Sunday Firsts

Yesterday was Zinger’s first day in nursery at church. Since our ward meets at 11:00 AM, our strategy was to get Z to sit long enough for us to take the sacrament, take her for a ride so that she can nap for about half an hour, then bring her back in time for nursery.

We were able to get her to sit for the first 25 minutes of sacrament meeting. She wanted to walk around and play in the chapel, but we held her close and whispered to her how important it was to sit still. As soon as the bishop dismissed the priesthood after administering the sacrament, Reilly took Z on a ride while I listened to people bear their testimonies. I may have also briefly scrolled through Facebook and read comments in a Salt Lake Tribune article about black women in the Church.

When sacrament meeting ended, I walked out of the chapel and found my family. I asked Reilly if Z got a nap. He said no. I was nervous. We walked our daughter to the nursery room. We let her walk around, and there were a couple of times she tried leaving the room. Once the tables were set up the nursery workers put out some books and puzzles, and Z began to play. She also saw some blocks and played with those as well.

The nursery leaders asked for her name. We told them Z was tired and wasn’t really used to other children yet. They assured us they were good at getting the babies to calm down in case of tantrums.

Before we left her, we decided to change her diaper so that the next two hours for her wouldn’t be interrupted. So I took her to the mothers’ room and changed her. Reilly and I took her back to the nursery room. We opened the door, we said goodbye, and there were no tears.

Suddenly, we were free.

Reilly and I headed to Gospel Principles class. We sat down in the middle of a story the teacher was telling. One of the first things we heard the teacher say was, “And [this guy], he was homosexual.” Then she wrote on the board: [guy’s name] – homosexul [sic]. Then she continued telling the story, which offered a few more highlights:

  • “Many of their kids were homosexual. I don’t know if it’s hereditary or what.”
  • “And [another guy] was 70 years old, and he’s still homosexual.”

The teacher kept making eye contact with me, so I didn’t want to give even the remotest sideways glance to Reilly to express how weird I thought the lesson was.

But then came a story that had some context:

  • “My son came to me and said, ‘I have to thank you for something, but I’m not sure it was even you. My brothers were always beating me up. I was always on the bottom of a pile. But there were times I felt someone lifting me up above the pile, and I could see my brothers below me, and the next thing I knew, I was at the table and there were milk and cookies. I want to thank you for that.’”

My impression was that the lesson was about families, but we missed the first ten minutes, and with 20 minutes left in the class, someone came in and asked us to be substitute Primary teachers. So we walked out of our Sunday School class, being somewhat amused but not knowing for sure what we were being taught.

We found out that we were teaching the CTR4 class, which consisted of three boys. They were rowdy, as boys between 4 and 6 years of age typically are. Between Reilly and me, our combined powers of persuasion made classroom management pretty easy. (If other parents saw us, they probably would have disagreed.) We had a short lesson about missionaries. We colored pictures of children holding Books of Mormon. One boy looked at the other boys’ coloring jobs and said, “Dude, that’s scribbling.” We folded these pictures into paper airplanes, and Reilly refereed the races. We also played football because that’s always an appropriate Sunday indoor activity. I interrupted their fun to remind them if their moms ask what they learned in class to say they learned about being missionaries. Wishful thinking, I know; I should expect them to tell their moms that they played with paper airplanes and threw a football in class. The final activity was drawing on the chalkboard, which surprised me with how long they kept quiet. We ended the class with a prayer. While one boy was giving the closing prayer, another boy was talking. To whom, to what, I don’t know.

I tidied up the classroom while Reilly picked up Z from nursery. I asked how she did, and Reilly said that when he opened the door, one of her shoes was off. One of the nursery leaders was blowing bubbles, and Z was trying to catch them. I imagined her reaching above her head, trying to grab those clear, drifting orbs. I smiled.

It seems Z had a great first day at nursery, with nary a tear. She also didn’t nap the entire day. (Reilly and I each took two naps.) And she cried for about a minute when she had to go to bed.

It was an eventful day for all of us. If today’s gospel principles lesson was about families, then maybe we could take our day and talk about how our respective experiences have brought us closer together, either because they were fun (stacking blocks and catching bubbles) or slightly chaotic (teaching small boys) or didn’t make very much sense (listening to bizarre stories in Sunday School). I don’t think there will ever be another Sunday like this one. I really liked it.

