31 December 2007

Our Wild New Year's Eve

Our big plans:

1)Put kids to bed early (as usual).

2)Settle into couch, possibly with movie, possibly with books, but definitely with the leftover treats from our annual open house. I'm thinking particularly of the mini cheesecakes and the mint brownies...

3)Be sound asleep by the time the ball drops (and yes, NY is an hour ahead of us).

This is too much fun to waste any more time blogging, but if any of y'all believe in making New Year's resolutions and would like to share, by all means do so. And if you're really not into making a list of ways to improve yourself, talk about that too, to make me feel better. Ha ha.

Or here's an idea we had a good laugh about: husband and wife making resolutions for each other. Since we'll be attempting to co-teach a marriage class soon, we kind of decided against doing that this year...

30 December 2007

Great post from Father Rick

"Care for your children, also, with love and mercy and forgiveness. Deal with them gently and with patience, as the Lord is long-suffering, slow to anger, and compassionate with you. Do not fail to discipline your children, to teach them right and wrong, to train them in the way they should go, in the fear of the Lord. But do not vent your own sinful anger upon them; they suffer, as it is, for the sins of their father and mother. Remember that the little Lord Jesus was Himself a Child, and that He welcomes the little children to His own embrace; not because they are perfect little angels without sin, but because He has given Himself for them, and He forgives them, as He also forgives you."

(Emphasis added. Read the whole thing here, especially the part about St Joseph.)

29 December 2007

With MY fourth baby . . . .

I've gotten to the point where people are out of horror stories for me. Most people don't have fourth baby experiences with which to out-mom friends and strangers working on their own number 4. What I hear now is stuff like this:

--my two were enough work
--if your labors were as hard as mine (!) you'd have quit too
--we just couldn't afford any more (this especially amuses me coming from people who have a pretty good idea what our income is)
--our house was/is too small for more kids
--I had such hard pregnancies (remember, this is usually from someone with 2 kids)

Well, here's what I have to say to all that: this is my fourth baby in five years, and it has definitely been my easiest pregnancy. Least morning sickness, fewest aches and pains (not that I'm moving too fast these days), least exhaustion-driven despair. Why? No idea on the morning sickness; maybe I've already been stretched to capacity so much that the anatomy is getting used to it; my oldest kid is finally getting big enough to be helpful and the three of them keep each other busy if I need a break. This is all just to illustrate something we already know, that people can make any excuse not to have more kids. [Insert here, for liability reasons, standard disclaimer about some people having serious reasons to quit or space] But it really is true that you don't know how your next pregnancy will go, or how many babies you can afford, or anything else. When we got pregnant with our third we were living in a tiny two bedroom apartment in which it was illegal for more than two children and two adults to live. We were in a very expensive housing market where as far as we could see we didn't have any other options. God in his mercy had us in a four bedroom house two months before she was born.

Anyway. We'll see how the fourth foray into L&D, dairy operations, and postpartum *ahem* instability goes. But I just thought it was interesting how the pregnancy-related conversations change as you start being the veteran, age notwithstanding.

26 December 2007

David Attenborough narrates my afternoon

DA: The pregnant female's eating habits are highly unpredictable. This one has just settled down with a bin of celery and a dip which she would normally not give the time of day.

[Cut to me on couch covered with blanket and devouring a good-sized Tupperware's worth of celery with weird and ageless dip. A child approaches and I snarl at it; it retreats. Later, another child approaches. I give this one a celery stick and it too goes away. Footage continues for 90 more seconds, then cuts to me eating last celery stick.]

DA: Bin emptied, we cannot guess whether she will fall asleep or pursue more food.

[I call for child, who takes containers away and returns empty-handed. I shout at child, who disappears again and re-enters with bag of cookies, but I'm already asleep by the time she gets back. Camera follows child into next room where she summons other children, who gather and begin eating cookies as rapidly as possible.]

DA: Her young show signs of neglect, and must forage for food themselves as they have opportunity.

22 December 2007

That reminds me . . .

Reb. Mary's excellent point in the post immediately preceding this one reminds me of a poem by Luci Shaw:

It’s as if the infancy were the whole of the incarnation
One time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere,
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need for eternity.
But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are to be wary, these days,
of beards and sandaled feet.
Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding his peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(Only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the Man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him--
Christ--the Lord.

21 December 2007

Nice Baby Jesus

I’ve heard a number of people say that they’ve tried to read the whole Bible but gave up at Leviticus. Not gave up altogether—just skipped right on ahead to the New Testament. I could be wrong here, but I get the impression that many Christians are practical Marcionites when it comes to Bible-reading practices and understanding. (And ok, I’ll admit to having bogged down in Leviticus a few times myself. But that, of course, was before I went to seminary, ha ha, or at least before I met people like our Old Testament Scholar-in-Residence Rebekah). Some people are actually brave enough to say out loud what so many are thinking: What’s with all these laws and regulations, and Golly, that God had quite a temper in the Old Testament—always striking and afflicting! Let’s just flip forward to Matthew 1—skip those first few verses with all those names—to the nice Nativity story...

In the sneak preview I got of this year’s Christmas Eve sermon, I heard a couple things that seem to speak to any latent, lurking Marcionism (At least I find them helpful!). For instance, there’s the contrast between the population of the pews on Christmas Eve vs. the sparser attendance on Good Friday. What’s the deal? Seems we’d much rather coo over the helpless Baby Jesus than journey with the grown man to the cross. The problem is, Baby Jesus starts talking. And when he does, he says some stuff that’s awfully hard to take. Demanding. Intolerant. Exacting. That once-nice Baby starts making some exclusive claims—about Himself and on our lives—that sound awfully familiar…

Wait a minute! You mean the "New Testament God" demands just as much of us as He did of the Israelites in the Old Testament? More?!

Suddenly, Leviticus takes on whole new dimensions of meaning and relevance. For instance, if you haven’t visited there lately, just skim chapters 18-22, and count the number of times “I am the LORD” and “I am the LORD your God” appear.

Wow. And why do I keep thinking that I’m in charge of my life, that my life is about me?

Sure reminds me of another dimension to contemplate as we place Baby Jesus in our Nativity scene manger again this year.

20 December 2007

Lies of the Bradley Method, Part 2: Feeling Fantastic!

I actually got out the old book to do some reviewing. Let me say again there's plenty of good stuff in it that I'm glad I know. But this little passage is so absurd that I can't help laughing or becoming enraged whenever I come across it: "Many Bradley Method couples are able to walk out of the birth room together holding the baby. This is only possible if they have had a normal and totally unmedicated labor and birth . . . . The new mother will find that she feels fantastic after a totally unmedicated labor and birth."

Oh, my achin' sides! Or maybe, the dutifully unmedicated new mother will find herself being picked up off the floor by nurses after she attempts to shuffle 10 feet to the bathroom when half of her blood has recently been carried off in a plastic bag to the hospital incinerator! Who are these people? I've never had an unusually complicated or very drawn out delivery, but I have certainly not felt anything approaching fantastic until . . . well . . . a lot later. And maybe all my friends are bunch of weaklings and whiners, but none of them have either.

I'm thrilled if some women feel fantastic after L&D. But why make it sound like this is the norm, and even worse, set up first timers with unrealistic expectations? That's just mean.

18 December 2007

Merry ChristMASS

Last year I had a friend who couldn't get enough of typing Merry CHRISTmas in her post-Thanksgiving emails. She found opportunity to do it several times per message. As she's the type who goes to a Lutheran church defined more by its high population of prayer warriors than anything actually Lutheran, it was all I could do not to reply to all of these messages with a "Merry ChristMASS." Now I hear from Father William that the idea isn't limited to my own evil little brain. Spread the word, friends. If you can't spell Christmas without Christ, what about that business on the end? What do they think "mas" means anyway?

17 December 2007

Threatening Christmas

Having a hard time getting the little ones into the Christmas spirit? Elf on a Shelf is here to save the day!

Just remember: Don't get them wet and never, ever feed them after midnight.

16 December 2007

Walking Upright and Foraging for Food

Knowing that it would amuse my pregnant self, my dad (who happens to be a great source of solid facts in creation science/ID/etc.) recently sent me a link to this article about how women have cleverly evolved flexible spines that enable us to be pregnant and still walk upright.

Let's overlook for just a moment the fact that these scientists are working from unprovable starting assumptions that force them to explain the world without a Creator. Let's temporarily ignore how much faith it takes for them to believe that the complementary male and female reproductive systems somehow evolved independently. (How exactly did each new, more highly evolved generation arise through natural selection, if they couldn't even reproduce yet? Um?)

Aside from those minor logical and factual quibbles, there were a few things I really enjoyed about the article.

For instance, I did rather get the giggles at the thought of pregnant women tipping over left and right. Though this may just be evidence of pregnancy cheese-brain, since my center of gravity is beginning to shift in earnest, and it's been rather icy around here. Not so funny.

