Monday, January 31, 2011

A Devotional for Story Bible Moms

This is the first in a series of short devotionals especially for moms of young children. Please check back next week for more.

I read about these moms who say that they get up an hour before anyone else in the house, settle down with their cup of coffee, and spend some quiet time reading scripture or praying. What a good idea! What a wonderful way to start a busy day. What a grounding, spiritual time. It makes me think of my favorite Martin Luther quote, "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." Or maybe the mom version of this is, I shall spend the first half hour (or 15 minutes would be nice, right?).

Here's true confession time. I am certainly not the first person to rise in my household, and if I can help it, I'm usually the last one up. Nor am I the last person to go to bed at night, making quiet prayer time in the evening an impractical proposition. So that nice, grounding time that I know would make my whole day better, well, it just doesn't ever happen.

In fact, many times my daily scripture reading is from Hannah's story Bible. My time for prayer and reflection is listening to her little voice recite the bedtime prayer I taught her. While maybe I can pretend that this is the proper spiritual life for a mom, the truth is, it's not. In fact, I'm dreading the day when Hannah is old enough to ask me what I pray for, and I'll have to tell her that sometimes, I don't.

And I'm sure that I'm not the only person in this boat. Am I right?

Last weekend, Jonathan took Hannah to the library, giving me a precious hour to myself. He asked, "What are you going to do? Read? Sew?" I said, "Wash my hair with no interruptions!" (My morning shower usually sounds like the courtroom scene from Legally Blonde. "Mama, what are you doing?" "I'm in the shower." "Are you in the shower?" "Yes, I'm in the shower, Hannah.")

So I was having my uninterrupted hair washing session, and in the ultimate irony, I was interrupted anyway - by God. A little bit of scripture floated into my brain, from Isaiah 58, "Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen?" Didn't I sign up to do exactly this thing, to spend my days with my child? Is this not the life that I gave up my "other" life for? Isn't this just what I wanted to do?

Yes! It is! I wanted to wash thousands of loads of diapers and scrape dried oatmeal from the floor. Well, maybe not that, but I wanted to be there when Hannah started crawling, and then took her first steps. I wanted to take her to the library and read dozens of books together. I wanted to make sure that she has a nice meal at lunchtime, and that our family has a good dinner on the table - at least most of the time. And I have all of these things. What more could a mom ask for?

Yes, this is exactly the kind of fasting that I have chosen. But this does not mean that I have chosen to fast from reading God's word, or taking the time to say a bit of a prayer here and there. In fact, it is exactly because of this life I have chosen that spending some time with God becomes all the more important. Because if I wanted to be around my kids more so that I could teach them things, what better thing to teach them than the importance of a prayer life, or the discipline of studying scripture? And what better way to teach them than through my example?

This is the fast that I have chosen, and what better way to prepare for it than to spend, if not three hours, than at least three minutes, in prayer?

(By the way, I feel like I have to give this scripture verse a little more credit, and say that this is one of the most beautiful social justice verses of the entire Bible, calling us to social and economic equality by working to break down injustices and build up a society of love and mutual respect. The rest of Isaiah 58:6 says, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"(NIV) But the context that God gave me last week was definitely about my particular choosing of motherhood.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Fresh Look for Hannah's High Chair

Maybe it's because of my Southwestern roots, but I really think oilcloth is cool. Not just kind of cool, but I get all excited about oilcloth the way some people get excited about really nice fabric like silk or...uh... other fancy fabrics I don't know the names of. I bought this cheerful orange-on-blue oilcloth when we lived in Albuquerque - long before I knew to appreciate the practicality of having table accessories that could be wiped clean without going through the washer. I made a set of four place mats, which we have enjoyed greatly over the years. (As a happy aside, I learned that the mildew that ruined my forgotten wet napkins simply wiped off the oilcloth.) I also cut an apron that I never got around to sewing. And I had some nice, big scraps left over for some unforeseen oilcloth coolness.

Then along came the third member of our family, and her really wonderful high chair, which all of us have greatly enjoyed over the last two years. But lately, the cheap plastic cover on the cushion has been getting rattier and rattier until I think it's actually distracting Hannah from eating. At first, the foam cushion was just peeking out in places, but lately, it's just about to abandon ship altogether as the plastic has no hold on the foam whatsoever. So out came those nice oilcloth scraps, ready to save the day.