On Parenting and Villages

Today in Sunday School the little one was fussing a little, realizing she’d have to sit through yet another not-fun hour of church. I whispered to her that she was going to be okay, but she disagreed, as babies sometimes do.

Before she got too loud, a woman sitting behind me reached her arms out to Zinger and whispered, “Do you want to come to me?” I handed the baby to the woman, a new face with fun curly hair, big buttons on her collar, and a cool jangly bracelet. She’s been in the ward a long time and definitely one of the sisters I admire. I haven’t spoken to her very much in the past few years, but I’m glad she offered to hold the baby.

The woman played patty cake and chatted with Zinger while I got stuff ready for changing a diaper. I also took advantage of my free lap and a few quiet moments to actually pay attention to the Sunday School lesson. After a few minutes, I turned around and waited for Zinger to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she was ready, then I took her out to change her diaper.

Then Zinger and I roamed the halls for a while. Lately when she sees vast spaces to cross and long corridors to hike, she gets excited. When about 10 minutes were left in Sunday School, we returned to the classroom. I set her down on the floor with a toy and a book, but she wanted to keep walking. She headed toward another sister sitting two seats away. This woman picked her up and smiled and cooed at and nuzzled her. During the closing prayer, she made the baby laugh.

What a cool ward I live in.

A few months ago I read this blog post about assessing a situation and intervening when children are left unattended. The writer makes a good point about not judging the parents because we don’t always know everyone’s story, but if children are endangering themselves, then no one should watch and wait for them to get hurt.

I’m always worried about my child. My first attempt at parenthood is riddled with anxiety about being too cautious and not being helicoptery enough. Zinger began walking before she turned nine months old. In the past three weeks she’s progressed in her balance and speed. Part of that is not because I haven’t let her fall. Falling is a huge part of learning, but I or her father has been there when it happens. Falling is why she’s so strong. When she does fall, I talk to her about it. Sometimes she needs help standing up again, but more often than not, she can get up all by herself. I talk to her about that, too.

I try to talk to Zinger about many things. A lot of it is fun stuff, but some of it is serious, too. Kids are smart; kids are perceptive. I cannot assume that my child cannot pick up on what’s going on in the world around her. If there’s an opportunity to teach her about what she observes, I will take it. I will help her develop emotional intelligence. If anything, that will prepare me to discuss important lessons when she gets older. I have never imagined myself in a spontaneous, magical teaching moment like on cheesy family sitcoms. When Zinger asks me big questions, I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with her.

She’s my first child. I’m surprised my blood pressure isn’t a lot higher with the anxiety I have. It’s hard for me not to imagine the worst-case scenario for every situation. After watching this video, someone asked if the bookshelves are secure:

I know the person meant well, but the question implies that we haven’t thought about the shelves. It implies that I haven’t imagined an earthquake and the shelves tipping, or the shelves even tipping by themselves. It implies that we leave the baby alone with the books. It implies that we don’t keep the bedroom door closed so that she doesn’t wander in and pull a pile of books on top of her.

It implies that we are negligent parents. I felt judged, and that really hurts my feelings.

I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m grateful for the village that has come together — inside and outside family — for Zinger’s sake. I just wonder what more I have to do be respected as a parent.

Sacrament Meeting Today

A lot goes on in a sacrament meeting in my ward. Babies cry and parents take them out of the room to calm them down. Toddlers toddle in the aisles or between pews. People play games with their smart phone. There are always a lot of announcements and someone is always in the hospital or had a baby or received a mission call. We sustain and release people to and from callings. With everything that happens, we can certainly appreciate the quiet moments during the meeting.

Today, people used the 70-minute block to bear their testimonies of the gospel. We do this every first Sunday of each month. The same things that happen every week in the congregation also happened today. Two rows in front of us, a dad took his fussy son out. I exchanged smiles with a flirty baby while watching a little boy waddle up to the podium to join his father. I caught glimpses of few people sending texts or playing games on phones and tablets.

Everything amused me and at the same time edified me. But in a distracted way. However, I also tried to focus on the meeting. I brought my French hymnbook to church and compared French hymns to their English counterparts. In an effort to learn the names of people in the ward, I wrote down the names of people who bore their testimony. The only people whose names I didn’t know were visitors. I was grateful to be making some progress.

