Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bedtime Prayers


When we were in Minnesota last May visiting Aunty K and our pseudo-cousins, we picked up part of their bedtime ritual and have since made it a part of our nightly routine.

Each night, Aunty K asks her children (at least the verbal ones): "What's something that made you happy today?" and follows with, "Did anything make you scared or sad?"

This conversation takes place after bath, toothbrushing and pajamas, and allows the freshly scrubbed and pajamaed folks to say goodbye to the day. Any parent knows that bedtime battles are common, frequent, and longlasting. I know of few people who don't spend epic amounts of time fussing their children to bed. Aunty K found a way to get her tiny ones to reflect on their day, so that saying goodbye to it wouldn't be quite so difficult, and it gives them a chance to articulate a small bit of what's going on in their fascinating little minds.

Now, every night, we ask everyone as they're climbing into bed these two questions. Jackson is so accustomed to it that he will initiate the ritual if we don't get to it quickly enough. I love hearing the boys' answers, and one of the sweetest parts is when they ask us about our days. Most often, Cooper's answers are the same. For both questions. But hey, he's two... I'm just glad he has an answer. So, here's a snippet of what this conversation usually sounds like:

Mama: Cooper, what made you happy today?
Cooper: Uhhhhhh.... see JamieJohnny! (His heroes - twins from his class who have a single moniker.)
Daddy: Cooper, did anything make you scared or sad?
Cooper: Uhhhhhh... see JamieJohnny?
Mama: Did anything else make you scared or sad? (prodding)
Cooper: No. See JamieJohnny. (He's nothing if not consistent.)

Daddy: Jackson, what made you happy today?
Jackson: Seeing my friends and my teachers and playing with animals and puzzles in the block area and seeing Cooper on my playground and resting and eating p'sghetti [Sidebar note: there must be a manual floating amongst all the preschoolers that mandates they mispronounce words like p'sghetti and lemonlade in the same way].
Mama: Wow. That's a lot! Did anything make you scared or sad?
Jackson [earnestly]: No. I just had a pretty happy day.

Can you see why this is my favorite part of my day?! What Aunty K has touched on is a way for our children to say their prayers of thanksgiving and confession at the end of the day. And, I do believe it helps them climb into bed with a little more readiness to say goodnight to us and welcome what will happen tomorrow.

What I find most interesting about this ritual is usually Jackson's answer to the second question. Many times, he gives us the gracious answer he gave tonight (see above). But, occasionally we learn something we didn't know. Yesterday, for example, we learned that a boy in Jackson's class asked to use his blanket during naptime. Jackson stood his ground and said no, which is big for him. The boy got upset and pushed him. Hard. J came home with a big knot on his forehead. He talked about it last night - he talked about how it made him sad when his friend pushed him and told him he wasn't J's friend anymore. He talked about his teacher's intervention and the child's re-direction to the journaling station where he had to write his name (no kidding!). He said it made him sad and scared.

I don't know that I would have heard all of this if we hadn't had this time banked into our nightly ritual. Maybe so - it sounded fairly dramatic. But, maybe this was the safe space for him to say these things.

I hope that this trust and honesty continues into their childhood, adolescence and high school years. We have a lot of time between now and then, but I pray that we can maintain this same sense of sharing and compassion. Because life is going to get hard. A boy pushing him down today will become a girl turning him down for a date in the future. A knot on his forehead could be a lump in his heart. Being scared about a storm in preschool will become fear of the unknown as he graduates.

We try to talk honestly about the realities of life and death, sadness and unfairness. We don't sugarcoat how things can play out - we want the boys to be prepared for the crap that can come their way. We don't preach fairness, we teach sharing. What they have is not theirs to hoard or dangle in the face of the other, but to share (except for naptime blankets, apparently).

You and I know that sometimes the rug gets pulled out from underneath you, and you have to jump onto the next rug and wait for it to happen again. The hardest part is having the faith to see that when the rug gets pulled out from underneath you... it just means you stand on the hardwoods for a while and get dusty. I hope by having the vocabulary to talk about what makes them scared or sad that these boys will be able to be brave about the flooring underneath the rug. Yes, it'll hurt, and it will take them by surprise, but hopefully they will say, with brave and quivering voices, "Today, I was scared, and I want you to know about it."

One particular night, Jackson was having an incredibly tough time. He was in that sad, sobby funk that kids get into and couldn't get out of. He couldn't really talk, he couldn't really do much more than... cry. Matt and I tried our best to reason with him, to no avail. What finally worked was some quiet time with me stroking his sweaty curls saying, "Sometimes it's just hard, J. I know. Sometimes it's hard, and I'm sorry. I love you no matter what, and I'm proud of you. I'm sorry that sometimes it's just hard." He slowly calmed down, caught his breath, took a sip of water and said that he was sad about having to come in from outside. He found his words, and uttered them quietly.

