Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Traditions

G's golden egg
Easter Traditions had me a bit befuddled this last weekend.  This little isle upon which we live makes a glorious fuss over Easter, giving it two full bank holidays on either end - Good Friday and Easter Monday.  While I have generally puzzled over what to do to make Easter special, the two extra holidays made me feel like I should pay even more heed.

I guess my first problem is that Easter is always on a different day every year.  I'm generally not good with checking the weather or the calendar for upcoming stuff, so Easter always takes me by surprise.

And my faith doesn't do lent or Ash Wednesday or anything really to let you know IT's COMING. To add to my excuses, I suppose you can't really 'do' Easter until you have children, I don't really decorate, and working part-time while a mom means every spare moment is taken up. 

So...Easter descended and I was left wondering how to make it special this time and in the future. 

I kicked off the weekend Thursday evening by doing possibly the coolest thing I've done in a while (sorry, no pictures - I forgot): live organ music by x-BYU organ professor set to 1920's silent film classic, King of Kings, in the Hyde Park Chapel.  It was Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood-ized depiction of the Savior's last week.  Although parts were highly inaccurate doctrinally, I enjoyed the drama and the messages immensely.  I don't believe I've seen a non-Latter-day Saint cinematic perspective on the Savior's last week, and it caused me to think about the sequence of events in new ways.

But this was a one-off event, and couldn't be a tradition. 

G and I spent a day in Muswell Hill on Saturday, some of it with members of our congregation in their golden egg hunt for their baskets and then general Easter egg hunt. I liked seeing a new perspective on Easter traditions - a Saturday rather than Sunday hunt, searching for baskets first, then individualized eggs, and putting money in some of the eggs as an alternative to candy.

The visit gave me some ideas.  I also have a few from my childhood - growing up I got a new dress, and we had a special breakfast, but my mom wasn't a big Easter Bunny pusher, which I totally get.  My dad also watched Ben Hur most years.  Still, not a lot to go on.

So I have some ideas, a few things to resurrect from my childhood (I like the new dress part), but I'm still searching for ways to make next year's Easter both fun and memorable for a toddler, meaningful as it relates to the Resurrection, and doesn't involve a lot of (or any) candy.

Any ideas?     

Friday's visit to the zoo

"hidden" baskets

The Gants with their baskets and bunnies.

Yesterday we had lunch on the roof.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Women and the Priesthood

There has been much ado about a women's group within my faith that is lobbying for the priesthood.

I have paid little heed to this group or the previous "pant-wearing" movement until I was asked whether I was a feminist by a member of our congregation and then a friend of another faith recently asked for my opinion on the matter. 

I have several thoughts.  One poignant memory from the mission comes to mind:

In my second area (though still in my first six week rotation) of my mission, a small beach town, my companion and I were teaching two girls, age 11 and 13.  We were teaching (then) lesson 3 about the priesthood.  The perennial question was, of course, asked: "why do only boys have the priesthood?"

I then explained what my mom taught me while growing up.  Men and women are like forks and spoons.  You cannot eat a salad with a spoon, nor soup with a fork, but you need both to have a complete meal.  Men and women play different but equal roles, each with a special function.  Women give life through childbirth - an experience men will never be able to have.  Men give of their lives through service in the priesthood - holding the keys of which is an experience women will never be able to have.

"Oh, I get it," said the 11-year-old, "We have them, and they baptize them!"

Yes, she had gotten it.

But the relationship is actually a bit more complex than that.  In essential facts, it is true - women exclusively give birth, and men exclusively hold the keys of the priesthood.  But as far as the roles of nurturing children and exercising the powers of the priesthood, men and women share, not necessarily equally, but share nonetheless in these roles.

Our Family Proclamation outlines the doctrinal position for the distinct roles of men within a family unit (provide, protect, and preside) and women (nurturing children).  But then it says, "in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."

In sacred temples, when a couple is married, or sealed, for time and all eternity, they are given (together) the patriarchal priesthood, which lasts beyond this life.  The husband presides in this priesthood, but he exercises it in partnership with his wife in raising a family in righteousness.  Husbands and wives are to counsel with one another in the care of their children and in the progress of their family.

The principle of helping one another in each others' roles extends to other spheres of the Church.  One obvious example mentioned in last week's General Conference by apostle Dallin H. Oaks is in our temples.  In areas where men cannot go, women officiate in performing ordinances.  They do not hold the priesthood, but they act under its authority.  There are other instances where women have given blessings under the authority of their husband.

In fact, said Elder Oaks, women exercise the authority of the priesthood whenever they serve within a calling, or inspired responsibility, in the church.  Interesting - never thought of it that way before.  But, said Elder Oaks, what other authority would it be?

