Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Took John to Church

atheists and death, atheist in church, children and death
We went to a funeral wake and Catholic mass and funeral this week for someone very special to a family member. It was a sad experience and we were all very moved by the loss of this very lovely and very family-oriented man.

For my kids it was interesting because they have not attended any churches for any reason in a very long time. In fact, they have only been in church for other funerals and for a graduation from a Catholic high school. John and I have been talking about his experiences and thoughts while in the church and during the mass.

I hope you will indulge me a bit because I thought that so many of his thoughts and questions were brilliant so I asked him to write some of them down for this blog.

Please know that he is very sincere with his questions and comments even though they may seem, to some, to be very rude or insulting. The following is John's writing in his own words.


When I walked in I was instantly struck with the angel statues and scary mannequins along the walls. I noticed the giant alter display in the front and the words “Blessed in Jesus’s Most Holy Heart” and I wondered if there was also an unholy heart or, maybe an non-blessed heart? Is there a Least Most Holy Heart? If something is holy, are there different levels of holy or blessed?

I saw the cross and I thought, Wow, you really do worship this piece of wood.  You have made this symbol so holy...weird. Who decided to used that symbol as a thing to worship? You had so many other options and you chose that? Also, I wish he had more clothes on, that loin cloth is just too little...maybe a hat. Some other options for holy things to worship might be holy animals, holy sheep might make sense...

Behind us was a band; that was kind of nice. The sound system was really great. How do you get that job? Singing at funerals? Do people who play the organ think my life’s goal is to play at church? The songs...well, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, the words weren't clear, but if I heard them every week I might understand them. In my own head, I could make them say whatever I wanted. At one point I was singing “What is gooOOOoooing on…?”

The whole time I felt like I was doing an aerobics class...stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, da da da da! Don’t people’s knees hurt after awhile? Can we just choose one, stand or sit, and just stick with it? Is there more holiness in standing than in sitting? 
If so, why not stay standing?

So we were there for a funeral mass. It seemed to me that the priest was saying This was a good man, he didn’t have a long life, but it was a good one. I liked that he said that; that message was inspiring and really didn’t seem religious to me. Then came the odd part where the priest said, let’s sing some songs and then we’ll eat Jesus. This man died so let’s eat Jesus
Honestly, it was weird. It's just what I saw.

When other people went up to the front for a cracker I was tempted to go up and get one of the crackers because I was feeling a bit peckish by that time.

I was confused with how they made the cracker holy and with just how much body Jesus must have! I mean, they eat part of it every week, right? It seemed like it was just a cracker one minute and then it was Jesus the next minute and the priest was saying Here is Jesus.

The shepherd metaphor, where he separated the sheep from the lambs...why don’t the lambs get anything? That’s kind of crap. Also, that part about I was naked and you clothed me, why doesn’t God do that part? Why would he leave his children hungry, thirsty, or naked?

About Holy Ghosts. Is he the only holy ghost? Who was he before he was a ghost? Are there other ghosts who aren’t holy? Why aren’t they holy? Also, why do they start everything with Oh God Who Art in Heaven, why isn’t he ever in the Bahamas on vacation? That sounds facetious but, really, does he have spare time? You'd think that with so many funerals he would be busy with that.

The mannequins are really creepy. Why are they there? Are they so holy that it is so useful to have them there?  Because they are creepy! Who is the guy holding the really long stick, cross thing? Is that for poking fires?

If the cross is holy, are the nails holy? The chalice is holy, right? The crown of thorns is holy, right? He, in general is holy, so why not the holy nails? You could build a church with holy nails and a holy hammer, you know, a hammer from the person who nailed him to the cross.

Also, why do I have to give my life to God? Doesn't he get my soul afterwords for all of eternity?

Back to the funeral, then we went to the cemetery where everyone in heels had their shoes sinking into the ground. The minister seemed to say the same things again that he'd said at the church. We give him to you...again. The cemetery was very pretty. From one angle one of the trees looked cel-shaded. It was cool.

If Mary was the Immaculate Conception, who were her parents? Don't you think she has an existential crisis by not knowing her parents?

I asked Mom about many of these things later and she explained them, their origins, their intentions. So I know some of these answers now.

 I am honestly questioning these things. I intend no rudeness or insult. 
Even if they seem funny, they are my actual thoughts and questions.


We mean well.

It's the Climb

John has a new hobby. 

Climbing walls have become the new challenging, strengthening, and inspiring activities out there. St. Louis now has five different places to go to try your hand at climbing. A visit includes equipment and training.

John has been so several different places to climb and has gotten so jazzed about the activity that I'm thinking about getting him his own climbing shoes for Christmas.  (size 13!)

In case you are unfamiliar with the climbing wall facilities, Wikipedia describes them as:  
A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors. Some are brick or wooden constructions, but on most modern walls, the material most often used is a thick multiplex board with holes drilled into it. Recently, manufactured steel and aluminum have also been used. The wall may have places to attach belay ropes, but may also be used to practice lead climbing or bouldering.

