30 May 2016

Lessons Learned from Godly Play: The Flood and the Ark

It's been a while since I've written about Godly Play. We had a bit of a hiatus while figuring out what the best time for it was, and have now switched to holding it during the readings and the sermon, once a month for now. We did a Lenten one, and then with all the busy-ness that surrounds the Easter and Pentecost seasons, we only just managed to schedule one for this last Sunday.

Our congregation's resident woodworker had built the ark and the animals for the story of Noah, so that's the one we went with. I picked up the brown felt underlay from the craft store and made a pair of people and a basket for the dove out of clay and grabbed a few rocks for the altar bit at the end. Then I read through the story the night before, and when I woke up, unable to go back to sleep, at 5:30 on Sunday, I settled down with a mug of coffee to practice the story alone and in peace without E. "helping" me with it.

The practice meant I was able to manage the story without checking the script once, which I was really happy about. The Epiphany and Lenten ones were harder to remember so I kept the script on hand as needed, which technically I'm not supposed to do. I was more than a bit wired from two mugs of coffee and a dose of cold medicine so I could talk around my sore throat, but it went well. Other than E. and one of the other young kids grabbing a few animals to play with during and then E. losing it when I got to the bit where you hold the ark up over your head to show it "floating" on the water. Apparently it needed to be on the floor. The older kids there were tolerant of it, though, so it was fine. And they liked the story. The oldest liked the bit about God wiping out everything and starting over, though, which got me thinking.

One of the things I have loved about Godly Play so far is that many of the stories offer a fresh perspective on the Bible and encourage the kids to engage with the story and think critically about it. "The Flood and the Ark" has the critical thinking questions at the end, but the story is mostly as it is, without embellishments or new ways of looking at it. There really isn't much of an alternative perspective on the flood myth in Genesis. It's the way we explain natural disasters - the people who died must have done something bad to make the gods punish them like that, right?

I didn't come out of the experience with a newfound appreciation for Noah and the ark, like I did with the Creation story. I suppose I was disappointed - Godly Play has mostly been a deeply positive experience for me and to feel unable to really like the story I was telling was frustrating. I came out of the experience with the reaction, "What the hell kind of god just decides to scrap it all and start over, like the thinking people he created are just toys?" The people doing "wicked things" in the story don't really seem like people at all - they're just there to be destroyed.

And I know it's a myth, probably born out of stories of a massive local flood that forced the relocation of many people. But myths are one of our ways of describing who we are, what our values are, and how we should live, as well as ways to explain the world we inhabit. I have a difficult time finding something to take away from the story of the flood, other than that I need to remember to be compassionate towards those who experience tragedy, because it's not about angry gods punishing them. It simply is, and that shouldn't stop me from acting to help.

music education


 Recently, I decided to try to get E. listening to more music, in an effort to help her improve her speech. So I pulled up some children's music on YouTube and tried listening to it with her. After a few songs, I went back to the computer and switched to a channel of Broadway songs. Much better. But it got me thinking.

I was a 90's kid, but I know next to nothing about the music of 80's and 90's. My family listened to NPR and to a collection of records, tapes, and CDs that, while diverse, skewed heavily towards classical, folk, and Broadway music. I could blame my lack of knowledge about pop music on my parents (Mom always said she needed to give me something to talk to my therapist about), but that's not really fair. They love music and listen to a lot of different things, but they also have well-formed opinions about what they want to listen to, and well, a lot of pop stuff isn't really on that list. We did listen to a number of Christian artists, but all of them were more musically interesting than a lot of the popular worship songs today seem to be (at least as far as I remember; I've been in the Anglican world of hymns for the last couple years and completely out of touch with what's in with the rest of the North American church right now).

I was content to listen to what we had available at home for a long time and didn't start seeking other genres out until I was nearly out of high school, and even then I limited myself mostly to Christian pop music because that's what a lot of my friends listened to and I wanted to know what they were talking about. And it seemed safer; like I was exploring something that was off-limits but wouldn't actually get me in trouble. My teenage rebellion was very reserved in that way (my really big rebellion was going to a play audition without permission and then I felt horrible about it and cried for hours).

