Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Would You Describe Your Family?

My dear friends in Winnipeg, the Lukins, just started a family blog. Its great, because they just had a baby (the one I made the monkey quilt for) and its fun to get updates from them. Also Jeff is a musician and they have written songs for baby Sam already, and so its a pretty fun site. In the description column, they have "We are a warm, affectionate and spiritual family. We love Jesus and each other". Which is totally true. They are wonderful, warm, hospitable people.

For some reason, it made me laugh when I tried their description on for size in my own family (Dave, Andrew and I . . . we won't even get into the extended families). So I started wondering how I would describe our family in a few short phrases. The best I could come up with was: "We are an intense, adventurous, truth seeking family. We desire to know God and follow him with integrity. Oh yeah, and we love each other, too."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Speaking of Being Stupid . . .

Read the NEXT post, Pregnancy Update, first, then come back and read this.

So, as I was saying, I get really stupid during pregnancy. In fact, as I was typing that post, my stainless steel kettle was slowly roasting on my stove top. I had filled it up with water and left it to boil when I came to start my quilt post. But I had not flipped down the little thing that makes the kettle whistle, so the water boiled dry and the kettle began boiling itself.

I'll add a picture later, but suffice it to say that the stainless steel has turned gold. The heat proof handle is bubbling where it is attatched to the metal. The little knob on top of the lid to the kettle has detatched itself from the lid and migrated 1 cm to the left. The kettle has been making gentle clicking noises (similar to those that canning lids make as they seal) ever since I took it off the element. And I just put a pot on the stove to boil some water, because I still want some tea. I think, in the present circumstances, I should go and disprove the old adage and watch my pot boil. Only hopefully this time it will only be the water in the pot . . .

Pregnancy Update -- 33 Weeks

So, we are in the home stretch. Less than two months left to go, 7 weeks or so to be precise. According to our latest calculations. Which could be off. So I have something less than 10 weeks to go.

Physically I'm doing quite well. The occasional sore back, since this baby is nestled in my pelvis, unlike Andrew who was nestled securely in my ribs, and some fatigue. That is all part of the pregnancy thing, and so I'm not too concerned. My mobility is severely decreased. I can hardly get in and out of the car, I end up huffing and puffing by the time I reach the top of the stairs, and I have to use two hands to prop myself up when I get off the floor (but I can still sit on the floor, so we're not too bad yet). I need some new shoes, because my only non-tying shoes are heelless and that just doesn't really work with 10cm of snow. I can still tie my shoes, but not well enough that they stay tied up. So I am getting big and awkward. Again, I accept this as part of the pregnancy game. This is my second time around, so my vanity about my physical appearance has already taken a pummelling, and I just do what I can and know it will be over soon and in about a year from now (barring another pregnancy) I will be back to as close to my old self as I'm going to get.

What has always been the real kicker for me in pregnancy is what it does to my mind. Generally I am a really good multi-tasker and can keep track of innumerable bits of information about people and places (in no particular important order, unfortunately). Also, I am generally fairly easy going. Something might bother me for a while, but then I can let it go. Not so with pregnant Jill. Pregnant Jill not only loses her memory and ability to focus on anything outside of the sphere of my immediate household (and even then its tentative some days), but is very easily irritated by things non-pregnant Jill would just laugh off. Um, you might have noticed this in my past few blog entries. Fortunately, Pregnant Jill still has, for the most part, her brain filters in place (these filters have been developed through years of painstaking idiocy and social blunders, and contain several back up firewalls. Sadly they are still, on occasion, insufficient to keep my tongue in check). This means that I do not begin tearing things off the shelf at Toys R Us and shouting "Crass Commercialism! That's all any of this is about! Sheer Crass Commercialism" and get arrested. This means I do not yell at nice church ladies who invite me over for tea just when my son is supposed to be napping and thus interrupt our very hard won sleep schedule for weeks on end. This means I even restrain myself from smacking the grocery store clerk who has not yet figured out (after a 5 hour shift) that the Royal Bank's machines must be down, rather than assuming that her debit machines "have just stopped taking about every 10th person's card. Sorry, I guess you're person 10". Anyway, the point being that I just get a) stupid and b) grumpy at the end of pregnancy. So don't ask me any questions and stay out of my way.

