Join us!

We meet the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month, September-May from 9:30-11:30 AM.
Childcare and brunch are provided.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church
1505 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis, IN 46202

February 27, 2017

Take Heart: On Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

How did we get here?  Suddenly, it seems, we are in a new stage of family life and parenthood.  It's been over 9 years now since I became a mother, and my youngest child is ready to begin school (pre-K) in the fall.  The four-year-old is (finally!) somewhat interested in learning to recognize letters and numbers, and I know it won't be too long before he's reading books alongside his older brother and sister.  Our household is free of diapers, pull-ups, wipes, cribs, baby monitors, highchairs and most recently, outlet covers.  I still do a fair amount of laundry and dishes every day, and it's true that my workload of coordinating schedules for each family member tends to increase as the kids grow (although we try to mindfully limit the number of sports and other extracurricular "enrichment" activities at this stage to allow for unstructured play and family togetherness after school and on weekends).

But here's the amazing development I've been reflecting on recently:  We are fast approaching the end of the long tunnel of early-childhood parenting.  We can see the light at the end.  The tunnel is filled with fog in some parts, caused by extreme sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, postpartum depression and mental isolation.  It seems never-ending while you're at the beginning and in the middle of it; it's fairly dark and you can't see where you'll end up.  In fact, upon entering the tunnel you tend to worry about where you'll be at the end, and the barrage of decisions you must make can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.  What if you make the 'wrong' choice?  Or what if you fail to pay attention for one second and something catastrophic happens to your child?  But one of the very hardest things about being in the tunnel is that you have to just keep going, keep stumbling along, pushing yourself every morning to do again everything you did the day before, bone-weary and sometimes frankly bored.  It's difficult to see beauty in the mess, in the mundane, when it goes on for years and years.  I spent a large percentage of my day feeding my kids (choosing which food battles to fight), changing diapers, cleaning up after their meals, cleaning up toys and crafts, scrubbing the stains on their clothes, bandaging them up when they fell down, taking care of them when they were sick, answering their random questions, and breaking up quarrels (plus feeling guilty about not doing any of it perfectly).  Is this work meaningful?  Of course it is!  There is immense value and long-lasting significance to our work of motherhood in the early years, which is motivated by love as well as duty.  But that doesn't mean it's always fun or rewarding in the moment.  It is hard to have perspective on your experiences in the tunnel while you're still in the darkest part.

If that sounds like your everyday life right now--if you're struggling in the very midpoint of the tunnel and feeling like the dreariness, the burdening demands of the routine and the mundane will go on forever; if you're weighed down by comparisons and a constant nagging inner voice telling you you're falling short--take heart.  You are not alone.  And it gets easier.      

I think the most discouraging thing to hear when you're in that place of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, food battles/mealtime chaos, figuring out family rules and discipline methods and how to share the parenting responsibilities with your spouse, is that it only gets tougher as they get older.  I've heard this sentiment expressed many times by well-meaning older people or parents of teenagers.  I don't think there is malicious intent underlying this statement, but it's simply not true.  And it seems to betray a lack of empathy and an unwillingness/inability to remember what it was truly like parenting in the trenches.

Here is what I have come to believe about parenting: it's a front-loaded job.  An incredible amount of work and effort is required at the front end in order to create conditions for flourishing that we hope will yield positive outcomes and rewarding relationships later on.  It means working hard to set age-appropriate limits for your kids' behavior, responses, and habits (and yes, screen exposure) at each stage of their development.  It means being willing to answer questions, to discuss or research a wide range of topics you'd either never considered or never even heard of.  It means teaching and modeling healthy conflict resolution, admitting your mistakes and asking forgiveness when you're wrong.  It means reading books and watching films together and then dissecting the ideas, messages and themes, modeling analytical and critical thinking for your kids.  It means spending time together as a family and working toward creating an atmosphere of love and safety, so that your kids trust you enough to come to you with hard questions and emotional challenges that will arise later.  All these things, together with the physical demands of having newborns and toddlers and preschoolers--feeding and potty-training and bedtime struggles-- are the reasons why we are so exhausted!  But I believe and hope and trust and pray that these efforts (rooted in faith) will pay dividends in the future as our kids continue to grow and mature.  They are making visible progress (however slow) toward healthy, independent, emotionally secure, confident adulthood.  Already my oldest child is more helpful and independent than I would have imagined; she takes initiative in new ways every week.  My middle son has made incredible strides in social and emotional adjustment (being considerate of peers, following instructions, respecting teachers) and self-control in the past couple years since starting school.  Parenting has gotten somewhat easier for us already, and I believe that will continue over the years.  We fully expect that as our kids grow older and we give them more freedom and more responsibility, they will make mistakes; but they will know we are always on their side, here to listen and offer counsel when needed (but not to swoop in and rescue them from consequences).