In that regard, as I pointed out to my friend concerned with what she thought was a complete dearth in women's leadership roles within the church was that women married or single lead exclusively in several church auxiliaries. 

Additionally, men cannot serve above a certain point unless they are married.  For instance, my husband serves as bishop of our congregation.  That we are married is essential to his role.  This is true for the equivalent of a diocese leader on up.  Mission and temple presidents are called as a couple.

This means that, while single women can lead a general auxiliary of the Church, single men cannot.  Men in leadership positions often (in non-confidential matters, of course) seek counsel from their wives.  That means that for the highest leadership positions, women are in one sense a large majority - when considering women-lead auxiliaries and couples as a team. 

I have more than enough to do in raising our son and working to contribute some meager bit to our household income (although I am lucky enough to be able to do what I love because I love it, not because it is required of me - Lance is a wonderful provider).  In the instances when I "exercise the authority" of the priesthood, either under my husband or a more vertical line within the church, I feel an enormous amount of respect for those who exercise it continually and that I am lucky to be able to help.  I felt that way all throughout my mission. 

I wonder if men ever feel that way when taking care of children?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Paris!



Have you ever seen the back of a Paris police cab?  
Learned to cook from a professional French chef? 
Been kicked out of your Paris accommodations with your baby at midnight? 
Shopped the Rue de Commerce for baby clothes and then taken half of them back so your family could eat for the month of April?
Seen Sacre-Coeur in Springtime?
(Almost) finished a painting along the Sein?
See Monet's tulip fields in Paris?
Taken a nap at the Musee d'Orsay?

After four days in Paris this last weekend, I (or Lance) can now answer yes to all of the above.  

It began as any other trip to Paris, arriving via Eurostar's Chunnel service in Gare du Nord.  After meeting our Airbnb hostess (who seemed perfectly normal and nice at the time), showering, and donning our stuff, we headed off for a quick trip to a Parisian shopping street about which I had heard and read much.  
  


G's first pair of French shoes.  Lance said he doesn't spend this much on *his* shoes.

Wonder if these folks have ever been to Primrose Hill, London, where we live?

One paycheck later, Asha, Gideon and I were off to the Musee d'Orsay so Asha could buy a print, only to be waylaid by cute mamma and baby pics in front of the Eifel Tower and the Chinese president, who had the nerve to visit at this particular moment and cut off all pedestrian traffic exactly where we needed to go.

I didn't think to take the Metro, so we arrived foot sore and giggling from our run-ins with French police telling us to stay put (when everyone else was walking along the street - somehow, the tall blonde woman with a red pram provided an easy scapegoat for a communal sin) and then them telling us to jump over a barricade, sleeping G strapped to Asha and said red pram and all.



I then had a lovely dinner with a Parisian legal colleague with whom I schemed about a Paris/French countryside trip for ConSource donors entitled "The American Founding in France" - anyone?

Next morning began earlyish, as I was off to fulfill a long-time dream to take a French cooking class (this one with Cook'n with Class - don't be deterred by the name as I almost was - they are a great outfit and ranked #1 Paris attraction on TripAdvisor for good reason). I learned about 25 things that will help in real life cooking (like how to sharpen a knife, tell if poultry is cooked through without cutting into it, make asparagus/broccoli/or cauliflower cream soup with scraps, and which part of an orange peel to use) and 75 that won't (like how to identify good quail, that horsemeat used to be a French delicacy 15 years ago, and that the rabbit you are buying is not a dog or a cat - gross?).  I met interesting people and eat delicious food - wonderful highlight of my trip.  A good thing, given what was to come later that day...  

Horse butcher

Cats and dogs used to be sold in the place of rabbits, so the law specified
that the rabbit's head must remain in tact at the butcher.

Didn't know that scallops have roe - which is quite good.


Most French bakeries produce 2,000 baguettes a day in morning and evening shifts.
This one produced about 10,000 a day.



Seared scallops and white asparagus with an orange reduction sauce for our appetizer.

Little boy in the class that took a shining to me.

Quail, green beans, roasted tomato, roasted potatoes, and carmelized onions. 

I was then off to meet up with Asha (with baby boy in tow) at the Luxemburg Gardens so we could show baby boy a puppet show and some toy yatch sailing.  We had determined to meet at a specified entrance.  I was late, and had texted Asha letting her know that, thinking I'd see her quickly upon exiting the metro.  Two hours later, I was counseled by the garden guards to visit the police.

With a big lump in my throat and wild thoughts in my head, I began a very difficult night indeed.  It ended well, with Asha finally showing up at our accommodation and ringing me on the home phone, but it was a Parisian adventure I hope quickly to forget.

