Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Now Autumn's fire burns slowly...

So, my Google-diagnosis of bronchitis might have been a little overdramatic, because the hacking, terrible cough seems to have faded into the distance. Today was a gorgeous day, and the last few have been filled with an explosion of light and love, which is odd for Fall.

Until I moved to Princeton, I had no idea what this season of Fall was all about. In Knoxville, the season lept on one, cold rainy day from summer to winter, and would retreat back on a whim a few hours later. New Jersey, however, knew how to do Fall properly. As soon as school began in late September, the leaves would obediently and unapologetically change from shiny green to vibrant reds and yellows. I had to learn how to dress for this season in lightweight jackets and scarves aplenty. I began drinking cider, squeezed from a local orchard, and breathed in deeply of the fragrance of this new season. Along with the change in weather came a change in attitude, focused on intention and how things would be different this year.

But this fall has been, mercifully, different. Last weekend, I went to a baby's first birthday party, which is always a blast. Despite my recent cruddiness, a lot of Advil and expectorant got me through it. Jackson came with me, and we had a great time reconnecting and playing with someone else's toys, respectively. As soon as we arrived home, I changed clothes and hopped back in the car to go to Dahlonega for a dear friend's wedding. It was so, so beautiful, and the service, having been planned by the Rev. Bride, was thoughtful and rich and worshipful. It was church at its best, and two lovely people got married, to boot. I saw lots of friends, mostly new ones to me, and it was an incredible gift to be in the midst of all of that lovey-doviness and hope for the future.

Sunday came, and along with it, our church picnic. My family zipped home and exchanged our cars for bikes, and arrived in style at McKoy Park, which has always been special to us. Matt braved Dementor Bike for the sake of the outing, and Cooper and Jackson looked thrilled with the event. Our day was filled with good conversation, yummy fried chicken and biscuits, playgrounds, and a rockin' kickball game that featured toddlers running the bases. It was so great that we stayed way past naptime, and Cooper fell asleep in the bike seat on the way home, despite Dementor Bike's shrugging off of its chain mid-ride. I got a couple of pictures of poor Matt walking the bike with sleeping baby home.

That night, a friendship triangle got completed when a friend from seminary and a mututal friend from Georgia both came over for the evening. We've all known that we know each other, but have never been in the same space at the same time. Pitch in Matt's Presbyterian/Dutch/Calvin connections, and it was like an evening of "This is Your Life!" only fun, and not so private-investigator, "Get out of my head!"-like.

Earlier this week, another dear friend welcomed her third baby into the world, and a girl to boot. In my "I'm thinking of you and praying for your labor!" phone message, I got all weepy. October always does this to me. I think my nostalgia, longing and envy for another baby have been pretty clear throughout these posts, but I got a little overwhelmed by it all. So, my message sounded something like: "Hey! I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you and your new baby girl. I pray that all goes well for you, and wow... THREE KIDS! I can't believe it! I mean, I'm a little envious, and (sniff!) I just want you to know how much I love you and miss you and how proud I am of you and I can't wait to meet her, and just know that I'm thinking of you." (SOB!)

I hung up, sort of mid-weep, and realized that the message had stopped being about her baby and started being about me at some point. So, I promptly called her home number and left a "Hey... isn't your baby supposed to be born today? Wow, that's neat. Call me! Um, sorry about my crazy cell phone message. Ha ha ha" pseudo-detached message and tried to mask my emotion.

It's all been... a lot. Jackson turned four on Oct. 7. He writes his name when he gets to school. Cooper is fully potty trained. My children play games and have conversations together. J had a huge party at the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport, with three of four grandparents and 30 friends. There were moments every 8 seconds that made me think: "I'll write about that later!" But, of course, time gets the best of me, and I try to scramble together my most coherent and interesting thoughts past the point of recollection. All I can gather in this swirl of emotion is that October has been wonderful and overflowing with joy, including yesterday when we stood in line for 40 minutes to early-vote for Barack Obama for President. Don't tell John McCain, but I let Jackson press the button on my ballot.

In the midst of this, we've become a biking family. I've ridden my bike to work twice in the last 2 weeks. This is mostly true. In actuality, I've ridden my bike to MARTA, but let me spread the smugness for a bit: This past Wednesday, I actually rode 9.1 miles! The problem is, I only live 7.8 miles from St. Mark. The extra mileage was due to a lunch date in a slightly opposite direction and some rotten signage on the PATH, which disappeared mid-route, and resulted in me stumbling into the grassy and pleasant Candler Park before calling Matt in a fit of exhaustion and asking him to point me to the closest MARTA station (Reynoldstown, in case you're wondering). So, I rode 9.1 miles, and I still had to ride the train. Ugh. But, I'll keep trying.