Each hole contains a specially formed t-nut to allow modular climbing holds to be screwed onto the wall. With manufactured steel or aluminum walls, an engineered industrial fastener is used to secure climbing holds. The face of the multiplex board climbing surface is covered with textured products including concrete and paint or polyurethane loaded with sand. In addition to the textured surface and hand holds, the wall may contain surface structures such as indentions (incuts) and protrusions (bulges), or take the form of an overhang, underhang or crack.

Some grips are formed to mimic the conditions of outdoor rock, including some that are oversized and can have other grips bolted onto them.

John is one of those kids who has tons of energy that needs to get used all through the day. We have a trampoline that gets a great deal of use, he has a new bike that he is using quite a bit (his timing for riding seems to coincide with high school buses dropping cute girls off in the neighborhood...), martial arts, weapons practice, and now he is jonsing for climbing wall time.

He has one friend who is quite timid and unsure. So when these two guys climb together there is a great deal of hanging, talking, planning...  He has another friend who gets up there and really challenges himself. When these two boys get together there is alot more climbing than talking.  But lots of smiling and enthusiasm.

John feels that he gets such a great all-body physical work out but he also enjoys the mental work out. While he is building up his fitness level for the climbing walls, he is enjoying a real boost in self-confidence from the accomplishment of a wall well-climbed.

Because this sport is so fun and so safe I look forward to taking John to the climbing walls at least twice a month. We would love to get him there more often but it's difficult to fit into our schedule, especially when he prefers to climb with a friend who also has a schedule.

In Brisbane we were aware of climbing clubs that met at Kangaroo Point on the bluffs by the Brisbane River. Had we stayed in Brisbane any longer he was going to link up with those guys. Several times he and I went down to Kangaroo Point to watch, talk, and learn more from the men and women who trained and played there.

One day I expect him to do some climbing with my sister Brenda!

Climbing the boulder
at Upper Limits

If you like this post you may also enjoy:

Live Today: Inhabit this Moment
Tape on the Wall
John Read my Blog
He Just Doesn't Get It
Mother of the Highly-Distracted Child Blog
My Son's Face

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Blogger Crush

It's over and I just have to get used to it.
He's moved on...

Dale McGowan had an excellent blog for several years called Parenting Beyond Belief. He hasn't posted on it for over a year due to releasing four new books, to spearheading major humanist projects, to taking on leadership roles in several activist programs, and to other activities on the lecture circuit. He has even supported my blog called CAP:  Carnival of Atheist Parenting by submitting a blog post in one of the carnivals. But his own initial blog remains empty of new stuff...

Dale McGowan
But that's OK.
I think it's time for other atheist and freethinking and Humanist parents to be out here blogging, picking up the banner and saying out loud more about how to raise our wonderful children in a country, a world, so utterly overrun with religious discord, stigma, disinformation, conflict, misdirection, brainwashing, proselytizing, shaming, abuse, belief of superiority, control of politics, ganging up, zealots, blindness to science, disbelief in provable things like climate change and overpopulation, and general closed-minded adherents.

Dale McGowan was a true inspiration to me in my early days as a parent. I appreciated his blog, his support, and his books. Today, I find those same materials to be NOT ENOUGH.

While McGowan recommends The Secular Spectrum over at Patheos, I want more.

Won't YOU help?

If you would like to have a blog post here as a guest poster I welcome you. If you are interested in starting your own blog, I encourage you! And if you are here to learn more about atheist parenting or secular homeschooling, I welcome you!

In the meantime, I'll keep up my blog as much as I can...because I think that my blog and I offer a unique perspective out there...

I send out a special WELCOME and ADMIRATION
For Monica

You might also enjoy these posts:My Atheist Parenting Blog

On a Mission or an Imposter?
Just In Case He's Real 
Why Are There So Few Atheist Parenting Blogs?  
First Generation Atheist Parenting
On Being Religion-Free

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are You One of the Good Homeschoolers?

The other day I was talking to a woman I vaguely know and have vaguely known for years.  ;)
When I mentioned that we homeschool she held her hands apart saying, indicating her left hand, Are you one of the good homeschoolers or, indicating her right hand, one of the bad homeschoolers?

When I asked her to clarify what she meant by good and bad she had a difficult time doing so, but from her blustering I think she was referring to radical unschooling (the bad kind of homeschooling, in her mind) versus school-at-home (the good one).

I placed a hand on each of hers and brought them together saying We are somewhere in the middle, as are most homeschool families.

She had more questions but kept repeating, But I'm sure you are one of the good ones.

John making a magic wand on the new lathe! 
LOL - I'm pretty sure she wouldn't think so if she saw our homeschool day because we don't do anything at all that resembles school-at-home.

I'm not at all sure what I actually told her about homeschooling, but by the time our conversation ended she was a homeschool supporter... for some people

Well, that's something, anyway.