Then there was the observation that "women's bodies have evolved spines that are more flexible and supportive than men's." Why don't we just change a few things to make this into a more general statement that is perhaps more accurate, something that we can all agree on: "women are more flexible and supportive than men." Hee hee.

But my favorite line was definitely this one: "Early human women lived very strenuous, active lives, and pregnant females were forced to cope with the discomfort of childbearing while foraging for food and escaping from predators." Well. Think about it. Strenuous, active lives...coping with discomfort....what's changed, really? After all, I still spend a majority of my time foraging for food and attempting to escape the clutches of my children, who become quite predator-esque when hungry (which is apparently all the time).

Too bad this article misses the point: the changes that a woman's body undergoes in order to support new life are an amazing testimony to Divine Design.

15 December 2007

Look out, they've got prayer warriors!

Can I just ask what exactly these mythical beasts are? People use the term like it's commonly understood, but apparently I missed the definition somewhere over the course of my theological education. Any time someone solicits my services as a "prayer warrior," I'm strongly tempted to just tell them no. I'm pretty sure I'm not one (not positive since I don't know what they are); the war for my impious self is actually getting my prayers prayed. And if one really were such a thing, wouldn't it be kind of unbecoming to go around announcing it? Whatever happened to the battle belonging to the Lord that it used to be all the rage to sing about in the same circles from which I'm guessing this usage arose? If anyone knows anything as to the origins of "prayer warrior," I'm all ears. I'd ask a follow up about why people who claim to be Lutheran use it as I doubt that it's from our proper range of the theological spectrum, but that's just silly these days.

14 December 2007

The nanny state

One thing that annoys me endlessly about parenting magazines is their constant calls for "better" maternity care/leave, flexible work options, child care, etc. Of course the government should be providing/mandating these things (and don't forget the enraged observation that the US is the only civilized country that doesn't). The empowering sidebars always fail to mention that the government will make these services available by taking even more out of the paycheck that you're now liberated enough to bring home, having handed control of your life over to them. Typical soft feminist-ish idiocy, placed opposite a pastel ad of the world's happiest baby slurping a substance called "formula" from the newest-most-breastiest-bottle-ever.

Well, I wish all the moms who subscribe to these disingenuous undercover political rags would read this and learn what things are really like in the socialist utopias they're pining for. By all means, go out and get a low paying government job taking care of other peoples' kids while someone else takes care of yours. You'll get a check for maybe half the money you earned, and the male/female pay discrepancy will be worse than the one those Ostragoths the Americans have*. But it will feel fair! You'll be just as tired as your husband when you both get home from work, and you'll both have had the same amount of time with your kids--exactly as much as the government says you should.

*also a myth, but let's keep it to one policy rant at a time

13 December 2007

Happy Santa Lucia

Most people wouldn't guess it by looking at me, but some of the most recent ethnic influences on both sides of my family tree are old country Swedes. I get a kick out of observing some of the traditions they brought with them, and reviving a few of the Christian ones that they, mostly heathen, didn't. The babies and I really like to make Lussekatter, or St Lucy Buns, to observe Santa Lucia. We haven't had a truly authentic celebration yet as a 4-year-old with a lighted candle wreath on her head seems ill-conceived, but maybe someday. Here's a description from my great grandma's cookbook, and check the CSPP cooks link for a recipe (listed under Breads--saffron is pricey, but you only have to use it once a year, and I always skip the cardamom):

This is the first day of the Christmas season that lussekatter, saffron flavored bread, is served. In families, the first piece is served by the oldest daughter, who wears on her head a wreath with the lighted candles in it. This festive day heralds the beginning of the holiday season. The saffron-flavored bread is a specialty for Christmas. Celebrations with great foods abound from Christmas Eve to the 20 days after Christmas. Glogg is the beverage of the season.



12 December 2007

NEAT!

NEAT: Non-exercise activity thermogenesis:

Commonly defined as "the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise."

Recognized by researchers as a key factor in avoiding excess fat gain.

This, my friends, is our CSPP secret for staying so lean and lithe, or something like that, ha ha ha. (Please disregard my currently burgeoning waistline for the purposes of this post. Actually, please just disregard it altogether.)

Think about it: we get NEAT points for running through grocery store aisles, chasing down children as we throw things into the cart! For hauling toddlers around on hips! For washing dishes and sweeping floors! For bending over to secure countless pairs of shoes!

NEAT also helps me understand how the boys at my table can consume such astounding quantities of food and not be part of the childhood obesity epidemic we all hear so much about. They just don't sit still--EVER! And fidgeting is sooo NEAT. Is anyone else amazed at the number of ways a preschool boy, without even trying, can find to "sit" in a chair? (Maybe girls too, but I've got less experience in that department.)

11 December 2007

The rich man's family

When I was pregnant with our second baby, a seminary professor (and father of four) congratulated us on having the "million dollar family," as we would now have a girl and a boy. By societal standards, we should have stopped at that point. We've laughed ever since about how we squandered that fortune.

Then the other night at a church event, a lady asked us if we knew what we were having. We told her it was a boy and she said, "Oh, two and two! That's the rich man's family!" So maybe we haven't ruined it all just yet. I wonder what three and three is? Four and four?

09 December 2007

Pewsitting (not).

Going to church is good.

But these words from St. Francis of Assisi remind me not to get too comfortable in my pew. (Which is not, of course, possible in the strictest literal sense, given the activity level in my pew. But you know what I mean.)

"It is a great shame, to many of us who are known as servants of God, that while the apostles and early saints actually walked with Him through every kind of trial, we think we are deserving of heavenly glory and honor merely because we know their deeds from Scripture and can easily recount all that they said and did (James 1:22)." (from The Admonitions)

When I read these words, I immediately recognized the CSPP edge in the Christian struggle to walk the faith rather than merely to know the faith. As Gauntlets pointed out awhile ago, with the little ones always underfoot, we're always onstage. We're constantly trying to translate theology into something that's meaningful for a variety of age brackets, and we have all day, every day, to model how faith matters in every moment. (Yeah, it also gives us more opportunity to screw up--but then, may grace increase!)

The CSPP life may be particularly--appropriately--humbling for those of us who have studied theology in a formal setting. We may, for instance, find ourselves trying to make meaning of those lofty seminary discussions on models of atonement for a preschooler who is working on a bowel movement. (For some reason, the 3-yr.-old always comes up with a deep theological question when he assumes the throne. Serious discussions for serious business, I guess.)

Almost like God intended this whole marriage/parenthood thing as a path to greater holiness...hmm...

07 December 2007

My superromantic life

I recently joined this outfit called Title Trader and was going to tell you (or, as they say in these parts, yous guys) about it just because it's kind of cool. Here's how it works: you list books, CDs, and DVDs that you're willing to part with. Other members can request them and you mail them out. Then you get credits for the stuff you've traded out and can request items from other members (whoever offers the item pays the postage). I know there are other online swap groups like this, but I like this one because it's not limited to books and gives me a chance to get rid of all the unacceptable media that come into the house in the form of presents. It's worth it to me just to get rid of the stuff because I hate having anything contribute to the unconquerable mess that pervades our lives. But with this I can even get something back for my rejects rather than just hauling bags to Goodwill every month, and of course you break even on shipping. The babies are going to have a nicer Christmas than I expected.

Now, I'm pretty particular and consider most of the available trades junk, but I keep an eye on the new additions on the odd chance that something good should come up (you can also make up a wish list, and if anything you have on it gets offered you're notified). And I've learned something interesting: there's a whole subset of romance novels whose central plot is not (just?) the hot times with the hot dude, but some kind of baby love interest. Here are some titles: A Baby On the Way, The Trouble With Twins (cover art is a fetching fellow in an apron apparently making cookies with matching little girls--and wasn't there a Babysitters Club book with this title?), and Merry Christmas, Babies (four babies in Santa suits under the tree). Apparently Harlequin has a whole line devoted to this: Harlequin Superromance. Who knew? Maybe we should be writing these? We've certainly done the research.

05 December 2007

Got courage?

So there's this nice little ecumenical moms' group that I attend (more on that some other time, perhaps). But one of the discussion questions today was "Have you ever experienced a time when you realized you didn't have enough of/in yourself to supply all your child needed?"

My immediate reaction was to mentally reframe the question: Was there ever a time when I DID think I had a clue what I was doing or that I was fit to be a mother? In fact, it was just the other day that I phoned my pastor, and, shouting in order to be heard over the general weeping and gnashing of teeth in the background, informed him that I was certain that I was going to hell, on this particular occasion for both despising my vocation and failing at it utterly. Um, it had been kind of a rough morning with the boys...

(Those of you who are feeling badly for the poor shocked clergyman might benefit from the full disclosure that said pastor happens to be my husband, and is therefore accustomed to dealing with occasional phone calls of this nature. In fact, to my great surprise, he has informed me--not in detail of course--that my calls are actually not the most shocking ones he handles.)

