Martin and Theo celebrated Francis’s second birthday with an afternoon outing to fav spot Batsto Lake.
Photos: Francis laughs by the lake, Theo making ripples, group shot, video speech.
More back blogging from our Ohio trip, this photo from a vegan eatery a few miles off a rural Pennsylvania turnpike exit. Prices were steep and the homemade non-dairy ice cream servings small but we ate everything from our plates.
Photo: A new publication of the Neo Post Convergent Diaper Set. An irony I have to point out is that I’ve agreed to have the boys raised Catholic, the faith to which Julie returned after eleven years with Friends. Can I help it if the kids look so dern photogenic in front of Quaker meetinghouses? Enlarged photo.
The Times has a fascinating article on the rise of recalls on Chinese-made toys over the last few years. Two of our kid’s “Thomas and Friends” wooden trains are part of the latest recall because of lead paint. We’ve long preferred the metal Thomas trains since 21-month old Francis chews on the wooden ones and gnaws their paint off.
We learned about the lead painted Thomas’s on the same day that our family doctor told us that it was officially time to become concerned with Francis’s slow speech development. When Theo was just a little older than Francis is now we put together a dictionary of his vocabulary. Francis makes cute sounds and seems bright and curious but he’s not even gotten out a consistent mama or papa and we haven’t been able to figure out a meaning for his most common word (Aye – YEASH). He’s got an appointment six months from now with specialists at Wilmington’s Nemours (that’s how backed up they are!).
We’re not blaming the trains — the lead ones we had were relatively unpopular and have few signs of wear. And we’re not panicking. My mother brushes off all concern with the assured declaration that kids learn to talk at lots of different ages. She could certainly be right of course: our doctor sent us to Nemours for Theo with the worry that he had a big head. If Francis does turn out to be a little “slow,” well then we’ll just take that as another lesson plan God has for us.
In the What a Difference a Year Makes (or Doesn’t) Department:
Julie took the kids out to South Jersey’s fabled Storybookland last week.The funniest discovery were the pictures that matched those from Theo’s class trip last year.
We all went together on a family trip this weekend to reacquaint ourselves with one another: our schedules haven’t been syncing well lately. Julie picked a “farm B&B”:http://www.thegreenacresfarm.com/ out in Lancaster County full of chickens and goats and an easy commute to Strasburg PA, a good place for those who like to look at “trains”:http://www.rrmuseumpa.org/, “trains”:http://www.strasburgrailroad.com/ and “trains”:http://www.nttmuseum.org/, then drool over “trains”:http://www.etrainshop.com/, “trains”:http://www.ttstation.com/, “trains”:https://www.rrmuseumpa.org/cgi/Whistle_Stop_Shop/rrmuseumpa-store.cgi and “trains”:http://www.strasburgrailroadstore.com/ (we haven’t seen “trains”:http://www.redcaboosemotel.com/ or “trains”:http://www.choochoobarn.com/ up close yet). Pictures from around the B&B “are here”:http://flickr.com/photos/martin_kelley/tags/mountjoy/; strangely we forgot the cameras on our steam-powered outings so you’ll have to “look at old pics”:http://flickr.com/search/?q=strasburg&w=84169004%40N00. Here’s a shot of the kids on top of the playhouse barn’s slide:
!>http://aycu07.webshots.com/image/16606/2001600235028037539_rs.jpg! A possible addition to my page of “odd search phrases”:http://www.quakerranter.org/its_light_that_makes_me_uncomfortable_and_other_googlisms.php that bring people to my site is this one from early this afternoon:
“Why Men Shouldn’t be Allowed to Buy Clothes for Children”:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Why%20Men%20Shouldn%27t%20be%20Allowed%20to%20Buy%20Clothes%20for%20Children&btnG=Search
There’s QuakerRanter.org at number eleven. Oh the shame of it! I’m going to run to W*LM*RT right now, well I would if only I kind of knew the kid’s sizes, ummm… I could call Julie at work and ask her I guess…
As promised the other day, “Francis”:/francis singing the Elmo song:
My wife has now finished the first trimester of her pregnancy so we can let people know that our little Theo’s going to be a big brother this fall. That means it’s time to think of baby names.
