I DO like… – wot so funee?

As usual, this is the week’s round up of comedy moments brought about by toddler language. I love writing these posts, they always make me laugh remembering the moments that I noted down in the week…

Although Andrew is generally a good eater and will try most things, he has recently decided that certain vegetables are no-go. He can usually be persuaded to have a mouthful, which is all we ask if he really insists he doesn’t like it, if we say that he can’t have pudding if he doesn’t at least try it (and by pudding we mean fruit and yoghurt, which he loves). This week saw a new tactic in him trying to get out of veg consumption: when asked if he could eat some cauliflower (we he had actually chosen in the shop as we’d run out of veg in the box), his reply was “I can’t eat my cauliflower, it’s too dangerous!” Gotta watch those crazy cauliflowers, they might jump up from the plate and whack you round the head or something!

Every now and then he likes to pinch a bit of Daddy’s toast in the morning. Having asked for it one day, he left it on the table and got down. When I asked him a few minutes later if he wanted it because he’d asked for it, he replied: “No thank you, I don’t NEED toast right now”. OK then, we didn’t force you to have it in the first place!

I do love a good bit of toddler logic. As he’s grown out his 2-3 years clothes, he’s now got a 3-4 years wardrobe (or at least plenty of tops, trousers he gets by but could do with a few more). However, some of the trousers are a little long for him still, so we usually roll them up a bit to stop them dragging on the floor. I have been known to forget this, or at least not do it the immediate second that he’s got them on – he wants most things done yesterday. His reaction has been to shout: “Roll my sleeves up, roll my sleeves up!” (sometimes with a please attached on the end). When I’ve investigated further, knowing that his sleeves are fine, it’s become clear that he means his “trouser sleeves, Mummy”. Ah of course, trouser sleeves, it makes sense.

We’ve been doing a lot of packing recently for the big move. Mostly when the boys are out with one of us or asleep, but Daddy was sorting his CDs out at the weekend, which is a big job so it ran over after Andrew’s nap. He came out of his room, just opposite the CD rack, and picked up a CD – the March of the Penguin soundtrack. He studied it for a moment, and then asked: “Is this Pingu?” Not sure that Pingu is an Emperor Penguin like on the cover, but not far off I guess.

And finally, his latest favourite little phrase is: “I DO like [X]!” There’s a real emphasis on the DO, usually said i an excited manner because I’ve said that we’re going to do something involving the thing he likes, for example, eat pasta, go to the park, listen to a CD, ride in the car etc. One example that was really cute this week was when I told him we were going to church for one of our regular midweek groups there: “I do like church, it’s where all my friends are!” I’m glad that he enjoys going, as we do spend quite a bit of time there each week. And it’s lovely to hear that he thinks of other children as friends, as that’s not something he’s mentioned very much.

Wot So Funee?

Moving on

Blogging has fallen to the back of my mind recently with everything else that’s going on. I mentioned in a few of the posts that I did get round to publishing recently that we’re moving cities soon, but unless you know me in real life and have seen me recently, you won’t know much more detail than that. So I thought I’d share what we’re up to, and at the same time getting some thoughts down ‘on paper’ (so to speak) will help me think through things myself! With everything going on and all that I have to do, it’s hard to take time to step back and think.

For a while we had been thinking that at some point we would move out of Cambridge. As much as we love living here and the place has A LOT going for it, especially for young families, there are 2 major downsides for us: 1) it’s not very near our family, especially Tom’s side; 2) it costs an absolute fortune to buy a house here! We were very grateful to our parents who helped us get on the property ladder when we bought our small flat here a few years ago when house prices weren’t quite as crazy as they are now, but we knew that with me choosing to not work (for money) until at least Andrew is at school, there is no way we could afford to live anywhere bigger within the city. Our flat is actually OK for now, but we couldn’t imagine living here in much more than about 2 years time.