On a brighter note, I will share a silly very pregnant Jill story from this morning. So, I woke up and realized that I had not washed my stretchy black pants that I always wear to church now. So I started rummaging through my very limited wardrobe for something to wear. I had my khaki overalls and my khaki pants clean and an assortment of shirts. Okay, I thought, I'll wear my white t-shirt with my overalls. No, too casual for church. Oh, look! This sweater is in my pile of clean clothes. I put it on to discover that there is a small spot of something off a grimy toddler hand right where my belly button protrudes. Maybe not. I find another sweatshirt that goes well with the pants I have, only to discover that a greasy hand has wiped itself off on the front of my shirt right where other things generally protrude. My other "clean" shirt has coffee on it. I begin to think, "Who put these clothes back in the drawer? Oh yeah, me." Finally I end up going to church in a shirt that is much too short for me with my big zip up hoodie over top of it, zipped up most of the way, and my belly hugger fabric tube pulled down to stop my pants from sliding down and my hair . . . we won't even mention my hair, because it was unwashed and unbrushed and pulled back in a ponytail and wrapped around with a scarf. After I spent 15 min. getting dressed, there was not time for such trifles as hair, especially since Andrew was running around the house in just a diaper saying "I go to church naked." and Dave's freshly dry-cleaned robes were in the back of my car and needed to be at the church before the service started.

Fortunately, one of the good things about being this pregnant is that no one expects that much of you. If you manage to show up and your clothes generally fit, they are pretty impressed. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it for at least another 7 weeks.

Touch My Monkey and Go!

Does anyone remember this quote anymore? Its from one of Mike Meyers' characters (Deiter) on SNL back in the good old Mike Meyers - Dana Carvey - Adam Sandler days. He was a german talk show host who had a little, vicious monkey in a cage behind his obligatory couch and chairs that would bite his guests. When I first started teaching, I said this one day, and got nothing but blank stares and a couple of surprised looks. I forgot that the kids I was teaching thought they were saavy if they knew Mike Meyers had been in the Wayne's World movie as well as in Austin Powers.

I digress. This is my second quilt. It is a baby quilt for baby Sam -- Kym and Jeff Lukin's new son. They are kind of artsy and alternative, so I wanted to make them a fun, cool quilt. I quite like the results, and surprisingly so does Dave. In fact he liked it so much that he harassed me for two weeks to mail it (I had it stashed in the closet pretending it belonged to me -- I didn't want to give it up), because he was so proud of it. You'd think he's sewn it or something.

Its made from two charm packs and two 1/2 m. of fabric from the collection "5 Funky Monkeys". Charm squares are basically a set of 5" squares of all the fabrics in a given collection. The only problem with them is that they cut them so that all the edges are zig-zags (I assume this is so the fabric doesn't fray), which makes it hard to tell if you are really catching the actual fabric of the quilt or just the points when you are stitching it.

This picture was of the quilt before I washed it. I decided to wash it becuase I had a tiny fray happen between two of the squares while I was quilting it, and I thought, "Oh, maybe I didn't quite catch the fabric on all of the edges". Well, sure enough, when I washed it I ended up with about 8 little tears right along the seam lines. Also, the red from the flannel backing bled through the white thread I quilted with, causing the white monkey borders to have little pink lines in them. So I had to spend a good 3 hours securely hand stitiching all the edges that had torn back together again. I hadn't pre-shrunk the fabric (magazines and fabric store owners tell you not to bother), so I think that had something to do with it to.

So, as well as being a successful and cute quilt, I learned a lot from this quilt:
a) prewash your fabric if you intend to actually USE the quilt and wash it
b) don't use light thread to quilt if you have a dark backing that is likely to run
c) make sure you have a good 1/4" on all your seams.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Media Tie-Ins R US

Two weeks ago, I had a glorious opportunity. I got to go into "the city" all by myself. No two year old in tow. No time limit. No errands to run. So since Christmas is approaching, I decided to check out the Toys R Us and see what they had.

I entered the store, and was quite pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an imagination section. There was a shelf of wooden toys and puzzles, some easels and a ton of Crayola crafty products. I though, "Hey, maybe this won't be so bad. And now I know where to get some of these cool chunky puzzles for Andrew".