Most new parents want to give their child unique names and want to steer clear of the most over-used names. Yet if you tell your friends you’re naming your boy Jacob or Joshua, they’ll all cheer you on. If your little girl goes by Emily, Emma or Madison, they’ll think that’s darling. Yet those are the top three boy and girl names for 2003.
They are tens of thousands of kids getting these top names every year. All of the kids with these names are going to be getting nicknames to differentiate them from one another: just hope your little angel isn’t the one that gets tagged “The Ugly Emily” or “The Stupid Joshua” by their third grade classmates!
There are definite trends in names. Certain names tend to sound fresh and daring even when they’re overused and trite. The only way to train your ear away from such trends is to methodically study the data (the New York Times had a fasincating article on all this when we were pondering Theo’s name, Where Have All the Lisas Gone?).
Fortunately the U.S. Social Security Administration provides a list of the most popular baby names by year, going back to the turn of the twentieth century. Using this, my wife and I were able to choose “Theodore” for our first child’s name; born in 2003, he name is the 313th most popular boy’s name and dropping. Yet it’s a known name and there have been great twentieth century folks who have answered to it (e.g., Dr. Suess, Theodore Geisel).
How is a parent to choose? One recent afternoon I cut and pasted the top fifty boy and girl names of the first decade of the Twentieth Century. I looked up their current status (the 2003 data) to see what movement has occured in their placement. The old names are still known but some have fallen far out of use. Herbert, for example, was the 32nd most popular boy’s name in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, but now ranks a dismal 930! If you want a name everyone knows but no one is giving their kid, Herbert’s your choice for boy’s and Edna’s your choice for girls.
Now these fallen names probably sound awkward. But that’s the point: they run counter to the trends. I’ll admit that some deserve their reduced status; I cannot imagine saddling a little girl with “Edna.” But in the list are some gems which have been unduly demoted by the trend-setters.
We’ve been very happy with “Theodore,” the 26th most fallen name of the Twentieth Century. He’s officially named after his great-great uncle. The social security datebase assured us that the name was safe from trendiness.
So what will the new baby be named? Check in soon!! The due date is the end of August.
Update: drumroll please.… Our new son’s name is Francis! And further follow-up brought us Gregory and Laura. We’re officially out of the baby-making game now but if we were looking for more, Walt and Dorothy would be our next picks of classic-but-uncommon names.
I guess folks might wonder why the son of the Quaker Ranter is getting baptized in a Roman Catholic church…
[box]An updated note before I start: I don’t want this to be seen as a critique or put-down of any particular individuals but to point out what seems to me to be a pretty obvious larger dynamic within Quakerism: our religious education programs have not been doing a very good job at transmitting our faith to our young people. One measure of such programs is how many children we retain as actively-participating adults; by such measures I think we can say Quakers are failing.
And, a few perhaps obvious disclaimers: 1) there are deeply faithful people who grew up in Young Friends programs; 2) there are religious ed instructors who are worried about the message we’re giving our young people and fret as I do; 3) there are a lot of members of the RSoF who just don’t think teaching distinctly Quaker faithfulness is important and wouldn’t agree that there’s a problem.
I don’t think it’s useful to read this without also looking to my early article, The Lost Quaker Generation, which mourns the friends I’ve seen drop out of Quakerism (many of them “birthright,” i.e., born into Quaker families), and We’re all Ranters Now, which argues that our society of seekers needs to become a society of finders if we are to be able to articulate a faith to transmit.
On June 30, 2000, Julie and I met at a national gathering of Quakers. Fourteen months later we were married at the Woodstown Friends Meetinghouse under the care of the Atlantic City Area Friends Meeting. Roughly fourteen months later, when the sparkles in our eyes were meeting with an approving nod from God and our baby was conceived, I was co-clerk of Atlantic City Area Meeting and Julie was clerk of its Outreach Committee. Ten months later, our infant son Theo was baptized at Mater Ecclesiae Roman Catholic Church in Berlin, N.J. It’s Julie’s new church; I myself remain Quaker, but without a Meeting I can quite call home. What happened?