The testimonies themselves were quite impressive. They were heartfelt and inspired. One in particular struck me in a way the others didn’t. The bishopric reminds the congregation that you can come up and bear your testimony as long as you can do it by yourself. Because of this, not many children have born their testimony, at least as long as Reilly and I have been in the ward.

A little girl and her visiting cousin came up to the stand. The cousin bore her testimony first, then the little girl. The little girl had just gotten baptized yesterday, and she expressed her feelings with such confidence and calmness. It occurred to me how virtually sinless she was, and her simple and powerful testimony heightened the spirit in the room. A palpable sweetness swelled and touched my distracted little heart, and tears flowed instantly from my eyes.

Even though this girl wasn’t the first to bear her testimony today, I’m grateful that she set the tone for my Sunday experience. I’m grateful for her example and especially her parents who strive constantly to give happiness to their family.

I hope to have this kind of influence someday.

A Scene

The husband had medium-long hair on top, blond, slicked back and resembling a porcupine.

The wife had her long blond hair up in a bun before, but now it slinked over her shoulders.

His arm was wrapped around her, his hand resting on her far shoulder.

Every few seconds he would lean in and kiss her cheek, her neck. Little pecks. If you were close enough, you could hear them.

Her hand moved in small circles on his thigh. Drifting circles. Sliding northward into notoriously dangerous territory.

Obvious signals, mutual fondness, even love. She was already carrying their child in her womb, but that is not why they didn’t take their affection further. Why the restraint when they wanted to do so much more?

He raised his hand.  In response to an earlier comment he asked, “Do you think a man has ever killed his wife while she did the dishes?”

The class backed far, far away from that one.

Yet, he kept nuzzling her neck. She kept massaging his thigh.

Sunday School was extra special this week.

Into the Woods, It Wouldn’t Stop Raining

Even for Amy Adams and Glenn Close. OR Reilly’s birthday. But probably because it was a Sunday, and we had already ridden bikes down and up the Hudson River greenway and had lunch at Piper’s Kilt with my friend Adam. Which, Adam is close enough to Amy Adams, who is definitely a grand human talisman for good fortune. But at least we walked into the church after the bikeride, and we even had a good conversation with some friends in the foyer. The man I’ve known for four years now; his wife I met for the first time, which is different than the first time he met her, which was after he proposed to her. That’s a good story. Anyway, we should have known from the clouds it was going to rain. But it’s hard to know for sure what clouds mean anymore. I just knew the clouds kept our ride cool and shaded. No blinky brightness. Except that Reilly looks squinty in these pictures. Oh, well.

I mean, the air was humid that evening, and we were standing in line, waiting for the doors to open so that we could take our seats. It was already sprinkling once we sat down. I put a plastic bag over my head, and Reilly had his hat on. We eavesdropped on chatter about the forecast guessing that the rain would end by 8:30, which would only have delayed the show 30 minutes. We could wait that long. Plus, the nice people sitting behind us held their golf umbrella over us.

The stage lights shone on the set that looked like a giant tree house, but some of the set was on the ground and more spread out than Swiss Family Robinson, and still parts of it reached at least twenty feet into the air. The whole thing looked slippery. We talked about whether Amy Adams would risk slipping on an upper floor. We wondered about Glenn Close. We didn’t even know that she wasn’t really in the play, but her voice was featured as the Giant’s.

The stage lights shone through sloppy-yet-sleeting drops of rain, which wasn’t letting up. Sort of, but not. One of the ushers who said the time was 8:15 also said he would have already “called it.” This same usher saw a camera flash go off near and he bounded up the stairs to the source of the crime and asked the camera’s owner to delete any pictures that were taken because no photography whatsoever is not allowed in Delacorte Theater so he’ll have to check the camera to make sure the pictures were deleted, thanks kindly. Ushers wore ponchos. Some spectators wore ponchos, but some held umbrellas. We still hoped for a Sunday miracle, in that we weren’t at all prepared for rain, but it seemed we weren’t getting anything even close. Not even Glenn.

Finally at 8:30, they declared the show rained out. We walked westward in the 70s to Broadway and then south toward Columbus Circle. We thought about getting Reilly a McDonald’s ice cream cone or something similar for his birthday, but since Amy Adams the harbinger of good fortune did not appear, the McDonald’s ice cream machine was broken. Undeterred in our mission to find a dry place to have hot chocolate and some birthday dessert, we found a little cafe where we both had hot chocolate, I had a big chocolate chip cookie, and Reilly had a slice of of chocolate cake.