I love this quote by author Ken Robinson about education: "We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process.  And you cannot predict the outcome of human development.  All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish."

Good parenting is hard work.  Creating conditions for human flourishing seems daunting at times.  But if we are diligent in putting in the required work in the early years of parenting, the amount of work required will gradually lessen over time, as our children grow.  If you feel overwhelmed at this stage, don't listen to the naysayers who chuckle and cluck that it only gets harder!  Take heart; be encouraged.  There's an end to the tunnel.  Reach out to your community for help when you need it; those of us climbing out of the trenches are more than happy to support you and lend a hand.  We're all in this together.

October 14, 2014

School Notes

As mothers of preschoolers, eventually all of us will face the inevitable: the day when our preschoolers won't be preschoolers anymore. They will be kindergarteners and as responsible parents, we need to find the best school to meet their needs. That day comes sooner than we can imagine; actually almost a year sooner. My daughter will start kindergarten next fall, but due to applications and deadlines, I have to start making decisions now. So I am doing my due diligence and researching schools and planning school visits.
In past years, other moms have shared their school research--one put together a multi page booklet. With baby number two (my ticket to stay in MOPS another half decade) sleeping on my breast as I type with one and a half hands, keyboard balanced on my Boppy, I don't have the time or energy to put together anything so elaborate. But I have tracked down some info and key dates for the schools we are looking at, as a downtown family living near Redeemer. Since these may be some of the same schools you are interested in, I thought I would share.

Magnet Schools

I think I have decided to stop admitting to people that magnet schools are part of IPS--at least to suburban friends and in-laws that assume I have to send my children to a private school because we live downtown, and then turn up their noses when I say we are seriously considering IPS schools. IPS gets a bad rap.
Magnet schools are the cream of the public school crop. Each school has a special focus and educational philosophy and requires parental involvement. Personally, I think that the rest of the IPS schools suffer because IPS puts its best resources and energy into the magnet schools- at least their test scores are going to be lower at other schools if all of the best students go to a few select schools. Actually, only Sidener Academy selects their students based on previous academic performance and test scores (and doesn't start till the 2nd grade), but all of the magnet schools emphasize academic achievement and all the students have one thing in common: parents who care enough to send them there.
The deadline to apply for a magnet school is December 15. You can choose up to 3 schools and rank them in order of preference. Space is limited and students are selected based on 1) siblings (once you get one child in, the rest are pretty much guaranteed), 2) proximity (it helps to be within a mile of the school) and then it is a lottery system beyond that.
Most magnet schools now offer one year of free, full-time Pre-K preschool, which is rumored to help you get into that school for kindergarten.

Center for Inquiry
There are three CFI schools: school #84 in the Broad Ripple area and two downtown. School #2 is at 14th and New Jersey- it serves downtown and the east side (it is often referred to as the Center for Irvington). School #27 is a newer location and close to 19th and Central.
When you apply, the location is determined by your address (it is my understanding you can't specify a specific CFI). All of the info I have gathered is true for all 3 schools.
CFI follows the International Baccalaureate philosophy and curriculum are International Baccalaureate rated school (yes, that is true of #27 now too, as of last month). Also, #27 and #2 were awarded as 2014 Magnet School of Excellence. The CFI schools promote intercultural understanding and respect and teach Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, alternating semesters from kindergarten on. Classes are project based, student driven and emphasize inquiry.

The CFI schools offer daytime tours, every other Friday from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., future dates are:
October 24,
November 7 and 21,
December 5 and 12,
and after the application deadline on January 23, February 20, March 30 and April 17.

The CFI schools also offer Evening Information Meetings beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the following dates:
October 29,
November 13,
and December 11.

The Butler Lab

Another intriguing option is School #60, which is a magnet school affiliated with and supported by Butler University's College of Education. The Butler Lab follows the Reggio Emilia learning philosophy, which is an Italian teaching philosophy that is student centered and focuses on problem solving and creative arts. The Butler Lab is located at 34th and Pennsylvania Avenue, just north of downtown.

