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Ethnic Privilege

Frequently when I’m reading/hearing about white privilege and minority cultures, I struggle to understand. One reason I think this is true is because I don’t relate to a lot of this dominant white culture that I’m supposed to be benefiting from. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be ashamed of liking hamburgers and pizza, folk music and blue jeans – if those are included in my white privilege.

 

I like to think about the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of our personal cultures: hospitality, hard work, musical rhythm, pace of life, family values, adventure, foods, medicines, styles, baby-wearing, theology, inventiveness, compassion, education, skills related to geography (surfing, snowboarding, fishing, farming, jay-walking, driving, catching a bus, biking, climbing trees). I like to think about the influences of family histories, like grandparents going through the Great Depression or immigrating from another country. I like to think about those other countries that shaped our specific families, and how we let go of some inheritances, held on tightly to some, forgot and found things again, picked up practices along the way. I think there is similar value to considering birth orders, the financial status of a family you were raised in, how large or small your family was. Did you travel? Did you move a lot? Who were the friends that shaped your grandparents, parents, and your own childhood? The diversity of these stories is fascinating.

 

On the other hand, I reject sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness in any cultural context. I reject rudeness, but I think most of the rules about politeness (in many cultures) are silly reasons for offense unless they happen to be rooted in actual selfish inconsideration. I believe in Jesus and that His sacrifice is the only means of salvation. I reject demonic spiritism that is at the dark heart of pagan religions. I take a stand against rebelliousness in the hearts of people no matter our color or background. I judge lying and stealing; they have no validity in any culture, since they are opposed to the righteousness of God and the love of one’s neighbor.

 

I love the redemption stories, of individuals and of larger groups turning away from evil: becoming undeceived; turning away from division and hate and greedy war; learning to love and serve and create and eat and drink to the glory of God. I love that so many stories are in-progress, people still learning and repenting and growing.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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For a few years, I was an Awana game director.  I wrote the following to teach leaders what to do during Game Time at our beginning-of-the-year training meeting.  We even acted out some of the things!  

Cubbies:

Cubbie leaders, you are needed in the gym or play area with the kids.  As they enter the play area, they will all start with jumping jacks, until all the clubbers are present.  Then we’ll pick a (small) number and count that many more jumping jacks.  We then sing the Cubbie song, with motions, and when that’s over, everyone does high-fives to the game leader.  Then the leader will give instructions about the game.  This weekly routine makes the kids feel safe, and provides a buffer in case some kids are slower arriving.  During game time, there should be no escaping children, from either the group or the gym or play area.  Make sure the kids are not hitting each other or doing their own thing too much.  Cubbies will cry from time to time.  Don’t worry.  Just distract them with something (or take care of them if they’re hurt).  Rules for the games will be simple.  The big thing is that you help keep everyone together and involved.  The Game Leader can’t do everything.

 

Sparks and T&T:

I’d like to introduce you to several characters from my childhood Game Times.  The first is Mr. H, the game leader/director.  He has a mind for relays, and efficiency is his middle name.  As soon as kids arrive at Game Time, he has them lined up tallest to shortest, and is patting their heads, sending them red, blue, green, yellow.  He announces a game, gives a short time for teams to get set up, quickly summarizes rules.  After each heat, he loudly announces winners, POINTS – including points for cheering during events or silence during instructions.  Points are in the hundreds, because points are free, and a leader writes them up on a big white board everyone can see.  He lets the line leaders know if there are any disqualifications, so they can teach their team the rules.

 

His game lines function like relays.  Here’s how it works.  We all line up tallest to shortest (boys and girls separately).  The event calls for two girls (if segregated).  They play, and return to their line.  The tallest one will be standing now next to the shortest girl.  Then the next heat is boys.  They go back to their line.  And another girls heat.  They line up tallest to shortest behind the tall girls of the first heat.  See?  That way when Mr. H is trying to figure out how many more heats to call, he can glance up and see that there are three short girls and two short boys left.  Three more heats.  If you have been playing a balloon game, and now you’ll play something totally different, your line resets to the way it was at the beginning of the Mr. H relay: tallest at the front, shortest at the back.  (Sometimes to mix it up, he’d do it in reverse, and start with the shorter end.)  This “game” happens every week at Game Time, and you the line leaders are responsible for teaching it to the kids and enforcing it.  If there is a leader on your line who hasn’t “played”, teach them too.

