Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prayers for Children

I was recently asked by the UUA bookstore to review the book A Child's Book of Blessings and Prayers, collected by Eliza Blanchard and illustrated by Rocco Baviera.

I have found one of the hardest parts of nurturing my children's spirituality is prayer. I did not grow up in a family where prayer was common. I am often very uncomfortable when asked to pray. I literally just don't know what to say. One of the topics most brought up in my congregation's parenting group is prayer and table graces. Evidently, I am not the only one in this predicament.

I wish this book would have been out even sooner! Blanchard has done a wonderful job of collecting a wide and diverse group of prayers. There is literally something for everyone and situation. She has collected Christian, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, Islamic, Pagan, and Native American prayers. I found that there was also something for every comfort level - which is very important to me. One of my favorites is a beautiful Irish birthday blessing. It will now be included in all our birthday celebrations. I also appreciate that the are even prayers asking for personal forgiveness and for care of the larger world. While this book is geared to children, I found that the prayers are really for every age group. The illustrations beautifully compliment the blessings and enhance the simplicity, but poignancy of the prayers.

A Child's Book of Blessings and Prayers fits in right where my children are at now. In fact, my eight year old has already marked her favorite blessings. She especially liked one the friendship prayers. I really recommend this for every family. It has been very helpful and inspiring.

You can find the book at http://www.uuabookstore.org/

(I would love, though, for Blanchard to continue and adapt and lengthen this book for teenagers and young adults!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Just have faith. I know to certain folks, this phrase is meant to provide comfort. I have tried to let it comfort me. But, in reality, my next thought is "faith in what?!?" That God will work things out - that there is a master plan? That the Universe will somehow pull through? In the human race? In the law? I really struggle with this word. I would best describe myself as an agnostic humanist. I really don't know what, if anything, is out there. I have seen too much to believe that having faith in a God will "make things better". I greatly dislike the phrase "things happen for a reason". What reason? Why should a child suffer? Why do bad things happen to wonderful people? How will having faith in a God, make him/her come down and straighten out my life? I know these are eternal questions that will most likely never be answered in my lifetime and maybe not even in death.

When I really think about it, to me faith is the belief that, in the end, the human spirit will prevail. That deep inside there is a spark of compassion in us. It may not always be evident, but I have to hope, have faith, that when most needed, people will rise to the occasion. I have to believe this, otherwise the the act of the truly despicable, will be overwhelming. I have to have faith that the majority of humanity cares. This is the only reality I know and what I, and others, make of it, makes all the difference. I choose to have faith in people.

What does faith mean to you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home Again!

The trip went wonderfully. I am very fortunate to have a large (LARGE) extended family in Wyoming and South Dakota. Thus, necessitating us visiting them and the beautiful surrounding area! If you are up to it, following is a pictorial review:

Gurnsey Lake, Wyoming - My mom spent many a summer swimming here.

Oregon Trail Ruts, WY (sorry for the sideways view!) - The kids loved climbing around these.

Register Cliff, WY - These are supposed to be markings left by people traveling on the Oregon Trail, but you will see markings up to the present!

The great Toad Races, Wheatland WY

Sunset View of Laramie Peak. Wouldn't it be great to have this out your window!


The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs SD - This was the kids favorite site. Actual mammoth bones!

Our Prarie Dog greeter at Custer State Park, SD

View of the Needles Highway and Black Hills, SD. This drive is not for the easily car sick!

Do I need to say? Mt. Rushmore, SD
So worth the visit. Also, much nicer then when I was there TWENTY years ago!

I also need to take a moment and mention the Jr. Ranger/Ranger program at all the National Parks. It made the experience so much more valuable and interesting to the kids. At the Visitor Center in each park, ask the Park Ranger for a Jr. Ranger book. It asks the kids various questions that they will find the anwers to throughout the park. When they complete the little booklet (and it is pretty fun) they take it back to the Ranger and they get a little Jr. Ranger badge. We ended up with three: Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and the Badlands. The kids LOVED it.

Bison herd at Custer Park. Totally impressive to us, not so to my relatives who own a bison ranch! The Ranger stated that they have at least one goring a year (so don't feed them!)

Crazy Horse Memorial, SD. Totally worth the stop. They have a fabulous museum. I have no idea when this project will be done, but the head alone is bigger then all four presidents on Mt. Rushmore.

