. 
Not my advice, not my expertise, not my definition, not my label! 
My support, my friendship, my small community.

Sometimes I am quite shocked by the vehement negativity that has come my way for my atheist parenting blog. Some of the criticism has actually come from other atheists! Why do you have an atheist blog???

But it's OK, I view their condemnation with compassion and with an open mind. I'm quite certain that those who don't understand the place for an atheist/humanist/skeptical parenting blog are coming from the point of view that atheists can simply move forward into the world, parenting, working, forming relationships, living their lives in a wonderful world free of religion. 
And I would love if that were so.

If only it was so easy.
But many of us still have questions and concerns and things that confuse the heck out of us. 

Moving into the World as an Atheist Parent 
  • Should we do Santa? 
  • How about the Easter Bunny? 
  • Is it inconsistent to do the fun part of Tooth Fairy? 
  • Is it damaging to pretend? 
  • How do we handle religion in the schools? 
  • How do we explain the religion that is so much a part of the world without being disrespectful? 
  • How do we teach our children to recognize indoctrination attempts? 
  • How do we handle family? 
  • How do we face the pain of death in the family?
  • What do we do with the friends of our children who tell the kids that they are going to Hell? 
  • How much openness is best for the kids with their peers? 
  • How about openness for us with adult friends? 
  • What about those who bully with their religion? 
  • How do we handle the Pledge of Allegiance in school each day? 
  • How should our family handle the very public religious rituals in our culture? 
  • What about Christmas?

These are some of the struggles for newbie atheist parents who no longer accept handed-down rules. 

The earnest questioning goes on and on. 
I, as an atheist parenting blogger, don't have the answers. But I do openly entertain the questions. I fearlessly use the words. In my opinion, what I offer on my atheist parenting blog: I encourage other parents to make their own decisions about how to address these issues. The loveliest part of what I do as an openly atheist/secular/humanist parent is I encourage parents to ask the questions, to explore the ideas themselves within the context of their own families, and to create their own family identity, rituals, practices, answers, and direction with confidence. Sometimes I simply remind parents that not knowing the answers is absolutely OK.

My blog is a place where people come with questions, with confusion, with timidity. If my blog existed in the real world, I'm sure I would serve tea and sandwiches or biscuits and I would have a spot for a nice nap. And a fireplace...

I post what I post... things about holidays, discipline, education, friendships, daily experiences, playtime, the media, parenting questions, my own concerns. Readers who comment give me great feedback, feedback that helps me to see why they come to my blog when they have books available that they can read. Specifically, they are looking for another person with whom they can feel understood, valued, of like-mind, welcomed, and even entertained by with the humor of questionable taste. I love the friends who visit here!

Mom and Lizzie
Yes, now I see it.

Just like regular parenting.

Being a parent is the hardest thing that I have ever done; and just between you and I, that is saying something! Most atheist/secular/freethinking parents that I know are extreme thinkers. These are people who voraciously read, question, wonder. I am proud to be on this parenting journey with other parents ...just normal parents.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Took The Long Way Home

I know that my blog has taken a bit of a turn lately. Less homeschooly stuff and more personal stuff. I'm sorry if some people who read here are turned off by that. My life is changing slowly and I find myself dealing with some personal stuff. I don't mind being honest about them, in fact I am annoyingly honest, some would say.

The thing is that I am coming to some realizations about some of this personal crap and it is making me get all introspective here on my blog. The TMI posts, the personal musings...  It is where I am right now, but it will pass. If you find TMI awkward or difficult or boring to read, I understand.

The thing is that I have grown up weird and some of that crap has reared its ugly head.... again ...and is occupying my mind. When a thing is occupying my mind, I have always made it a point to go there, to explore it, to feel it, to figure it out. I don't have that thing that some people have where they can just ignore it or cover it up or brush it away. I have to go there.

After about three hours of making memes to put on Pinterest for Emotional Abuse survivors, it hit me again that I have two parents who, each in their own disparate way, has given me a mass of emotional crap to work through. And I'm doing it; I'm working through it. I always find my way home.

So why the memes?
Because I figure, if I have to find my way through and out of the maze of emotional abuse, TWICE, I want to offer something to other people who are stuck in it.  Emotional abuse is quite odd and isolating and hard to quite put your finger on. So, here I go, being all public again about difficult things.

Stick with me, I'll get through it.

In case you are curious, here are a few of the memes. 
I made over 60 of them, all with the same background and style
so that they would be easily identifiable...
I will upload them to Pinterest when I get enough time. 
What I wish I could do with them was to link them 
to a really good resource for recovery...

I find this quote from Neil Gaiman's U of Arts Commencement Speech is truly inspiring.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly,you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.
- Neil Gaiman

For More Posts Like This One:  
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Mother, The Word

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Find it Hard, The Letting Go

Atheist parenting
I invite you to share in the song I am sort of wrapped up in this evening. To hear it you have to go to Spotify and search for Eddi Reader and find her song called I Won't Stand in Your Way. The kids won't listen to it with me anymore, (No, Mom, I don't want to hear it again!) so I hope you will give it a listen. Share the feels that it gives me...