But back to the question at hand. Of course I don't have what it takes. And that's the point, though I forget it every day. When will I finally learn to lean not unto mine own understanding, but in all my ways, to acknowledge Him? And that it's ok sometimes to lean also on those He has placed at strategic points along that path to help me, even as He positions me to help others along as well?

Gauntlets' recent post included: "Let us worry not a whit about the accusations, expectations, and depictions of this dark world as it slouches toward Bethlehem." Right on. And to add a twist: the accusations, expectations, and depictions that daunt me the most are those that come from within the darkness of my own heart.

I hope you're bearing with me in this post, because this is where it gets good. My courage tends to fail me from time to time, and I just came across the following from Amy Carmichael. It's a bit long to post, but it's worth it:

"You can refuse the spirit of fear, which never comes to us from God (And if He does not send it, who does?) Instead, open your heart wide to the Spirit of "power and love and a calm and well-balanced mind, and discipline and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7, Amplified). Because fear is so infectious, let us, for the sake of others and ourselves, refuse it.

"Thank God--! Courage is as "infectious" as dis-couragement. Haven't you often felt the cheer and strength that seem to flow from a person whose mind is fixed and firm on God? I have.

"And I have been thinking of another, a greater reason for refusing the spirit of fear.

"When we are downhearted or fearful or weak, we are saying to everybody (by the way we look and by our timidity, if not by our words), 'After all, the Lord can't be absolutely trusted.'

"Somewhere near us, though we do not see them, are others: Men and women who we can see; and also good angels and evil spirits who we cannot see. To all of these, when we give in to fear, we say the same dishonoring thing.

"We have a Savior who has never once failed us. He never will fail us. He has loved and led and guarded us all these years.

"Look to Him now, and pray from the barren bedrock of your heart, if that is the 'ground' you are standing on--'Lord, give me courage!'"

Courage, Sisters! Let's "infect" the world!

04 December 2007

The only company to offer a unique abomination

My dear and loving husband and I recently discussed that we'd never seen maternity clergy wear in any of the vestment catalogs that come his way. He uncharitably suggested that there wasn't much of a need--what a jerk! I couldn't resist Googling the matter and uncovered this (I'd put up a pic but now's a bad time for me to be agitating myself and raising my blood pressure, and I don't want to have to look at it again later). I'm pretty disappointed that there are no color options besides black, and am I the only one who doubts that a button-down cotton/poly blend is really going to fit all the way through month 9? And no cute tie in the back? I'd say WomenSpirit has plenty of room for improvement.

What Others See

I am in housekeeping mode. Vroooom. We moved into our little manse nearly six months ago and as it looks like we may actually stay for quite some time I thought I might risk putting a few pictures up on the walls.

But I'm sick of all my old pictures and not in the frame of mind to start nailing up ill-focused snapshots of my kids; I have to look at them all the time as it is. I started googling around for cheap posters and typed "family, painting" into the search bar just to see what I would get.

I got this:

I liked it at first. Not really wall material, but nice. Happy family. Kids with the potential for more. Mom with farmer's tan. Blonde hair, ruddy cheeks . . . waaaaait a minute! Somethings not right there! I read the web description: "Study the painting by Wolf Willrich and identify five ways in which this family illustrates the perfect Nazi ideal."

ACK!!!! This is no ordinary family; this is an EVIL family!

Wait, there's more!

"
Here are ten ways in which the painting represents the Nazi ideal:
  1. The family has four children, and the mother has just had a baby.
  2. The mother is caring for the baby.
  3. She wears a plain dress.
  4. She has her hair in a bun; she is not wearing make-up.
  5. The mother is not skinny.
  6. The family lives in a rural/farming environment.
  7. The boy wears his Hitler Youth uniform and is making something out of the clay.
  8. The younger sister plays with a doll - preparation for motherhood.
  9. The elder sister has plaited hair (acceptable fashions), and gazes longingly at the baby (longing for motherhood)."
I was a bit nervous upon reading this. We fit the bill more or less for each of those items . . . I mean, my boy doesn't wear a Hitler Youth uniform, but he does MAKE THINGS OUT OF CLAY. Our "elder sister" wears plaits! And my little girls! They play with dolls! They like babies! OH NO! What does it mean? Somebody help me out here!

And then #10 came along to save the day:

"10: The family have fair hair, athletic bodies and ruddy complexions - they are the ideal Aryans."


Phew, that was close. We may have our fair share of fair hair and ruddy complexions, but we're not athletic. So we get a pass? Yeah?

Um, probably not. The discovery of this picture and it's companion deconstruction (a good one, seeing that Willrich was a Nazi bent on educating Germans living abroad) reminded me of our past posts on Living Green to the destruction of children--Living Green at all costs while viewing faith in Christ, tradition, children, and narrow paths to be the stuff of fascism and evil at worst, immaturity and stupidity at best.

But just look at the kids in that picture; they're models of health. Look at mom and dad; they seem to like one another and appreciate their roles as husband and wife, father and mother. What a shame that such things got and get mixed up in a "positive" way with the vagaries of a "Nazi ideal." What a shame that today they get mixed up in a "negative" way with the vagaries of Living Green.

Bah. As Eliot wrote:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men

Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when
We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar


Let us worry not a whit about the accusations, expectations, and depictions of this dark world as it slouches toward Bethlehem. For:

Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding!
"Christ is near," we hear it say.
"Cast away the works of darkness,
All you children of the day!"
(LSB #345)

Happy Advent, everyone. Happy, happy Advent.

03 December 2007

Little Carbon Footprints (ct'd)

In her editorial "Nature-nurturer: Survival of the stupidest," Kathleen Parker reacts to the story Rebekah so alertly recently blogged.

Excerpted:

"Raising children is quantifiably the most persistently unselfish act known to mankind, as millions of veterans of sleepless nights will attest. Parenthood is when "I" takes a backseat to "thou" -- when the infant-self submits to adulthood so that the real infant gets a necessary turn at the well of self-importance.

"Although I doubt there are many willing to sterilize themselves in order to reduce the size of their carbon footprint, such extreme materialism is the evolutionary product of our gradual commodification of human life.

"Suddenly, the unborn are of no greater importance than the contents of our recycling bin. Like WeightWatchers dieters substituting carbs for sugars, we trade off future members of the human race to neutralize insults to Earth's balance in the present.

"Is this the slippery slope that pro-lifers prophesied? Once such utilitarian concerns edge out our humanity -- and once human life is deemed to have no greater value than any other life form -- how long before we begin tidying up other inconveniences?

"Wouldn't it be helpful to eliminate some of the less productive members of society who, like the cows they no doubt eat, are emitting hazardous methane, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming?

"That seems an absurd projection, but then not long ago, so did the aborting of babies to thwart global warming. The deeply caring, meanwhile, are always the ones to watch. Tenderness, it has been said, leads to the gas chambers."

For the full editorial, click here.

02 December 2007

Fasting for CSPP

Disclaimer: truly worthy and well-prepared who has faith in these words, I know. No one has to fast. But then there's that fine outward training bit, and I know I could use it, so here are my thoughts if they're worth anything to you. I know I'm not the most authoritative source, but I haven't found that the Fathers have much to offer here. ;)

Pregnant and lactating women are exempt from the fast as the church, like insurance companies, considers them infirm. Makes sense--1.5 meals a day is not enough to grow a baby who depends on you to be his/her sole food source, in or ex utero. On the other hand, there's plenty in my diet that Baby and I could do without. So the basic guide for CSPP fasting that I use is: in penitential seasons, only eat what you should be eating. A lot of recreational consumption goes on around here during normal time, and just eliminating that, sad to say, feels like pretty strict discipline. My preferred form of gluttony is subsisting on that tiny little point of total schwat at the top of the food pyramid to the exclusion of everything underneath it, so Advent and Lent are especially good times for me to work on fixing that (a houseful of kids requiring regular meals helps too).

Other general guidelines by which I inform my CSPP fasting:

--If you have morning sickness, forget the fast. Eat whatever you can stomach (and if you really need to be told this, put up a comment and tell us all what it's like to be a real ascetic).

--No calorie reduction in the first two months postpartum, to ensure that both Mom herself and the dairy are up to speed. If it's a fasting season (I'm going to hit Lent dead-on this year, to my chagrin as this is usually when I catch up on pregnancy weight that's still hanging on) and everyone is feeling good, only eat healthy foods that you should be eating. Much as it pains me to say it, this does not include anything made by my friend Little Debbie.

--If your nursing baby is gaining weight well, and/or is older and eating some other foods, and you're both in good shape otherwise, reducing caloric intake is ok (and even recommended if you could stand to take off a few pounds--and I always find that I'm better at doing this as a spiritual exercise than just because I miss my skinny jeans).