I've learned a lot from my children in these nearly four years of motherhood. I think they've taught me the most about prayer and its simple sincerity. I believe that's all God seeks from us when we pray - quiet and brave utterances of what's really in our heart. And sometimes, in our sobby frustration, we need to listen to the still, small voice that simply says:

"I know. It's hard. But I AM, and you are... and I have written you on the palm of my hand and I love you. Rest well and breathe deep and my Spirit will abide with you and comfort you, now and forever."

Amen.

The First Annual Co-Posting: Things that aren't!

So, friends and confidants now we come to the co-posting. It is a lot like co-hosting - (see Bruce's description on his blog, which makes reference to Totie Fields, which is another blog for another time). Except, in this case, the co-posters share equal responsibilities and equal weight - it’s not anyone's show with the Reverend being Mr. Roaden's Totie-like side-kick (can’t wait for that story, now can you). The Principal and I have been batting this around for a while, and we are very pleased to present, with little fanfare and no press:

The First Annual List of Things That Aren’t:
a co-posting from Reverend Flemming and Mr. Roaden.

1. There is no vocalized “L” in salmon.
2. There is no “first annual.”
3. A lectern is not a podium.
4. “Nomalcy” is not a word. “Normality” is.
5. It is not possible to “reflect back”
6. “Suspicion” is not a verb. One does not “suspicion” something, one “suspects.”
7.Calendar” is not a verb.
8. “Often times” is not the actual phrase. “Oft times” is.
9. While we’re at it, there is not a vocalized “t” in the word “often.”
10. Realtors are not real-a-tors. They practice realty, not real-i-ty.
11. Churches have pictoral directories. There are no pic-tor-i-al directories.
12. “To coffee” is not an infinitive form, ergo “coffee” is not a verb
13. E.X. is not the proper abbreviation for “example.” E.G. is the proper abbreviation, which is Latin for exempli gratia, meaning “for example.” I.E. is the abbreviation for “that is” (id est).
14. The Message (by Eugene Peterson) is not the inspired Word of God for the people of God. (Thanks be to God.)
15. Irregardless is not a word.
16. Tunics do not suffice as the only thing covering ones’ bottom half, i.e. Tunics are not pants.
17. Cocktails are not dinner. Neither is rice. Cereal, however, is fair game.
18. Scooters are not safe. But I still want one. ‘Cause they’re also not motorcycles.
19. Church picnics and barbecues serve COLE slaw, not COLD slaw
20. The phrase is not, “you call in your chips.” Rather, one calls in his chits.

Additions, accidental omissions, and disargeements are welcome.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Decidedly Partisan


Last night, my family gathered on the couch with popcorn and juice pops. We cheered, we laughed at the silly hats and funny grown-ups dancing around. We stayed up past bedtime, and yelled out the names of the famous people on T.V.

"Monday Night Football!" You might think.

No. [Sigh] No. We were watching... the Democratic National Convention.

On the drive home from school last night, Cooper was especially sad. So, we started counting Obama yard signs to distract him. On Candler Rd. alone, we counted nearly 10. Jackson's able to spell his own name, and can read Obama's. Once we got home and started watching the coverage (and that great performance by John Legend!), both boys were yelling, "Barack Obama! Barack Obama!" at the top of their lungs every time they saw him. I'm even starting to warm up to Joe Biden as his VP pick (this quote is one of the reasons). We watched with excitement and anticipation.

I don't remember much about politics growing up. I remember the 1988 election fairly well, but didn't get excited about the entire democratic enterprise until 2000. It's a delight for me to watch my children getting excited about their stake in this country's government already. I didn't know I could care about such things as a little girl. Jackson, in his 3 5/6 years, has voted with us 4 times already, including the 2004 presidential election when he accompanied us in his infant carseat as a 3 week old. I love that they understand, already, that there are ways that they can participate and understand the larger world around them. It makes me proud.

Four years ago, I was heavily expectant with little Jackson. Matt and I drove from New Jersey one rainy July day to see John Kerry at a rally in Philadelphia. I remember how excited I felt, being a part of something larger than myself. Lugging my belly up the stairs that Rocky climbed, I got knowing looks from other hopeful folks, as we all thought about what a change in leadership could mean for us and our children. The air was heavy and sweet with summer rain as we cheered for the man we hoped could change some important things for us.

