31 December 2008
For best results, be sure to ambush, er, greet him at the door with your list of ill-considered demands, er, helpful suggestions.
Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!
*NB: The author is not liable for the cost of marriage counseling or household damage that may result from taking this advice seriously. But if you do try this, by all means come back and leave a comment to tell us how it went :D
I've called off the wool soakers, though (at least for the winter months). They are too much maintenance for a product that just doesn't work. It wasn't that big of a deal for him to be dampish all the time when the weather was warm, but I don't want him crawling around wet in the winter, and I don't have enough clothes to change his entire outfit every time he goes, and I don't want to create that much more laundry. So he's in the fitteds with internal PUL liner and the old school Gerber plastic pants, and a pox on breathability. The rash factor isn't any better or worse than in disposables or wool soakers. Change him right away and he's fine. Miss one and you're bleeped.
I have a hypothesis about that early toilet training thing. Even housebreaking a kid who's ready for it stinks. You're bound to have more pee on the floor than most folks care for, which gets a girl down (and a dad ENRAGED) real quick like. By the end of the first morning, diapers are looking a lot better than any more of this, so you decide to table the housebreaking for a few more months. It may take several tries, accruing 6 months or more, before loathing of diapers surpasses loathing of toilet training.
But parents who use cloth diapers are used to close, personal interaction with pee &c. Their hands are dirty all the time, so they see that first toilet training attempt through rather than getting discouraged right away and calling it off. Then they get to be smug about how their kids toilet train earlier. Just a hypothesis. I'm interested to test it out--both of our girls toilet trained out of disposables earlier and easier than our older son, so Boy 2 will be a good test case. And, I know, the kid can feel he's wet, blah blah blah.
Bottom line: diapers are gross, no matter what kind you use. I can see being pregnant more times. I can see delivering more babies. I can see more years of nursing. But the thought of toilet training even one more kid makes me want to run straight out of town without bothering to pack a suitcase.
30 December 2008
Male egos simply can't be flung down the stairs like a cat. Men are far too delicate; the slightest criticism or failing can leave them doubting and loathing themselves for years. Chain pregnancies are really a small price to pay for him to feel good about himself.
24 December 2008
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
23 December 2008
22 December 2008
On the other hand, free pizza.
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter; but human voices (in a TREE) wake us and we drown.
Then again . . . free pizza.
21 December 2008
20 December 2008
I have also been aware of my weakness in response to this new life. For weeks my sinful heart hardly dared to believe the news, but held itself in check and hid, for fear that I would have to mourn another loss, another death.I'm always hesitant to announce we're pregnant (don't get excited, we aren't that I know of). I've never had a miscarriage, but I live my first trimesters in constant fear. I had a terrible scare with our first baby that I've never really gotten over. As excited as I always am and as much as I would love to tell all the world, I can't get past the awful prospect of having to un-tell everyone if the worst happened. So I keep it a secret.
Of course couples aren't under any obligation to tell people they're pregnant. But I detect some distrust in my own motivation for our usual course of action, not telling until we're out of the first trimester and forgoing the prayers our faithful friends would offer for us. As much as I love our yet unseen baby when we have one in the works, I'm too afraid of sharing any grief that might come my way. So I also hold my joy in check, and diminish it in the process. This vale of tears, it's lame.
19 December 2008
This was good too, exemplifying the dilemma I face if someone kindly asks me whether I’d like to “go lay down and get some sleep.” While there’s nothing I’d like better than some sleep, I simply won’t be able to rest after hearing an innocent transitive verb abused so wantonly. People, this is not hard. I can sympathize with difficulties in the past tense, but even our dog has mastered the present tense, so I’m confident that (most) humans can too. (Tell her to “go lay down” and she’ll just look at you quizzically while I wince. Tell her to “go lie down,” and she does.)
Ok. I’m done. You may now resume your weekend activities, assuming that you don’t intend to engage in any grammatically risky behavior. Better safe than sorry, folks: don’t party unless you designate a grammarian.
18 December 2008
Turns out I was just stupid-tired and mean-hungry. Huh.
Rebekah recently noted how “it's so great to be ruled by glands squirting chemicals into the bloodstream at random.” Less random, but also factors that we deny or forget to our peril (and the peril of those around us, as my husband likes to point out): the frustratingly predictable needs for regular and adequate rest and nutrition.
How humiliating, to realize that a too-short night is all it takes to send me down a grouchy warpath, that a too-small breakfast might mean mid-morning despair as my spirits track with the blood sugar crash.
Humiliating…Ah, but isn’t that the point, after all? Cranky, despairing self, you need look no farther today than the very first commandment. What, were you trying to make a go of it alone again? Forgetting that if it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to dust? Needed you yet another reminder that God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong, that His power is made perfect in weakness? Well. Consider yourself reminded.
Even more the wonder: One who needed not be bound by such fleshly concerns, chose, for your sake, to know the humiliation of hunger and weariness, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Is not your Lord able to sympathize with your weakness, having been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin? And is He not mighty to save, able to prove His promises true to you?