From Cambridge...
From Cambridge…

So Tom had been ‘passively’ looking for a job at a university in the Midlands – not spending too much time on it, but signing up to a few job email alert systems, to see if anything came up. After quite a while, when he saw one come up at the University of Birmingham that looked perfect for his skills and interests (time-tabling – he has that kind of mind!), he thought he might as well go for it, even though we weren’t thinking of moving right now. To his surprise, he was offered the job, and had 2 months notice to work at his current employer, which ties in neatly with starting the new job on the first Monday of the new year.

Now we have lots to sort out before Christmas, including packing and selling our flat. Thankfully we can live with my parents for a bit until we find somewhere to buy in Birmingham, and the commute won’t be too bad for Tom in the short term. This means we can wait until we have the money from our flat sale before going for anything at the other end, which makes things easier in terms of house moving chains and deadlines etc. We were told that the market in Cambridge is very fast at the moment, and sure enough within a couple of days of going on the market and after our first viewing, we had a good offer, followed by a higher one the day after, and more viewings until we said ‘no more!’ We and the people offering are going to make a decision on Monday, but if all goes to plan (I know that’s a big ‘if’ in house buying/selling!) then we should sell it soon and start the process of all the legal stuff.

So far packing hasn’t been too bad – I’ve been doing bits and bobs when Tom has taken the boys out and when they’re napping, and it’s amazing how much I can get done when I have no little ones around, I’m very productive! I’d already done some sorting over the past few months as we didn’t need everything that we had in the flat, so I feel like we’re starting at a good point and only packing stuff that really needs to go with us.

When I first heard that Tom had got the job, I didn’t know how to feel, and for a few days I was mostly upset at the thought of leaving everything that we love about living here: friends, church, groups, parks, distance from town, cycling/walking everywhere etc. But after the initial shock, I realised that of course in the long run there will be lots of opportunities just like these in Birmingham. And the main points are that we will be nearer family so (great) grandparents get to see grandkids with less of a trek, and we can more comfortably afford a family house, neither of which we can get here.

... to Birmingham
… to Birmingham

On Friday I had my first experience of saying goodbye to friends that we have really valued since being in Cambridge – in fact without them I’m not sure we would still be breastfeeding, so that means a lot to me. It was the last LLL Cambridge meet that we can make before Christmas, and it was sad to leave: I still very clearly remember walking into our first ever LLL meet in exactly the same room when Andrew was just 4 weeks old – here I was walking out with a nearly 3 year old Andrew and a 1 year old Joel. This is the first of many sad farewells that we will be making over the next few weeks.

It’s also been hard to think about handing over the voluntary roles that I do here in Cambridge. I started Nappyness library and meet-ups less than a year ago, before we knew that we’d move so soon, and if I had have known this, I don’t think I would have set it up. But I’m glad that I’ve been able to help some families in that time, even if I can’t help here in the future. I’ve just had an offer from 2 lovely mums who are happy to take Nappyness on, so I’m very pleased that this will still be available for local families to benefit from. I’ve also been in touch with a few ladies who started a library in Birmingham around the same time that I started Nappyness, but haven’t had chance to do much with it yet, and would be grateful for help when I get there. So that’s an exciting thing to look forward to as well. I’m also leaving behind my Editor position for the local NCT magazine, which has been a wonderful experience for various reasons. As nobody has yet come forward to take over from me, I think I’ll be helping out at a distance for a little while yet, with lots of help from the other existing team members.

For me this blog post is a record of what this time was like for us, and something to look back on when we’re all settled with a new life in Birmingham. We both believe that this move is what God wants us to do, and that He will guide us through it all, even though it may be stressful and upsetting at times. He’s done it in the past in our own individual lives, and as a couple, and now as a family, and we can look back at how well His plan has worked so far, which gives us confidence for the future. Jesus doesn’t promise that following His way is easy, but He does promise to be with us, and that is an amazing truth to hold onto in unsettling times like this. I felt particularly comforted when we sang these words at the women’s midweek Bible study group this week:

Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is, the anchor
My hope is in You alone

A helper for life

Every Thursday morning, the boys and I go to a group at church – it’s for women of any age, most of us have children of various ages, and there is a lovely student who looks after the toddlers (who love her!) whilst we read a passage from the Bible, discuss what we’ve read, and pray with each other. This term we’ve been looking at the book of Acts (short for Acts of the Apostles – they were Jesus’ first followers), which was written as an account of what happened to Jesus and his followers after He had died and risen from the dead.

