Guest Post – Susan Katz Miller, Reasons to Celebrate an Interfaith Baby

I’ve been following Susan Katz Miller’s blog on their interfaith family for quite a while. As a Jewish-Pagan interfaith family ourselves, it’s awesome to see it in action and working beautifully, especially with the most difficult part of the whole relationship: Children! Susan’s children are raised in both the Jewish and Christian communities, and her blog discusses the challenges and rewards of celebrating both parents’ and their own religions.

This post is a very special one. To celebrate Susan’s recent book  Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, Susan has offered to write a guest blog on celebrating a baby born into an interfaith family! Thank you so much, Susan, for this post and for all you do to support and educate the interfaith community. :)

For interfaith couples with a plan to celebrate both religions in the family, the arrival of a baby should be a source of creativity and joy, not cause for conflict. This is an opportunity to make a statement to yourselves, and to the world, that your child will benefit from both family traditions. Some interfaith couples hold back on performing baby-welcoming ceremonies, feeling that they did not have the right to claim these rituals, given the interfaith nature of their families. In contrast, I encourage the celebration of any and all welcoming rituals represented in your family tree. In my experience, and in my research, far more people end up regretting that they did nothing, than regretting that they celebrated.

I know, you’re exhausted, and the family patterns have been thrown into chaos. Do not feel you have to accomplish a full roster of traditional welcoming rituals on anyone else’s timetable, or to anyone else’s specifications. One of the wonderful aspects of being an interfaith family is that you have already been released from the tyranny of doing everything according to a single religious book. We can claim ancient religious rituals, while also reinventing them.

So if you have a Jewish baby-naming ceremony at six months, rather than at eight days, it can still have elements of tradition, and profound meaning for all in attendance. Children love the idea of having a Hebrew name: it can seem like a sort of secret alias, and an invitation to strengthen their connection to Judaism. One of the Christian rituals I really appreciate is the idea of godparents: adults who will serve as guides and protectors, as special unofficial aunts and uncles. We were living overseas when my daughter was a baby and toddler, so we didn’t get around to choosing godparents. When she was in elementary school, we finally created an interfaith godmothering ceremony for her. In fact, she was old enough to help choose her own godmother. It seemed very fitting, and resonant, that the godmother she chose happened to also have a Jewish and Christian background.

If you have close relationships with clergy, they can help facilitate or lead welcoming ceremonies, as long as they understand your religious intentions and support your choices as an interfaith family. If you cannot find supportive clergy, you can still create meaningful welcoming ceremonies for babies (or older children, if you never did them), drawing on the elements that have most meaning to you from both family religions. Part of the joy of being an interfaith family, is the joy of giving yourself permission to innovate, while respecting and honoring family roots.

The Wonder Weeks

I’m incredibly fortunate to have other mama friends whose babies were born around the time Tycho was; not only do I have a lot of women to ask for opinions and to share funny stories, but we love to share what we’ve found that may help us in raising our children.

One of the biggest things that was found by a fellow mama was a concept called the Wonder Weeks. There are, of course, well-known “growth spurts” and other milestones that happen with every baby, but these describe more than what’s going on physically; instead, it goes into the mental leaps a baby makes at certain points in his development, and while they may coincide with growth spurts, they’re not defined by physical growth.

In a nutshell, there are periods in a baby’s development where he will become more clingy and fussy, and when his sleeping and eating patterns will be (for no better choice of words) shot to shit. They’re narrowed down to the three Cs: Clinginess, Crankiness, and Crying. The good news is that they definitely have a start and an end — meaning, a light at the end of the tunnel! — and the baby emerges from the “stormy” periods having learned new skills that he starts trying out.

I strongly suggest you get the book linked above, as there’s so much great information about when each leap starts and ends (and yes, the periods are pretty definite, off by only as much as two weeks), what the baby will learn when he emerges from the leap, and what to try to foster those new-found skills. There’s also an app, available through the iTunes store and Google Play store.

photo

Lookit those little storm clouds!

Tycho is 27.5 weeks old and now firmly in the fifth leap, the World of Relationships, where he starts to perceive distance between objects. He’s been really clingy lately, not wanting to be put down, and is getting really fussy when we change his diapers and his clothes, preferring instead to be naked or just in the same clothes. The past few nights have been rough, too, as his sleep is (as I said before) shot to shit, waking every 45 minutes to two hours at night. It’s not unbearable, but we got used to putting him down at 7:30 or so and not hearing from him until 3am when he wakes from hunger.

But like I said, there’s hope! The end of each leap has been great, and he’s been the happy-go-lucky, smiley baby that we all know and love. So, like every other leap… this too shall pass.