The Butler Lab offers daytime tours every other Wednesday at 9:30 am, future dates are October 22, November 5 and 19. and December 3 and 17th. (Yes, that is the exact same time as our next 5 MOPS meetings.*)
The Butler Lab is also hosting Open Houses at 5:30 pm the first Wednesday of the month, future dates are:
November 5
December 3
*I plan to skip the tours, and just go to an open house. If I like what I see (more than CFI which is our neighborhood school), then I will schedule time to observe a class (which I hear they are very good about doing) on a day that we don’t have MOPS.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are alternative schools. Contrary to popular belief, they are public and free. They just aren't part of IPS. While the schools don't have to follow the same standards as IPS, someone (generally the mayor) holds a charter for the school, which is it's own set of standards. The risk of a charter school is that the charter can be pulled, and the school closed, if the school doesn't meet academic standards, or stay fiscally sound. A couple of years ago several MOPS moms found themselves scrambling to find schools for their older kids when the popular Project School was closed just before the school year started. I am consequently leery of charter schools (though I will very likely send my daughter to Herron, across from Redeemer, in 10 years when it is time for high school.) But the benefit of charter schools is that they are free to offer different and exciting educational programs and philosophies.

Paramount Center for Excellence
Since we moved so close to a well-regarded magnet school, most of the charter schools I was considering fell off my radar. But not Paramount. I am too intrigued by what they have to offer to not at least visit, and it isn't that far, located on the near east side, by Brookside Park.
Paramount is a project-based school teaching Core Knowledge. They offer a Space/Science curriculum that includes access to an in-school Planetarium. Students learn Spanish starting in kindergarten. After school, students can participate in sports, the Green Team (gardening) and/or a Robotics club. The school has chickens, goats and a reportedly fantastic garden (my husband is excited because Purdue Extension is going to host a workshop there on October 23 to show off their high tunnel- I honestly don’t really know what that means- a fancy greenhouse, I think). They have Macs and iPads; they sound really cool. Even if we don't end up going there, I can't wait to visit.
Paramount offers school tours every Friday at 10 am. I believe the deadline to register is in March. (But I can’t find anything on the website or my brochures with a date.)

Private Schools

Everyone knows what a private school is, right? A school you pay for. Private schools aren't necessarily parochial (i.e. affiliated with a religious organization), but it seems all the options around here are. While we don't really want to pay for school (aren't tax dollars enough?) we do want to do our due diligence and examine all of our options. There are obviously some great private schools.

The Oaks Academy
By all accounts, the Oaks Academy is an awesome school- actually two schools, one in Fall Creek Place and one near Brookside Park. If you want more info, just mention the Oaks out loud at MOPS and someone will enthusiastically explain to you why the Oaks is so amazing. I know they focus on classical studies with a Christian focus, require strong parental involvement and offer scholarships to ensure socio-economic diversity. That impresses me. But, we won't qualify for assistance- and with two kids and two mortgagees and me trying to stay home a little longer, I am going to have a hard time convincing my husband to pay ~$9K a year (less for kindergarten, I believe). But I do plan to visit, just so we are aware of all of our options.
The deadline to apply is February 6, 2015.

The Oaks Academy has Parent Preview days from 8:30-11:30 am on the following dates:
October 22 (Brookside)
November 12  (Fall Creek)
January 21 (Brookside)
February 4 (Fall Creek)

The Oaks Academy will also host Open Houses from 4- 6pm on the following days:
January 21 (Brookside)
February 4 (Fall Creek)

If none of those dates work for you, just call and schedule a visit. The school asks that you RSVP for the Parent Preview days, but that isn’t necessary for the Open Houses.

St Richard's Episcopal School
Once upon a time, if you wanted your child to go to a good school downtown, this was your only option (or so I have been told). My sister in law went here for kindergarten; she is 48; times have changed. (Not that St. Richards isn’t a great school, I am sure it is awesome- there are just other options now.) But, part of me is thinking about dragging my husband here (calling his bluff, since I recall him telling his relatives our daughter would probably go there, back when she was still a baby), just so when he complains about how much the Oaks costs, I can remind him what expensive really is.
St Richards is located on 33rd street between Meridian and Pennsylvania (next door to the Butler Lab). If you are interested, call the school to schedule a visit.

