4-Year Old Skeptic

A sort-of follow-up on my older article, To Easter Bunny Or Not To Easter Bunny
Aiden is proving to be our most skeptical child. And it’s not because he’s negative or doubtful. He’ll actually tap dance for strangers and ask if they would like to pay him for it. He’s skeptical because he likes to figure out how a thing came together. At two years old we constantly found him lying on the floor watching the wheels of a toy car as he glided it back and forth, trying to grasp, I think, how the wheels turned while the car didn’t.

At four years old he learned (and understood!) how to count musical notation.

These days he makes stuff out of paper or trash. We can hardly throw anything away because he sees it as a potential component to something he can build. Recently he designed a three-dimensional box out of paper and provided picture instructions on how to do it. Yesterday he took two light bulb boxes from the recycle bin, taped them together, and devised rules for a game, again, with illustrated instructions.

This desire to break everything down to components and answers has made the holidays an interesting experience. At four years old Aiden found a packaged toy in our bedroom closet and announced with a huge smile that Mom and Dad go shopping and pretend to be Santa Clause. There was no disappointment because the magic was in having potentially figured it out.

We didn’t give him an outright yes or no. I just asked him, “What makes you think that?” And when he gave me his evidence, I nodded my head and said, “Very interesting idea.” I’m learning he doesn’t want us to give him a definite yes or no. He prefers a little mystery so he can continue to find evidence to prove or disprove his theories.

Skepticism & The Tooth Fairy

On Christmas Eve, at six-and-a-half years old, Aiden finally lost his first tooth and we were expecting a meeting between two holiday mystery characters. Santa Clause and the tooth fairy in one night! Of course, the solution of one led to the solution of the other. “I know Mom is the tooth fairy,” he said.

We played our usual run-around game, ”Why do you assume it’s Mom? What if it’s Dad?”

He laughed, “Because the Tooth Fairy is a girl!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “In that short film Dad made, Larry was the Tooth Fairy.”

“Oh, yeah…” Aiden stewed on that, looking back and forth from me to Israel.

Last week when he lost his second tooth he decided to take a risk and test his theory by addressing the tooth fairy, herself. Or, himself. After receiving payment for his tooth he put a note under his pillow. Israel and I responded to it on the same piece of paper, with a little clue to the true nature of the “tooth fairy.” The new information surprised him so he asked a follow-up question and we answered that, as well. It continued for a few nights. Here’s what the note said after the third night:

Aiden: I love you.

Tooth fairy: Thank you for the teeth. We love you too.

Aiden: Who are you!

Tooth fairy: We are the ones who buy your special teeth.
We are the tooth fairy.
Why do you want to know?

Aiden: Because I want to see what you look like.

Tooth fairy: I look a little bit like you. –#1
(in different handwriting): And so do I. –#2

Apparently, we threw him off with our last response. He came running into the kitchen where the rest of us were sitting at the table and he announced, “My toothfairies are clones of me!”

We exchanged looks. We questioned his theory. We asked him to read his note again and emphasized the words, “a little bit.” But he wasn’t thinking about the qualifier. He was chewing on the implications of this new bizarre idea. He looked around the dining table, shot his arm into to a point toward Blake and yelled, “And your tooth fairy must be two clones of you!” He then pointed to Dad and Trinity and myself, “And you have your own clones . . . and so do you!”

We were slightly concerned.

To Discover Or To Be Told

Later that night Aiden confided in me. “I’m embarrassed that I wrote, ‘I love you,’ to my clones. I meant for that to go to you because I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

I couldn’t keep his sweet vulnerability exposed like that. I told him, “You know, Aiden? A lot of people say that I look a little bit like you.”

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Now I understood his switch to the Clone Theory. He had no idea we look similar. “Yeah, I really do. A little bit.”

Recognition pushed his eyes wide open and he emphasized the words, “A little bit?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And Daddy looks a little like you, too.”

He smiled and his embarrassment vanished. But within minutes disappointment replaced it and he complained to us, “Now I know for sure that Mom and Dad are the tooth fairy.” It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.

“I didn’t say that, Aiden,” I immediately backtracked. “Blake and Trinity look like you, too. And Grandma Gertrude has the same exact nose as you.”

He laughed and let it go. Hopefully, I left it open just enough for him to have sunk back into his happy state of wonderful skeptical inquiry again. His third tooth is loose now and Easter is on its way, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. If not, it might be time to nudge his questions in a newer, deeper direction, anyway.
missing tooth

Prayer Jokes

We spent a few weeks with my family in Kansas City, and whenever the kids are around extended family very long, whichever of them happens to be six or seven years old at the time becomes fascinated with the whole prayer-thing that both sets of grandparents do before eating. Because you know, we don’t do that.