During the 2004 DNC, I remember being transfixed by this newcomer - this unknown (to me) senator from Illinois. This man with a funny name, who I thought, "I can't wait until he runs for president! I'd vote for him today!"

video


Months later, we watched t.v., and I nursed a sniffly newborn baby, as we watched with disappointment as the election returns came in. It was close, inconclusive. It felt all too familiar and way too sad. I had no idea that this could happen. Four more years? My newborn baby would be in school at the next election. My tiny infant who couldn't talk, walk, eat or focus his baby eyes yet would, by then, be a fully-functioning member of society. That was too much time.
And it has been too much time. Too much sadness, too many disappointments, too much fighting and too many lies. Too much war, too much money spent on too many of the wrong things. I've felt, as a citizen, disempowered. Hopeless. Myopically focused on the tiny things in front of me so that I didn't have to see the broader landscape of sadness and brokenness.

Now I know, as a devout and orthodox believer of God in Christ, that this world is filled with brokenness and sadness. That war has been the primary answer for the world's problems since the dawn of time. Matt's turned me on to the writings of William Stringfellow, who speaks to the powers and principalities of this world which prevent us from living out the life of freedom that God intended us to lead. The world's institutions have been created by humankind, and humankind, as we know, is broken. Even the church, the living and earthly body of Christ, has been broken, and the only thing that will put us back together is the dramatic and eventful inbreaking of Christ's presence on this earth. Our politics, institutions, churches, schools, clubs, committees, organizations and families are all broken in their creation. I know this. I know that a politician does not hold the key to the salvation of the earth or the creation of a perfect world.

But, I do know that I feel incredibly hopeful about the potential for change that we see with this candidate for president. He's smart, he's articulate, he's down to earth and honest. He's transparent and faithful. He's young and demonstrates courage and integrity that we need in a leader. Perhaps I shouldn't be so forthcoming with my opinion on the matter. I, for one, was rubbed very much the wrong way when I saw Rick Warren and Saddleback Church hosting a debate (as an aside - the cone of silence? Just plain weird.). It's not the church's business to be participating in the political process. Am I curious about Barack Obama's opinion about the presence of evil in this world? Sure. Do I want to know where John McCain stands on the issue of abortion? Yes, of course. But any church is called to be in this world, but not of it. Yes, we should educate ourselves to make the most informed decision, but calling a debate in the walls of the body of Christ is akin to rendering unto the temple what is Caeser's.

So I've learned to care about politics from the position that what happens in this world affects how I do ministry. If we had universal health care for all - do you know how many fewer homeless veterans we'd have coming to our outreach door? I'm not saying we'd be out of the assistance business, but it sure would be a nice change of pace.

This week, I'll be watching CNN and PBS, listening to NPR and using the word "pundit" in a sentence. Until Christ comes to rapture his people, this is the world in which we're living. So, I'm showing you my cards and wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Here is Michelle's speech from last night. She talks about listening to our hopes, rather than our fears. She talks about dreams and giving our children what we never had - not in the form of privilege, but the form of education and opportunity. I can't speak for you, but I'm excited, and very, very hopeful.



video

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shame, Guilt and Reconciliation

A beautiful post that I found on Jim Wallis' blog, God's Politics.

A Pop-Star Pastor's Public Fall and the Christian Cult of Celebrity (by Jarrod McKenna)

It was only last month that Sydney newspaper The Herald Sun's Faithworks blog carried a post with this paragraph:

There is an amazing moment on the latest Hillsong DVD, This Is Our God, when Michael Guglielmucci, stricken with cancer, walks on stage with an oxygen tent to boldly sing his song "Healer." He doesn't know how long he has to live, but still proclaims the goodness of his God.

Earlier in the year, Mike's overtly Christian worship song "Healer," which he said was inspired by his struggle with a deadly form of cancer, debuted at number two on Australia's official music charts.

Tragically, last week another news source headline read: "Pop star pastor lied about cancer."

I feel a deep sadness for Mike and all affected. I continue to pray for him and those who are hurting in the wake of his pain. Mike was not just some fringe player on the Australian Christian scene. In Australia's prominent churches (including world-famous Hillsong), this passionate, talented, and broken 28-year-old was not just a hero but a superstar. Until he confessed to the lies about his terminal cancer and his addiction to pornography, all of which have come as a painful shock to those closest to him. ...

(To continue reading, click here.)


Convicted: The Unique Taste of Millions

I stumbled on this website when I googled "Toyota Prius" last night.

Guilty as charged.