Today, after masquerading as actual Winnona Park residents while attending a five-year-old friend's soccer game, J and I spent the afternoon making homemade butternut squash and beer bread. (As an aside, he ate none. That child and I are like one. I totally get that mentality.) After attempting to partake in the perfect Fall supper we'd created, Jackson and I made good on a promise which was to bike to Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party in Candler Park. There, they serve Superhero Ice Cream and have a sign with a gentle reminder that "Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy." Touche, Dr. Bombay.

So, we were on our best behavior, which was easy after a 3.5ish mile ride. Because I can only take one boy on a bike with me at a time, Matt timed it so that he and Cooper could drive and meet us there. Seriously, Dementor Bike is that bad. Earlier today, I found something called A-Trail (which, oddly enough, is the same pronounciation of my great aunt Atriele's name. Weird, huh?) that would plan out the best biking route possible for us. I took down all of the directions, most of which involved biking 53 feet on a back road before turning right onto another. Here was the tricky part: the directions suggested something about the East Lake MARTA station and "passing through." Once J and I got that far, it was clear that there was no "passing through" from the station to West Howard St., which is on the other side of the gigantic MARTA tracks. In retrospect, I think that A-Trail wanted us to go through the MARTA parking lot, then take the elevator up and pedestrian bridge across the tracks. What?! I mean, technically, that's probably the safest way, but still... a little clarity would have been nice, A-Trail. She was always an opaque conversationalist. But she made great biscuits, and managed to keep a few toys around for me when I visited, so you know... it's not all bad. But still... an elevator? On a bike?!

We concluded our evening with an impromptu living room concert, featuring Mama on guitar and actual-lyrics, Jackson on conga drums and Cooper, the semi-naked cowboy, on bass and sentence fragments. Matt was in charge of photojournalism, and caught these beauties on film. It's been such a fine, fine way for October to break in.

In the past, the fall has felt full of potential and possibility, and the winter chips in with the sudden and relentless reminder that all of that possibility was going unfulfilled. Fall felt more like longing for what life could be than what it actually was. But this year, things are different. The boys are doing so, so well. Jackson has come into his four-year-oldness with such grace and ability. We are blessed, indeed, to have two such healty and spirited children whom we love with such little effort. However the moon and stars have aligned this year, we find ourselves in the thick of loveliness and delight.

It is not to say that life is always smooth these days. Cooper, in fact, spent about 4.8 solid hours crying today, for no explicable reason except that we gave him a sailboat sippy cup instead of a Thomas sippy cup. Fools that we are. And, for some reason, that child won't eat. Ever. He subsists on Soy Milk only. I'm trying not to worry, since some of the best parenting advice I've ever gotten was from an article on our children's diets. We worry that they don't eat 3 square meals a day with a variety of foods from each food group. So, the article commented, don't worry about each day. Look at them over the course of a week or month, and then see how their tastes circle and their bodies wind up getting what they need. If they have a fruit binge in early June, know that they'll have a carbo-load mid-month. This sort of advice has guided me beyond menu planning and into the cycle of life, which is, just that: a cycle. When our needs arise, they will be met.

I think this month, we needed life to be good. And it has been, for several months now. The last six years has been packed with constant change. If you look at that "Things that Cause Stress" checklist, we've put our mark in almost every box. Twice. Thank Heavens we've not had death or illness stake their claim on us, but we've covered just about everything else. We've moved five times in six years, had two children in four years, changed jobs and locations and lost things and found different things. It's been hard. But this year, as Matt starts teaching and the boys start relying on us in different ways, it feels relieving to find some consistency and a little break in the cycle of stress.

Before heading out this afternoon, we were trying to make sure we had everything we needed. To pass the time, the boys were playing baseball. Matt pitched a ball to Jackson which made that tell-tale "tdink" sound and the ball sailed over my head and onto our roof. As Jackson rounded the bases, this exchange transpired:

Daddy: "WOW Jackson!!! HOME RUN!!!"

Jackson: "Yeah!! Home run! Put THAT in your blog, Mama!"

I will, indeed, son. I will indeed.

Blessings to you all on your days. Autumn and hereafter.


Natalie said...

"This is Your Life!" only fun, and not so private-investigator, "Get out of my head!"-like.

That's exactly how it was. :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew why - the blog made me cry...
God bless you Matt, Mandy, Jackson Cooper, God Bless you.