Oh foolish little self, cast your burden of weariness upon Him who cares for you, and let your hunger turn your thoughts to the only Bread that satisfies forever, for the life of the world.
There, now. Go have a snack if you need one; remember that you will get some rest (eventually); and surrender your weary vacillation between rage and despair to your tender Shepherd, who carries you close to his heart; who gently leads those that have young.
And oh! The bickering! Last night was the kids’ Christmas program, and there was almost an all-out dromedary brawl in our section of the camel herd. (In BoyOne’s defense, those camel noses are eminently tweakable.)
Back to the blizzard of paper snowflake-making…
17 December 2008
16 December 2008
By the time we were a few questions in, I think he and I both regretted that decision. Things might have gone better if the survey had been essay instead of short answer/multiple choice. There were some predictable problems, e.g. that when he asked me to rate my “impression” of how effective various birth control methods are at “preventing pregnancy,” there was no way to nuance the definition of when pregnancy begins.
And then there’s the fact that CSPP and run-of-the-mill questionnaires simply don’t compute. So that you can share in my bemused amusement, here’s a sample of how it went:
He: Have you ever been pregnant?
Me: Yes, three times.
He: How many of your pregnancies were planned?
Me: Planned? Uh…planned?
He: Yes, how many of your pregnancies were planned?
Me: Uh, I don’t know… Maybe…the first one…kind of?
He: Okaaaay…so, one. Are you currently trying to get pregnant?
Me: [Figuring that not trying not to get pregnant doesn’t exactly count] No.
He: What form of birth control are you using?
He: Okaaaayyyy . . .
And so it went, with me finally finding relief in the “does not apply” option for a number of the ickier questions regarding me and my “partner(s).”
Then this one threw me into such a mental maelstrom that I was pretty much useless thereafter:
He: Assuming that you are not trying to get pregnant right now, which of the following best describes what your reaction would be if you found out that you were pregnant: A) It would be the best thing that could happen to me right now; B) It would be a good thing for me right now; C) It would be neither a good thing nor a bad thing for me right now; D) It would be a very inconvenient thing for me right now; or E) It would be the worst thing that could happen to me right now.
Me: [my personal Pandora’s box of CSPP-related issues suddenly thrown open by that simple question, I am instantly overcome by voices and visions: my sorry self plastered to the bathroom floor through months of nausea and vomiting, while the other kids run amok and neglected…the inexpressible joyous delirium of a kicking, squalling, bloody newborn laid upon my chest…that vocational duty thing...the youngest now getting into everything all day, and still not sleeping all night…the peaceful contours of that same baby’s cheeks in the moonlight, as he curves perfectly into my side when he and I have both fallen asleep as he nurses…my total inadequacy at this whole mothering endeavor in general…the faces of all my children…the faces of all my children that yet may be…my skinny jeans…my intense desire to try to try to trust and follow my Lord...the cost of milk, and the alarming rate at which we consume it…eternity… … … … …] Uh….uh….uhhhhh….Could you repeat those options?
He: *Sigh.* Ok. Assuming that you are not...
We muddled through to the end, and by the time he asked the last question regarding the highest level of education I’d completed, he and I were both shocked to discover that I have two Masters degrees. He sounded as startled as I felt, actually saying, “Oh! Two Masters? Really?! I mean—that’s great. Yeah--great!” Because clearly, my answers made no sense. (Moral of the story: these days, they’ll give anyone a degree or two.)
Some moms get full-on postpartum depression, OCD, or panic disorder, and others will just know what I'm talking about when I mention that inward eye which is the horror of solitude, especially when there's a new baby in the house or at other times of hormonal upheaval in the perpetual parturition cycle (it's so great to be ruled by glands squirting chemicals into the bloodstream at random).
Strategies for victims of mental belly aches:
1. Stay away from problematic places or objects as much as possible, especially when you have the baby with you.
2. Ask someone to be with you during bad times. This is one of those things for which it's ok to ask your husband to get out of bed or stay awake with you. Even an older child can be the company you need, and they'll probably really like being up in the middle of the night with mom and the baby. During the day, phone a far-away friend to talk, ask a nearby friend to come over.
3. Have a book or other diversion that will hold your attention on hand so you don't end up with empty times. An idle mind is the devil's playground. Better to have the TV or radio on, even if your baby books say not to, than to listen to him.
4. Know your favorite mental candy and gobble up those sweet thoughts when the other ones come a-knocking. For example, think about what a terrific grandma you're going to be.
5. Defend your problem places with good images. Pick your nursery artwork (for whatever kind of "nursery" you have) for you, not your baby. He doesn't care anyway.
6. Pray without ceasing. Ex corde may not be the best for a mind fighting a hijacking. If the Psalms you have memorized aren't keeping you busy enough, pray through some you don't know as well to do double duty on both mental and spiritual fronts. Ask your husband or pastor to keep you stocked with good devotional reading, ie not the schloggy women's junk that publishers seem to think we dear little females love so much. TDP is too big for this job, sad to say. Find something you can manuever with one hand.
7. Don't be afraid to tell someone if you need to. They will not take your baby away from you. The person you trust to tell will help get you whatever help you need, formal or informal.