I'm not sure how I've missed this site up until now - it's received more than 40 million hits. Maybe if I hadn't been spending so much time listening to NPR, I would have found it sooner. I haven't laughed this hard (at myself) in a long, long time. Entry #85 on The Wire is absolutely true for Matt and I. It's as if they were looking over our shoulder as we watched.

It's made me think of my own additions to the list, which would include things like blogging, giving your children last names as first names, using compact fluorescent light bulbs (especially if purchased at IKEA) and alternate forms of transportation such as scooters, Zipcars and Smartbikes.

The interview with the blog's author was particularly insightful. Here's a clip:

Questions for Christian Lander:
How did you decide to start the Stuff White People Like blog?

My friend Myles Valentin and I were talking over IM about the TV show The Wire. Myles said he didn’t trust any white people who did not watch the show. Somehow we ended up talking about what they were doing instead of watching it and we came up with answers like “yoga,” “plays,” “getting divorced,” and “therapy.” I thought it was a funny idea for a blog and signed up for one at wordpress.com and just started writing.

Why do you think some people perceive the blog as racist?

Mostly because it’s fundamentally about stereotypes and people have been conditioned to automatically react to a stereotype as an awful thing. In most cases, they would be right. But this blog is not filled with hateful or negative stereotypes and it’s not meant to incite anger or demean white people.

Is the blog really about race or is it more about money and social status?

It’s partially about race, but it’s fundamentally about class. It’s about a generation and class that values authenticity and credibility more than monetary wealth.

What thing do white people like the most?

Organic food.


It's funny because it's true!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What did one Rev. Mama say to the other?

So, a friend of mine is pregnant and due in December. She sent out an innocent e-mail to a few mom friends, asking for registry advice. The following post is my response, heavily laden with nostalgia and fondness and lots of hyperlinks. Prepare for more information than you can manage. I got a little carried away.

Why am I posting it here? Because it took me a long time to write.

For expectant mamas everywhere... enjoy! (Caution to those who are a little queasy at the idea of breastfeeding. This post refers to it liberally.)

1. What is the definitive infant nursing pillow? The Boppy - I got more than one cover, 'cause of spit-up issues (it happens!), and it was helpful and a little lovely to have more than one cover around. I know some folks swear by My Brest Friend, but I nursed both boys well past their first birthdays, and never had a need for anything more than the boppy. My Brest Friend also has a strap that attaches it to your waist, so you can walk around and offer concessions to your houseguests who are only there to hold the baby. Either way, this thing gets thrown in the closet around month 5-6.

2. A pack n' play - but my first church was smarter than I was and got one for us. Other indespensable items: an exersaucer, a baby-incline memory foam pillow thing (we just used it in our bed), a sling. I used a Maya Wrap ring sling and started with a New Native Baby Carrier AND an Ergo , which I bought "second hand" (i.e. unused, just returned because customer didn't like color/fit/etc.) for $78. If I had to pick one, I would go with the Ergo, which we still use to this day with both Jackson and Cooper (see posting on Simple Tasks). It's better than a baby bjorn, because it doesn't cause the baby to hang by her crotch, and it's much more comfortable for the parent. In the Ergo, you can wear her on your front, side and back; the only catch is that she can't face outward when on your front. But, this was never an issue.

We are also thrilled with our Phil and Ted's E3 stroller, which we still use with a nearly 4 and 2 year old. The handlebar on it is also tall enough for Matt to push without scrunching over, and he's 6'5". My baby carriers were essential to me that first year - learning how to nurse with the baby in the sling saved my life and kept me sane. Other tips: if you're planning to nurse, learn how to nurse the baby lying down. You'll both get a lot more sleep and be a lot less frustrated those first few months!

3. Things I couldn't live without? Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions and Catherine Newman's Waiting for Birdy. See also: baby carriers, above. A good breast pump was essential. I recommend the Medela Pump in Style, which I have tucked away somewhere with the hopes of using again someday. If you just want to check out the mechanics of what this thing does, let me know. I've pumped in the strangest of places, doing the strangest of things. I got a car adapter so that I could pump while driving. Keep in mind, I drive a 5-speed manual transmission. I've never felt so empowered (and slightly idiotic).
Also, my advice is in favor of an infant carseat, but not a Graco. They're not very comfortable looking for newborns, and a very tall child would outgrow it quickly. I used an Eddie Bauer (Cosco) infant seat for nearly 8 months, and the J.J. Cole Bundle Me was a must during the winter. An 8 month old baby in an infant seat was heavy, but he still fit. The benefit of the infant seat is not having to put a child who can't walk yet on the ground in no recepticle (again: see note on baby carriers!).
With Cooper, I discovered the joy of the Swaddle Me blankets. Purchase in bulk! It was a gift when it came to getting him to sleep (plus, he took a pacifier for about 6 months, and Jackson never did...)
Robeez are indespensible as infant footwear; they will keep them warm, and cannot be kicked off. Pedipeds are great for cruising-age kids.
Babylegs are, most assuredly, the greatest baby gift one can receive.