The first chapter of the book describes how Jesus stayed with his followers for 40 days after he rose from the dead, then, as they were all eating a meal together, Jesus went back up into heaven. We were discussing in our group how the followers might have felt at this moment; I think I would have felt like a complete emotional wreck – I’d have been through the grief of seeing Him killed, the joy and amazement of seeing him alive again, and now he goes and leaves again by disappearing up into the clouds – what’s that all about?! The followers’ response was to pray together, which is probably the only response that could make any sense of their situation.

However, Jesus had promised them something which would appear after he had left them, and we see what this was in chapter 2 of Acts. The followers had gathered for the traditional Jewish festival of Pentecost as they would every year. During this celebration, God sent the Holy Spirit to them, which is described as being like a violent wind that whooshed among them and like flames of fire that came between them and fell upon them. As Christians in the present day, it is this sending of the Holy Spirit into the world that we celebrate and remember today (and every year) on Pentecost Sunday. So it is very apt that our group has been looking at Acts leading up to today.

We can read an account of how the Holy Spirit was sent to Jesus’ followers back in the first century AD, but what relevance is this to our lives today? God’s plan was that the Holy Spirit would stay with anyone on Earth who believes in Jesus and what He did for us, throughout the centuries until Jesus comes again. As the Holy Spirit stays with us and we are filled with Him, His role is a ‘helper’ – there are several ways in which He helps me in my life. Here are a few examples, along with Bible verses that refer to these too:

  • How to live my life….
    • He leads us and guides us (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18;)
    • He teaches us (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13), and specifically to pray (Romans 8:26-27; Jude 1:20)
    • He speaks to us  (Acts 8:29, 10:19, 11:12; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Hebrews 3:7; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 2:11)
  • How I’m feeling….
    • He puts God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5)
    • He gives us deep down joy even in suffering (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
    • He encourages us in good and hard times (Acts 9:31)
  • How I interact with others….
    • He speaks through us to others (Matthew 10:20; Acts 2:4)
    • He gives us the power to do what God wants us to do in helping others (Luke 4:14;  Acts 1:8; Romans 15:19).
    • He unites us with each other in peace (Ephesians 2:14-18, 4:3)
  • The big and deep bits….
    • He shows us who Jesus is, that Jesus is present in our lives (John 16:14-15, 1 John 3:24; 4:13), and He transforms us to be more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
    • He lets us draw near to God the Father, and shows us the profound and amazing things He has done for us and given us through Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 2:10-12, Ephesians 2:18)

For me, the Holy Spirit is key in how I became a Christian and how I continue to live for Jesus. As a child and a teenager, I felt like I knew a lot of the theory about God and Jesus as I read about them, but it wasn’t until I experienced the Holy Spirit that I really knew what it was like to live a life for Jesus – it’s difficult to describe this because it’s an experience rather than something tangible like a book to read. Life isn’t always easy, Jesus never promised that it would be, in fact He told us it would be hard at times, but He also promised that the Holy Spirit would be there to help, and I’m so glad that He is!

Here is a song that I have in my head for today – it is a song asking God to please ‘send the fire’, and the fire it refers to is the Holy Spirit, just like it was first experienced by Jesus’ followers as described in the book of Acts.

The gift of a baby – Joel’s dedication

On Sunday we had a dedication for Joel during the church service that we usually go to. It is traditional in the Church of England to baptise babies in what is often called a ‘Christening’; this involves sprinkling them with water, and the parents of the baby declare their own faith and commitment to Jesus, and make promises to God on behalf of the baby. In other denominations, for example the Baptist Church, it is not traditional to baptise babies, but rather adults, and this usually involves them standing in a pool of water and being fully immersed and brought back out of the water, just as baptism used to be done in Biblical times.