Of course, every mom and every baby and every pregnancy are different. I've put in a few years of this now and feel comfortable with the system I've described, but it wouldn't work for everyone. Nutrition can be a tricky department for baby manufacturers, but we're sinners too and benefit from spiritual exercise and discipline in whatever form is doable. A penitential Advent to all!

01 December 2007

Book Review: Saint Nicholas


One of my proudest parenting moments occurred about two years ago when our oldest was almost 3. We were paging through a magazine together and she noticed a picture of Santa Claus. She pointed to it and said, "There's Christmas Guy."

The influence of preschool since then has, I'm afraid, precluded any comparable experiences of triumphant cultural ignorance for our other children, but we're still not a Santa Claus family. So we're really glad that we happened upon Saint Nicholas by Julie Stiegemeyer to soften the blow of this cruel deprivation. It tells the real story, the illustrations are very nice, and the catholic theological setting is just what you'd want. It gets a little wordy toward the end for really young kids, but ours usually hang with it through the story itself. There's also a board book version that I haven't seen, but I would guess that like most board books it trims down the text for younger readers. Add this one to your kids' list if you'd like them to get Santa Claus in perspective, and don't forget to have them put their shoes out on Wednesday night!

(Incidentally, I also grew up in a Santa-free house and was completely shocked to learn sometime in early grade school that other kids actually "believed" in Santa Claus.)

29 November 2007

Another use for duct tape

Lest the other contributors to this blog raise the intellectual and cultural standards too high, I offer the following:

On our recent airport adventure, it became all too clear that the 3 yr. old needed to take care of some serious business before boarding the next flight. His fearless father set off with him in search of the necessary facilities.

Let it be duly noted that this child has previously encountered, and intensely disliked, automatic-flush toilets. (Really, who can blame him?)

Here's what transpired, as reported to me when they finally reappeared, exhausted but triumphant, 20 minutes later:

Dad: OK, time to go the bathroom before we get on the plane.
3 yr. old(noting the red, blinking "evil eye" and backing out of the stall): No No NOOOOOOO!

Dad: (Producing coveted, sugary snack food) Look, you get a special treat today for using this bathroom.
3 (completely uncharacteristically): NO! I don't want a special treat!

Dad: If you don't go now, your stomach might hurt.
3: I WANT my stomach to hurt!

Dad: Well, if you don't go now, you might go in your underwear. You really wouldn't like that.
3: I WANT to poop in my underwear!

Dad (checking his watch and getting desperate): Well, I might have to spank you if you don't get on that toilet!
3: I WANT YOU TO SPANK ME!!

(Meanwhile, due to all the frantic motion, the toilet is flushing repeatedly and furiously, adding to the panic.)

Now, what we parents all know but try desperately to keep from our children for as long as possible is that we really have limited options when it comes to achieving compliance from them. We've got bribes/rewards and threats/discipline. When those fail, we're kind of left out to dry. (I know, there's this whole "shepherding your child's heart" thing, but I have yet to figure out exactly how that applies to airport bathroom phobias).

So Dad moved on to the option 3: brute force, applied as reassuringly as possible, of course. He somehow managed to hold 40+ lbs of preschooler on the toilet while covering that red evil flushing eye with the other, and, peristalsis being on his side, the battle was finally won just in time to board the plane.

Our return trip went much more smoothly, as Dad cleverly packed duct tape to cover the sensor.

Moral of the story: Don't leave home without duct tape.

Rebekah blogs Bach; I blog bathrooms. Huh.

Lies of the Bradley Method Part I: the self-doubt phase

When I got pregnant with Baby the First, a friend who'd been in the mission field when her baby was born sent me a copy of Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. This book and I have a combative relationship. It tells me something helpful, and I like it. Then it lies to me and I get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY angry. On balance, I'm glad I have it. But I'm an angry person and think the truth should be available, so here it begins.

One useful thing from Bradley is the "emotional signposts," which help your labor coach to know how far along you are (in our experience, they're very accurate). The third and final emotional signpost is the "self-doubt phase." For those of you who have been through this, it's that point of utter despair when you honestly think you can't do it and you're going to die. I really hate that part. This is the first lie of the Bradley method that requires exposure. They're right about your first baby: you reach the self-doubt phase shortly before you deliver. But on your second baby, the self-doubt phase actually begins when you're about two months pregnant and continues for the rest of the pregnancy. Then on your third and following babies, the self-doubt phase begins immediately after the birth of the previous baby.

The self-doubt phase is a lousy place to live. It makes sleeping at night awfully difficult. To see the precedent-based projection of my life stretching out into untold numbers of labors is terrifying. I (naturally, what with the Velveeta-based brain) can't remember if I've been this neurotic about it with every baby since the first, but it sure feels like it's been worse this time.

I know: who of you by worrying can subtract a single minute from your next L&D? And that precedent-based projection is also not ok. But there they are. Kyrie eleison.

28 November 2007

And again with the footprints

I can't think of anyone more likely to appreciate the poignance of this than the parent of a 15-21 month old . . . which, come to think of it, Bach may well have been when he wrote it. Talk about CSPP! Anyway, translation included for anyone whose German is as nonexistent as mine.

Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten
O Jesu, o Meister, zu helfen du zir.
Du suchest die Kranken und Irrenden treulich.
Ach! höre, wie die Stimme erheben, um Hülfe zu bitten.
Es sei uns dein gnädiges Antlitz erfreulich.


We hasten with eager yet faltering footsteps,
O Jesus, O Master, for help unto Thee.
Thou faithfully seekest the ill and the erring.
Ah, hear us, we pray. Our voices exalt Thee, for succor we pray Thee.
Now grant us Thy gracious and merciful favor.

27 November 2007

Ratatouille

What’s only slightly more repulsive than a mouse? A rat.

What’s only slightly less scary than a fluffy yellow newborn duck? A food critic.

What’s only slightly less awkward than a six-year-old asking, “Mommy, where do babies come from?” A six-year-old asking, “Mommy, what does ‘fooling around with the ring-master’s daughter’ mean?”

What happens when scriptwriters take all the above and try to make a movie about a food-loving rat cooking up fabulous in a gourmet kitchen peopled with risqué Frenchmen and one dorky American illegitimate? Ratatouille.

Can’t say we liked it. Though the animation is really, really good and fun to watch, the script and the concept ruin this movie as a little people-friendly gather-about.

Regarding the animation: I am consistently impressed with Pixar’s ability to make the most mundane objects (like kitchen floor tiles) look beautiful and REAL. I really enjoy watching their characters’ eyes nudge about and convey depth and thought. I am regularly impressed by the characters’ cheeks and mouths when they speak, and the HAIR Pixar manages to create is really quite amazing. Overall, the animation exceeds anything they’ve done before; it is more impressive than The Incredibles on this point alone.

But in every other way Ratatouille does not live up to The Incredibles, which is, in my opinion, a fantastic family movie. Where The Incredibles is about the individual being made strong and functional by a healthy family, Ratatouille is about the family being a hindrance to the creativity and power of the individual. Where The Incredibles is about healthy marriages and strong friendships, Ratatouille is about seeking after your own interests and developing apart from your roots. In short: The Incredibles manages to verge away from the boring, unhelpful Sesame Street message: “Be true to and love yourself; if anyone ever says you're less than perfect, why, just give yourself a big hug!” Ratatouille embraces that old message while taking unhelpful risks. And the strange absence of (and subtle hostility toward) all mothers (minus one nice, though short, scene toward the end) makes Ratatouille one big, well animated, mildly humorous disappointment. (Note to Pixar: You’re in the kids’ entertainment business; stick to dancing toys and super-hero families and leave the parenting to me.)

Regarding the risks: I am not opposed to children’s movies being a bit intense (Polar Express), neither am I opposed to a bit of grown-up humor (Toy Story). I am opposed to the insertion of mature concepts and themes when those concepts are central to the plot and completely exposed. For instance, the main human character, Linguini, is the illegitimate son of the dead restaurateur, Gusteau. Fine, fine, fine—but the movie centered a bit too heavily on the idea and raised too many questions in my little ones’ minds. I don’t mind being asked, “Mom? Where do babies come from?” as we’ve had the conversation hundreds of times and I have my answer ready: “Marriage.” I don’t like that a children’s movie, whose job it is to entertain for two mindless hours, provokes the question at all.

And there’s just too much steamy, awkward kissing and talk of naughty behavior for my tastes. We don’t need to know that one of the minor characters was fired from a previous job for getting it on with the boss’ daughter. And the scene where dorky, Napoleon Dynamite-like Linguini accidentally kisses his female mentor while she holds a can of mace at the ready is just . . . stupid.

Another thought: the antagonist really doesn't do much antagonizing. Which makes sense, I suppose. How scary and opposing is a food critic, really, even if he has a condescending British accent and an undertaker look. Anton Ego is fun to watch (they really get the mouth down on this guy; I could watch the scenes involving this character over and over just to enjoy the animation), but he’s almost pointless, an afterthought. It is as if the scriptwriters remembered a bit too late that all good movies have villains and got to the Supply-A-Bad-Guy shop before the quality shipment came in.