 

You will ALL have a color line that is yours all year.  In case of absences, we will shift around.  But you’ll be assigned a color the first night.

 

Next I want you to meet Mr. V.  He is the line leader every week on Blue.  His team always knows the rules, and is never disqualified.  He carefully explains things like running laps, starting behind the line, and running AROUND pins without knocking them over.  When time for a heat, his team is always ready.  When the game director is speaking, his team is standing quietly.

 

On Red is Mr. D.  He’s an LIT (leader in training).  On his line there is no goofing off.  Everyone stands with their toes exactly behind the line.  If they are on the line, they get “stepped on”, because he goes down the line with his big teenage tennis shoes, stepping on toes.  No one is sitting.  Everyone on red team knows that they may earn an extra five hundred points for being the best lined up.  Winning means a lot to Mr. D’s team.

 

Over on Yellow is Mrs. T  Yellow is a horrible color, but that doesn’t stop Mrs. T from being the wildest cheerleader in the place.  She jumps up and down, does enthusiastic kicks, and has her whole team clapping in rhythm for their team.  During the week she notices things that are yellow, and incorporates them into her cheer.  Hers is the best line at game time, not because it wins, but because it is fun.

 

Mrs. C is the leader on Green.  She answers questions about rules from her kids.  She also learns each of their names, and makes sure the whole team knows their names so they can cheer for each other personally.  None of her kids leave to go use the bathroom without permission.

 

Mrs. S loves whiteboards, and she’s good at math.  She takes up her position at the scoreboard, writing huge numbers everyone can see.  Scores go in hundreds.  She adds quickly, erasing all but the zeroes as each score is announced, 200 points for first and 100 points for second and sometimes and extra hundred or so for good cheering or quiet readiness for rules.

 

There are other leaders.  Ideally there will be at least one male and one female leader on each line.  But you can talk to each other about games, and you can talk to both boys and girls.  Each of you must be actively keeping your team standing, cheering, ready for the next game, understanding the rules, interested in points, not fighting with each other, learning sportsmanship.  If we have an extra leader or two, they can help set up the game equipment between heats or escort clubbers to the bathroom so you, the line leaders, do not have to leave your line.  Never leave a line unattended.

 

There is no sitting at any time except for injured clubbers or injured leaders (and elderly leaders!).  Participation is expected unless a clubber is injured.

 

Please get the game leader’s attention if you have a question, if you saw a DQ on your line, or if they’re not loud enough for everyone to hear.  At the end of the night they should announce the winning team and hand a stack of Awana shares (or other small reward) to the line leader.  You make sure each child on your team receives one reward.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

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A couple years ago, a friend asked me to compile things I’d learned about keeping preschoolers busy.  I’ve been babysitting for about 20 years now, but I was still surprised at all the things I was able to write down.  I’m sharing them here in case you are looking for inspiration.  

 

Have a ball or object that you pass back and forth.  Before you pass, you have to say something in a list: a number, a letter, a color, a musical instrument, something they’re thankful for, a song, a toy, a character from a movie, something you can see, a sport, a type of transportation (cars, planes, trains…), an animal…  You get the idea.  You can practice saying a rhyme, verse, song by passing the ball back and forth and each person has to say the next word before they pass it.  Teach the game using a saying, song or rhyme they already know.

 

Set up a tricky way to pass some object to each other: around a chair, under a table, down a blanket like a slide.