So the first day or two after we got back Aiden adopted the family prayer-fascination role, because he is the current six-year-old. He kept suggesting we pray before eating. I’d say, “That’s for people who believe there’s a god up in the sky.” And he’d say something like, “There is one. You have to believe in him and he has a beard and a lightening bolt and his name is Zeus.”

So anyway, Trinity, the former six-year-old who at one time hounded us with lots of prayer requests but now says, “How about we pray to Mom and thank HER for the food?” (yeah, that’s my girl)–well, she had an idea last Sunday when we were getting ready for my husband’s Jewish grandmother to come over (Jewish in a heavy heritage/cultural sense, not so much in an actively religious one).

Trinity said, “How about when Grandma is here and we sit down to eat, we act like we’re going to pray, but then we all chant, ‘Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.'” (You Shakespeare geeks will recognize that).

Yeah…so my husband and kids did that. I don’t include myself because 1) I never bothered to learn it. 2) Grandma may not be very religious but I thought she might freak a little.

I went along with it, at least…When my husband suggested we all hold hands in a circle around the table I did it too. And when they did their dark chant, I saw Grandma’s eye brow creep up, just a little.

And then Grandma responded with, “I’ve got one.” And I thought, Oh no, I have to sit through another prayer? I thought I left that back in Kansas City.

Then she said, “Everybody put your elbows on the table.” So we did.

“Now clasp your hands together…and rest your chin on them.” We did. And at this point I’m relieved and trying not to laugh because my kids have no idea that nobody prays in that position. Then she says something like, “Thanks for the bread, thanks for the meat. Now when the heck are we going to eat?”

Laughs all around the table and we’re having a good time and let me just say, I’m glad we have friends and loved ones who will blaspheme with us.

An Interesting Deconversion Story Of A Pastor

This story was left as a comment on a previous post. I identify with a lot of it, and I’m sure many of you do, too, so I thought I’d post it here.

From Shok The Agnostic

What would cause a pastor of over 20 yrs to leave the ministry? My reasons and story are uniquely mine. Maybe you have been in my shoes in one way or another. I started out in the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions of showing up early and leaving late from every church meeting I ever attended. As a result, as soon as I was asked to do anything, I always said “yes.” In our churches, the way into ministry was through apprenticeship, for higher learning was suspect as not being spiritual enough for true ministers.

I was as sincere as anyone I have ever met. My motives were honest, simple, and trusting that I was truly following God. I was led to believe that my calling and gifts would make room for me in the kingdom. It sounded good to me, and I bit into it hook, line, and sinker.

Soon I was the anointed worship leader, Christian school administrator, elder, assistant pastor, building coordinator, TV host, hospital visitation minister, home group leader, secretary, board member, and anything else that was needed on the staff of the largest charismatic church in our four county area. I was “in.” I was busy, and I was burning for God.

Sometimes weeks went by without one night at home with my wife and children. I was too anointed to need time at home, right? Does it sound familiar yet? As life unfolded and people kept encouraging me to keep on fire for God, or at least burn out trying, my wife developed asthma. To make a long and painful story shorter, let’s just say that it was assumed that because this happened we were losing our anointing or walking in some secret sin.

Weary and burdened with asthma and the disdain of those who once saw us as their leaders, we began to question everything called “ministry.” I am leaving out a ton of details for time’s sake, but as the 20 years went by, we found ourselves losing any desire for involvement in formal ministry. Instead we enjoyed spending time with those who had nothing to do with church, such as Lou, the bassist and head of the satanic church in Laramie, Wyoming. We loved our time with each other and our kids. One thing led to another, and since October 2000, I have not been in the formal ministry. This has been a disappointment to my father, as well as to those who knew us as church leaders.

These days, I find myself with more respect for myself as a person, with more love for my wife Tammy, with our three grown kids and their sweethearts, and with our grandson. I also love all the good people I have met through the Elks Club, the Chamber of Commerce, my current work in real estate and bus driving, the local bowling and golf leagues, and our downtown community parties.

In short, I have become almost everything I used to preach against. What has become of my theology? I have experienced everything my charismatic background had to offer, and found myself lacking love for myself, my family and others. Since I have left organized religion and de-toxed since year 2000, I find love increasing in every way. I think I am reduced to love. If there is a God and that God is love, then I’m into that.

Previously, people were a burden. Now, I love spending time with anyone, regardless of his or her belief system. People are no longer a project to bring to conversion, or a possible warm body to prop up a church program, or a parishioner who might tithe regularly so we can grow the church. I am done with pimpin’ the program.