4. Clothes, blankets, toys - don't bother. People will give you clothes by the truckload - epsecially for a girl! Also, depending on your nursing/breastfeeding needs, you won't need 100 pacifiers or bottles. I bought a bunch of breastmilk storage bags, and those worked well in the playtex inserts bottles (Drop n' Go?). The bottles that came with the pump weren't that great, but were far more handy. Don't stress too much - she'll figure out how to eat quickly. :-) This is all stuff that you should pick out yourself, as she's ready and can inform you of her preferences. I'm new to this conversation, but apparently the Born Free bottles are free of BPAs and won't poison your child when you're not looking.

5. People will give you plenty of clothes, towels, blankets, clothes, toys, clothes. They may even give you diapers! Invest in a good wipes warmer, which can work with regular wipes or cloth wipes and your own solution of baby oil, baby soap and water (believe it or not, the warmer is truly essential!) and a good changing pad with a little wipes box. Also, steer clear of the diaper genie. It's a scam. Get a diaper champ - it truly is superior, and can be used with either cloth or disposable diapers. Also, you don't have to use special bags, just regular garbage bags.

Just an aside, but if you've considered cloth diapering, www.nurturedfamily.com has been the best site for ordering in bulk. I have about 30 diapers in 3 different sizes if you're interested in seeing them and figuring out what they're all about. I used them only after Cooper was born and I had, for a short time, 2 people in diapers. I just couldn't spend that much on paper. The guilt (and cost) was too much! I used Swaddlebees, and loved them. They were cheaper and much more effective than FuzziBunz and BumGenius. They're super easy to clean, and not nearly as difficult to care for as you might think. It was, actually, my favorite chore around the house. I loved folding and sorting them. Ah, babyhood! Also, www.babyage.com is a great site for anything.

6. There are several things that you'll register for that you won't need for 6 months or so:

Any sort of feeding stuff. Highchairs, bibs, spoons, bowls, cups, etc. - All of this can wait until 5 months or so. Also, don't get a Bumbo seat unless you inherit it from a friend. It was a bit of a disappointment, but some folks swear by them. Cooper back-arched his way out of it at 2 months. For feeding chairs, we bought a Phil and Ted's Me Too, and it was wonderful! Cooper was a big climber, and this was the only chair we could keep him in. With Jackson, we skipped a "regular" high chair altogether and used this one that strapped to a chair.
Depending on your thoughts on co-sleeping (I was all for it), a co-sleeper would be ideal, a bassinet is helpful, and a crib mainly stored laundry that needed to be folded and/or put away for the first few months.
As for bedding - you don't have to decide today! You can find something great today, and change it when she's 6 months old! The only thing I noticed was that prints with lots of patterns seemed to distract Jackson enormously when he was falling asleep. He would try to scratch at the little baseballs and footballs on his bedding. Poor baby. I thought Target just added some great girl bedding (I had to go down that aisle to buy Cooper some underwear, I swear!)
Get a great baby monitor - if I could have afforded a video monitor, I would have done it! We also used a little play mat thing all the time. Most folks swear by their baby swing, but it was not that critical for us. Things that vibrated and made noise seemed unnecessary, though Cooper loved his baby papasan chair, which also comes as a swing.
For bathing, I swear by California Baby, which you can now get at Target. It's so gentle and smells like a baby should. Methodbaby products are also wonderful. I was careful with laundry detergent, and only used Method's baby detergent. Dreft can be very irritating for babies.

All of this having been said, what works for me or you may not work for you, and vice versa. So, what one mom swears by may not be as helpful to you. Your baby will tell you what she needs and prefers, and in the meantime - talk to lots of mamas, and know that we will support you as much as we can on our end.

Blessings and joy,
Mandy

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wine Pairing


The Converse pairs splendidly with the salmon risotto, but I would recommend the Crocs with the steak.

(Thanks to Jackson for this attempt to organize our scattered lives.)

You might be asking yourself, "Why is there a wine rack in the bedroom?" And you would be right to do so. All I can say is, "Why is there a frisbee under my nightstand, and a puzzle on my ironing board?" If you can answer me that, then I'll say more about the wine rack. Clearly this photo indicates that we're not spending our elusive and fictional "disposable income" on bottles of Cabernet.

