Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waiting and Preparing

Five weeks to go. Is that really all? I feel completely unprepared to welcome this little one into the world. We haven't even decided on a name! The baby clothes are still packed in the attic, along with the infant carseat. The crib, though set up in our room, is full of other projects that I have going on, evidence of my very feeble attempts at nesting. Thanks to my dear friends at church, I do have some of the essential baby supplies. If worse comes to worse, we have one new outfit that isn't packed in the attic and a few disposable diapers on hand.

Even more than that, I wonder if our family is ready to welcome this new baby boy. Calvin and Hobbes are certainly eager, asking nearly every day how long it will be until the baby comes out. But my husband and I are so busy and tired these days, him with classes and a huge deadline at work, me with church and the boring details of life that have to be taken care of...not to mention running around after two very energetic boys. On top of all of that, we have spent the past week being sick ourselves or staying up with sick boys. The weariness of life is weighing heavily on me.

In the midst of this exhaustion, I find myself more grateful than ever for the rhythm of the church calendar. While I enjoy the routine and work and growth of ordinary time, the coming of Advent offers a welcome reprieve, a time to slowly and intentionally prepare for the celebration to come. I am so thankful for the traditions that we established last year and for the experience that we had as we observed Advent as a family.

We will continue those traditions this year...

a lunchtime reading of scripture and placing of the Jesse Tree ornament as we follow God's own story of preparing for His child...

slowly enjoying our Christmas picture books and adding some new ones...

a Saint Nicholas Day celebration with gingerbread cookies, this year with some friends joining us for a little party...

evening prayer with the Advent wreath and the Story of His birth slowly unfolding...

gradually bringing out the decorations and assembling the nativities...

and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve...

As we observe these traditions, slowly preparing for His birth, making gifts and doing a bit each day in order to be ready for the celebration, I will be doing my own preparing. A bit each day. I'll pull down the tiny clothes, wash and fold. I'll pack a bag and make notes about whom to call when. I'll clean out the crib and finish the nesting and organizing. Just a little each day while beginning to imagine life with this new babe. I'll wait and prepare until my home and my heart are ready for that magical moment when a slippery, screaming new baby is placed in my arms and my heart grows even bigger to hold the love I didn't know I had.

And I pray that all of our hearts will find ways this season to prepare, a little bit each day, for the coming of the Babe whose life, death, and resurrection make all things new.

For more reflections on celebrating Advent, visit the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions at Kerry's blog. Posts will be up on Friday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Keeping Me Up At Night

And I'm not talking about the baby, though his kicks are getting strong enough to wake me up and the reflux and aching hips of pregnancy aren't helping. Mostly, I have been unable to sleep at night because I am thinking about this post and this one and this one.

The abortion issue is one I have always felt strongly about, but for some reason, this election has brought it even more to the front for me. Perhaps it is my cynicism of politicians and government in general. I just don't see how any of them do much good for the economy or the environment or many issues. At least, what they do gets overturned by the next president and so often doesn't have lasting impact. But I do see that they could do lasting harm or good to the soul of our country on this one issue.

And then today I read this article. While I honestly don't know what I would have voted on Prop 8 if I lived in California, I do wonder what is wrong with our society. While many people I know would have voted "no" on Prop 8 and are also pro-life, I know even more who would have voted "no" and are pro-choice. How can one argue for the fundamental right of a gay couple to marry and not vote for the fundamental right to life of another segment of our society? A gay or lesbian couple might live a relatively happy, self-indulgent, carefree and safe life, even without marriage. I am not denying that there is real hatred and violence toward gay couples out there or that not being able to marry isn't painful. What I am wondering is how avoiding that pain is fought for as a fundamental right by the same people who fight for a woman and doctor's right to inflict immense pain on an innocent child?

Surely the rights of the most innocent of us not to be ripped violently limb from limb while conscious and to be left to die on a cold metal tray or suffocated in a hazardous waste bag is even more fundamental. (If you think abortion is less than that, then check out some of Jen's links on this post.) Surely without the right to life, the right to marry whom and when one wishes is not even an issue.

There is so much I could say to try to convince people of this, but I fear our culture has been too blinded to the evil of it. We are unwilling to look at the gruesome facts because the intense anger and false rhetoric on both sides of the argument blind us to the very simple truths at the heart of the matter: the truths that we have dehumanized and are systematically killing a portion of our population. I do ask you to take a look at the posts I linked to above. They say it so much better than I.