It’s healing just to write a bit of my story. Do I miss the ministry or attending church? No. I wouldn’t trade my life for what I now have. How could I afford to leave? I drove trucks, waited tables, delivered pizza, installed cabinets, worked in a factory, sold houses, drove school bus, and worked at a golf course. Some of this I still do. If you are dying to get out, it isn’t easy. It’s a process. It’s embarrassment at its highest in the church world. But what the hell, it’s so worth it. I’m just starting to live and love.

Thanks for listening.

Shok the Agnostic

Happy Winter Solstice!

Remembering The Real Reason For The Season Today

Today is the shortest day and tonight is the shortest night of the year. Tomorrow we will see (but probably not notice) a slight increase in daylight, which will continue to increase until after the summer solstice.

Christmas Reenactments/Solstice Presentations

Last week I was watching my youngest in his kindergarten winter/holiday performance. It was unusual. There was a big Christmas tree with presents on the side of the stage. But the performance was a compilation of nursery rhymes. The only Christmas-related idea in it was the starring role of the Gingerbread Man and his place as the thread of the story. The narration between each song linked the various nursery rhymes into a telling of the Gingerbread Man’s journey and his eventual learning to trust others and make friends. Yes, it had a happy ending and nobody ate him. =)

It’s my understanding that nursery rhymes are more educational for young children than Christmas songs. Just their repetition alone helps children understand language. Thinking of all this–the choice of the kindergarten teachers to do such a non-traditional winter performance–got me thinking about the educational value of performances and reenactments in general. And that got me thinking about the reenactment of the Christian Christmas story that is a tradition for many families. My family usually did it when I was a child. And my own children have usually participated in a reading of the Christmas story at my in-law’s Christmas Eve celebration (until last year, when thankfully, someone most have woken up to the fact that 3 out of 6 siblings in that family is either atheist or agnostic–we now invite the grandkids to do a talent show, instead).

The result of all this train-of-thought thinking while the cute little Gingerbread Man ran around the stage and my son-playing-a-spider made cute faces at me was an idea to write a simple presentation of the Winter Solstice as a symbol of light and hope and the source for all the light-celebrating holidays, including our own Christmas. It would include a mention (and maybe visuals?) of all the sun gods (including Jesus) over the course of human history. It would also explain the reasons for our current traditions that have pagan beginnings.

Does anyone want to contribute facts/resources, especially online links? Ideas? Please share by leaving a comment. Maybe I will be able to put something together before next year’s season returns–unless you know of something like this that already exists…?

Behind-The-Scenes Story Of An Early Christian-Right Organizer Turned Agnostic

I’d never heard of Frank Schaeffer until I listened to Terri Gross interview him on Fresh Air. Schaeffer has chosen to stick with religion–he left fundamental Born Again-ism in favor of the Greek Orthodox Church–but is surprisingly honest about his respect for atheism and his admission that his inclination for faith could very well be due to his life-long devotion to a god that may not be there at all.

In the interview, Schaeffer describes how he and his minister father, a friend of the Reagan’s and the Bush’s, helped organize the Christian right by means of the Pro-Life movement, how it evolved to take over Republican Politics, and the hypocrisy that finally drove him away from it.

There is so much that is fascinating in this interview. If you haven’t already heard it, you can listen by following this link.

A Political What-If…

I saw this on one of my Facebook friend’s wall–I just wish I knew where it came from so I could link the source. It’s quite funny/sad when you think about it…

Dear Red States:

We’ve decided we’re leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole’ Miss. We get 85 percent of America’s venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition’s, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms. Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we’re going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they’re apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don’t care if you don’t show pictures of their children’s caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we’re not willing to spend our resources in Bush’s Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country’s fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, 95 percent of America’s quality wines, 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT. With the
Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all
Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we’re discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.

Finally, we’re taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace Out,
The Blue States

Why I Went Vegan.

The Disclaimer

Let me start by saying that I’m not truly 100% vegan. I think of myself as vegan, but every once in a while I remember that the real hard-core purist vegans might not consider me one.

First, I eat eggs once in a long while, which I buy from my friend because I’ve seen her chickens and how free they are to roam on her property. I don’t bake with them. But sometimes we fry them.

Second, I snag some of my kids’ Cheez-It’s here and there, and sometimes I have some dessert while we’re out that has an egg or milk in it. But all of my own cooking and baking is vegan, and most of what I eat when dining out or with friends is vegan, as well. I figure it’s better that I allow myself a few exceptions than that I go back to meat-eating because I miss just a couple things.

The (Many) Reasons

Jason asked me this question when I mentioned that I am now a vegan…

Were the reasons you went vegan for philosophical reasons or health reasons? Just curious as I know many who have arrived at vegetarianism and veganism on many separate paths…

My reasons for becoming a vegan are all of the above, plus some. Veganism is better for the environment. Think of all that land going to feed cows, just so that we can eat them and drink their milk. Think of all that methane.