Jewel Cave, SD - I had to try very hard not to let my clautrophobic panic take over. If you go, get your tickets ahead of time and do the Scenic Tour.

If you want to go spelunking at Jewel Cave - this is Mr. Plaidshoes squeezing through the "test" box. If you can't fit through here - then you don't get to go spelunking. I advise just doing the tour!

The mythical Jackalope! Wall Drug, SD. There is a picture of my sister and me almost thirty years ago on this statue. Obviously, I had to get one of my kids! This is the biggest tourist trap in the middle of the US. But so much fun. They also have the best cake donuts.

Badlands, SD. None of the pictures I have do this place justice. The landscape and history of this place is amazing.

Jack & Jill went down a hill..... Story Book Land at Wylie Park in Aberdeen South Dakota. A fantastic park with a lake, playground and zoo. This was the site of our family reunion. There are several pictures of me as a kid at this park.

A refreshing last day.

As fun as the trip was, it is good to be home!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Go West!

Just a quick note. We have been/are traveling in the great states of Wyoming and South Dakota. The adventures have been great and more information will be forth coming.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Camp

This week our congregation has been conducting a camp for our youth k-5th grade. We are studying our earth centered traditions, namely various Native American beliefs and customs. So far, it is going extremely well. The children have really been responding to all the various activities. This is my third year being involved in the process, and I am pleased with how well it is coming together.

I would love, though, for the UUA to come out with summer camp curriculum. While we have a general format that my congregation follows, we are pretty much starting from scratch every year with the content. It would be very helpful to have some materials already available that we could modify as needed. Maybe this is available and I don't know about it, but I have not come across anything. I think it would be fascinating to nationally tie together youth camps so when youth come together at various conferences or events, they would have an even deeper base of common knowledge. I have seen several Christian camp curriculum packages and am impressed with the overall cohesiveness of them. Why do we not have this? How helpful would this be? Do any of you know of any efforts being made in this area? If not, I will certainly broach them with the suggestion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Super Silly

Why? Because summer is almost over and my head just can't put together a decent, meaningful post. I don't know how the rest of you do it!

Here I am. Your typical, liberal Midwestern 35 year old. Pretty average in about everything. Yet, I have noticed through my life, that I attract certain things. In random order:

1. Single shoes left in the road. It is amazing how many I have found. Who are all these one-shoed (sp?) people? Why do they leave their shoes in the road? Why just one?

2. Bleeding children. I have a huge blood phobia. Somehow (like cats), they sense this and follow me everywhere. I can not tell you how much children bleed. It is remarkable they make it to adulthood.

3. People from Pennsylvania. Everywhere I turn, I meet someone from Pennsylvania. Like flies, they have spread through this country and have found me. Fortunately, I have greatly liked all of them!

4. Finally, toads. I see them everywhere. Especially when I come home late at night - they like to jump out and give me a heart attack. I must give off some special pheromone that calls to them....
Yes, a silly list, but all TRUE!! If you are feeling up to it, I would love to hear all the odd things you "attract"!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Planning for Winter

What?! Already?! Of course! I find it very satisfying to can or "put up" food for the winter. I feel a little bit like a squirrel hiding my acorns for a snowy day. It brings me a lot of joy to look in the pantry and see all the jars lined up ready to be eaten. I hope you all are enjoying the summer harvest!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Side

Lately, I have been sewing and embroidering like a mad women. I love being able to create things. But, having an extremely practical nature, I find it hard to sew something unless it has a useful purpose. I will never be a person that makes cute dolls (even though I love looking at them) unless I have an actual person in need of a doll. I don't make random tchotchkes - despite being inspired by all the amazing creations I see. I find it hard to shake my very practical and "don't be wasteful" upbringing. But.....I am trying in little bits to create things just - because. Above is an example. This is an embroidery from a Hilary Lang pattern. I love her work. I had absolutely no need to make it - but I LOVE it. I embroidered and quilted it in bright colors and bound it in Heather Bailey fabric. I hung it in my sewing room. It brings me such joy. Yes, I could have been working on other things, but it is OK just to take time on work that just makes me happy. I encourage all of you to take time out from all that you have to do and do something completely for yourself. Life isn't all about what you "should" be doing.