At least it was a summer rain, and by the time we left the cute little dessert place, it was only sprinkling, which we were grateful for. Mostly dry, and high on chocolate onReilly’s birthday, we walked the rest of the way to Columbus Circle.

We did get our tickets switched for Tuesday night, though. Which somehow meant clear skies and perfect weather. Even though the wolf/Cinderella’s prince is a total perv (as the original tale of Red Riding Hood suggests), Glenn Close meets her death as a vengeful giant and Amy Adams died leaving her baker husband alone, all the acting and singing was delightful, the props were clever and human, and that story actually sort of does end happily ever after.

And so does this one.

Let’s Play Inferences

Facts:
I checked my grades for my religion class on Thursday
Apparently I received a 7/10 on a weekly journal assignment
I reviewed the journal assignment
I sent the professor an email contesting the score
The email may have sounded slightly annoyed, but I tried sounding as nice as possible

The professor’s response:
Ouch… sorry your journal was misgraded… It looks great to me and I have given you three more points. The reason it was marked down is my TA misunderstood what you were doing. It is fine. Press on. I continue to like your creativity…
[Professor]

Conclusions:
Ouch: I may have come across more annoyed than I intended
three more points: My overall journal score is now perfect, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be
TA misunderstood: This does not surprise me, though I’m a big fan of smart and competent TAs
I continue to like your creativity: The entry was relatively creative. Duh.

***

Now it’s your turn! What are your conclusions from these statements?

1. General Conference was great and dreadful in all the expected ways.

2. This week will be insanely busy.

3. I know I should want to get married, but most days, I just don’t feel it.

Have a great week!

Not A Big Deal

dictionary.com:

font

–noun

1. a receptacle, usually of stone, as in a baptistery or church, containing the water used in baptism.
2. a receptacle for holy water; stoup.
3. a productive source: The book is a font of useful tips for travelers.
—–

font1(font)

noun

  • 1 a receptacle in a church for the water used in baptism, typically a freestanding stone structure.
  •  another term for stoup
  • a reservoir for oil in an oil lamp.
  • 2 a fount:they dip down into the font of wisdom

Derivatives

fontal

Pronunciation:/ˈfäntl/

adjective

Origin:

late Old English: from Latin fons, font- ‘spring, fountain’, occurring in the ecclesiastical Latin phrase fons or fontes baptismi ‘baptismal water(s)’

—–

1font

noun \ˈfänt\

Definition:
1a : a receptacle for baptismal water b : a receptacle for holy water c : a receptacle for various liquids
2: source, fountain <a font of information>
font·al adjective
Origin:
Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin font-, fons,from Latin, fountain

First Known Use: before 12th century
—–
However, the Mormon Tabernacle Choirs sings “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

So, I understand what the guy was saying. And the message itself was powerful, because he used the story of the woman at the well and related that Christ told her if she partook of the water then life would spring forth from her, that she, too would be a source of life, because she drank of the living water of Christ. She, too, could become a font. Or fount.

Are they different to you?

It was just a little weird that he approached the talk by focusing on the differences between font and fount, instead of considering that they could actually be variants of the same word. And then implying that those who sing “Come thou font” are singing it wrong.

When I sing it that way, I always think of a fountain, a wellspring, an eternal source.

When I sing it the other way, my thoughts do not change.

*****
I co-taught a lesson today for the Relief Society and Priesthood combined meeting.
I was sort of a sweaty mess.
Hardly anything original came out of my mouth.
But I asked questions.
And people commented. Lots of people. They discussed.
Totally my kind of class.
They were incredible.
And I kept asking questions to guide the discussion and people kept commenting until it was the other teacher’s turn.
And he did a marvelous job. Really, he’s fantastic.
That class strengthened my faith in a lot of things.
And then people came up to me after class were very nice.
And I did what I always do:
“Thanks. And so what are you doing at your benefit concert next week?”
“Thanks. Your comments were really great.”
“Thanks. I was really impressed with the class discussion.”

I often forget that I’m hard-wired for this kind of thing. But then somewhere along the way of each teaching moment you remember that it’s not about you, and it becomes clearer than anything that the class is learning something, and you really feel you can’t take credit for teaching anything at all.

And that’s when the blessings really spring forth.