These days I'm thinking about how I knew most of the words to all the songs in The Secret Garden and Les Miserables but had only the faintest idea of who Madonna was. Angsty teenage me wasn't listening to Ani diFranco but to Simon and Garfunkel. I was busy memorizing lyrics to traditional British folk songs while some kids I went to school with were starting a metal band. Picking up a few CDs of Christian rock music when I was about sixteen seemed edgy in a weird way. It wasn't what my family listened to, and Avalon and the Newsboys were out of place in my collection that included the cast recordings of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked and the second CD by Nickel Creek. I was still the geeky teenager blasting PDQ Bach's "1712 Overture" out the windows as I drove to community college. But I listened to my new music religiously (hah) and sang along when I was alone in the car and then when I went off to university, I got another music education from my peers.

My roommate introduced me to a few other Christian bands whose music I still actually enjoy sometimes and my boyfriend made me listen to The Arrogant Worms. I listened to more Celtic music and cemented my love of it and then borrowed my brother's Celtic CDs whenever I was home from school. I got more daring in the music I listened to - I learned that I really did enjoy rock music and sometimes found it excellent for studying. Another friend was playing Regina Spektor once and I found myself hunting through the CD section at the store for one of her albums.

Later my knowledge of music broadened as I listened to podcasts and then more as I watched the first seasons of Glee and got my first real exposure to pop music. I swear, I don't think I'd ever really heard any of Brittany Spear's music until the episode featuring her songs. I admittedly don't like all pop music but I do enjoy some of what's out there. I sometimes pick up other songs that I like from music used on television shows that I enjoy. I found a couple of artists I really enjoyed from watching Castle, for example.

These days, our go-to car music is CBC Radio 2. E. is growing up listening to the variety of music they have on offer there, paired with whatever my current obsession is. Last winter it was most of the songs in Rent. Right now it's a mix of folk and indie music, and occasionally Broadway songs and a lot of Great Big Sea. I'm sprinkling in some children's music, too, just so she has stuff with vocabulary that she can follow more easily. There was a mix of children's music I picked up at the library recently that's performed by a variety of different artists and I liked most of that.

The appreciation of music I gained from my parents' choices in music has made me want to impart that to my own child. My parents didn't censor our music - I learned about prostitution and suicide from Les Mis and adultery from Into the Woods, and realized after a while that one of the really lovely songs from Once on This Island was basically about the main characters having sex with each other (also learned quite a bit about racism from that musical). Our family typically didn't listen to things with profanity in them (other than Paul Simon's The Capeman but my mom usually skipped the songs with swear words or very explicit lyrics in them when we kids were in the room), but otherwise didn't fuss so much about the content of the songs. I don't object to the occasional swear word, so there are a few songs that I will listen to around my child that other parents would probably skip over (though there are some that I still object to, like Book of Mormon's "Hasa Diga Eebawai" because holy profanity, Batman! That one goes way too far for me - there's judicious, thoughtful use of profanity and then there's that).

I'm still searching out more children's music that we can all enjoy. I can listen to Raffi and Fred Penner without the songs driving me nuts, but there's a lot of really mediocre children's music out there. To be fair, there's just a lot of mediocre music out there in general. If that means we're listening to Candide instead of whatever's in for E.'s generation, well, she can always catch up later, like I did. And then she can complain about how we deprived her of the music her peers liked to her therapist when she grows up.

10 May 2016

family bugs and a guest post

Life's been a bit miserable over here at Epenthetical House over the last while. We all got some kind of stomach bug. E. had the mild version, but J. and I got the horrible kind. On Sunday night, we took turns in the bathroom and spent a while lying in bed trying to sleep between times with the puke bucket. Then we spent Monday watching cartoons with E. in a daze while being grateful that we could at least keep water down by that point.

Today's been a bit better, but a trip to return books to the library kind of exhausted me and J. was still a bit too sick to go back to work. So there were more cartoons, and I kind of let E. eat bananas her own way, which involves taking a few bites out of one then demanding a second one (as Ramona says, "The first bite tastes the best!"), because I was too tired to argue with her. Tomorrow's plan, if I'm still on the mend, involves taking her to the library for storytime and then to the park for a few hours. She needs outdoor time, and so do I.

On a happier note, I have a guest post up over at Unfundamentalist Parenting. It's about my struggles with the Bible and its many stories and sources and how I handle talking to my child about that. It's going to come up, given that we are practicing Anglicans. I'm still sorting, so we'll see where it goes from what I've expressed in this essay. Check it out if you're interested!

Now I'm off to drink some more water and then convince my child that it's bedtime. Good night!