Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Long Walk Home

Our neighborhood backs up to a park, a river, and a wildlife refuge. This morning, we finally braved the 3-mile bike trail lining the water. On foot.

The first half mile was pure bliss. Peter ran ahead of Tom and I with a picturesque abandon. Then he wanted to see the ants, pick out rocks, and look at various leaves. Any good mother would encourage this hands-on learning experience, giving her two-year-old time to explore and concentrate. I certainly pictured myself to be this sort.

But pregnancy hormones do little for my patience. I quickly grew tired of prodding him along. To his great despair, we loaded Peter into the umbrella stroller which we'd lugged along for just such an emergency. Tom had been carrying it strapped to his backpack.

So, pushing a stroller on such a level bike trail poses little problems. Except when you and your spouse are both tall, and you have to hunch over to reach the handles. I'm sure that fancier strollers have adjustable handles, but when you rarely use a stroller... well, you don't buy the fancy one.

Of course, we could invest in an ergo (more supportive than our old mei tai) in which case Tom-- who is not 31 weeks pregnant-- could comfortable carry Peter on his back. But we've hardly worn Peter in the past year, because A) he'd rather walk "all by himself" and B) letting him burn energy is highly desirable. So investing in a fancy carrier doesn't make much sense either.

Where does this leave us? Oh, yeah-- hunched over our $20 umbrella stroller for the next mile.
Halfway through, we spread a blanket for a breakfast of hardboiled eggs, blueberries, and cheese. This made it all seem worth it, and we contemplated making this a Saturday morning tradition.

For the next half mile, Peter walked peacefully holding my hand. This would be a Saturday morning tradition for sure. All we had to do was hold hands, right? But then Peter, who had been watching Tom push the stroller (which he decided was less cumbersome than carrying it on his back), decided he wanted to push it himself. Since we were down to 1 mile, why not?

A half-mile later, I knew why not. Keeping a stroller-pushing two-year-old on the path is tedious. The tantrum he throws when you insist he ride in the stroller for the rest of the ride home isn't much fun either.

I'm not sure when we'll do this again. Whenever it is, we'll turn back after one mile.

I miss the days of throwing Peter on my back as I went about my business, not loaded down with a stroller, and hardly hearing a peep as my child so contentedly took in the sights.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life without Babies

I just finished teaching an art class to a family of homeschooled children. I truly love teaching, from art to Bible study, and it has been so long since I taught anyone besides Peter. I'll be doing this every Monday while he is in school.

When you have a kid who is gone all morning and then comes home and naps, that's some real time on your hands. Of course, it will all change when the new baby arrives. I won't be teaching classes then, at least for the near future.

I'm cool with that, but days like today remind that one day, I will have a life without diapering, Wee Sing, playdates, and the intense physical demands of a toddler. How will I spend my day? Assuming that God doesn't bonk me over the head telling me to homeschool, I could...

- become an Olympic equestrian. But that would probably mean more money going out than coming in, and that's never good.

- become the next Beth Moore or Kay Arthur. Now that really appeals.

- become the best homeroom mother in the world-- not for my child's class, but for a low-income school.

- become a writer. Not the occasional freelance stuff I've done in the past, but write every day and hit the markets hard core.

I always knew that I wanted to be a mother when I grew up. Now I wonder what I will be when they grow up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Parents and Children

If there are two things that I rarely like, they are

1) Topical Bible studies, since they often remove verses from their context and pass them off with meanings never intended by the original authors, and

2) Christian parenting books, since they often take our distinct cultural practices and argue through Scriptural manipulation that these are somehow "God's will."

Yet while rifling through my parents' bookcase this summer, I came across a topical Bible study on parenting of all things-- and loved it. So I will do something I rarely do here and highly recommend
Parents and Children by Navigators.

What makes it so great? It sticks to the basics while leaving application to the parent. The Bible is clear that children are a gift, that we are to teach them to obey, and that we are not to exasperate them. While hammering these mandates, this study does not add rules on top of them. Instead, it forces the parent to examine her heart toward her child-- and only then to consider how the basics apply in her particular circumstances.

It also treats parenting as a relationship, not a battleground. It makes clear that if I have a sinful attitude toward my child, my spouse, or my God, this relationship will falter.

Unlike parenting books that provide all the "answers," this one has put me to my knees in prayer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dining Room

I wanted to create something elegant enough for dinner and comfortable enough for breakfast. The furniture and lighting are on the formal side, but the small size of the room keeps things cozy, and I hope that the murals warm things up.

Before anyone calls me crazy, let me say that the chairs are covered in what looks and feels like white linen but what is actually outdoor fabric that wipes clean. So far it's held up to pizza sauce and chocolate icing.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The murals were completed under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs. Caffeine sensitivity has it's advantages. While my work could stand some editing, I can live with this for now, and I'm proud to have completed it even in the midst of Peter's break from school.

I worked from pictures of the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham. At first, it was just because I thought they were pretty. As I painted, though, I realized how these gardens represent each segment of my life for the 14 years I spent in that town.

I came to these gardens as an art student in college-- and for the occasional bridesmaids' tea. I came here when I was single in the city for brisk walks and long talks with girlfriends. I came as a mother when Peter and I just needed to get out of the house.

Most significantly, though, it is where Tom and I walked one November day in 2002. We had been dating for several months. As we talked in the Japanese section, the one which I chose to paint, I decided that he was, in fact, the man that I wanted to marry.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pregnant Grumblings

Piggly Wiggly, would you like to know why I will not shop in your store? Because you line the cereal aisle with toys, as if directing my child away from Sugar Loops and Sugar Flakes and Sugar Pops weren't tough enough.

Where do I go? Kroger, which has a glorious natural foods section in the middle of the store with cereal that won't rot your teeth and no toddler temptations along its aisles.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Humble Access

Determined as I have been to find a home in a liturgical church, we've got something less traditional on our shortlist. At communion this morning, I missed the Prayer of Humble Access.

Of course, even if we stayed in the Episcopal Church, we likely wouldn't say the prayer. Most ministers choose to use the Rite II service, which omits it. Why? Maybe they figure it's bad for one's self-esteem. Yet I can't imagine any news more wonderful than that which is proclaimed in these words. This message is the very reason I go to church:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Peter has never transitioned well from favorite activities. In other words, we rarely leave the park without a flaming tantrum. I've tried a number of measures from preventative (warnings that we are leaving and what will come next) to positive ("help Mama find her car") to punitive (you don't want to know).

The only thing I've avoided is bribery. Yeah, I know, a lot of mothers do it. And I certainly don't believe that I'm better than them, God forbid! Just more intelligent, clever, creative and informed. Eventually my two-year-old would abide my wishes for the pure joy of making Mama happy, because that's just how gifted a mother I am.

I forget that God loves humiliating-- I mean, humbling-- me. Carrying my screaming and kicking child away from a public activity is not what mortifies me. It's the simple knowledge that I have failed to be Supermom. At six months pregnant, I give up. It's no longer safe to be wrestling a violent toddler into his carseat.

And so, meet my new best friends (thanks, Jennifer):


How easy it was the other day at the pool to simply lean over the water and say, "So, Peter, want a snack treat?" We calmly dressed and strolled to the car.

Failure can be so sweet.