And if you read those and agree that this baby in my womb has a right to live, even if he were to be unwanted by me (because there are plenty of loving couples out there who would want him), then please go and sign this petition.

Lord, have mercy.

I realize that this post just skims the surface of a very big issue. I am not averse to answering counter-arguments, but please do not post them just for the sake of posting them. I have read some version all of the counter-arguments there are, I assure you, and I am still convinced, more than ever, of my stance on this issue. So feel free to ask respectful and thoughtful questions, but please keep it civil. Thanks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family "Rules"

It seems my posting during this pregnancy is going in fits and starts. I have days and weeks of great energy and days and weeks where I can barely manage parenting, much less housework. Writing, and even reading, take a back seat on those weeks. Part of the problem is that both Calvin and Hobbes have been going through phases of difficult behavior this Fall. I'm sure much of it is due to Hobbes adjustment to school, Calvin's growing independence since he turned four, and both of their minds adjusting to the idea of a baby in the house. Nonetheless, there are some definite behavior tendencies that we need to be more consistent about dealing with now, while they are young.

With that in mind, we have decided to institute some sort of system that rewards good behaviors and discourages bad. Something more than consistent timeouts and other disciplines is in order. I had thought of doing a sticker chart, but I am copying a good mommy-friend of mine instead. We are going to have four basic behaviors that we work on, written out and visible to the boys. I am going to put marbles or small, polished stones (from a craft store) in a clear cup. When one of the boys expresses a good behavior, we will move a stone from the full cup to an empty one. When they do something negative, we will move a stone from the reward cup back to the original cup. Once the reward cup is full and the starting one empty, we will get some sort of family reward, like a trip out for ice cream.

Calvin has helped me to come up with the list of good behaviors, and he seems excited about the idea of having some visible sign of how well or poorly he is doing. I think this will really motivate him to work on some areas. I'm hoping Hobbes will go along with it because his brother is excited. (He usually does.) So here is our list. (I plan to put a scripture reference or two with each in an attempt to begin some scripture memory with the boys. Number 2 is specifically addressing our main issue with Calvin, and number 3 is mostly for Hobbes.)

In our family...

1. We respect daddy and mommy by obeying them the first time they ask without grumbling or complaining.

2. We use kind and polite words when we talk to others. (No violent language, talking back, interrupting, or yelling.)

3. We respect one another's need for space. (No hitting, biting, kicking, or grabbing.)

4. We work together to make a clean and welcoming home for friends by cleaning up our things when we are done playing and by doing our daily jobs.

Please tell me what you think, should I add or delete any? Any editing suggestions? Does this sound like a good idea? I am excited about the idea of collective reward, because I want to emphasize that these behaviors are about us as a family, creating a home of peace and respect and laughter. I am hoping it will help the boys works together, especially as Calvin would have a tendency to get really down if he had a separate reward system and wasn't doing as well as Hobbes. This way, it's not all dependent on him. He's already anxious enough as it is, no need to add pressure.

I'd love to hear what you think, especially the more experienced mommy-types out there. I am definitely up for suggestions!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Link Love

My friend, Farrah, makes the most lovely ring slings (and her babies are pretty cute, too). She's hosting a party over at her online shop through midnight Friday. So if you need to buy a unique, handmade baby gift for someone or want a little sling love for yourself, head on over. The details are in this post.

Also, it's hard to believe, but Advent is just around the corner. Last year, I participated in the Anglican Advent Carnival and met all sorts of wonderful bloggers. Kerry is hosting the carnival again this year, so please head over and visit her site if you want to participate. Submissions are due by the 23rd. You won't be disappointed! You need not be Anglican to participate, just liturgically minded.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Hope Lies

Some scriptural perspective for my friends who despair too greatly or who hope too much in this day, for neither reaction reflects our reality.

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

33:1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

4 For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Name, Name, Bo-Bame, Banana-fana, Fo-fame...

So, we need a name for this baby. The trouble with having a third boy is that we have had a great girl's name lined up for awhile now (like four years or so), but we are running out of boy names that we like. Since you don't know that actual names of our other two (no, we didn't REALLY name them Calvin and Hobbes), you may have trouble helping us out. Though if you know us in real life, you have an advantage.