But the fun didn't end there.  The woman and her daughters we were staying with were shaken by the experience (we had called her/her girls every 15-30 minutes to see if Asha had arrived home, and the police may have visited), and she seemed rather not herself.  She first insisted that we could not sleep baby boy in his bed--the hammock he's slept in for six months--or we would need to check out.  At first thinking I would just have a rough night, after her insistence, I finally concluded that I would just stay at a friend's place so Gideon and I could get a good night's sleep, letting Asha recover from the day's events by sleeping in the bed by herself.  Upon leaving at midnight, the host demanded my keys and said I was not welcomed back.  Dumbfounded and realizing that the woman was probably crazy, as my interactions with her had maybe risen to about 2 paragraphs, I simply gave her the keys and took my sleeping child to a safer place.

Lance arrived the next morning and Asha went back to London.  We had a lovely morning with brunch--including baguettes and caramel sauce-yum!--at Lola's Cafe followed by exploring Montmartre, including the Sacre-Coeur gardens and tourist performances with G.

Good pics of squirming 1-year-olds are hard to come by!


These fellows loved G, serenading him for a bit.


We found some puppies for G to play with






In the late afternoon, we made our way to Musee d'Orsay again for a little impromptu catnap for Lance, a tour of the Impressionist Galleries for me, and a visit with Van Gogh for both of us. 


View of Sacre Coeur from the Musee d'Orsay

favorite painting of the day - must be the Dutch in me.
We ended the evening with a return trip to Rue de Commerce to return G's Petit Bateau outfit and dinner at a wonderful little Italian dive Lance discovered.  We gratefully retired at my friend's apartment.

The next morning, I rose somewhat early to finish a painting of the Pont Alexander III bridge before Lance and I purchased our French baguettes at the local bakery and took a leisurely stroll along the Sein during G's morning nap.

Although I had left G's visa home, we thankfully made it back in tact for a quiet Sunday afternoon. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gideon's First Birthday



How did a year fly by so fast?  Our little boy is an absolute joy (with only small, exceptional spells of stinkerness).

This birthday has been bittersweet - I no longer have a little baby, but at the same time, he just gets cuter (and more of a stinker).

We celebrated his birthday with one of Gideon's friends, Harvey, who is only two days older than him, as they know many of the same babies.

We initially wanted to celebrate at the zoo, since G is such a little animal lover, but they didn't really have anything for 1-year-olds (and the parties start at 1,000 pounds and 40 children).  Instead, the party was jungle-themed.

Invites.  Some of them were cuter than others, particularly when I had time to "bouble" each letter.

jungle animals were "hidden" beneath the first layer of grass.


Shelley, Harvey's mum, had the idea of making the party something the babies would enjoy, so we hired a bouncy castle.



Harvey's dad, Steve, owns a restaurant nearby, Blue's Kitchen, and generously offered to open up the back of the restaurant near where the blues band normally plays and take care of all the food.  Food was amazing - courgette (zuchinni)-spinach-parmesean dip with roasted veggies and corn tortillas, onion rings, ribs, chicken fingers, quesadillas, and mini milk-shakes.  Babies and parents loved it.

Local green grocer failed in the wheatgrass department, which was suppose to "hide" these
Shleich animals.  So I conspired with the Camden green grocer to collect a bunch of
dill and parsley to create a different but still appropriate jungle look for the centerpiece.


I made all of two of these great animal balloons before the rest were popped.  Thought that counts?

We tried to get a pic with masks on. The babies weren't having it.

G loved having all of his friends there and people who have cared for him. Here Asha, our nanny, is pictured to the right.

I purchased masks or had specially-made animal baby tatoos designed by my friend and world-class designer, Brittany Watson Jepsen.  You can see one on Harvey (and more pictures to follow).

Harvey conked out after some intense bouncing and slept through a bit of his party

Perhaps hard to see the tatoo here, but he's a tiger!

The older kids loved the masks
And then there was the cake.  In my family, tradition is to allow babies on their first birthday to do whatever they wish with their cake.  G was timid at first but eventually understood what he was allowed to do.

I made the chocolate banana cake gluten-free for Lance.






video



This was all on Friday, the day before his birthday.  Yesterday, his real birthday, we took him to Kentish Town city farm.  He giggled at the pigs, bonded with the cow, was respectful to the horses, and was completely indifferent to the goats (even the five day old baby!).








We also gave him the ark and Schleich jungle animals we got him yesterday.  The ark I found at a vintage market - not my favorite (I want a 1959 Tri-ang but couldn't find it in time), but Asha the Great (nanny) sanded down the ugly eighties windows and painted the sides white before I sanded it down to look shabby chic.  Shabby chic or no, G loved it.




I think we'll keep him.



one of his favorite games of late is peak-a-boo under and over the bed rail.

Thanks to our talented photographer, Sheena Bates!