Monday, 28 July 2008

St. Andrews

Last week we took a short overnight trip to St. Andrews. What a beautiful little town! Unfortunately, our camera broke a couple of weeks ago, so the pictures below are from the internet, but they give you an idea of where we were.

We took the bus from Edinburgh and arrived in the center of town about 2 hours later. Here's a view of the town from above. Our hotel was about 2 miles outside of town, and from our room window, St. Andrews looked wonderfully medieval -- all spires and old stone buildings. I (Christina) imagined that was what Hogsmead would look like from Hogwarts.

After we arrived, we walked around a little and discovered this ruin at the north end of town. It's a cathedral and castle. We ate our picnic lunch in the cathedral cemetary, just in the bottom left corner of the picture below.

After lunch, we set off to find our hotel. We got a great deal on a beautiful hotel that sits about 2 miles outside of St. Andrews. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a bus that would take us there, so we decided to walk. The walk was very pretty, following a highway that went right along the coast. When the sidewalk ended, we decided to follow a path cutting across one of St. Andrews' famous golf courses. This worked fine until the path dead-ended in what seemed to be a private dairy farm. Fortunately, we ran into a man working there, and he very generously told us we could cut across his fields, which bordered the hotel's golf course. So we went off-roading with the stroller, cutting a path through some very thick grasses and making our way through an extremely rusty gate. But we made it! And the hotel was just as pretty as the pictures made it out to be. (In the picture below, you can see the tall grass just at the edge of the golf course. It was from there that we emerged. Nathan said we had 5 star accommodations and 0 star travel!)

When we arrived in the reception area (below) we were a little grungy and sweaty (the day was absolutely beautifu! The first real summer day since we've been here!), so we were looking forward to settling into our room and hitting the pool. Unfortunately, our room wasn't ready yet so the receptionist very kindly sent us into the lounge with free drinks until the room was ready. The free drinks helped make the hour go by nicely, and the room we eventually received was definitely worth the wait. The pool was wonderful, and as usual Z loved it. There was also a hot tub, sauna and steam room. Fortunately we had brought our own supper, because the hotel restaurants and room service were unbelievably expensive. A single bowl of cornflakes cost 4 pounds. That's 8 dollars. And that was pretty much the cheapest thing on the menu.
After Z went to bed, Nathan and I took turns going back down to the pool, or, more specifically, the hot tub for me and the steam room for him. The steam room was 80 degrees centigrade -- a little too hot for me!
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, as it was included in the cost of the room. Big spread of food, and we all ate our fill, including Z, who had a big bowl of porridge as well as some fruit and yogurt.
The hotel allowed us to have a late check-out, so we had time for another dip in the pool and then a quick nap for Z. After that, we took a hotel shuttle back to St. Andrews. We walked around a bit and discovered St. Mary's College, which houses the University of St. Andrews' divinity school. The buildings of the college formed a square with a pretty, grassy quad in the middle (picture below). There's a tree in the quad that was planted there by Mary, Queen of Scots! We daydreamed a little about what it would have been like if Nathan had enrolled in St. Mary's instead of New College, but decided we were happy with the way things are.

We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant playing '80s dance music, because unfortunately we were walking along the wrong street and missed all the really good restaurants. The picture below is of the high street. We stopped at the shop just beside the blue shop and got an ice-cream cone.

After that we headed to the beach. Again, the day was beautiful -- sunny and warm. It was at this beach that the opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed. (If you watch the clip to the end, you'll see they actually run in to St. Andrews. We walked across that same field on our way from the beach to the bus station.) Z didn't know quite what to make of the sand, but he seemed to be enjoying it nonetheless.

Then back home to Edinburgh. What a nice little vacation!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Church Baby

Yesterday was Z's first birthday! Nathan and I are pretty proud of ourselves for getting through the first year successfully. (I realize many of you more veteran parents are smiling indulgently at that last sentence.) We celebrated with a spaghetti and meatballs lunch, which Z ate all on his own, followed up with chocolate cake, which he also ate on his own. We've discovered Z has a terrible liking for chocolate, and makes a funny chuckling noise whenever he's allowed to eat it. We had chocolate brownies a few days earlier when we celebrated his birthday with our good friends the Fishers. We took brownies and icecream over to their place and had a little birthday party in the back yard.