After all, I would prefer a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It goes much better with the salmon.

Sabbath


For the last few weeks, I've been taking Fridays off from taking Fridays off.

By that, I mean that the boys have been staying home with me. There were a lot of reasons behind this, but it mainly stemmed from the fact that I missed them, my time with them, our days together, our camaraderie.

When I first started working at Saint Mark, I had spent the previous 5 months home with both boys on an... unanticipated sabbatical, let's say. It was wonderful, most days, but because of all of the anticipation, worry, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future and what the Board of Ordained Ministry might decide for me, that time was not always pleasant. I was sometimes resentful of folks who got to get up, go to their jobs and live out their vocations.

But mothering and ministering came to me simultaneously, and I have spent my entire ministerial career in a balance between my family and the pulpit. Early on, this worked out splendidly, seeing as infants really do sleep a lot, and tend to doze peacefully and conveniently in carseats during worship services. I did a lot of covert nursing and car-ride-induced naps those first few months to accommodate having a baby around in my pastoral counseling appointments and SPRC meetings. I finally was able to let myself off the hook with my anticipated ways of preaching (i.e. writing a whole manuscript!), and went with what I could manage (lots of reading and a few bullet points).

I worked with Jackson at my feet for the better part of his first two years. Cooper's gotten a bit of the shaft in this regard, as he was plopped into full-time care at 10 months, with much heartbreak and agony on my part. If it wasn't for his incredible teachers and wonderful class, I would have wrestled with this much longer than I did. He made the transition beautifully, and much faster than I.

So, I took this last year to celebrate what it would look like for me to have a full day off. Being in ministry, I have a weekday Sabbath that's mine. All mine! My predecessor was so good at drawing that line firmly, so that it wasn't all up to me to preserve this boundary. For the better part of the last year, I have opted to take the boys to school on my day off, leaving me and Matt time to have lunch, see movies, do some shopping, rest. It has felt like a Sabbath in some ways.

But with this new year, I am seeing a fresh set of priorities. I don't feel so pushed for "me" time. I am feeling a desire to re-claim some of our old habits (napping on the couch, for one). So, for the last month, the boys and I have had an extra family day in the mix. Fridays. Sabbath day.

Matt and I have worked out a pretty good system of Sabbath equity. He still goes into his office on Friday, but I get to sleep in until at least ... 8 a.m. (Ah, bliss!) He's long had a claim on Saturday mornings, so this works out well for both of us. Once I'm up, he's out the door, and that leaves the boys and I to do the things that we love to do, like eat. A lot.

Jackson has also become an incredible helper around the house. His passion for vacuums as an infant (DaDoom!) has parlayed into some actual, useful skills! I put Cooper down for his nap and came into the kitchen to find Jackson hand washing the charger plates from last night's dinner. (Jimmy and Julie - in case you're wondering - that is the first time we've used them in the history of our child-filled marriage!) I mean, who has time to wash charger plates?! Apparently Jackson. Since we had company over last night, I hoped all day that a magic housekeeper would appear in my home and dust the nooks and crannies for me while I was at work, maybe creatively organize my shoes. I should have just kept Jackson home. The place would've been spotless!

But I digress...

I've got to check my Biblical history on this, but I would like to think that Sabbath days do not need to be bothered with the confines of what one might consider to be a "traditional wardrobe." By this, I mean that a day at home should make certain things optional. Like pants. Or, of you're Cooper, any clothing at all. That's how we spent most of today - in nontraditional states of dress (or undress, as the case may be). The top photo has been Photoshopped to appear as though Cooper is simply shirtless. He is, in fact, also pantless. I'm sure this is the marker of a good day. Jackson ran around in a shirt and mini-Hanes all day. For us, this meant a day of rest where we couldn't even leave to get the mail or play baseball in the strangely cool and breezy weather. We stayed inside, playing with favorite toys, cooking up delicious cupcakes for a friend's birthday, catching up on long overdue phone calls, and making the beagle feel a little less lonely.

I'm certain that my Sabbath days will morph and change a lot through the years, but these days, it feels like I'm being forced to slow down and focus on the most important part of my life right now. My children, in their action and delight, wonder and occasional diagreement, call me to stay focused on them and their spirited creation. I cannot get lost in recipes, cups of coffee, fiction or conversation (however much I'd like to!). But, I can rest up with these boys, and be refueled with their endless source of creativity and effervescent love. I tend to run out of these elements much sooner than I'd like.