Thus, if I were you, I wouldn’t waste your Netflicks space on this one. Wait for it to come out on TV and watch it with the above-10 set when the little ones take their naps. Trust me on this: I know of what I speak.

26 November 2007

One from the files

Found this in my bookmarks. Can't recall how I first came across it (maybe Rebekah pointed it out to me?), but if your umpteenth re-reading of your little darlings' well-thumbed favorites lacks enthusiasm, or if you're looking for an excuse to sit down and read with the kids instead of doing something silly like the dishes, click here.

She's not talking about church, but the part about how much sinks into the minds of the creatures whose little bodies are wriggling about surely sounded familiar for that context as well. We're amazed at how much theology (above and beyond what we've deliberately tried to pound in) has already seeped into the three-year-old's brain, oozing out in the most intriguing ways.

Meanwhile, I need to go finish packing for the return from our Great Kentuckiana Thanksgiving Adventure. Highlights of the trip here involved an hour on the tarmac with a toddler on my pregnant lap. (Why did I opt for the lap child when we couldn't get seats together? I can't answer that question, but I do know it won't be my lap on the way back!)

The way it should be: Us vs. Them

Summary: babies are hard on marriage (watch it here if you're really that interested in yet another pointless parenting feature from the MSM). This is true only if mother and father foolishly fail to see the baby as a common enemy and draw strength from that inherent unity. Whenever we've got a new one in the house demanding all our time and attention, we're that much more desperate for time together and have to combine forces to defeat the new foe and hang out with our favorite people, each other. Perspective, friends. Early bedtimes! Exhausting play! Sneaking into the kitchen for five minutes to eat the hidden brownies together while they fight over a toy! Don't let a baby outsmart you, they don't even know anything! This is how babies strengthen marriages.

25 November 2007

Deep Thoughts

Wouldn't the world be a different place if squirrels were carnivorous?

23 November 2007

The pitter-patter of little carbon footprints

We all amuse ourselves by saying that those of us who have babies are going to outbreed those who don't and take over. But this has been the case for all of history and the reality is that whatever crazy people have money end up in charge. So although this crazy person isn't going to have kids, I'm still scared about the world my kids are going to grow up in because of people like her. When people buy into faith-based initiatives like global warming, what's to stop them from, say, imposing penalties on couples who exceed environmentally-safe numbers of children a generation from now? Will we get a religious exemption, or will the "scientific" principles behind the religion of environmentalism be too urgent to allow for other beliefs? But I do get a kick out of her perceived persecution for the life she's chosen. Cute how she thinks she's in the minority and I think I am.

20 November 2007

Book Review (Genre:Horror)

'Round here, we don't watch horror flicks. Even disregarding any possible theological, moral, or aesthetic objections, there's the simple fact that I'd be a basket case for months if ever I were to watch one. We do watch movies, though our wild Friday nights are more often spent catching up on some reading (seems safe enough, right?).

But after reading Boys adrift: The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men, by Dr. Leonard Sax, I'm starting to think that nonfiction books might be close to slasher films on my taboo list. (And the fact that I'm pregnant with our 3rd boy has, of course, no relevance to any possible accusations of overreaction.)



Briefly, the 5 factors Sax identifies:

1)Changes at School (shift away from sensory learning experience, push for earlier reading/curriculum, emphasis on feelings rather than appropriate competition)

2)Video games (which provide a medium--unfortunately not a real one!--for the frustrated competitive urges)

3)ADHD Medications (as he sees it, overprescribed in order to compensate for the educational situations identified in factor 1. Some really scary research cited here.)

4)Endocrine Disruptors (particularly anything in a boy's environment that functions as an estrogen, like the phthalates in plastic. More on this in a minute)

5)Lack of clear, transitional manhood rituals in American culture (i.e. prolonged adolescence).

So these are all scary. But you can DO something about most of them. #1--Try homeschooling, changing schools/being a very involved parent, delaying your boys' start for a year or more. #2--Well, duh. Don't let them play so much (or at all). #3--Be sure the meds are absolutely necessary for your son. Try everything else first (Sax offers a lot of suggestions on this.) #5--Surround your boys with solid male role models (historical as well as present) and make expectations clear.

But #4--now, that's Really Scary.

Consider:
"...evidence that some characteristics of modern life--factors found literally in the food we eat and the water we drink--may have the net effect of emasculating boys."

"...the average young man today has a sperm count less than half of what his grandfather had at the same age."

"...a young boy today has bones that are significantly more brittle than a boy of the same age thirty years ago."

"Mothers with high levels of phthalates in their system were roughly ten times more likely to give birth to boys whose genitals showed subtle anomalies."

Now, we could go on about the excess hormones from birth control pills, patches, etc. being flushed into our water system. And that's a problem. But even scarier were the parts about pregnant women drinking bottled water or soft drinks and babies using pacifiers and bottles. I freaked since Boy #2 still sleeps with his pacifier (I know, I know...chastise me later) and tried to do a bit more research, finding that pacifiers and many teething toys are now PVC free. But some of Sax's solutions seem a bit impractical for a growing family, for a variety of reasons. Um, glass baby bottles? What about sippy cups? And would it really be a good idea for Mom's emergency water bottle in the diaper bag to be made of glass?

So here I am, in sleepless suspense. But instead of an ax murderer or vampire around every corner, it's an emasculating endocrine disruptor--and I don't think garlic can do much against those.

Anyone else heard about the evils of plastic? Any solutions?

(N.B.--Girls aren't off the hook either. Sax briefly referenced some really disturbing studies about the effect of these environmental estrogens on early puberty, etc.)

On living with a dude who kills things

Someone from church offered us a free turkey today. The catch is, it's alive. Dad is out looking for an ax to borrow so that he can do away with, pluck, and clean the doomed creature for us to eat the day after tomorrow.

There was a time when I would have gotten snotty about this kind of barbarian behavior. But since we moved here and hunting has become a major part of our lives, I've gotten a real education. Two years in a row now we've gotten 60 pounds of meat for the price of equipment (acquired on the cheap) and a hunting license. My husband goes out for a day or two and somehow turns a live deer into nice, neat, paper-wrapped roasts and tenderloins in my freezer, and over the course of the year grinds and seasons the rest of it into bulk Italian sausage. He does all the work himself; nothing goes through a locker (his dad is a meat cutter and taught him the trade). Frankly, I wish I had some skill that would impress him as much as all this impresses me. Needless to say, this saves us LOTS of money, and also helps keep the local deer population under control. It's much more humane than what happens to animals on a killing floor, and more energy efficient than commercial meat production. Liberals have no idea how green rednecks are.

This is icky, bloody, stinky work that most people in our antiseptic society don't have the stomach for, and thus get high and mighty about not doing. How ridiculous for anyone who isn't a vegetarian. It takes a lot more integrity to harvest your own meat than it does to pick it up off a shelf. Don't get me wrong, I still pick up my fair share off a shelf. But I'm glad that it's 60 pounds and a turkey or two less than I would normally be buying.

(Note: we don't feed game to guests, since we know a lot of people are squeamish about it. Eat here without fear.)

19 November 2007

Does this sound familiar or what?

Father Paul actually says one of those things we're all thinking.

18 November 2007

How I spent my weekend

1. Hosted a bridal shower at the parish hall (no lame games)
2. Hosted a deer carcass in the minivan (um)
3. Hosted a wedding in the living room (even washed the windows)
4. Hosted various overnight guests here to share the excitement (ignoring the pile of dirty linens staring at me accusingly)

I'm a little tired. My husband really wants me to post a pic of his deer, but it's bloodier than I like for a family blog. Rest assured that Dad is a fine and humane shot and he's kept us in sausage another year (wow—not sure how I would have reacted to that idea in my not-so-distant past). The wedding was my rockin' sister to our rockin' friend, and I just can't describe the joy it brought us to witness a beautiful wedding for two people who know what's right and have orchestrated their lives accordingly. In fact, this was probably the first one I've ever been to. But I'll spare you my sisterly emoting about how great it was and they are. May our gracious God bless me soon to be an aunt! :) :) :)

17 November 2007

Look What I Got

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). I appreciate hearing from you, and I agree with the notion that the AMT is broken and needs to be fixed.

The AMT has vastly outgrown its original purpose of preventing a handful of wealthy citizens from avoiding the income tax altogether. It has become a stealth tax, an unintended burden which surprises an increasing number of middle-class Americans each year, eroding the value of Nebraska families' deserved tax breaks. I agree that action must be taken to correct this unintended consequence of the AMT's legitimate policy objective of narrowing the tax gap by curbing abusive tax avoidance. As you know, in recent years, the Senate has enacted temporary patch legislation to increase the AMT exemption to prevent the tax from encroaching further on the middle class.