Have you noticed that your own child is going through his or her own periods of crankiness, too? Maybe he’s acting a bit fussy, super clingy, a bit unlike himself? It may be a leap! Check out the chart below to see where your baby falls; it may give you some insight as to how to handle these fussy periods and when you may see an end.

(Note that Wonder Weeks are from a baby’s estimated due date, and not the day he or she was born. So Tycho’s would be as of 25 April, his due date, and not as of his 13 April birthday.)

wonder weeks 2

Children’s Books for Pagan Kids

My mom is a library assistant at an elementary school down in Florida (actually, the same elementary school my siblings and I all attended!), and she’s always sending me recommendations for new books and new series. I absolutely adore YA literature, among other genres, and I always find her recommendations to be well worth reading. I know I’ll be hitting her up when Matt and I decide to have children, as she’ll have a bunch of titles for us to check out!

Inspired by this, I started searching for Pagan books at places like Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and other admittedly non-Pagan establishments. What I found was… a whole lotta nothin’. That really wasn’t surprising considering the lack of support for Pagan authors (at least children’s authors) in mainstream culture, but I was still disappointed to see several Christian titles and even a few Jewish titles while finding not a single kid-friendly Pagan book. Several for adults, none for kids.

Thank heavens for the Internet, though! Here are some books that I managed to find for Pagan children, ones that I’ve heard of before and that I’m going to be sure to add to my Future Babies Wish List. ;) They’re listed according to appropriateness to age, and all can be found on Amazon.com. (I urge you to Google these titles, though, and purchase either directly from the author or through an independent bookstore if possible!)

Looking for a particular age group? Click the link below to be directed automatically!

A very happy holiday season, indeed!

It has been quite an eventful week! Matt and I had a good chunk of time off this past weekend (I had a four-day, he had a three-’n'-half-day), which was spent frolicking around Maryland and generally having a great time.

I got to meet another internet friend this past Thursday! Bethany (Beatnik Betty) and I have been LiveJournal friends for ages. Seriously, I don’t even remember when we became friends — it had to have been at least four years ago. She lived in DC before Matt and I moved up, but she ended up moving to Portland a few months before we got up here, so we never had the chance to meet! Recently, she came back to DC to pursue a new job opportunity in Baltimore (which she greatly deserves and where she is thoroughly kicking ass), and we finally met one another!

Jane, Bethany, me, and Ilya… my first time meeting all of them!

It was a really fun night, and I’m looking forward to hanging with her again. :)

(Ilya is from the internet, too! Looks like I’ll have to count up just how many people I’ve met and see if I managed to nix off #23!)

It’s such a bizarre feeling, knowing so much about someone strictly because of the internet and finally getting to greet that person face to face. If you’ve never done that before, it’s akin to having a best (albeit imaginary) friend that you’ve never hugged before, only to finally get to and know that this person is real. Such a cool experience, especially when that friend is as cool as Bethany.

Friday was spent cleaning the house in preparation for our realtor’s wife (who is a mortgage loan officer — meant to be, am I right?), who came over to get our signatures for a refinance on our home. We only bought the house in February, but with the refi, we managed to cut our interest rate by 0.65%, which was fantastic! While things are financially tight around here for a little bit as a result, it’s going to help us out so much in the long run. And we love working with Mike DeHaut and his wife, so that was an added bonus.

Saturday, Christmas Eve, was pretty quiet. We had been lighting the candles all through Chanukah, and after doing so that night, we settled in for a tradition that started with my family and that I force Matt to continue at home: Watching Christmas Vacation by the light of our Yule tree and laughing maniacally to the whole Jelly Club rant! I swear, that movie never gets old. Matt immediately followed it up with The Hebrew Hammer, which I predict is going to be a new tradition in our house, haha.

When, you know, the future kiddies go to bed.

I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna let them watch that movie until they’re at least sixteen.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

And finally, Christmas Day! We planned on having a pretty relaxing day, but it seriously kicked off running, starting with a get-together at a Chinese restaurant in Rockville with a friend of Matt’s and his wife. Oh, yes. We got your Jewish Christmas right here! We filled up on more MSG than we probably should have stomached and chatted a bit about their baby boy, who is due anytime next month!

We started feeling exhausted on our drive home, but somehow managed to get the energy to drop off gingerbread cookies to the neighbors we’ve met since we lived here. We were able to personally wish a happy holiday to three of the four homes we visited, and they all invited us in, even for a short time, to chat a bit and, in the case of two families, meet their relatives.

The last house we visited was a family who I admit is my favorite on the block. They have two adorable little girls, aged six and almost three, and their parents, John and Megan, are just all-around kickass. When we dropped off their cookies, Megan asked us what we were doing for the holidays, and we said something about probably just going back home and having a quiet evening. There was NO HAVING THAT, of course, so she invited us in for drinks and to meet their crazy relatives! As they gave us full glasses of red wine, Megan announced to everyone, “These are our neighbors, Matt and Steph. They’re all alone for Christmas!