Eddi Reader is a Scottish folk singer, songwriter that I initially discovered by listening to her on a TEDtalk. The first song I heard by her was Kiteflyer's Hill. I love many of her ballads. Maybe try It's Magic or Moon River or Vagabond or My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. She sings many beautiful ballads but she is probably better known for her auld Celtic Scottish up-tempo folk dance tunes.

The tune that is really getting to me is called I Won't Stand in Your Way and is about those moments in a mother's life where her tiny child moves further and further away from her. When that child stands for the first time and walks away and, finally, when that child goes out into the white lights of the night, lights that they are longing for.

They do, though it's a cliche' and trite to say so, grow too fast. They do, so I find myself forcing my thoughts away from that fact... I stop from saying Do you still play with this? Can we put it away now? I avoid looking in the toy box in John's room so that I don't see those things that are chunky toys for younger boys or superhero costume pieces. I can't bear to see those tiny capes and masks arm bands, head bands, accessories... long ago tossed into the box.

I no longer think I can't wait for some upcoming day. I no longer shop in the kids' sections of Target. I no longer know when my car will be available. I no longer know where my daughter is at all times. I see my son's arms draped over a girl's shoulders. I no longer expect all shoes and coats to be put away right away because I know that, one day super soon, I will have no coats sprawled over the back of the couch and no shoes crowding around the front door. No board games stacked in their boxes on the fireplace. No juice boxes in the refrigerator. No nail polish on the sink. No giggling on the phone. No texters at the table. No surprise overnight guests.

I don't get annoyed to have to reset my car seat and radio station and mirror. I am okay with toothpaste in the kids' bathroom sink. It does not bother me to have homework all over the floors. I don't mind the restricted diets or food obsessions. I don't mind the unfinished projects in the living room or the Korean dramas playing on the tv. Because I know.

I long for Legos on the floor, Polly Pocket shoes in the vacuum, Radio Disney, tiny clothing in the laundry, kid-focused meals, reading on the couch, baby pools in the yard, song shows, stick figure drawings, cape wearing, car seats, pediatrician visits, visitors in the night needing kisses or laughs or company, snow cones, long gazes of utter amazement at their beauty...

I do what I can to know their music, friends, movies, hobbies, interests these days. I look at and listen to them, wishing that my eyes were cameras.  For one day very soon their kites will fly, they will drop my hand, they will go out, the door will close behind them with a loud boom.  They will head off to their new closets, new bedrooms, new sinks, chairs, and homes... and mine will all be clean and vexatiously tidy...

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

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The Essential Homeschool Bookshelf

Stop the presses, your worries are over!
Check out these books and all will be well.

The Essential Homeschool Bookshelf

by Grace Llewelyn

by John Taylor Gatto

by John Holt

by Linda Dobson
By Rachel Gathercole

Friday, December 5, 2014

I Dunno, What's a Motto With You?

TMI ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you have a motto in life?
I do, for me it's Question Everything! 

Many years ago when I was in therapy I was constantly being stumped by thoughts that I thought were true, assumptions that I thought were reality, truths that I thought were universal. These assumptions were like huge road blocks in my pursuit of the truth.

While I am fortunate to have been a young girl who knew that her parents loved her and did their best for her...until that day when all of that changed, a day that became my bookmark for everything to come.  From this event forward an event was classified either before or after the divorce: 1977-1978. Those were the hideous years.

I know what I'm talking about.  ;)
Why were those years so pivotal for me?
People get divorced every day!
Those years were acute for me because both of my parents instantly became strangers, delusive, victimy, unavailable, isolating, unhealthy with boundaries and relationships, and oddly spectral.

Both of them, in their own very disparate ways, began to think of themselves first, often leaving the kids completely out of the equation. They were both wounded, I know. It was a period of time when all of those things that I thought I knew were honestly and truly crushed, when the parents that I had known became incredibly inaccessible and self-absorbed, and when my custodial parent began a long-term program of indoctrination and brainwashing and slavishly requiring unquestioned trust.

(I assure you, these words are not too strong or too dramatic; they are completely accurate.)

And the brainwashing was thorough, Man. It was a true brain fuck. I spent many years in therapy where I strongly resisted challenging the truths that I thought I knew.  
It was arduous and painful and extraordinary and odd.

Things finally started to click for me I learned to
Question Everything!

And I'm grateful for that moment because the dark years, the missing years, those years that are misty for me, do not go away. Not a single extended family member is aware of how things were for us. Most of them consider me in particular to be disrespectful, cruel, deceitful, perfidious, even profane. They do not know, or cannot know how victimized we were because they, too, are victims of that brainwashing, but they don't even know it. My sibs and I still struggle with this crap today in our forties and fifties.


But that skepticism and questioning didn't instantly remove religion from my life. It took me another fifteen years or so before I was able to climb out of the religious boat that I clung so desperately to. 
But I did it. The process of challenging all of that, of accepting small, incremental bits of reality seems like it took at least four years or so before the final hurrah of religion left my mind.