For a more permanent solution, Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley, Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee, have introduced the Individual Alternative Minimum Tax Repeal Act of 2007, S. 55, to totally repeal the AMT for individual taxpayers. S. 55 remains before the Finance Committee, of which I am not a member. Please know I will keep your thoughts in mind should S. 55 or similar legislation come before the full Senate for debate.

Thank you again for contacting me. The legislative process will only work with the input of concerned citizens, and I encourage you to continue sharing your views.


Sincerely,

Ben Nelson
United States Senator

So there's nothing he can do for the time being, but wasn't it nice of him to send an email? Shoot, I feel all fuzzy inside. Which I'm sure has nothing to do with the spiked eggnog I'm drinking. Mmmm. Eggnog.

15 November 2007

Halftime Report: An Exclusive Interview

Q: So, now that you’re just past the halfway point in this pregnancy, would you say that the womb is half empty or half full?
A: We’ll say half full, if inverse bladder capacity is any indication.

Q: Is this pregnancy already half over or only half over?
A: Only half over, based on the fact that we’re really just beginning to eat like a semi-normal person. Drug-free (off the anti-nausea meds) for just over a fortnight and loving it! But gosh if those first 20 weeks don’t last forever. Hard to believe this kid is only half cooked; shouldn’t he be starting kindergarten soon?

Q: So you think that throwing up four times today and subsisting on animal crackers puts you in the “semi-normal” category?
A: Well, standards around here are low. Besides, we are hoping that history will show today to be a fluke. Before today, I hadn’t thrown up since my in-laws left two weeks ago (pure coincidence, of course).

Q: This being your third pregnancy gig, is the thought of another person inhabiting your inner regions any less strange?
A: Uh, no. We find the thought to be maybe even weirder, now that the first two who were in there are walking around and talking and acting just like little human beings (for better and usually for worse). Weirder, but no less amazing—may we take this opportunity to recommend again National Geographic’s “Biology of Prenatal Development” (referenced in our 11/11 post). We are no great fans of National Geographic’s usual evolutionary-propaganda-drivel, but we are willing to give credit where credit is due.

Q: You really make the most of the royal we, don’t you?
A: Yes, we do. Although we have been known to employ it at other times (rank has its privileges), we feel particularly justified in doing so while pregnant.

14 November 2007

Something Sophomoric

Allow me to introduce myself: I am the smart Concordian Sisters’ dumb friend. And now it’s time for (cue echo) Something Sophomoric -ic -ic -ic. With me. Let’s begin:

One thing I have learned more or less from my children is the value of pretending. You know--the fun, fairyland-type pretending that makes us old folk feel young and blithe and makes the wee ones feel warm and fuzzy in the universe?

Yeah . . . doesn't that sound nice? I think I’ll try it sometime.

No, the type of pretending to which I refer is less . . . fun.

Consider the following from Anna Karenina:

". . . an incident had occurred which had utterly shattered the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. Grisha and Tanya [the children] had been fighting over a ball. Darya Aleksandrovna [the mother], hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a terrible sight. Tanya was pulling Grisha's hair, while he, with a face hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could get at her. Something snapped in Darya Aleksandrovna's heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities--wicked children."

Isn't that the way it always goes? Well, maybe not for you, but nearly always for me. For instance:

In our house, days usually begin with plenty of warmth and kisses. I love to see my children at the opening of a new day, their skin fresh from sleep and their hair in little tufts. I like to hear them talk ever so seriously about their dreams. I really like their little footie pajama-ed snuggliness and that funny stumbliness that hits once gravity takes effect.

But it doesn’t last, neither their cuteness nor my ability to enjoy them. They don’t spend the early morning hours pummeling one another like those Aleksandrovnawackanawabo children (they save that for just-before-supper-time). But they are wicked in other ways, devious ways, deeply ingrained ways, and the wickedness has a way of flashing out too suddenly, well before we’re much done with those could-be charming “good mornings.”

In turn, I melt down into my selfish, whiny, lazy, slimy, and crazier-than-ever-before self. They had to learn their wickedness from someone, right? And when I forget myself (or rather, remember too well) and stop pretending to be good, loving, wise, fun, compassionate, and motherly, all bleep breaks loose.

See, we moms are privy to people at their worst almost all the time every day. Those who go to offices regularly have the lovely and enviable cushion of social mores to keep people’s wickedness at a relatively low din. Sure, the co-workers may be monsters, but they have to keep it down or they lose their jobs. And no one ever screams that high-pitched, blood-red scream while throwing punches just because the copier is out of toner. (Right?)

Here at home, not so much. These people let it all hang out. They hold no punches. They fear not the reaper. They tell it like their pea-sized little child brains see it. And we moms, sitting innocently or not, doing our work (or not) have to contend with their outbursts all. the. time. What is more, we can’t (shouldn’t) go bezerk and start telling it like our, let’s say, lima bean-sized brains see it; that is not good people-making. It’s our job to see that the outbursts wane, if not stop altogether. To be (Erch! Eck! Gak!) role models. Benevolent queens. Gentle hands, gentle voices, gentle eyes, gentle words.

Thus, I work hard at pretending, at putting on my happy face and repeating: 1. “These children are NOT anarchist, armed, rebel baboons;” and 2. “I am a good mother.” While I am pretending I use a script (and sometimes costume and props) which finds its origin, expectedly, in Proverbs 31.

More on that some other time.

His Holy Bride

Contraception fits somewhere onto the "unchastity" spectrum of sin. I'm still figuring out exactly where. As an adult convert to CSPP, I don't understand it implicitly like I do the sins I grew up with, and it's more insidious anyway.

Pastor Petersen says, "Sexual sins are [more] destructive than other sins because they are most against what God made us to be. They are most reflective of our depravity." I've spent some time pondering why adultery carries the scandal it does, such that (for example) Dorothy Sayers writes on "The Six Other Deadly Sins" and everyone knows exactly what she's getting at. No commandment makes us sit up straighter than the 6th, even though God puts it down toward the bottom of the page. I think this is what Pastor Petersen is getting at, and here is how I understand it: adultery is the most perfect, grotesque anti-icon; the truest picture of sin. Virtue is personified in the virgin, sin is personified in the harlot. The horror of sin is that the Bridegroom finds his beloved in leather and spikes at the trashiest truck stop in town, and she laughs at his anguish. The miracle of justification is that at the marriage feast of the Lamb, the bride wears white without deceit or guile. Her mother doesn't have to comfort her by saying, "It really doesn't mean that anyway." She doesn't think to herself in shame, "I don't deserve this."

I think this is also why female infidelity causes more scandal than male infidelity (historically at least--things have evened up, and even gone too far the other direction in these utterly depraved latter days). We don't have a spiritual schema for male infidelity, because the Bridegroom is always faithful. But how well the Bride knows, and deplores on some level, her own infidelity.

Where does contraception fit into the icon, or the anti-icon? Selfishness and all that, but I still have trouble pinning it down in my mind. I wonder if this is because the Scriptural eschatological icon ends with the marriage feast, the consummation. We don't see how the story continues. All we know is that God's love is by definition incarnational: he gives us his perfect material creation, his Son in the flesh, his Son's body and blood so that we eat and drink the forgiveness of our sins. We know that our Mother, the Church (aka the Bride of Christ), bears sons and daughters of God through Holy Baptism as often as she has opportunity. These things show us that true love naturally manifests itself in real, tangible ways outside of the Lover. But somehow chastity has been reduced to sex, and huge numbers of Christians who wouldn't dream of compromising on the extramarital sex front roll their eyes or get angry when somebody suggests that babies can't be removed from chastity equation.

Help me out here. Pregnant women shouldn't pretend to think (except Reb. Mary, whom we all know to be the brains of this operation, pregnant or otherwise).

13 November 2007

Links for the day

First, email your senator and tell him or her to vote for the Saving Families First AMT Relief Act (S. 1851) (unless you really like paying taxes). (HT: National Review)

Then, listen to this with kids out of the room. Hee hee. (HT: my dear and loving husband)

12 November 2007

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...a houseplant, then a dog?


Yes, I must admit, mindless Sulvans that we were, we actually followed this cute progression so often recommended by well-meaning people. You know: start out "parenting" a plant. If the plant lives, you can move on to a dog. If you do all right with the dog, then you can think about kids. We even joked about it when we moved into our very first tiny apartment and went out to buy our very first tiny houseplant together.

I guess that the whole "take some time to get to know each other and have fun before you have kids" is only the logical extension of the ridiculously prolonged adolescence our culture fosters.

Or is it the other way around: Does the Sulvan (contraceptive) mentality discourage us from growing up?

Really: We don't have to grow up and have mature relationships (married or not) if we don't have to be responsible for any brand-new, needy human beings that might come along. We don't need to learn about self-sacrifice if there's no choice between going out on Friday nights and buying shoes for the kids. We don't know how selfish we are until the baby's crying in the middle of the night, the poop has once again defied both gravity and the diaper, and people are constantly asking, What's for supper tonight?