 

Do simple games where there are two or three things they’re supposed to act out, and they must switch when you say the other thing: butterflies and caterpillars; land, water, sky; hills, mountains, plains/fields; (incorporate it into a story or lesson: grasshoppers and giants like the 12 spies’ perception when they spied out canaan);

 

Have a collection of objects.  Name them all together.  Cover the kids’ eyes.  Take one object away.  Have them guess/figure out which one is missing.  Play again with a different missing object.

 

You can do all sorts of things with a deck of cards, things for all ages.  For littles: 52 pickup; cards that are red; cards that are black; cards with faces; cards with numbers; hand them one card and tell them to find one whose shape, color, or number matches; have them practice counting by bringing you whatever amount of cards you say (you’ll probably have to help them count).  Lay numbers in order.  You can lay the foundations for odds/evens, addition, subtraction, division.  I’ve had older kids bring me cards adding up to a certain number – or just an odd number.

 

Train to be listening: have a code word for the day.  Any time the child hears you say it, they come to you and either get something (cracker, M&M) or do something (high five, hug).

 

Bat a balloon or roll a ball across a line, no picking up.  Also try kicking.  (Pre-soccer skill.)

 

Have kids try to stand on one foot without holding on to anything.  Count as high as you can, out loud, until they put their foot down or touch something.  Now have them do it while doing something else, like singing a song or patting their head or watching you do something silly.

 

With more than one child, instead of “tag”, do “bubbles” and “poppers”.  Tag is too abstract.  Tell them that once they have popped, they switch roles.  This works even if you want a number of kids who are “it”.  In my experience, kids won’t really switch; they’ll just pick their favorite role, keep doing that, and most kids will be ok with that.  The others will try to debate with fellow toddlers.  It’s kind of hilarious.

 

Have them balance something on their head.  Then have them walk, or sit down and stand up again (depending on how hard the balancing is).

 

Set up a bucket or bag (or two for two teams; you can compete, too).  Have the child fill up the bag, bringing only one object at a time.  (Use toys, socks, cereal if it’s a snack-size bowl.)  Just make sure the container is rather far away from the objects, so that the kid is using up a bunch of energy.

 

Have the child echo patterns of sounds or actions.  Start small.  Clap, stomp, make some noise, wave…

 

Streamers are super fun and cheap.  Wave them.  Use them as finish-lines.  Use them as lines to “balance” on.  Or to divide a room.  Or as a maze line to follow on a treasure hunt.  Pull off a strip and do something with both you and the child holding on.  If you let go or tear it, you have to start over.

 

Teach more basics of soccer.  But break it up.  Try not to put too many rules together all at once.  Have the child try to get a ball past you to a specific wall or basket (using hands or feet or whatever – just can’t be holding on to the ball).  Trade places and have them keep you from getting the ball past them.

 

“Is it the truth?”  While you’re playing, make statements whose truth or falsehood is obvious.  If it is true, the child stands up.  If false, they sit down.  Or have them do some other fun action.  If it’s true, they jump up and down…  If it’s true, they spin in circles.  They just have to switch once they hear the next statement.

 

This one is from a book called “Let’s Play!” that’s decent for ideas.  It’s for a group, not just one child.  Form pairs and give these directions: “touch feet” (kids touch their feet to each other’s), “touch wings” (touch elbows like wings), “tweet to your partner”.  Then call out “scatter sparrows!”  The children flap like sparrows, tweet like sparrows, while they’re either 1) scattering and finding a new partner or 2) scattering, then listening for your call to “touch feet” again when they must find a new partner.

 

Set up an easy obstacle course… line up objects in one straight line with several feet between each object.  Have the child weave in and out between the objects.

 

“Bowl” with whatever objects are on hand: cups, books, toys

 

Pretend you’re in a parade.  March.  Wave.  Bring a stuffed animal or balloon.  (Ever seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV?)  Stay in line and take a tour of whatever place you’re at, all in parade mode.  You can even stop at an opportune spot and do a performance.  Make sure to pretend you have a microphone if you’re singing!

 

Use a paper plate as a Frisbee.