To be fair, she had many stories about the successes that her children had in school, some things that just don't happen in homeschool communities without alot of organization like marching band, state soccer wins, and student government. She is very proud of the accomplishments that her children have had in school and I understand that!

I'm used to people having uninformed ideas about homeschool and it really doesn't generally bother me. The fun thing about this conversation was that other people joined in who know my kids and contributed so many nice comments about my kids as people and about our family experiences to the conversation. But it was still kind of weird that her understanding of homeschool was so black and white.

Because we are somewhere there in the grey.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Streets of Philadelphia

The history nerds will know that John and I had a fabulous time in Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love and City of Benjamin Franklin Love.  We spent five days touring, eating out, swimming at the hotel pool, and generally grooving in the vibe of Americana.

Ever since I was John's age I have wanted to travel to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Maybe my eighth grade teacher inspired me, though I don't really think of Mr. Zorko as very inspiring... But it was definitely during one of his classes when it hit me that I wanted to visit the site where so many inspiring things happened.

Betsy Ross, The Declaration of Independence, The Liberty Bell, The Constitution, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Love Park, the first library, the first fire house, the first post office...the list goes on. We wanted to see it all.

To prepare John to appreciate the city we started reading American history books and watching some fun videos on youtube. I highly recommend John Green's Crash Course videos. While the information in Crash Courses goes by way too fast for me, the kids absorb it and enjoy it. We also watched the film Rocky so that John could appreciate the running-up-the-steps scene that takes place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Now we were ready.

We flew in to Philadelphia and straight to our luxury hotel right on the Delaware River. From the top floor John and I had a gorgeous view of the river as well as some tourist sites. He and I learned about the events surrounding the famous Washington crossing the Delaware-Thing.  Wow, did I miss alot during history class when I was a kid! So thrilled that John will completely understand the Tories and Valley Forge, etc.

Nearly every single thing we did was within walking distance of our hotel, but we still recommend taking the on/off bus tour.

We went to the Philadelphia Zoo, which, in our opinion, was small and kind of sad for the animals.  But John and I both feel that way about zoos, so you might disagree.

Then on to one of the wonderful art museums on the tour route. This one, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had a beautiful exhibit of modern art that John enjoyed. This is also the museum steps that Rocky runs up in the first film Rocky. Somehow, one can still feel that gonna flyyyyyyy sooooooooo hiiiiiiiiigh feeling while on the stairs.

The next two days John and I took the on/off tour bus and saw everything!

John's favorite thing in Philadelphia was The Liberty Bell AND the fact that I didn't touch it...  I thought about it....

My favorite thing, which is hard to choose, was Independence Hall and being in the very space where American history was made. Just imagine, if the Declaration of Independence hadn't been so well supported, those men who wrote it would have been considered traitors to the crown and incarcerated or shot! Imagine being in the exact room where our Founding Fathers hammered out these foundation documents...  Honestly, it was kind of a rush.

We learned so much about history and both John and I absolutely love Benjamin Franklin now.

As it happens, I was reading a book on my ereader called Benjamin Franklin's Bastard.  FAB read! Not kidding:  GREAT read!

John and I then drove over to visit our WONDERFUL FRIENDS in New Jersey.

John and I with Auntie and Uncle Jariwala

THEN we drove the other way to the other side of Pennsylvania, driving on the gorgeous Pennsylvania Turnpike (and stopping by Valley Forge on the way) to visit our friends in Pittsburgh.  The boys had a total bromance of a time and we were sad to leave.

Note the matching tshirts!
I have about a million more pictures, but suffice it to say that John and I highly recommend a trip to Philadelphia if you can swing it! One of the best ways to learn about history is to actually GO THERE and we know that we are extremely fortunate to have the ability to make trips such as this one!



Here are a few more pics that you might enjoy.

The National Constitution Museum
Washington Statue outside of Independence  Hall
City Tavern, 18th Century Cuisine, John ate the duck
The  Gorgeous Pennsylvania Capitol Building with William Penn statue
Our waiter, of course
The iconic Love Park

In a tethered hot air balloon at the zoo

Getting Strong Now!!!!

Extra THANKS to John John for letting me take a zillion pics of him
and a nod to Bruce Springstein for the post title.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I hope you don't have the type of family-of-origin that can't seem to be kind and loving, but if you do you will understand this.

I'm taking a break from blogging for awhile...just too upset and tired from the drama.

I have tried to end communication on that end so hopefully things will improve with my state of mind.

In the meantime, the kids are busy.
Elizabeth is working hard at the local community college and John is working hard on his lessons.

Back when I have something to say that isn't TMI about this family crap...


BTW, you don't think I am hateful or mean, do you?????
This is one of those times I wish I was like my friend Rayven
and I could just tell people to fuck off...

OK, no more TMI...
I'll be back soon with some excellent stuff
from our trip....