I don’t want to try to speak for Julie and why she left Friends to return to the faith she was brought up in. But I do have to testify that the reverence, spirit and authenticity of the worship at Mater Ecclesiae is deeper than that in most Friends Meetinghouses. It’s a church with a lot of members who seem to believe in the real presence of Christ. A disclaimer that Mater Ecclesiae is unusual, one of the few churches in the country that uses the traditional Tridentine Mass or Roman Rite, and that it attracts ardent followers who have self-selected themselves, in that they’re not going to their local parish church. I don’t think it’s the Catholicism alone that draws Julie – I think the purposefulness of the worshipers is a large piece. Despite all the distractions (chants, Latin, rote confessions of faith: I’m speaking as a Friend), the worship there is unusually gathered. But more: there’s a groundedness to the faith. In a one-on-one conversation the priest explained to me the ways he thought Quakerism was wrong. I wasn’t offended – quite the contrary, I loved it! It was so refreshing to meet someone who believed what he believed, (Hey, if I didn’t believe in the degeneration of the Roman Catholic Church or the empty professions of hireling priests, I might join him. I also feel comfortable predicting that he would welcome my jousting here.)
What I can talk about is my misgivings about the prospect of raising up Theo as a Quaker in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The weakest element of the Religious Society of Friends is its children’s religious education. This is something I’ve seen manifested in two different kinds of ways: content and results.
Quakers have remarkably few expectations of their children. It’s considered remarkable if older children spend a whole ten minutes in Meeting for Worship (I’ve heard adult birthright Friends boast that they’ve never sat through a whole hour of Quaker worship). Quakers are obsessed about listening to what children have to say, and so never share with them what they believe. I’ve known adults birthright Friends who have never had conversations with their parents about the basis of their faith.
Quaker religious education programs often forgo teaching traditional Quaker faith and practice for more faddish beliefs. The basement walls of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting youth center is painted over with dancing gods, while of the big events of the Young Friends’ annual calendar is a “Quaker sweat lodge”. A culture of touch and physicality (“cuddle puddles”, backrubs) is thought charming and immodest dress is considered a sign of rebellious individuality. Quaker schools publish brochures saying Meeting for Worship is all about “thinking, with God given little notice.” When Quakers want to have “intergenerational” worship, they feel they have to program it with some sort of attention-keeping playtime activity (Mater Ecclesiae echoes Quaker tradition here: “intergenerational” means children sitting through and participating in Mass with the adults).
Too many of the people my age and Julie’s who were brought up at Friends are ignorant of basic Quaker beliefs and are unaware of Quaker traditions (FUM, EFI, Conservatives) outside the easy-going East Coast liberalism they were raised in. For them being a Friend is acting a certain way, believing a certain brand of political philosophy and being part of a certain social group. Too many Young Adult Friends I’ve known over the years are cliquish, irreligious, and have more than their share of issues around intimacy and sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong: these kids are often really good people, children to be proud of, doing great things in the world. Many of them are open-hearted, spiritually-sensitive, and in deeply grounded relationships. But only a very few are practicing Quakers. And when I look at the religious education they get, I can’t say I’m surprised. If I were to raise Theo as a Quaker, I would have to “home school” him away from most of the religious education programs offered locally. When all the kids scramble out of worship after ten minutes I’d have to say “no” and tell him to keep sitting – how weird would that be?
Theo has a better chance of sharing the traditional Quaker values of the presence of Christ, of Holy Obedience, and of bearing the cross by being raised as a Catholic in a traditionalist church. It’s more likely he’ll turn out Quaker if he’s baptised at Mater Ecclesiae. Julie and I will be teaching him reverence by example. I’ll share my Quaker faith with him. I’m sure he’ll participate in Quaker events, but consciously, selectively, guardedly (in the old Quaker sense).
If Friends believe they have a faith worth holdling, they should also believe they have a faith worth passing on. Do we?