 

Put small stuffed animals or soft balls (cotton balls, q-tips, other soft small objects you have are fine; raid your purse) on a large blanket or sheet (larger keeps the things on it better, but if there are only 2 of you, it will have to be smaller so you can hold it.)  You hold one side.  They hold the other.  Then wave it to see them pop.

 

Use a ribbon, streamer, jump-rope, narrowly-folded blanket to make a “river” in the middle of the floor.  Jump over the river.  Throw something over the river.  “Swim” under the river.

 

Play hot potato.

 

Go to sleep bunny, bunny.  Say that.  Have the child pretend to be a sleeping bunny.  When you think they won’t be able to “sleep” anymore, call “wake up, little bunny! hop, hop, hop!”  They have to get up and hop until you say to sleep again.

 

Again from Let’s Play!: Give the child an object they can toss in the air.  Tell the story of Jesus calming the sea.  Then play the game like this: when you say “Storm!” they toss their object up, over and over.  When you say “Be still!”, they must grab their object from wherever it is and sit down quietly.

 

Have a bunch of something: crumpled up junk mail, socks, paper airplanes, little balls like in a play-place (soft!).  Split them up evenly.  Make a line out of a streamer, couch cushions, tape in the middle of the room.  Put half of the objects on one side, half on the other.  Half of the children stand on each side (or you on one side, the child/children on the other).  Turn on a song.  While the music is playing, each of you throws as many of the things over the line as possible, even the new things just thrown over your line.  At the end of the song, the side with the *least* objects wins.

 

Teach hand signals for sports teams, like the referrees would use (I had to look up on the internet how to do these).  Show them.  Say it.  Have the kids do the motions, and say the phrases, too.  My favorite about this was that for soccer instead of any signals, I just have the kids put their hands in the air and run around like madmen yelling “SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  They like that, too.

 

Be active: gallop, toe-touch, jumping jacks, spin.

 

Set up items with only 1 letter on them in different parts of the room.  These could be posters you make or those little blocks with letters on them.  You probably only want to do a few letters at a time.  Call out the letter and have the child hurry to go touch it.  After they’re good at that, teach them one of the sounds the letter makes, and have them remember or repeat the sound before they can leave and go to another letter.

 

Since I was doing Awana, I taught the Cubbies how to stand with their toes behind a line.  I’d have them run, then say, “Line,” and they had to all get behind the line, not even touching it, quickly.

 

Take a walk and announce a color.  Say the names of things you see that are that color.  Encourage the child to participate.  The next time you take a walk, choose a different color.  It’s not guessing one item; it’s just identifying.  It’s like a preliminary to I-spy.

 

Kids love bubbles.  Blow bubbles for them.  See if they can catch them without them popping.  See if they can guess where they’ll land.   You can also try to catch leaves blown from trees in the autumn.

 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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Fun

I bowl. I go to Elitch’s. I jump on trampolines. I play board games. I wear formal or old-fashioned outfits to stores and parks and libraries. I even dance on occasion. Not because I have to. Because I want to.

 

And because I can. I don’t have to spend most of my time keeping a house or supporting a family or choosing homeschool curriculum.  I also don’t get to do those family-oriented things, but I don’t regret, while I wait for them, enjoying fun things.

 

It makes me wonder what kind of mom I’ll be, by the time it happens?  If fun has become an adult habit, not just something that young adult me does while transitioning out of youth group life, will that translate into the way I run my house, and the priorities I share with my kids?

 

I wonder.  I like to think about the story God is telling in my life, how my life is different from the average “grow up, get married, have a family” story that I assumed I would have.  And imagine what He’s making of the differences.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: I know fun parents.  God has various ways of bringing things about in people’s lives.

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Charley Horse

You know that awful feeling when your foot cramps up?  The instinct is absolutely to freeze, tense, since moving made it start hurting.  But the right thing to do, to end the cramp quickly, is to stretch.