Today I worshiped quietly at home, and as I could, murmured prayers of confession, thanksgiving and pardon, sang hymns of praise and grace, and held firmly to the joy that came to me on this day of rest, my Sabbath.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Name That Flemming!!!




"Look Mom! No hands!"

In this picture, Jackson is 18 months old (April 2006), and Cooper is 23 months old (July 2008). Or, in God's time... they're exactly the same.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Spoony

I subscribe to Dictionary.com's Word of the Day. I toyed briefly with the idea of writing a blog each day (or maybe... once a week) based on the word that showed up in my inbox. But, at the risk of committing to something I'm sure I can't do, I'll let this first post suffice, especially since it's taken me a shameful amount of time to get this posting up.

Yesterday's word was: Spoony
spoony \SPOO-nee\, adjective:
1. Foolish; silly; excessively sentimental.
2. Foolishly or sentimentally in love.

Used in a sentence: "Nevertheless, because we're spoony old things at heart, we like to believe that some showbiz marriages are different." -- Julie Burchill

I have to say that these days, I'm feeling pretty, well ... spoony. I'm not quite sure how to define it, but I tend to be driven by the seasonal rhythms of the year. "This time last year, I was..." "Late summer is always when we..." Consequently, the time surrounding the birth of my children has me especially spoony. Emotional. Weepy. Nostalgic. I am remembering, these days, of what it was like 2 summers ago, when my oldest boy was nearly 2 and just starting 2-day preschool at Haygood. My youngest boy was battling a furious case of jaundice, and I was on a 24-hour nursing lock-down with the baby, taking a break only to go and vote against Cynthia McKinney, only to find that we weren't in her district (bummer).

This year, on Cooper's birthday, we voted again in a run-off election. I tried my darndest to get an annual August-run-off/Flemming-family-voting-outing picture, but neither boy was cooperating. So, just to spite them, I'm including the picture that Matt cajoled them into taking with me. You're welcome to compare it to the picture from 2 years ago, which makes me look like a beached whale. (Please be gracious - I was 3 days post-partum!)

It's amazing how fast these two years have gone since Cooper's joined us. A lot has happened. The boys have developed into such hugely beautiful creatures, whose grace and love permeate every inch of our lives. They're funny, adorable, charming, smart, athletic... a parent's dream. They've just passed the stage where all they can do is engage in parallel play. Now, they play together, leaving Matt and I time to ... read, blog, make breakfast. Other than the occasional refereeing we have to do, everyone is getting along beautifully.

And yet, I am so deeply nostalgic (spoony?) for those early days of infancy. When Jackson was born, I was pastoring a 2-point charge in New Jersey. My office was in the parsonage, and I spent most of my time at home with the baby, writing sermons in my office during naptimes, making pastoral phone calls while the baby was nursing, scheduling meetings after bedtime. It was so lovely. We cocooned, that baby and I. We spent every waking (and sleeping) second together. I connected with mothers of other babies, and birthed and nurtured a friendship that was originally based on our mutual pregnancies. Having been unsure of my ability to be a mother, I was overwhelmed with the love that poured forth from me so freely.

By the time Jackson hit his first birthday in October, we had moved to Atlanta. I'm not sure what it was - hormones or this intense connection that I have to seasonal patterns - but his first birthday wrecked me. I saw pictures of pregnant ladies and would break down crying. I couldn't walk down the "infant" aisle at Target because it broke my heart that I didn't need anything from there anymore. I boxed away clothes into the "sad box" with a heavy heart and deep longing. Then, 3 days before Christmas, I found out that I was pregnant. Way pregnant. Nine weeks pregnant. Almost out of my first trimester pregnant. With a baby bean.

Cooper arrived during one of the most tumultuous times of our lives. He was a breath of fresh air during a time of difficulty. Truly, the light shined into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. My maternity leave was a reservoir of peace. Cooper's spirit of joy and ease was an incredible gift during that time. We wound up spending quite a bit of time together in his infancy as we learned how to be a family of four, with two babies, not even 2 years apart in age. As Cooper grew into a more active, vital part of our lives, Jackson turned his energy toward a little baby doll that we'd bought him because it came with a toy car seat. For several months, the doll sat in a toy box and the car seat got a lot of trips to the grocery store. Jackson and I would walk in, carnival-mirror images of one another with our car seats in hand.