Although the church we go to each week is part of the Church of England, it is not prescriptive in requiring babies to be baptised – as parents we have a choice whether to have them baptised or dedicated. Dedication does not involve water; instead it is an opportunity for us to publicly thank God for the gift of Joel, and pray for him as he grows up, that he might come to know and love Jesus for himself like we do, then if he chooses, he can be baptised as an adult.

Joel was a very smiley and happy boy for most of the day.
Joel was a very smiley and happy boy for most of the day.

Tom and I thought and prayed for a long time both before and after Andrew was born as to whether we wanted our child(ren) to be baptised or dedicated. Some of our thought processes were based on what we had experienced as babies and adults. I was dedicated as a baby and made my own decision to be baptised as a teenager; Tom was baptised as a baby and went on to be confirmed in the Church of England as an adult. Both my adult baptism and Tom’s confirmation were public declarations of our faith once we were old enough to decide for ourselves what we believe.

We also talked with our vicar, who explained some of the reasoning based on what the Bible says for baptising babies or adults. The theological arguments that have been made for and against infant baptism and adult baptism are quite complicated, and I won’t go into them all here – if you’re interested you can read all about them on Wikipedia. Essentially it boils down to what exactly we believe the meaning of baptism is. One way of looking at baptism is as a New Testament (and right up to the present day) Christian parallel to the Old Testament Jewish tradition of circumcision, in other words a way of welcoming babies into a faith community, thanking God for their safe arrival. There are various verses in the Bible, such as in the Book of Acts (chapter 2, verses 38-39; chapter 16, verses 14-15; chapter 18, verse 8), that talk of whole households (presumably including children) being baptised or that the promise of forgiveness through baptism is for everyone including children. Another way of looking at baptism is as an action of repentance, admitting that we have done wrong things, saying sorry for them, receiving God’s forgiveness by his grace, and also as a public statement of faith or belief in Jesus – of course babies are not old enough to understand and do these things on their own. There are various verses in the Bible that suggest this is what baptism means (e.g. Luke chapter 3, verse 3; Mark chapter 1, verse 4; Acts chapter 13, verse 24; Acts chapter 19, verse 4). Whichever way we look at it, the Bible teaches that there is only one baptism for each person, so it is either as a baby or as an adult, not both.

Overall, taking into account our own experiences and what we thought and prayed about having looked at the Bible, we felt like baptism made more sense to us if you actively choose to do it as an adult rather than if you passively have it done on your behalf as a baby. That is not to say that we think infant baptism is wrong – every parent has a choice on this, and this is just what we chose to do.

Two smart boys - each a gift from God.
Two smart boys – each a gift from God.

As well as us parents, Joel also has two Godparents, who have committed to praying for him and being available as mentors for things that might crop up in his spiritual journey that he’d rather talk to someone other than us about; they also stood up with us at the front of church on Sunday. Andrew was also dedicated in the same way (before I started blogging, so I didn’t write about it), and shares the same Godparents.

We had a lovely day celebrating the gift of Joel with family and friends. We missed a few people who couldn’t travel due to the ridiculous weather – who would have thought that organising this event at the end of March would mean there would be travel problems due to snow! After the church service we had a lunch at one of the colleges in the centre of Cambridge to continue the celebrations. Both boys enjoyed having lots of people there to wrap around their fingers with cuteness.

Rainbow cake with rainbow sponge
Rainbow cake with rainbow sponge

A special mention must go to the cake…. Although I would have loved to make it myself, I decided that I didn’t want the stress of it having to be finished for Sunday morning, not knowing in advance how much Joel would want to feed on the days running up to the day itself. And I’m glad I did decide this because things have been quite busy this week with one thing and another, and it was Tom’s turn to be ill. So I asked Andrew’s old childminder if she could do it – she would often have amazing-looking cakes ready for family and friends when I used to drop him off, and she’s now applying to get all the paperwork in place to make a proper little business out of it. She didn’t disappoint with this beautiful rainbow design with rainbow sponge inside 🙂 The idea of a rainbow was mine, and she asked if we wanted rainbow sponge too.

