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traditions

When we were getting ready to go trick-or-treating on Tuesday night, my 2-year-old son was playing with one of his sister’s Disney princess figurines. He put a finger puppet monster on her head and said, “This is her Halloween costume.”

Two year olds can be quite delightful.

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Paul dressed up as a dragon (or perhaps a crocodile), Marie was Snow White, and Spencer and I were milk and cookies. We had fun visiting my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday, then trick-or-treating with my mom in her neighborhood. Our trick-or-treating experience was short lived, however, as it was a cold night and Marie was tired out from a busy day at kindergarten. After about 10 minutes of trick-or-treating, Marie said, “I have enough candy. I’m done.” We went back to my parents’ house to let each child eat a piece of candy and then we drove home. By the time we got home at 7 pm, Paul had fallen into a deep sleep in his dragon costume. He was so tired he didn’t even wake up when we took the costume off of him and put him in bed. So much for trick-or-treating with my tiny ones!

I have been thinking this week about the origins of Halloween and what it means to us culturally today. I’ve also been thinking about the various reactions to Halloween among those who profess the Christian faith. Our pastors in Portland thought that Halloween was a great opportunity to get to know their neighbors in a fun way, so they would decorate their whole living room in a different theme each year and act out a little skit for the neighborhood kids. One year it was a Peter Pan theme, and the next it was a medieval castle. One the other end of the spectrum, I know some churchgoers who won’t allow their kids to trick-or-treat or acknowledge Halloween at all.

I came across this very thoughtful article about the origins of Halloween on a ministry website. The name “Halloween,” actually comes from All Hallows Eve (meaning Holy Evening), the night before the Christian holiday All Hallows (All Saints Day). In the 9th Century, the Pope scheduled All Saints Day to be celebrated on November 1 to coincide with (and replace) the pagan holiday of Samhain. It was common for the church to place Christian holidays at the same time is pagan holidays — for example Christmas occurs around the time of the winter solstice. Over the years, traditions from Samhain and All Hallows Eve blended together to create what we now know as Halloween.

Personally I do not like horror films, haunted houses, or things that are creepy in general. Nor do I like to feed my children candy. But I do think that Halloween is an adorable opportunity for kids to dress up and create family memories, as well as a fun way to interact with neighbors.

And then I’ve been thinking about this too — Halloween reflects a need we all have to acknowledge our shadow side. If you read my solar eclipse post, you know I’ve been contemplating the human shadow a bit lately. We need to acknowledge the darkness in our world and in our own souls. In her book Rising Strong, shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown writes about the importance of integrating light and dark into our consciousness: “Being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark.” She also writes, “There’s always something foreboding about overly sweet and accommodating ways. All that niceness feels inauthentic and a little like a ticking bomb.”

We don’t have very good mechanisms for processing difficult emotions in our culture. Physical and mental illness, aging, and death, are all topics we steer away from. In the fall we are surrounded by death in the natural world. It is the time of the harvest and the dying away of the light. Halloween, with its imagery of ghosts and skeletons, is one way we acknowledge the season. And it is the one time when we as a culture face our own mortality and even poke fun at it.

P.S. What did the photographer say to the ghost?
You look boo-ti-ful!

 

 

 

 

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I love the clean slate feel of the new year. And so, I am a resolution-maker. Every year, I tell myself – this will be the year I get it all together. I will exercise more. I will run a 10K. I will make more friends, get my apartment completely organized, closely follow a budget. This year I will make more money and buy a house. I will be a nicer person and never say mean things about anyone behind their back. This will be the year I finally achieve my lifelong goal of writing a book. I will also connect more deeply with my faith and read through the entire Bible.

This has been my self-talk every new year for awhile now. And I finally have to laugh at myself and realize that it’s not realistic to accomplish all of this in any given year, especially while raising two small children. Maybe I need to lower my expectations a little bit.

2015 was a good year for me. I wrapped up a travel editing project in February with a big client. I finally learned how to do my taxes and was self-sufficient enough to prepare a freezer full of meals during my pregnancy. My son was born in March and when my daughter turned 3 in April we celebrated with a party at the trampoline gym. I wrote a couple of travel articles about Lexington, Kentucky, and I got a new part-time job as publicity coordinator for my daughter’s children’s choir. Spencer took a month off from work in the summer and helped me at home with the kids. We visited the beach several times; Marie went to ballet camp and swimming lessons. In September, Spencer transitioned to a new job that he really enjoys.