And it just kind of went from there, lol.

It was a wonderful time! Sure, there was the fact that John, and pretty much everyone else, was three sheets to the wind, but after meeting his father-in-law (who referred to Barack Obama’s daughters as “the little bitches” and complained about wasting government funds even after learning that my husband works for the most poorly-funded faction of the federal government…), I totally understood why. We were poured a second glass of wine by John as his father-in-law told us WWI stories and used at least one racial slur or wisecrack about government money every other line.

I was pretty impressed that he didn’t say anything about Matt being Jewish (and I quietly kept my Paganism under wraps), but we learned that he had a Jewish friend who passed away earlier this year, so I guess he didn’t have anything to say about Jews then and there.

Oh! Speaking of religion, John asked me at some point (away from his father-in-law, ha) if I was Pagan! I was like, uh…? A few weeks ago, I was wearing a shirt I had bought in Salem with the wheel of the year on it, and he recognized it! Apparently, he was a Pagan while growing up, and though he doesn’t celebrate the Sabbats too much anymore, he still regards himself a Pagan, and we had a good ol’ time talking about converting as teenagers and the ridiculous things we did back then.

“Ha! Did you cast a circle and everything?”
“TOTALLY. And I did spells pretty regularly until I was about 18!”
“Dude, we were so young and ridiculous back then…!”

Shirt looks a lot like this, actually.

All in all, it was a great weekend! We have some plans coming up for the new year — spending some time with my cousin and his family in Bethesda — and we’re looking forward to 2012 and the many plans we have ahead of us. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and have a very happy New Year coming up!

Oh yeah, and as for Chanukah? We actually made it through all eight nights! Thank you, iPhone, for capturing this moment. Proof that it did, in fact, happen. ;)

*****

ETA before this post posts automatically: Oh my god, and today! TODAY! Awesome attorney-boss and I often talk about random stuff, one of which is scuba diving. I don’t remember if this came up before or after showing him my 30 Before 30 list, but we had long talks about his scuba diving escapades and his love of sharks. Seriously, sharks! The kind of stuff that would make Matt’s skin crawl, lol.

Anyway, for the holidays, awesome attorney-boss kept talking about an inspirational gift. I was thoroughly confused until, after being told where it was, I received this:

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG

Seriously, cue the spazz-attack I had! Under wraps, of course, because I’m at work and all, but still! Scuba diving is on my List, and to have this kind of, well… inspiration is just…! Just!! I’m still kind of coming down from the high of checking out these pictures and these beautiful places to someday hopefully visit!

(I don’t think there was a single non-exclamation-pointed sentence just then. If that gives you ANY INDICATION of my excitement. :D )

After thanking him for the book, he said, “Now go get certified.” You don’t have to tell me twice! I’ve been researching some local dive instruction places ever since. (Though I honestly may wait until a trip to visit family in Florida to do this. Maybe even in the Keys? Yes, please, as I’ve never been!)

Matt’s reaction, by the way, when I told him about the book and my subsequent spazzing? “Hah, cool! Now if only I wasn’t scared shitless of a) sharks, and b) deep water.” Well… at least I can still dive, right? ;)

My Pagan Library

The weather is cool and crisp, with a slight hint of humidity that holds the chill in the air. When this weather comes around, I can’t help but anticipate days of hot drinks, warm blankets, soft couch cushions, and comforting books as snow swirls around our house. In preparation, I picked up a few books today, then realized I had a decent-sized Pagan library. Then I figured I’d share some with you!

Below is but a part of my library. Have you read any of these before? How do you like them? And be sure to comment with your favorite books, too!

Being a Pagan (Ellen Evert Hopman, Lawrence Bond)

The Body Sacred (Dianne Sylvan)

By Candlelight (Janina Renee)

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Scott Cunningham)

The Folk Remedy Encyclopedia (FC&A Medical Publishing)

Llewellyn’s 2012 Witches’ Companion (Llewellyn)

Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac (Llewellyn) (Samhain 2011 to Mabon 2012)

The Magical Household (Scott Cunningham, David Harrington)

Out of the Broom Closet (Arin Murphy-Hiscock)

The Pagan Book of Days (Nigel Pennick)

Pagan Every Day (Barbara Ardinger)

The Power of the Witch (Laurie Cabot, Tom Cowan)

Teen Witch (Silver Ravenwolf)

To Ride a Silver Broomstick (Silver Ravenwolf)

A Witch’s Halloween (Gerina Dunwich)

The Witch in Every Woman (Laurie Cabot)

Witchcraft: Theory and Practice (Ly de Angeles)