So that is my research in a nutshell, an admittedly long rambling nutshell. Now I have to drag my husband to all these places. The fact that we live very close to one of the CFIs is a big draw.  A friend, who is happy with her daughter’s kindergarten at CFI, laughed when I said I planned to visit several schools to do my due diligence and said “Yeah, I said I was going to do that too.” So, I guess check back with me in January to see if I followed through.

May 15, 2014

Resources for Discussing Grief and Loss

As a follow-up to the March 2014 presentation by Dr. Carol Dickhaus about talking with children about grief and loss, here is a list of the books that Dr. Dickhaus provided as possible resources.

Books to read with your child:

Water Bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney
When Dinosaurs Die by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
Lifetimes:  The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie & Robert Ingpen
What is Death? by Etan Boritzer (this book offers descriptions of death through the lens of a variety of cultures and religions)
Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

*Dr. Dickhaus graciously donated a copy of each of these books to Redeemer's MOPS library.  If you would like to borrow one or more of these, please contact the current MOPS coordinator.  (Our MOPS library is a new gig, so we're still figuring out where the books will be located and how the borrowing process will look.)

Books to read for yourself:

Talking with Children About Loss by Maria Trozzi (covers various types of loss - death, divorce, disability, and others)
When Children Grieve by John James & Russell Friedman

Additional books:

I came across this list of books in Honey For a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt.  (Honey For a Child's Heart is a wonderful book with a variety of book lists categorized by age and topic, offering a wealth of suggested reading material for you and your child from infant through high school.  I often take this book along to the library to help me find new books and authors to share with my son.)

I selected the books indicated for younger children, although Gladys lists several books for older elementary children and young adults as well.  The descriptions accompanying each book are Gladys's.

Papa's Gift by Kathleen Bostrom, il. Guy Porfirio.
A beautiful story of the friendship of a grandfather and graddaughter and their adventures together.  When Papa dies, little Clara refuses to be comforted, until she remembers what he had told her and sees with new eyes.  The wonderful illustrations alone are comforting.  All ages.

Blow Me a Kiss, Miss Lilly by Nancy White Carlstrom, il Amy Schwartz
Sara's best friend is Miss Lilly, who is very old.  They blow kisses to each other right to the end.  Ages 4-10.

Everett Anderson's Goodbye by Lucille Clifton, il. Ann Grifalconi
A lovely book.  A poetic telling of Everett Anderson's feelings as he copes with grief and accepts his father's death.  The book takes you gently through the stages of grieving.  All ages.

The Goodbye Boat by Mary Joslin, il. Claire St. Louis Little
Saying goodbye when someone you love dies is perhaps the hardest thing of all.  This book provides a message of hope that sadness will ease and that death is not the end.  Ages 5-10.

Someday Heaven by Larry Libby, il.  Wayne McLoughlin
Thoughtful, comforting, Scripture-based answers to common questions children ask about heaven and what happens at death.  All ages.

A Little Bit of Rob by Barbara J. Turner, il. Marni Backer
Almost everything reminds the family of their brother Rob.  They miss him from the moment they step into the boat on their crabbing expedition.  A book about how memories help us in grieving.  Ages 5-10.

Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
All the woodland creatures mourn when old Badger dies.  A beautiful book about sharing memories in your loss.  All ages.

My Grandson Lew by Charlotte Zolotow, il. William Pene Du Bois
You may need to get this quiet and thoughtful book from the library.  All ages. 

April 8, 2014

When Breakfast Cereal Becomes Boring

Last November I came across this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, thought it would provide a pleasant alternative to our breakfast cereal routine, and rapidly came to appreciate the convenience it gives to my mornings on those days when we just want something other than cereal.

Further, it is easy to alter the ingredients to provide greater nutrition with increased fiber and protein compared to typical store-bought pancake mixes.

Give it a try!  I think you may agree.

Pancake Mix, makes 2 lb of mix
from More With Less Cookbook, (c) 1976

Combine in a large bowl:
6 c. flour
1 Tbsp. salt
6 Tbsp. baking powder (equal to 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp.)
6 T. sugar
2 c. powdered milk

Mix well and store in airtight container on cupboard shelf.

To use:
Combine in a bowl:
1 egg (beat w/ a fork)
1 c. water
2 Tbsp. melted fat or oil
1 1/2 c. pancake mix

Fry on a hot ungreased griddle.  (I preheat my skillet while mixing up the morning's pancake batter.)  Serves 3-4.