Let me say, I am not one of those neat people who wipes down the high chair after every meal. Rather, if someone is coming to our house to share a meal which will be eaten at the table, minutes before they arrive, you can find me scrubbing weeks worth of applesauce and dried peas from the chair. (Even though I cleaned the thing up for the photo shoot, please don't look too closely!) This lack of effort also shows on the exposed edge of the foam, so please don't look too closely at that either...

I started by throwing away that old plastic, no-good cover, and tracing around the foam cushion on the wrong side of the oilcloth. Then I added a 1/4 inch seam allowance, and cut two pieces.

Next, I busted out my rotary cutter to make long strips for the edges of the cushion. The next part was quite the deal. Having never made this sort of thing before, it took a bit of trial and error, and three chocolate chip cookies to figure out what was going on. Alas, there are no pictures of my moments of frustration...

...but here's the cushion when it's done. It turned out a little caddywompus, but at least it has that wonderful oilcloth on it instead of broken white plastic oozing with dingy foam. Hannah was very happy to see the addition to her chair, especially since she is currently obsessed with eating oranges. I can't wait until she's old enough to appreciate the awesomeness of the actual oilcloth!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning by Osmosis

No joke: when I was in college, I slept with my exam notes under my pillow. This was actually a little bit more practical than it sounds, because I wasn't really expecting the information to seep into my brain overnight (although I certainly wouldn't have complained). I did read over the notes last thing before I fell asleep, hoping that my brain would soak up some of the information during its nighttime activities. And even though I remember very few economic principles or Spanish verb tenses now, I did get pretty good grades then, so at least some sort of (very) short-term learning was happening.

As we're anticipating our second child, or Little Sister as she as come to be known around the Warren house, I dug out the pregnancy and early-childhood development books I first read when we were expecting Hannah. I actually remember most of what those said, and rather than re-reading them, I've mostly looked at the pictures. Wonder what that says about memory? During my first pregnancy, I couldn't gather enough information, and read every book and website I could find. This time, I feel like my information is at an adequate level, and instead, I've been reading about pregnancy as a spiritual journey, and spending time pondering what life will be like for Little Sister. (By the way, in a total role reversal, Jonathan as been reading about family dynamics when a second child enters the home and books about sibling rivalry. Guess he'll be the over-informed parent and I'll just drift along in amazed wonder this time.)

With all this in mind, a few days ago, I was reading Hannah her usual bedtime story, a lovely book called Sleep in Peace by Ingrid Hess, which friends gave us shortly after Hannah was born. I've read this book to her every night of her life (with two memorable exceptions) since she was about 4 months old. As we went through the familiar words and pictures, which we both have memorized by sheer rote, my mind wandered, and I thought that maybe Little Sister should have her own special "night-night book," partly to make it unique, and partly to relieve Mama's boredom. Then I remembered a study of infants in their first days of life who were comforted by hearing a book or song which their mother had read aloud each day during her pregnancy. Little Sister's been hearing this book since day one - literally - so I guess she'll probably like being stuck with it, even if I don't.

In a way, this is comforting in itself: one thing I do remember from those "I have a baby, now what?!?" books -as well as from actual experience - is that the first days and weeks outside of the womb are very overwhelming and unfamiliar to a newborn. Isn't it nice that Little Sister already has a familiar story, not to mention the five- or six-time-daily repetition of the Winnie-the-Pooh theme and the constant auto-replay of Dinosaur Blues that occurs while driving in the car. Suddenly, my toddler's obsession with repetition and familiarity doesn't seem so boring and tedious. Now, while I'm pondering Little Sister's future, I'm thinking about how we have already set up some routines and rituals that will welcome her to her new world along with the freshly painted nursery. And all this without even trying!

Handprint Dishtowel Tutorial - Check Out My Guest Post

My friend Anne at Flour Sack Mama was so impressed by a craft project I made with Hannah and her kids, that she asked me to make a tutorial to post on her blog. Head on over to her site to check it out! While you're there, make sure to look at the rest of Anne's blog, which has lots on really neat information on green living, life with young children, and around-the-house projects.
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