Here's Z eating his icecream.

Niamh (that's pronounced Neve -- it's Irish) gave Z a little star-spangled beanie-baby. He really loved the wrapping paper, which Niamh actually made herself at school.

Aoife (pronounced Eefa) gave Z a cute little stuffed bunny, which is in the red present waiting to be unwrapped. The girls, especially Niamh, love Z to death!

After the feast!

Several other people from church remembered Z's birthday, which was really nice. One older lady from church gave him a card which I thought was wonderful, as it was addressed simply to "The Church Baby". Z is usually the only baby at church, but I think he really is the church baby in a deeper way. I've found it very interesting this year attending a church which does not have a systematic program of "family friendliness," because I've actually found it to be more "friendly" to Z than some churches who make that their slogan. This friendliness to Z consists mostly in simply including him in the regular life of worship. There is a nursery (for which I am very grateful!), but the children come back to the service for the eucharist, which is received every Sunday. During the Eucharist (the entire liturgy), Z is included as a member of the church, one who has been baptized into the body of Christ. For example, when we pass the peace, nearly everyone who speaks with Nathan and I also gives Z's hand a little shake and tells him, most sincerely, "Peace be with you." When it is time for the supper itself, we take Z up to receive the bread and wine, and although he's not old enough to eat or drink yet, the priest always gives him a blessing, including him in the grace of the meal. It's a wonderful practice, and draws children, including infants, into the life of the church in a way that I believe is indicated in their baptism. "Family friendly" churches tend to hustle the children away to do their own thing, and allow the parents to concentrate on the service, and I definitely think this has its place and can be very appropriate. However, I have never approved of excluding baptized children from the Lord's Supper, whether it's an accidental exclusion (they're in the nursery when everyone is receiving the Supper) or an intentional exclusion (they're too young to understand so they shouldn't be allowed to participate. Good grief! I'm too young to understand!) So I believe that Z really is "the church baby," or, perhaps a better way to put it, the church's baby.

I am thankful for this since it is validation of our prayers at his baptism -- that he would belong to Christ and his body, the Church. Too often it seems infant baptism becomes a "family" event, rather than a church event. Infant baptism is not the family (i.e., parents, grandparents, etc) claiming their child for God; it is God claiming that child for himself, his kingdom and the Church. If anything, it is an event which marginalizes the family in the life of the child, for he too will be called to "leave houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields" for the sake of Christ (Matt. 19:29).

Several years ago I read Hudson Taylor's autobiography (which, by the way, is wonderful). As Taylor is getting ready to set sail for China, his mother comes on board the ship to say goodbye to him, probably forever. She tells Taylor that she and her husband had prayed, from the day that he was born, that he would be a missionary for the Lord. Even at his very birth, she prayed, essentially, that God would take him away from her in his service. That's someone who knows what it means to baptize a baby.

Nathan and I are trying to learn that same lesson, and at Z's baptism we had this song played, because it has that same theme. This child belongs to God, to do with as he will. All we can do is trust the holy God.

"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" (Heb. 11:17-19).

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Traveling for Homeschoolers

Okay, so I'm a little bitter that I (Nathan) wasn't homeschooled, considering that my own mother is a homeschooling specialist. But I can vouch for her that she knows what she's talking about when she writes about "The Nuts and Bolts of Homeschooling and Travel" in MAP Magazine.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

The Boy Is Mobile

Just shy of his first birthday, the Z-man is ambulatory. In celebration of the 4th of July he began crawling. Just as we were warned, this now means having to worry constantly about what he is going to get into. For instance, he has started incorporating dustbunnies into his daily diet.

It's amazing how fast it all changes. Z is also standing up in his crib, kneeling, and doing yoga moves reserved only for the most devoted athletes.