• I make half a recipe when I use the mix, and this serves myself and my two year old son well with one or two small pancakes leftover.  Of course, since you can't use only half an egg, I use a whole egg and simply reduce the amount of water I add by a small amount.
• Throw into the batter a handful or two of dried cherries and/or cranberries to add some sweetness.  Your kids might still ask for syrup, but you won't need any with these in the mix.
• Add about 1/2 c. cooked pumpkin puree + 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to make "pumpkin pie pancakes" (as my son calls them); taste good, but tricky to cook as they tend to brown before the centers are completely done to my liking; probably would help if I increased the water a bit to thin the batter - the pumpkin makes it thicker
• Replace one third white flour (2 c.) with buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, or rye flour and cornmeal.
• Replace one sixth of the flour (1 c.) with soy flour (increases protein content)
• Add 1 c. wheat germ to the recipe

Here is the flour variation that I've used thus far:
2 c. white flour
2 c. wheat flour
1 c. soy flour
1 c. multigrain cereal

(plus the salt, baking powder, sugar, and powdered milk - as indicated in the recipe)

Kids Stuff Sale

Kids Stuff Sale at Church of the Crossing
(Hosted by MOPS at Church of the Crossing)
April 26, 8 am-noon
See flyer for more information
Kids Stuff Sale Flyer

February 26, 2014

Indy Ex-Pat: Realities of Moving- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Beth Williamson

We moved from Indianapolis to Raleigh, NC, six months ago, and it has been an interesting and mostly positive journey for our family. From my perspective, here are the benefits and drawbacks of making a major move.

The Good
Change is refreshing.
We moved from an urban area to a suburban area, which is not something we ever thought we wanted, but we love it. Our neighborhood has large wooded lots, creeks, lakes, a playground, a pool, and wildlife. It's so peaceful here, and it's a great place for the kids to grow up. The kids responded well to moving and seemed to view it as a fun adventure. It even sparked a new interest in geography for our four-year-old son.

No more IPS worries.
Our IPS boundary school was one of the worst in the district, and trying to get our son into a magnet, charter, or private school that could provide the right environment and special needs services was stressful. Here, he qualified for more special education services than he did in Indianapolis, and we are really seeing the payoff with improved social skills and better behavior. He is going to begin kindergarten this summer at our neighborhood school, which is one of the best in the district, and he is expected to require minimal special education services. This is truly an answer to our prayers.

The weather.
Yes, I'm rubbing it in. We were still swimming in October, and I have rarely needed a heavy coat this winter. We have actually had a pretty bad winter by North Carolina standards, but it's still better than a normal Indiana winter. We're very thankful that we got to miss the 2013-2014 Indiana winter in particular. Just don't ask me how I feel about the weather when I'm sweltering in July.

The Bad
Being far from family.
Both sets of grandparents are in central Indiana, and they really miss the kids. We will probably see them four times per year, but we still feel guilty for moving their grandchildren so far away. We were also accustomed to having the grandparents available to babysit, and it has been difficult not having them nearby. I actually don't mind paying for a sitter because they actually follow instructions instead of spoiling the kids rotten. However, it's hard for me to go to the doctor or dentist, and date nights are rare. It's also hard to not have any support when I'm ill or Andy is traveling for work. I keep telling myself it will get easier as the children get older.

Getting connected is hard.
We underestimated just how many churches here would be Southern Baptist, which we are not. Although there are a few denominations we're willing to consider, this has limited our choices, and we have yet to find a church the whole family likes. I thought I would join a new MOPS group, too, but I will have to wait until next year because the meetings conflict with our son's current school schedule. It's also hard to get to know neighbors during the winter months, especially since our houses aren't very close together. We don't feel like we've failed, though, because we haven't made much of an effort to get connected. We expect to meet more neighbors as the weather improves and the pool opens, and I'm joining the neighborhood book club to meet some new people now.

The Ugly
House-hunting with kids is the absolute worst. Our daughter fell down a flight of stairs and absolutely refused to be held. Our son used the bathroom in a house where the water was turned off, wrote on the walls of another house with lipstick, and threw two of the most epic fits I've ever seen while we were driving home from house-hunting, complete with hurling toys at our heads. Of course, that really has been the only really awful part about making a major move, and we were still able to find a house fairly quickly.

Overall, I think it's worth it to make a major change every once in a while, especially if, like us, you feel that God is leading you to make that change. We feel like there is so much to look forward to in our new home, and we can't wait to see what the future brings.