Right next to it was a book section. I sauntered over and looked at the first book I saw -- a Curious George collection. Hey, wait a minute, I thought, this says "H.A Rey's Curious George" not "Curious George by H.A. Rey". I opened the book to discover that these were not the classic Curious George tales I had been reading to my son. They were not even the much inferior books - based-on-a-cartoon-series- from the 80's. Instead they were . . . new stories that tied in with the movie and cartoon. As I looked around the book section I discovered that aside from some Dr. Seuss books, all I saw was Maisy, Dora, Bob the Builder, Harry Potter, Little People . . . all series that have followed Disney's lead in creating small movie / tv show / toy / book / play sets / backpacks / clothing /website tie in empires. I frowned a bit, but thought maybe I had just hit a rough patch in the store. After all, I was sure I saw play kitchen stuff just past the battery opereated-flashing-lights-with-25-sound-effect push cars.

I went to check out the pretend food and kitchen stuff. I really want to get Andrew a tea set or a little juice pitcher and glasses, since he is realy into pouring right now, and I'm tired of him raiding the apple juice in my fridge and pouring it into every plastic container he can easily access in the house. So here I was in pretend kitchen heaven -- blenders, coffee makers, pizza, picnic sets, mini-rolling pins and cookie cutters, tea sets, 50 piece imaginary food sets and entire broom-dustpan and mop ensembles when I noticed something. All the dishes were pink. All the tea sets had lovely floral designs on them. All the children happily playing with the toys on the boxes were girls. Wearing pink. With ribbons in their hair. I moved on, thinking I would have to order the stuff from Ikea that comes in the plain, unexciting white boxes and is cream ceramic.

I skipped the next few aisles' outright, as they were all babies and bratz and etc and I have no use for plastic reproductions of Cosmo cover models. But before I left what was, ostensibly, the "girls'" section of the toy store, I found an aisle of realistic babies. This interested me, since I am sort of thinking of getting Andrew a baby of some kind to have when the real baby comes. Again, as I started looking at the boxes, I was less than impressed. First of all, there was the general pinkness . . . pink boxes, pink clothes, pink accessories, pink bows to put on the poor little newborns' heads. They all came with such newborn essentials as bottles and bouncy seats. Then there was the proliferation of bottles and pictures of little girls happily bottle feeding their babies (I am not a breast nazi, Kris, but really). And most of them seemed to have some sort of battery operated something or another. So, if I do get my son a doll, it will not be from ToysRUs.

After this came the kids' furniture. I was momentarily excited, because I would like to get Andrew a table to go with the two chairs I picked up at the flea market last fall. But apparently I can buy a plastic one with a bumpy finish (great for colouring on), or a wooden one with a "Stars and Stripes" theme (great for Canadians), or one with Thomas, Dora or the Princesses on it. Same with the chairs. And the step stools. And plastic baskets. And collapsable storage bins. And . . . well, you get the idea.

I don't think I even want to get into the multitudinous Little People tie-in products (it is almost impossible to find anyting without lights / sound / music, or to get enough people to play with (2 tops in a play set) without buying extra expansion packs). Or the leggo which no longer seems to contain small pieces (yes, this is not a choking hazard, but it also tends to impede creativity). Or the numerous trucks, tractors, action figures, ninjas, knights, pirates and GI joes, all with their matching co-ordinating accessories, none of which are interchangable with each other in any way. Or the lack of dress up clothes (lots of weapons), non- Baby Einsten music, or non-tv-tie-in books on cd. Or the cheap, disney themed party section. Or . . . . well, do I really need to go on?

I was quite surprised at my outrage. I don't consider myself to be THAT crunchy or anti-consumerist. We read Thomas books and take the videos out of the library. We have Little People and Weebles and will soon get Mega Blocks and Leggo in our house. I'm sure I will buy my son ninja / GI joe / pirate / knight action figures. Should I have a daughter I will probably buy her Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Ponies or whatever the equivalent is. I don't mind the fact that we have a little tigger, pooh bear and kanga floating around our house, and I bought my son a plastic effigy to Bob the Builder containing bubble bath that gets regularly fed and slept with.

Nor do I consider myself a radical feminist. I'm fine with the fact that my son prefers trucks to dolls, and turns everything into a tractor or train or power tool. I don't dress him in pink. I expect him to be more active and aggressive than female friends his age (although I realize these generalizations don't always hold true).