Just so you know, each of our boys has a Biblical first name and literary second name. We are thinking of going with the same idea this time around. I am sort of lobbying for using my dad's name as a middle name, so if you have a good literary and Biblical name wrapped into one that would help my cause.

So...feel free to leave your suggestions. While we're at it, I need a blog pseudonym for him, too. There aren't any other male characters with names in Calvin and Hobbes (except the bully), so I need help. The boys really want to name him Wall-E, but I don't think I can use that, even on a blog.

If you read this blog, you probably know me enough to know what I like for a real life name. Any good old Appalachian names will get top consideration, as will names from Southern literature. Just remember that we want our boys to be named for people whose characters are worth living up to. No Thomas Sutpens around here, thank you very much.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Little Things

I had a revelation tonight. This time with little people under my feet really is going to fly by, and soon I will miss it. I don't know how many times people have told me that. Heck, I have told people that many times! But it never really sank in until tonight.

We had a rough weekend with Calvin. All of the excitement of Halloween combined with a lot of social events and tons of sugar made sleep difficult and behavior a disaster. But, whether difficult or fun, as each day goes by he is becoming more of a male and less of my little boy. He spends significantly less time cuddling and playing quiet games and a lot more time imagining monsters and dragons and turning everything into weapons these days. There is so much more rough-housing and craziness in our house lately, and Hobbes is being pulled right along with Calvin as he enters this new world.

I do not begrudge him this growing up, though we are working on curbing the violent imagination and replacing it with stories of courage and adventure. I know that he needs more time outside imagining that his swing is a space shuttle or his ball bat is a weapon for fighting monsters. I am trying not to demand too much cuddle time and to just enjoy it when he offers. I am learning to respect his space (and hopefully, he is learning to respect mine).

I do already regret how much of his preschool years I spent worrying about the little things. The laundry and dirty dishes and floors that needed sweeping never did seem to go away. In fact, they are still with me. But Calvin's sweet, funny little toddler self is already becoming a memory. I don't think I totally let it go by unnoticed. We did really enjoy the funny and sweet moments. But I wish we had enjoyed them even more, slowed down to savor his quirky attempts at humor and his precious cuddles in our bed in the mornings.

Perhaps we can never enjoy those moments enough. The mundane stuff of life is always happening around us, calling us away. Clothes do need to be cleaned and meals cooked. So many little things demand my attention. But the most important things are those boys asleep in the other room.

So tonight, when Hobbes asked me to lay with him as he fell asleep, I did. There was laundry to be started, a weekly menu to write up, and plenty of e-mail to answer. All of those little things waiting to be done. But they had to wait 15 minutes...while five little fingers that are growing bigger every day gripped my thumb and pulled me close...while little eyelashes settled over sleepy eyes...while little breaths became slower and slower...while a little brother kicked inside my womb...because those are the little things that matter.

Now if only I can remember...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For All The Saints...

I just went back to read my post from All Saints' Day last year. I'm sorry to say that we didn't get around to doing anything special this year, once again. We had such a crazy weekend and an incredibly difficult parenting day yesterday that we were lucky to get to church this morning. (Thank God for the time change!) I was glad we made it. Despite my completely missing the Holy Day, we still managed to get a good dose of it at our service, and I was reminded why I love this day.

The whole service was about the reality of the Kingdom of God and the hope and security that we have in that Kingdom. We sang some of my favorite hymns, and the pastor preached on the freedom from fear that comes from knowing that, ultimately, Christ is King, resurrected and coming back. Those who know Him will also come back, to a Kingdom fulfilled, a life beyond our imaginings. We don't have to fear death or hardships or uncertainty if we live in that truth.

It was a timely message, with the election coming in just two days. Whether you are excited or fearful about the election, the truth is that God is the supreme authority. Our actions may determine the next President, but God already knows whom that will be and what the outcome will be. No President can save our country, neither can he destroy it, outside of God's will. I suppose the message is, do not fear either candidate but also do not hope too much in the power of either candidate to save our messed up country. The only right recipient of our fear and hope is the one who rules over all nations. Makes the election results seem small in comparison.

Be still and know that He is God.

A verse from one of the hymns we sang today. (It's one of my favorites.)

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.