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Fun at the beach with my daughter. Photo credit: Spencer Crawford

2015 was a hard year for me. When my son was one-week old, I developed a postpartum uterine infection and was readmitted to the hospital through the ER for 24 hours. It took me about a month to physically recover from childbirth and my complications, and I struggled with postpartum mood disorder for the second time (though not as severely). After my son was born, I had to sign up for WIC to help make ends meet. My husband struggled at work and ended up quitting his job without having another job lined up, and without me having a job.

So my year was amazing and it was also difficult. I did not run a 10K, write a book, or buy a house. Maybe in 2016 I’ll accomplish at least one of those things; time will tell. I know there are many joys ahead as well as many challenges, and I’m looking forward to the journey. As for my resolution this year?

It seems to work best if I have one, achievable resolution. Recently I heard about a dad who had resolved to take his 4-year-old son camping once a month throughout the year. While cold-weather camping isn’t my thing, I like the idea of creating a special tradition with my child. So, I’m resolving to do a community service project once a month with my daughter. I discovered a local nonprofit called Little Hands Can that does service projects with parents and kids, and I’ve already signed up for a project in January. I’m excited to start a tradition of service with Marie.

What’s your resolution for 2016?

 

It’s hard to believe, but Baby Bear had her first birthday a few weeks ago. She has been walking for several months, and has been putting random things in her mouth less frequently. She pretty much doesn’t need me anymore. Well, except for diaper changes and nursing every 5 minutes or so.

She is also learning language. She knows “mama” and “dada.” “Dah,” is her word for dog. She can sign “more,” “eat,” “fan,” and “light.” And when I say, “Where’s the elephant?,” she walks over and picks up her elephant toy.

For her one-year birthday, we had a small gathering in our apartment with Spencer’s mom, his aunt, and our friends Jay and Holly. It was nice to have a low-key celebration, since our apartment is small, and Baby Bears can tend to get overwhelmed by too much attention. My parents were unable to attend because my mom was very sick, and my father-in-law cancelled due to illness as well. But we still had a great celebration, marking the occasion in style with French pastries from Ken’s Artisan Bakery and a homemade strawberry pie. I’ve never been a big cake fan, so perhaps I’m starting a family tradition of birthday pies. Time will tell…

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It has been an amazing journey watching little Marie grow into a toddler over the past year, and I am so looking forward to see how she changes in the coming year. One thing is sure, we love her more and more as time goes by.

Saturday is Baby Bear’s three-month birthday! Oh my goodness! What a whirlwind these past three months have been.

One of Baby Bear’s favorite things to do is sit on the couch and stare at the elephant mobile that hangs from our ceiling. I hold her and her eyes lock onto the elephants, and she immediately gets a huge smile and starts saying “Ooo!”

I imagine she is saying, “Hello elephant friends! I love watching you dance in the air.”

One of her other favorite things right now is trying to stand up. She will straighten her legs, and then I will hold her up and help her balance. She’s strong! I guess the joke will be on me when she starts walking.

Spencer started walking at 9 months. His mom said that one day he just stood up in the middle of the room and started walking. I also started walking around 9 months, but with assistance. My parents would take me on walks in the stroller and I would get out and push the stroller.

It’s been amazing watching the changes in her over the past few months, from sleepy newborn to smiling, giggly three-month old. I’m looking forward to watching her continue to grow and change.

On Sunday we had her baby dedication service at church. We wanted to have her wear a beautiful christening gown and hat that her great-grandmother had lovingly knit for her. But it was about 90 degrees that day, and the church doesn’t have air conditioning. Not only that, but for some reason the heat was on in the church and no one knew how to turn it off! So, it was too hot to wear the long-sleeved, wool christening gown. She wore a lovely floral dress instead.

All of her grandparents and one great-grandmother came for the service. I love how the baby brings everyone together, and how she is starting out her life with so many people loving her already. Our good friends Jay and Holly, and Bob, came as well — we’ve decided they have honorary aunt and uncle status, since Spencer and I don’t have siblings.

For the dedication, we went up on stage and Spencer prayed for her, and then our pastor prayed for all three of us. When I was pregnant, I had already prayed for her that her life would be dedicated to God. But I felt it was also important to do so publicly. I believe that her life is a gift from God, and I always want to remember that. She is God’s child even more than she is mine.

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Blessing babies is important in many religious traditions. My denomination holds dedication services, some hold christenings and others perform infant baptisms. Are are any of these rituals important to you? Why or why not?