A starry role

At less than 2 years old, Andrew took part in his first nativity play this year. For our church (Holy Trinity, Cambridge), the children’s nativity play is an annual tradition. Since we started going there over 6 years ago, Tom and I have always enjoyed watching the play and seeing how excited the children are to take part and reinact how Jesus came into this world as a baby. We hoped that the day would come when our own children would be involved too, though I thought it would be a couple more years yet.

My little star! (after the play had finished - it wasn't a solo)

Until last year, the youngest children taking part were about 3 years old, as that was the age when toddlers graduated from the creche on Sundays to the youngest Children’s Church group, where they learn about Jesus through reading the Bible, making crafty things and singing kids’ worship songs. Recently, however, the creche has split into two, because there are so many young families with babies and toddlers at the church now that the room was getting overcrowded and toddlers couldn’t play as freely as we’d like because there were young babies playing on the floor too. Now there is a group for 18-month olds to 3-year olds (and the creche is just for babies up to 18 months old); it’s mainly a group for play, just like creche but with toddler-specific toys, but they also sing songs and read simple Bible stories together. This is a great transition from creche to the older Children’s Church groups.

This year is the first Christmas that the 18-month plus group has been in existence, and the leaders decided they were brave enough to include these little ones in the annual nativity play. Their role was to be a chorus of stars, and they sang a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was adapted with an extra verse which describes how it was a star that guided visitors to Jesus after he was born.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky

But there was no pressure, they didn’t have to do it, and could go up to the front with a parent if they liked. Andrew was happy to go up on his own and sat just in front of a leader, looking at us in the congregation. He was unaware that Granny and Grandad were also in the congregation, up on the balcony, just in case he caught a glimpse ans would have rather gone and sit with them than sing.

So, to make my little star into a real good looking star, I set to and made my very first costume for a nativity play. It’s been an easy start, easing myself in gently to the world of kids’ costume making; I’m sure future years will bring times of more complicated animal and people costumes that will require more imagination and trips to scour various charity and craft shops. Have you made any nativity play costumes? I’d love to hear from anyone who has, especially if it was a bit unusual or complicated.

Here’s a quick guide to how I made the costume. I bought a long-sleeved white t-shirt from our local supermarket (in fact it came as a pack of three, with bright green and blue ones too). I made a star stencil by printing from my computer a star shape drawn from the shapes available in LibreOffice word processing software, and cutting out the star to leave the A4 card with a star shape in the middle. Using this stencil and some yellow fabric paint that came in a set of 6 colours from a craft shop, I painted a star onto the t-shirt. A quick iron to make it colour-fast… et voila, a simple star costume! He wore it with some plain black trousers (he doesn’t have any light coloured trousers – who would put such a thing on their toddler other than someone who likes doing laundry?!)

Star printed out on card, ready to cut out the grey bit from the middle
Stencil held in place on fabric with selotape at each corner. Also there's a scrap piece of card undreneath the fabric where the star is, in case the paint leaked through, but it didn't.
Painting with the stencil to get a nice clean line around the star
The finished costume

How Pentecost is like the Olympic Flame

Most of you are probably thinking ‘Oh no, not someone else banging on about the Olympic Flame’, though there must be some people out there who aren’t fed up of the Olympic coverage already (mustn’t there…??). If you have been interested enough to click onto this post and start reading, you’ll (be relieved to) find out that I’m not going to focus on the Olympics, but rather show how Pentecost, the Christian festival celebrated today, has some similarity to the Olympic Flame. I have to admit that I got this idea from John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, a very cool guy for someone who wears such a funny hat, he’s even on twitter and his tweets are very down to earth  – don’t just take my word for it, check him out all you twitter peeps 🙂 I liked his idea and thought it was very relevant with all this Olympic Flame revelry going on, so I thought I’d share my take on it with you (his full message can be found here).Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks after Easter. In the UK it usually falls sometime around the late May bank holiday (depending on the date of Easter which moves each year), though of course this year the bank holiday is a week later in June because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Here is a description of the first ever day of Pentecost from the book of Acts (chapter 2 verses 1-4) in the Bible (taken from The Message version – a modern-day translation):

“When the Feast of Pentecost came, they [the first followers of Jesus Christ, i.e. the early Church] were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.”