I know there are those rare couples who, though intentionally childless for a time/at times, are nonetheless amazingly mature and focused not on themselves but on accomplishing good things, even God's things, in the world. But speaking for myself, children have been the wake-up call (an alarm clock that you just can't shut off, actually) out of the selfish immaturity I didn't even know I inhabited. (And I can't help thinking how extra-super-amazing those aforementioned couples would be if they were perhaps a bit more open to God's intentions for marriage and gift of kids!)

But I digress. Back to my furry firstborn: I have lived to repent of the contraception, but not of the plants or dog. Fact is, she's still my only girl! (Though anyone who's had a dog knows that dogs of either sex act more like guys...'nuff said.) Ain't she adorable, though?

And as a side note, this pup of ours is recycled (from the streets of St. Louis via the Humane Society), or, to use one of our favorite household adjectives, "crunchy" (See Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons for a fuller explanation of that). And she in turn recycles--her favorite place to hang out, of course, is under the high chair.


11 November 2007

Your kids are so good in church!

People tell me this fairly often. I'm glad if they think this, because most weeks, I disagree. But if it's someone my age saying it, it's usually followed by, "That's why we don't come very often. Ours just won't behave." I want to ask them why they think my kids are good in church. Could it be because I take them, without fail, at least twice every week (once on Sunday, once to the Wednesday night Low Mass which is of course shorter, but without any of those helpful musical breaks to drown out some shouting)? Furthermore, it takes some effort to get them to be good. Most days my "Thanks be to God" is in reference to the wrestling match ending almost as much as it is for all that salvific business. It is tiring to keep a very little person happy enough to be quiet for an hour, and trying at the same time to make it really be church for the older ones (helping them sing, say the Creed, fold their hands, etc.).

Our church doesn't have a nursery, and I don't miss it. I've never understood the parents who perfunctorily bring in their two-year-old for the first 10 minutes and then reward the kid's screaming by taking him to a room full of toys. When we were at a church that had a nursery, I had to leave a lot, but I stood with the offender(s) in the narthex and kept enforcing quietness and church-appropriate behavior. Perhaps this is another reason my kids at least know what's expected of them at church, even if the little sinners can't pull it off all the time. We also sing the liturgical canticles and (if we have our act together enough) the hymn of the day for the upcoming Sunday at bedtime. Yes, my kids are better in church than a lot of kids their age, and it takes work.

Incidentally, this is one thing the big family papists don't get. They've always got a nice pious dad to share the weight on Sunday mornings. My kids' nice pious dad is always delivering a nice pious sermon, so I count on God to provide me with some other nice pious person to help me with the wrangling (which, thankfully, almost always happens on Sunday). Getting a houseful of kids and oneself ready for church with no assistance is a real chore, and then you have act like you're not already completely exhausted at 9 am, and get through the standing and the singing and the shushing. I guess I can't think of a better time to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

A Must-See



National Geographic's The Biology of Prenatal Development DVD is an absolute must-see.

None of that silly stuff about embryos "losing their tails and gill slits."
Just 42 minutes of solid, scientific facts and amazing images from in-utero cameras as well as 3-D ultrasounds.

Get it.
Watch it.
Share it with your friends, your family, your Bible class.
Put a copy in your church library.

This would be an awesome Christmas present, especially for someone who's expecting.

09 November 2007

The LCMS inferiority complex WRT its women

In my mailbox yesterday was the Fall issue of Lutheran Forum. I've recovered from the initial ire which one of its articles aroused in me, or at least enough to share my thoughts with an eye toward charity. This article was written by a person with whom I overlapped a bit while I was working on my MA at the seminary. As it happens, this person is female. The article, in my opinion, would be a passable piece of undergraduate work for one of those students who gets A's by working hard without being a great mind--a commendable position, I think, even if it isn't glorious. It contains the kind of puerile pedantry you'd expect from such a student: shallow argumentation, unnecessary information, disregard for well-established counter-positions, and some just plain stupid statements that might have sounded good when you first thought them and arranged them into grown-up sounding words. The article is not something that I would expect to read in Lutheran Forum unless the writer fit a certain profile: an LCMS woman whose paper carries a faint but clear undercurrent of We all know the LCMS is so parochial and silly, and one of these years we'll get women's ordination yet! The reason I'm so annoyed by this is that in another LF issue of recent memory, there was an article which also fit this profile: academically mediocre by discernibly angry LCMS female (who also, as it happens, briefly overlapped with me at the seminary. In all fairness, that issue featured articles by students and the piece I'm talking about ran as such).

The really funny thing is that the current LF issue also contains a note about "Editorial and Confessional Standards," which states among other things, "articles in LF will not contain: pot-shots, thinly veiled contempt, messy thinking . . .". Sorry, friends, but both of the articles described above contained at least two of the things on that list. LF, as a human endeavor, has an agenda. It's edited by a female ELCA pastor. So when they get a submission from a woman in the LCMS who has some academic credentials, however feeble (such as mine), and she's willing to take some subtle little jabs, somehow their high standards for fairness and erudition slip a bit.

The thing is, I know why these two women sent in articles that I pridefully wouldn't want my name on. The seminary would love to put out some really great female academics to help its own political credibility--after all, what kind of academic institution only produces male intellectuals in this day and age? So any female student who can keep from drooling on herself gets treated like royalty (thus being led to believe that she's really as smart as the seminary wants her to be). I know I got this treatment, and I know I didn't deserve it. I'm the person I described up there who can get A's if she works hard, but my time at the seminary accomplished what education should and showed me exactly where I stand: I am not a great mind, and acting like I am makes me look that much stupider. Maybe I could submit a middling article to a periodical that would accept it for political reasons rather than on its theological merits, but then everyone who's actually intelligent would know precisely how middling I am as a scholar. Frankly, I'd rather keep my mouth shut and have them keep thinking I'm smart.

But the LF and the LCMS don't get this, and in their desperation to prove that there are, in fact, female academics in the LCMS (and in the case of LF, that they are as progressive as true intelligence dictates they must be), they keep handing microphones to whatever moderately intelligent female is willing to take them and shout about the undergrad-level insight she's just had (and strangely, it's always that the LCMS needs to let women do more, or some piece of eisegesis on a stale text about women to that effect). In doing so, they make their women look that much stupider since they're always saying something redundant, banal, and totally predictable.

There are veritable female intellectuals and academics in the LCMS. It's just that none of them seem to be interested in arguing for the feminist theological agenda right now. Most of them are too busy working in labs or professing other disciplines. Maybe if the powers that be looked somewhere other than the liberal perimeter for their theology queen, they'd find she's already in their midst. But I wish they wouldn't keep damaging our beloved Synod's own scholarly credibility, and the credibility of their precious female scholars, in their embarrassed meantime.

07 November 2007

National Adoption Month

Now, I'm no great fan of the proliferation of National Whatever Month/Week/Day. I didn't even know how many such national "holidays" there were, til our eldest son hit story hour age and suddenly we're learning about National Dental Hygiene Month, National Fire Prevention Week, National Children's Book Week, National Underwater Basketweaving Day. OK, so there never was a story hour on that last one, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's on an official calendar somewhere.

But the fact that November is Adoption Awareness Month brings again to the fore of my mind and heart a topic that's never too far in the background. A strange topic, perhaps, for a blog dedicated to matters relating to personal perpetual parturition, but here it is anyway.

What about adoption?

I'm not talking about the healthy white babies here--there are waiting lists for those, and as God has graciously been pleased to bless us with our own offspring of this variety, I feel no need to stand in those lines.

But what about the babies whose skin or features are different? the kids who have been tossed around U.S. foster care or overseas orphanages for a few years? the ones with health problems? the sibling groups?

Adoption is a beautiful Biblical image of and witness to God's covenantal love for us. Then too, we have the commands to care for the poor, the orphans, the fatherless...

Do we just continue as we are, remaining prayerfully open to God's gift of children whether they be biological or adopted, and assume that He will make clear His intentions for our family?

Just seems like it's hard to be open to adopting when one is in the midst of a young-and-coming family. (Can't you just see the disbelief on the faces of the people at the adoption agencies if my pregnant self marched in, looking not to place a child for adoption but to adopt one?)

As this post is becoming rather long, I'll end it, and hope someone else can step in and add some sense here.

06 November 2007

Seven sisters for seven brothers?

Of course, no one knows what will happen. This baby could be my last. But if things keep up for us the way they've been going, we could end up on what I consider the VERY large end of the big family spectrum. Not Duggar-worthy, but possibly Stuckwisch- or even Preus-worthy. I turn 29 this week, which means I could still have a lot of good years in me before I dry up. This seems very funny to me, because when we first tossed our pills and told our families that the number of grandkids was now up to God (my husband's in-church-twice-a-year family shrugged; my extremely pious LCMS relations sucked in their breath sharply and haven't let it out yet), we joked that we were going to have seven kids. Impossible, right? Who has seven kids? Well, me, maybe. Or even a lot more.