 

There are other things like this in life, things where being tense and resisting what is happening are the worst things you can do.

 

Earlier today one of our family cats, a specimen so large that he was named for an assassin in the Bible, was on the back of my sister’s easy chair.  He decided to be done on the top, and was planning to use her as a ramp to a lower level of ease.  This was not my sister’s plan.  And because her response was to go stiff in resistance to his attempts, his claws scrambled for a new course, snagged her shirt, got stuck in the upholstery, and ended up with him dangling from the reclining seat back.  Actually that wasn’t the end, since another sister rescued the pair from the predicament.  Aside from a hole in her shirt, neither are the worse for wear.

 

The house cat is actually back on the top of the same easy chair, where I’m lounging with a laptop on my knees.  Sometimes he nuzzles the back of my head, and I lean back into it, not with opposition so much as meeting his gesture.  Then he goes back to stretching and purring and thinking whatever lazy ponderings cats do.  I’m  not afraid he’ll walk down on me, even though he very likely might.  I’ll shrug him onto the armrest and we’ll both continue with what we’re doing.

 

I know I’m not always like that.  Other things in life make me seize up.  I’m trying to learn to be less afraid, to trust God’s work, and just to go forward with the story God is telling.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve read a lot of articles that say, “Don’t ask.”  They’ll be about illness, infertility, divorce.  “It’s personal,” they remind us, “so mind your own business.”

 

Today I was in a woman’s house.  I don’t know her.  I have talked to her a couple of times.  I will be doing some work for her.  I suppose I broke the rules, because after she’d told me a little about her life, raising two little boys though she’s their grandmother and wasn’t planning to do motherhood all over again, I asked her if she’s raising them alone.  And you know what?  This woman wanted to share.  She’s desperately lonely in her situation, and not only feeling like she’s the only one going through this kind of thing, but also just generally like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to love and support her.

 

I think I know how she feels.  I have wonderful friends, who know me and my story very well.  And I still feel lonely sometimes, still would rather that people sincerely ask what is going on in my life and how I feel about it.  Even the private, personal things.  If it takes me a minute or two to figure out how to answer with appropriate discretion, that awkwardness is worth it to me for what it buys: relationship.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Today I was thinking about heroes.  So often our favorite super heroes can save everyone.  Doc Ock tosses six different people six different directions, and destroys the brakes on a speeding train.  Spider-Man shoots his webs to save the stragglers, uses his super strength to stop the train, and saves the day.

In that same movie, Spider-Man decides to come out of retirement to save a little kid from a fire, and is disheartened to hear afterwards that some “poor soul” on a higher floor didn’t make it out.  But this isn’t shown as an inevitable edge to the protagonist’s reach; I get the impression that we’re supposed to believe that if only Spidey hadn’t been taking some time for himself, both victims would have made it out alive.

Sometimes the crisis of the plot is the hero deciding whether to save one dear friend or to save a larger group of people (and somehow, predictably now, the dear friend  heroically sacrificed is saved in the nick of time anyway).  Other times, the super hero makes a glance at the crushing weight of collateral damage: fighting evil is a destructive war.

How often do the heroes in our tales face the fact that their powers are, however impressive, limited, and they cannot save everyone?  What if we saw heroes not only facing this, grieving this, but standing slowly – like a weight-lifter, only the weight is borne in the heart, bending shoulders –  standing, straightening, squaring those shoulders, and going out with all the zeal they had yesterday, to save the ones they can, to face defeat again and again, to still care about every one they can’t save the same as they care about the ones they can, and still to try?

Today I was driving to an abortion clinic, to stand outside among such heroes, who spend day after day watching most of the moms they encounter go right on ahead and end most of the lives the sidewalk counselors are trying to save.  This is a heavy burden.

It is not all discouraging failure.  Yesterday, a couple changed their mind, and rejected the violence they had intended.  Would Spider-Man bear up against those odds: one rescued for dozens lost?  These people do.  By the grace of God, they are real heroes.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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