Veganism is compassionate. Not only do the animals lose their right to life, but many of them suffer a low-quality of life, and often a brutal one.

It’s healthy. That one was a surprise for me. Because I have a problem with hypo-glycemia and was always very concerned about getting enough protein, I never thought I could forgo meat. It turns out that plant-based protein is more stable, and my blood-sugar has never been as regular as it is now. Of course, you have to eat a whole-foods diet in order for it to be healthy. That requires a major lifestyle change for most Americans. I recommend taking gradual steps in a vegan direction.

It’s moral. I’ve always thought it was a better moral decision to choose not to eat meat or animal by-products. But because I didn’t realize I could do that and be healthy, it didn’t seem like a moral imperative. Now that I have learned that it’s possible to let the animals live–while improving my health at the same time–I do believe it is the right thing to do.

The Family Meals

What about my family? They’re not true vegetarians, although they eat a vegetarian diet at home. When we go out they often choose animal products (my husband, not so much). But they’re all fine with the vegan diet we eat at home because they like my food. There are so many amazing vegan recipes to explore that in the nine months I’ve been cooking this way, I’ve only repeated a few recipes. My husband prefers my food to all of our favorite restaurants.

My Recommendations

If you’re looking to eat fewer animals, I have a couple favorite sources, which are the keys to my being able to do this, while keeping everyone happy…

Moosewood Restaraunt New Classics and Moosewood Simple Suppers recipe books–These are not totally vegan. They have vegetarian recipes, fish and seafood recipes, and vegan recipes. They’re delicious. They make me turn my nose up at other restaurant food. They’re easy to follow (although, many of the New Classics recipes, which are amazing, will keep you in the kitchen longer).

Vegetarian Food For Thought Podcast by Colleen Patrick Goudreau–This is such an informative podcast on everything having to do with vegetarian cooking and animal cruelty. I also have her cookbook, The Joy Of Vegan Baking, and we LOVE the stuff we make from this.

An Article and A Podcast

The Article

I never did tell you about the article I wrote for the Humanist Network News back in March for their Secular Parenting column. Here’s how it starts…

The “Out” Parent

I walked into my child’s preschool one day right before class was to let out. There was a lobby full of parents and one of them raised her voice above the crowd to say to me, “I noticed your license plate says AGMOM. What does that mean?”

Those of you who have read my articles or blog will recognize it as my blog name, Agnostic Mom. While most of my friends know about this, it wasn’t something I wanted to shout across a crowded room of parents at my child’s preschool. Yet there they all were, staring at me, curious.

Would you like to read the rest of the story? Then please click here.

If you’re newer to Agnostic Mom and would like to read all of my articles when I had a regular column with them, you might want to head over to this page.

The Podcast

Tomorrow on Chuck Bryant’s Something Happening Here podcast, an interview with me will air. I’ll be back to link to it, but I thought I’d give you a heads up…you know, since I’m not around so much lately. =)

You might want to check out his site and show by then, too.

Long, Lost Agnostic Mom

I can’t ignore the fact that loyal readers like Ed and Jason reach out at random times, wondering if the blog is dead. I’d say it definitely died, but perhaps resurrection is real after all? It’s so good to hear from you guys.

Here I am, almost exactly one year after promising to pop in once in a while, which I’ve never done. How about I catch you up on what I’m doing and if any of you are hanging around you can catch me up on where your lives have headed?

My Second Full-Time Job

I have two competing full-time jobs now. I’m still a SAHM, but I also host an internet scrapbooking tutorial show. I have professional weekly videos, a weekly live show, and regular blog articles at Paperclipping.com.

This is where my AgnosticMom blogging time has gone and why I haven’t felt like I had any minutes left to write here. I still miss you guys, though. Maybe now that my blogging skills have improved I can stop in once in a while with some short posts. No promises this time, though. 😉

I’m Now A Vegan

This was one of the best streets I’ve ever turned down. I love having an animal-friendly, cholesterol-free, whole-foods plant-based diet. Feels good.

The Great Gatsby

We rescued this sweetheart from the animal shelter. Gizmo was horrified at first but now they’re best friends. I love being a mommy to two dogs and find myself wanting to go back for a third, even though my allergist says I should never have gotten the first one.

The kids…

…are growing and we’re enjoying the wonderful little people that they are. Blake is teaching himself to animate, chose the school at which he wants to learn film and computer graphics, and has named his own production company for movies.

Trinity has become such a graceful ballerina and blows us away with her ability to beat anyone at any time in the game, Memory. She’s definitely visual.

Aiden is strengthening his natural inclination for music and will be starting full-day kindergarten next month.

All three are amazing kids.

What about you, my long-lost friends? Where has this amazing life taken you over the last year?