The "seven kids" thing has stuck so much with some of my confounded family members that I'm regretting ever saying it. I should have told them 25 so that they wouldn't be fretfully counting down my years of earthly purgatory on their fingers every time I have another one, or advising me to pray for twins so that I'll be done sooner. There is no upper limit here, get it?

My sister (CSPP but not married yet, and my only family member breathing freely since our big announcement) has an explanation I like for when people ask her how many kids she wants: she tells them she'll take as many as God gives her. When the frowning begins immediately thereafter, she says that everyone knows you shouldn't give God a minimum (as if he owes every couple at least one or two kids), so she doesn't see why it would be ok to impose a maximum on him either. So: four, seven, twelve--whatev, man. Time will tell.

05 November 2007

Studies in Gender Identity, Part 2

A few observations from our church's recent Beef Supper.

Our 19-month old (boy) was at a highchair opposite a 21-month old (girl).

She: Had food on a large plate on her tray. Food stayed on plate or was consumed, plate stayed on tray. Was not wearing a bib, and finished the meal with nary a spot on her pink-striped sweater.

He: Was, with trepidation, allowed to have a small paper plate, which was promptly dumped, used as a hat, and waved about wildly until confiscated. Was wearing a huge bib, and finished the meal with spots not only on himself but on everything and everyone within throwing radius.

Just different personalities? Or is there some other factor at work here too?

04 November 2007

The Things That Are Not

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Anyone else here ever think these words are about us?

The world deems us foolish indeed for using our advanced degrees to spend our days dealing with poop emergencies, negotiating with 3-foot-tall tyrants, and reading "Frog and Toad" books ad nauseum.

Hard to think of many things that seem lowlier, at times, than the relentless daily requirements of perpetual motherhood.

What could be weaker than our helpless newborns?

And I'd venture to say that the vocation of parenthood, and yes, even children themselves (or more than 2.5 of them) are despised in our culture--in deed if not in word.

Not to mention that there are quite a few days when I personally feel like a thing that is not.

All excellent reminders of how God designed this great adventure to "Let him [her!] who boasts boast in the Lord." In Christ alone is "our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (v.31, 30). This foolish, lowly, despised path daily--hourly--humbles me, strips me of my silly pretensions to self-sufficiencey, reminds me that my life is quite simply not about me.

03 November 2007

A sigh of relief from Unstructured Play Central

As someone who is too cheap to fork over the cash for a LeapPad and incurably nonplussed whenever someone tells me how well their three-year-old reads/figures/parses/welds/etc., I find this vindicating.

02 November 2007

Well?

So where's that World Relief and Human Care study on contraception we've all been so eagerly awaiting? Not that I hold out any hope for it, but I'm still curious. Is it really just taking them this long to say the same smarmy thing they always say ("As for catholic precedent: hey, I think I hear your mom calling. Who's the bioethicist here, mortal? Oh, and Christian Freedom!")? RM, weren't you pestering some of these people for a while? I thought it was supposed to be out by now.

31 October 2007

Nomenclature

I've always thought that the Jews and the Amish are onto something in having a term that means "everybody but us" (goy/Gentile and English, respectively). I've often wanted one a little less cumbersome than "non-Lutheran," for example. And for our specific purposes, "contraceptor" or some other less savory options I've heard don't really strike me as something I want in my regular vocabulary.

As a solution, we've discussed in our household using the term "Sulvan" to designate the folks who just don't want to have babies, God bless 'em, from the third book of CS Lewis' Space Trilogy. Sulva is the name of the moon in the book, and its inhabitants have succeeded in making life almost entirely inorganic (and much more convenient as a result, of course). Later in the book you learn that some characters have botched up the solution to a pressing problem by using contraception and not having the baby who was supposed to fix things (see part of the discussion at the bottom of this post). Someone makes a comment about such behavior being a practice of Sulva. So there you have it: Sulvan. May it be as useful for you as it is for me.

Studies in Gender Identity

So, as the mother of 3 boys (so far) and no girls (yet), I often wonder whether my boys are doing boy things, kid things, or idiosyncratic things. (Boy #3 currently weighs less than a pound, but is no doubt delighted about the recent development of his hearing, so that he can listen in on his two older brothers and come out knowing exactly what to do. Eeeep!)

Today's question:
Living across the block from a grain elevator, we have quite a few trains go by.
Here's how my boys (3 and 1.5) react when they hear the rumble on the tracks or hear the horn:

They freeze.
Their eyes widen.
Their nostrils flare.
Then they drop whatever they're doing and scramble madly to the nearest window with a view of the tracks.
Each of them has done this since shortly after his first birthday.

So:
Does anyone have, or know, girls who do this?
The girls of our acquaintance seem to have only a minor interest in trains, at best, particularly if they're already involved in an interesting activity.

29 October 2007

Not for the Squeamish (like motherhood in general, eh?)

So I was terribly excited to receive an invite to this blog. Upon reviewing my currently available mental list of topics and expertise, however, I was rather disturbed to realize just how many of them involve bodily functions (and someone else's, at that).

Is this going to be a problem for anyone?

Full disclosure (***GROSS OUT WARNING--which I imagine this applies to no one reading this, as we're likely all mothers several times over): We recently had to obtain a stool sample from an extremely noncooperative 3-yr-old. 'Nuff said.

Well, with the crisis both literally and figuratively passed, I hope to have more time to pursue other thoughts in the near future.

28 October 2007

Kick A where you're planted

One of our church's major fundraisers is today. I have the happy task of sitting comfortably in my house and occasionally throwing dish towels in the dryer for the kitchen crew while they feed lard-fried (no joke) sausages to a million people. But I did have to spend my whole Saturday making pies as everyone is expected to contribute at least 6.

My mom recently had occasion to talk to the mother of someone with whom I went to high school, and my pride winced as I imagined her describing how I'm pregnant with my fourth baby in five years and spending my weekend rolling out pie crusts. I thought of all those academic accomplishments I was so proud of and how people in the little town where I grew up thought I would really go somewhere. Now I live in a town almost ten times smaller than that one and spend most of my mental energy figuring out what I'm going to feed everyone on any given day. And then I thought, if I'm such a genius, why shouldn't I be generating my own army of humans and making the best freakin' pie crust in town? I really thought that. So I guess it does get easier, at least sometimes.

25 October 2007

The Feast of St Halloween

I hate Halloween. It goes against my personal piety (not necessarily to say my personal Pietism, although I can't plead entirely not guilty of that). Didn't I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways a while back? But Grandma makes great costumes for the kids, we live in a town which takes the event very seriously and observes not one but two nights of festivities, and I think sitting out of all this would be the first step toward the pastor's family being just a little too weird.

However, I don't think I'm being over the top when I say that some of the stuff people put in their yards is in incredibly poor taste, if not downright offensive. If the babies and I want to walk to the library, we are obligated to take the sidewalk right next to a yard in which a corpse swings from a gallows, other rotting corpses are struggling to disinter themselves from the lawn, various grotesque figures operate guillotines and similar devices (victims included), etc. It is extremely tacky, and the thingamajigs would definitely get a PG-13 rating for "disturbing images" if the yard were a movie. The kids (4, 3, and 1) STARE the entire time we're in visual range. This charming display has been up for weeks, and I've finally given up on the library until the season is past. WHY, PEOPLE?! Grow up.

24 October 2007

Third Tri

I'm in the first or second week of my third trimester, I can't keep track any more. But knowing this helps me remember what I'm supposed to be worrying about at this point:

1. The bedroom situation. The girls are moving in together. Their new room is currently the ironing room, Dad's hunting stuff storage room, and general junk storage room. There is a set of bunk beds for them to use, assuming the 4-yr-old is able to get safely on and off the top bunk. The mattresses on both beds are utterly worthless and have to be replaced, which I don't think will be terribly expensive, but what am I supposed to do with the old ones (doubtless this was also the question of the persons who lovingly included them with the gift of the bed itself)? I hate being the grownup. I hate thinking about that room.

2. The game day situation. Our closest set of grandparents lives 4-ish hours away. My last two labors have been under 3 hours (closer to 2, really) from the first serious contraction to the grand finale. We don't have a few hours for breathing, relaxing, and waiting for Grandma to get here. It's 45 minutes to the hospital, so I am getting in the car as soon as things start happening. We are in a wonderful parish full of people who take very good care of us. All these nice people also have their own jobs and families to take care of. I know that it will work out, but it doesn't feel very responsible to just say that and wait to see how it all happens. Can we put an announcement in the bulletin that they're all on call as soon as I hit 38 weeks?

3. The pregnancy situation. I have to actually give birth to this baby at some point, which I remember being a major downer, and gain enough more weight for the baby to be baby-sized. Not that I have any trouble with actually putting it on (I've done above average work so far)--but I'm really not looking forward to all those chubby months to follow. It's always good for my vanity, though.