The reading, researching, talking, thinking, writing cycle went on for many years. When I read my journals and poetry from those years I still feel the specter of confusion and pain and anguish in which I was drowning in those days.  

I remember where that phrase came from.
I was working with an older guy who was very wise and kind and larger-than-life in my eyes. I didn't share my story with many people; I didn't share it with him. But in how he lived his life he sent out the phrase 
Question Everything!  
and I figured out how to do that in my own life.

It changed everything! Questioning Everything brought me into the light! It is why I am honest-to-a-fault. It is also why it is freaky hard for me to make some types of decisions, because I can so deeply and intimately see both sides to an issue. It is why honesty is essential to me. It is why I will always speak the truth, however alone I am in that. It is why I will stand alone in my integrity. It is why I am so weird and timorous at times. It is why I will raise my children in reality. It is why I am perceptive and intuitive at the same time that I am unaware of things.  I question everything.

Try it.
Try Questioning Everything and see what happens.
You might just learn something...about yourself and about this amazing world in which we live.

Question Everything!

So, do you have a motto? 

You might also enjoy these posts:
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My SUPER Super-Sensitive Kid
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

24 Hours of my Daughter's Life

Our family has been passing around some kind of head cold to one another. Elizabeth started with it, then John, then me, and now Jerry. For some reason I got it the worst. It has lasted longer for me and has been the most unpleasant for me. For that reason I have been sleeping or resting in bed as much as possible; I just can't stay awake...nor can I breathe!  Because of my need to crash, I have missed all of last night with the kids and most of this morning.

Elizabeth, working on lessons
Elizabeth just got home about an hour ago and said to me I haven't seen you in 24 hours, Mom!  In these last 24 hours I missed talking to her after she had two different auditions, school, and work.  

We hugged and then sat down to bring each other up to date. Seems she had two excellent auditions that she is feeling positive about! Last night she auditioned for a show at a small local community theater and got a part; that show is in January.

Today my daughter had a class where she recorded two monologues that both went very well, one of which she wrote herself. Elizabeth had a teacher stop her during that class and make wonderful statements to her about how mature she is and how talented she is and how much Elizabeth has changed the teacher's mind about 17-year-old homeschoolers being in community college.  The teacher is very impressed with Elizabeth. And then the guy who was filming the monologues stopped Elizabeth and told her that she was very talented and that he would love to see her do more monologues written by Elizabeth.

She turned in her final paper in one of her classes and felt very confident that her work was her best. Her teacher winked at her and said I'm looking forward to reading this. Then, in class, Elizabeth delivered her paper in front of her class!

My daughter then went to work where she had such intimate and sweet moments with some people at her work place, including a moment with her boss who complimented her on her recent work.  AND she spent some time with the cute boy in one of her classes who took special time to talk to her and even waited for her after class to talk to her some more, thereby making him late for his next class.  *wink*

THEN, this evening, she went to her second audition and felt very positive about her time with the casting director.

She got home a little after ten pm and, after all of these wonderful stories she said to me, Mom, I missed you so much today! I'm glad to finally share all of this with you.
My Amazing Daughter
 Believe in your children, People! 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

We Came, We Saw, We Concurred

Our family has been fangirling this week.
We got to go to Skepticon 7!

Skepticon is a convention for skeptics that is held in Springfield MO. Many skeptical conventions happen over the year. The Amazing Meeting or TAM, American Atheist National Convention, Australia Atheists, and so many others! These events have grown over the years into wonderful events with workshops, talks, round table discussions, film, music, lectures, social events, and so many other interesting activities. 

The conventions are wonderful opportunities to meet like-minded people, to learn about cutting-edge science or technology or issues, to meeting big names in the atheist community, to learning how to operate openly in a non-secular world, and to discuss to many other issues. You never know who you will run into!

Jerry and I have wanted to go to TAM for many years now but the prices are just prohibitive for us. DARN because TAM gets such amazing speakers at amazing venues with excellent events.

Jer and I have attended Skepticon in the past and have had such a great time that the kids begged us to go with us this year. So last weekend we headed to Springfield, Missouri with our two teens in tow, in search of reason and logic and fun!

We were fortunate to hear some wonderful lectures and the kids both attended workshops that they enjoyed. John even hung out with some great kids and danced with a super cute girl at the Skepticon Prom on Saturday night.

We did so many things that I can't possibly cover them adequately, but I will share a few pics with you and share some stories in the next few days. The kids aren't in many of these pics but I promise you, they were right there with me enjoying the whole thing; they were in that no pics MOM kind of mood.

If your family can make it next year, it's FREE to go to Skepticon, I highly recommend it. It gets better each year and we are making new friends each time we go.  We'll see you there!

You will find some unique items for purchase
Elizabeth and I out to lunch

Fellow Con-Attendee:  The Flying Spaghetti Monster

A Festivus Pole
One of the Pastafarians
PZ Meyers and I
Matt Dillahunty and I

Sheree Renee Thomas and Elizabeth

Hemant Mehta and I

Greta Christina and I

Elizabeth involved in the impromtu singing and John (in blue) getting mehndied

John at the podium

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