But I was really angry. As a mother, and a teacher, and someone concerned for the future of our civilization in genreal I was furious for a few reasons. First, I was angry that there was so few toys that lent themselves to open ended imaginative play. Next, I was angry at the blatant sexism contained in the packaging and processing of the toys -- some of which are totally gender neutral (think food or blocks). Third, I was furious that marketers use childrens' natural and healthy tendency towards obsession with various characters and ideas to become a ploy for hocking cheap, disposable, badly produced merchandise.

'Nuff said.

Is There Youth Ministry After 30?

Two weeks ago I turned 31. Last weekend I helped co-ordinate and run a youth retreat. Yes, at 31 weeks pregnant with a toddler in tow. And I realized, not for the first time in the last couple of years, that your cool factor just goes way down when you are 1) old, 2) a mom and 3) pregnant.

My first sign of this was when I arrived on the grounds of the retreat. As I was getting out of my car, a guy and a girl came running out of the main lodge. The guy was chasing the girl with a hand full of snow.
I turned to my fellow leader and asked, "Some of the kids are here already?"
He replied, "No, Jill. That's the band. Those are the Bible college students."
I said "Really?"
And he responded, "That's right. We're adults now."
I think I said something like, "Oh my goodness. How did that happen?"

Let me explain a little bit further. When I was younger, I was the cool leader. The one that all the kids were excited about seeing. The one who stayed up talking with the kids in her cabing until 2 am and kept the other kids up. The one everyone wanted to sit with. The one girls started dressing a bit like by the end of the weekend / week. The one who kids hovered around just because I was kind of fun and interesting.

Now, I am generally ignored, or politely tolerated until I go away. Kids will answer questions I ask, but generally the answers are more of a "nothing" or "I don't know" quality of answer. I feel old, and out of touch. I was already in highschool when these kids were born. Movies they watched over and over as kids were playing when I was in university. And now that I am a mom and don't get out much, I haven't even seen the movies they are all talking about, or heard the music they are listening to.

So I began to ask myself, last weekend, is there youth ministry after 30? Should I really still be doing this, or is it time to pass the torch onto younger and cooler people? This is a new generation, after all -- they need new leaders who understand them. They need people in their 20's that they can look up to and feel a bond with. They don't need me, who could tell them all about the advantages of wearing babies in a sling or give them half a dozen helpful hints on teething issues, but has nothing interesting to say about what matters to them. They don't need me who comes from a generation so much more disillusioned and frustrated than their own, more hopeful generation. What can I offer to them now?

I really struggled with this last weekend, and have been struggling with it over the last few months as I have taken on a position as a local youth leader. And I had an answer come to me while I was out shovelling snow into piles for my toddler to run through, and the kids were all in the building listening to one of the talks. The answer was a little sentence that popped into my head (this usually means its from God, but I don't like to assume). The short, pertinent message was, "Its not about you; its about them and God".

The fact is that for now, I am still called to work with teenagers. No matter where I go and how I try to escape it, some sort of volunteer or paying position involving teenagers always surfaces. And no matter how long I try to avoid it, no one else shows up to fill the position. But at the same time, I am not called to the exact same role with youth. I am no longer the young, fun youth leader. But I am still someone who can think of interesting and fun things for them to do on and Friday night. I am still someone who can give them spiritual guidance and encouragement. I am still someone who can pray for them and teach them. And I am still someone who is really and truly interested in them and their lives.

For all those reasons, I can still be in youth ministry. It just smarts a bit more, because I have to try harder to build relationships and to get involved in their life. It hurts my pride to no longer be as "cool" as I once was. To no longer be the one they are drawn to immediately. They are more resistant to me initially because I don't fit into their matrix. Some of them will never warm up to me becuase I don't look like someone they would identify as being cool. But doesn't that teach them a good lesson? Simply by still being interested, and by being myself, they see that the world might be bigger than their little boxes. That appearances and first impressions are not always right. And is that not a lesson that our current, media- saturated, looks - concious teens need to learn?

So, yes, there is youth ministry after 30. It just doesn't feed your ego in quite the same way. I guess that makes it servanthood. Which is what its supposed to be.