This describes how God sent his Holy Spirit to be with the early followers of Jesus on the first ever day of Pentecost. You see, Jesus had previously died and risen from the dead three days later (as I wrote about at Easter), and then, just before Pentecost, had gone back up to heaven leaving His followers behind. But it had always been God’s plan to send the Holy Spirit to help His followers on Earth after Jesus was no longer around in person. And this is just what God did on that first Pentecost.

The early followers of Jesus, the early Christians, needed this Holy Spirit, a ‘helper’, to give them the words to say, and the perseverance amidst the adversity they would encounter, when telling others about Jesus and being involved in bringing more people to follow Him. When the Spirit was sent, it was like a ‘wildfire’ that spread through the followers. Can you see where the Olypmic Flame parallel is starting to come out here? That first Pentecost was the start of the flame relay, and it’s a relay that has been going on ever since, and will carry on forever.

When someone first decides to become a Christian, to follow Jesus and put Him a the centre of their life, they too become ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit, they get the flame in the relay, just as the first followers did ages ago, just as Christians have over the centuries, and just as continues to happen today. This may sound a bit weird and potentially a reason to freak out about becoming a Christian. I know that for years I was happy enough to read all about God and Jesus in the Bible, and accept and believe in all the written words (the ‘Word’ part of believing), but I hadn’t actually encountered God from a personal perspective – that was what happened the day I first experienced what it was like to feel the Holy Spirit (the ‘Spirit’ part of believing). There were no actual flames involved (I suspect we would have set the building’s fire alarms off these days!), but I can relate to the metaphor of a rushing wind.

Before this experience I was a big sceptic of this kind of thing, and I guess that’s why it took years for me to really accept that God could still work in this way in the 21st century. But even I was finally able to let my barriers down, and I’m so glad I did, because now I can see that being a Christian makes so much more sense with both the ‘Word’ and the ‘Spirit’ side of things together. The day I accepted that flame passed to me, it changed my life. I can’t say that it instantly changed me into a perfect person (still a LONG way off that!) but I do know that it is having this flame which helps me in my life as a Christian. It’s not always easy, for one thing we get a lot of stick, but it would be a whole lot harder if I didn’t have a way of interacting with God on a personal level. I believe that He can guide my thoughts, my words and my actions (if I let Him, not always the case) and show me what plans He has for my life, which (experience tells me) are way better than anything I could have come up with by myself.

The Olympic Flame analogy isn’t quite perfect for the Holy Spirit, because the great thing is, you never have to give up the flame and pass it to someone else. So it’s like a special relay where every participant keeps holding a flame even after someone else gets a flame too. In fact not only that, but you can ask God for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in your life whenever you like, if you feel like you’ve drifted away or had a particularly challenging time that’s used up all your spiritual ‘energy’. So it’s like each flame never goes out, never runs out of fuel, and there’s always enough to go round everyone who wants it at the same time. Pretty amazing!

So have you ever thought about what it would be like to accept the flame? (the Holy Spirit that is, not the Olympic one – I wouldn’t be able to run very far with that!) It might sound like a big step, and I know how it feels to be standing on the edge of that big step thinking about whether to go for it, but I would definitely recommend it as a life-changing experience. If you’re not even sure about, or haven’t heard about, the ‘Word’ side of things, I’d recommend reading one of the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible – the four ‘Gospels’, which recount Jesus’ life, death and rising again. The book of Acts (which describes Pentecost) carries on from where they stop. A great way to explore what you think about both the ‘Word’ and the ‘Spirit’ is through an Alpha course, where you can ask questions and discuss your views with Christians who would love to do that with you. These run in churches all over the world. Why not look up one near you if you’re interested?