But after a while, that doll (whom Jackson named Baby Tyle), became an object of Jackson's nurturing energy. When I changed Cooper's diaper, Jackson changed Baby Tyle's. When Cooper napped, Baby Tyle napped (although he was much easier to put down, and tended to cat-nap much more frequently, and at times that directly coincided with Jackson's desire to do ... other things. But I digress...) When I bathed Cooper, Baby Tyle got a bath, too. We spent lots of time on the couch, in restaurants, at bookstores nursing our little babies together, with J's t-shirt hitched up and Baby Tyle unceremoniously fwapped onto his chest with his little arm wrapped around Baby Tyle's head. As Cooper began eating solid food, so did Baby T. We even made Baby Tyle his own sling. It was such a healthy choice that Jackson made all on his own. Instead of getting jealous, he got parental.

Not that it's always been smooth sailing. I used to have to "swaddle" Jackson to sleep, well after his 2nd birthday. It was the only way I could have time to spend with the baby (and nap a bit myself). Cooper was frequently left to sob while I tended to the needs of the older boy, and they have certainly turned their aggression towards one another in some unhealthy ways. But, all in all, they are amazing little people who love each other, the Beagle, and us in wonderful ways.

As I write this, Cooper is zerberting every inch of exposed skin that he can find on any person (or puppy) that stays still long enough for him to do so. We had a family slumber party last night, with mattresses on the floor, blankets and pillows and (healthy) junk food and movies. We ignored time and fell asleep when we got tired. We woke up in a big, family heap and made pancakes, enjoying not having to be... anywhere, any time.

As much as I would like to re-engage in this miraculous creation of tiny people, I can't help but be filled to the brim with joy and satisfaction. These boys in my life - all 4 of them, counting the Beagle - have made my cup full. As nostalgic as I am these days, I know that a year from now, I'll be excessively sentimental for these times. And for that, I'm grateful. And a little spoony.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

For Cooper James, on his second birthday



Happy Birthday, Bean!

You came to us as a surprise, and you entered into our world gently, but with vigor. Our dynamic as a family shifted immediately to accommodate your gracious presence, and here you are today, a delightful, independent, lovely soul who is joy and light to all who know you. I can't imagine life without you.

We are blessed, Baby Bean. You're not such a baby anymore...

Much love, admiration, and pride,
Mommy, Daddy, Jackson Bear and Edgar Beagle



video video

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Stoked

So, some lovely church members have season tickets to the Braves. They were kind to us this week, and gave us their seats and parking pass for Friday night. Yesterday was the kind of day where I was... in charge. I made decisions. Things happened as I expected. This feels like a rare sort of day for me, and it was nice to see things going as planned.

I also took a bonus mama day with the boys. It was like old times. We woke up early, watched Little Einsteins, ate cereal and various fruits, and went to The Dancing Goat with Matt before dropping him off at Columbia for the day. Then, we headed to McKoy Pool, which is Mecca for parents with children under 5 and a need to dominate their aquatic activity at their own rate. I managed to keep both of my children happy, engaged, active, and alive. We had lunch. We had naps (ah, blissful naps!), navigated the Farmer's Market, and picked up Matt to head to the Braves game. We got there - despite all attempts to the contrary - an hour early. This is unprecedented in the Flemming Family. We have tiny people, and we're late. To everything.

We got to the game so early that we started making jokes about it. "Well, maybe we'll actually get a decent parking spot." (We have a tendency to park on the moon, even when it's not necessary.) We pulled into the Blue lot, and the attendant pointed us to the left (towards the stadium), not the right. Bliss! Parking Karma! We found a spot that was - literally - on the sidewalk. As we chucked at our good fortune, packed up the boys (Cooper spent the entire day in totally dry underpants; I can't even speak of how great this is!), I ventured: "Wow. A day like this... maybe they'll be handing out free food, too!"

About 100 feet later, we passed the Bubba's Burgers trailer. Where Bubba himself (I'm guessing) was handing out free food.

Free food.

At a baseball game.

It was all too good! Until...

We passed a street preacher. A guy in a white t-shirt with some verse from Revelation on it yelling out, "This is the devil's hold on you! He's trying to snatch your life away from Jesus! By being here, you're avoiding your purpose in life. By walking through those gates you are STOKING THE FLAMES OF HELL!"

By going to a baseball game?

We looked at our smiling guys, our free hamburgers, our ample time to spend in Tooner Field, our free tickets, our great parking, our lovely day filled with swimming, naps and delicious organic produce. Stoking the flames of hell, eh? I thought I was to be in the world, but not of it. And to be in the world means to savor the joy that comes in small and big ways. The signs of God's grace and love that come shining through the smiles of my children, their delight in creation as they chase butterflies and centipedes with reverence, the love that poured over us all in abundance as we shared in life together. Today was a day that I was glad to be in this world, but not of it.

So if that's the case, then I'm stoked.