For what it's worth, this is something that has improved considerably for me over the course of a few babies. If you're just starting and terrified at the prospect of going through it again, there is hope (though no guarantee) for an easier go of it in the future. Again, this is advice is only for bellyachers.
15 December 2008
You are American, therefore you are a pragmatist (and, as we were reminded on a Groundhog Day of yore, a nominalist--but let's save that for another time). You value things for their practical application, including yourself. You look at your set of skills and consider them wasted if you don't use them "out there in the real world."
But what does Scripture say? "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made"--NOT fearfully and wonderfully useful. Your gifts are who God has made you, in addition to being tools he has given you to use. Their application not more valuable than the testimony your unique existence gives to his creative power. So first of all, you are smart, beautiful, gifted, virtuous, because you are a work of God, not because he needed a sculptor or an engineer or a blogger down there to straighten things out.
For Adam no suitable helper was found. A heifer wasn't good enough. The man needed someone corresponding to him. Philosophers have suggested that humans seem to uniquely possess such characteristics as questioning, laughing, believing, communicating through language, etc. What's good for the gander is a goose, ie someone who can fly, honk, float, and give him a gosling. So second, you match your husband, who is almost certainly human. Laugh with him, will ya?
Let's get messier, though. To a certain extent, people see through pragmatism's weaker arguments; for example, most women are willing to sacrifice their college bikini ratings to have children. But to completely give up the protections pragmatism offers our pride is difficult. If I'm this smart, don't I deserve an advanced degree? Or, more cunningly: Isn't it bad stewardship for me not to cultivate and make use of my talents? For the glory of God, of course?
Lest we forget, there is an office in the church which frees women to make full use of their extra-parturitional gifts and talents: virginity. But let's assume we're speaking of people who opted out of that. Are they being bad stewards by reading board books rather than starring in movies, issuing Band-Aids instead of performing surgery, negotiating Lego-sharing and not drafting contracts?
Well, you stewardship-mongering pragmatist, why did God give you a functional uterus if what he really wanted you to use was your impossibly extraordinary brain/talent/looks/whatever? It amazes me that after what my own personal goulash of organs, juices, and hair has been through in the past five years, it can still function nearly as well as it could before my first pregnancy (and the "nearly" is pretty artificial since it refers mostly to deliberate, exclusive exercise, for which I rarely have opportunity now). It would be bad stewardship of this protoplasmic marvel not to keep having kids, since God has equipped me so well for the task. After my last labor, I wonder if I'm not starting to acquire some actual skill when it comes to childbirth (don't worry, it still hurt something awful). Let liberals train for critical societal boons like marathons. I'm training for overpopulation, and I'm getting darn good at it.
As I heard in a stewardship sermon recently (not from my husband, btw, or any of the usual suspects), there's a fourth T beyond time, talent, and treasure: tissue. Work it, girls.
About that spectacular brain: wake up, self. What great improvements has the world missed out on in the past five years since it's been deprived of my public presence? To paraphrase a quotation shared by one of my beautiful associates: much of what I thought was my talent was just pride. Moreover, the sin-bleeped world I will always have with me, but I will not always have my children as such. We're getting to a simple answer you've heard before, but listen again: the only people to whom you are irreplaceable are the members of your family. You're your kids' only mom, even if you sing like Diana Damrau, shrink government like Margaret Thatcher, or criticize texts like Barbara Aland.
Other people can sing. Other people can shrink governments. Other people can tell Kurt he's full of crap. And they will. But no one else can be your kids' mom. Fulfilling the tasks associated with that office is something you can always do in good conscience--unlike those other things, which leave the nagging worry in the back of your mind about what in your kid's life you're missing while you're off doing them. No one can ever regret the unimpeachable good she has done her children by giving them life and serving them as only a mother can (although the devil and the world will surely impeach for all they're worth).
Even secular sociologists will tell you there is no better way for you to serve society (aka the world) than taking care of your own family. This is the most important task on anyone's stewardship list. If you're a gourmet chef cooking for your family every night--your family is exceedingly blessed. I wish my family got such great treatment. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. What is the world to you, anyway, with all its vaunted diners? We all want the best for our children--how foolish it would be to forget to give them the best of ourselves, whatever that might be.
Why did God give you a brain? Because He gives all people brains for His glory and the good of
His people, starting with the little ones asleep upstairs and the big one off at another blasted meeting. Go on, thank Him. And then figure out what you're going to feed everybody tomorrow.
12 December 2008
Any time the news comes on, my husband starts muttering about the Gracchi. He tenderly likens me to cow-eyed Hera, and the bath water is wine-dark after the boys come out of it. You wouldn't believe how much the Iliad comes up in Bible class. He translates all medical terms in normal conversation to demonstrate how uncreative they are ("Her hip shattered when she fell because she's got holeybones.") If you ask him what something means, he says dismissively, "Exactly what it sounds like." He can identify any marble bust you happen upon in a book or movie. If you apologize for holding Gnostic notions, he'll say, "You're actually more of a neo-Platonist." If you tell him you're keeping the name Aurelia in your hopper for if you get to 11 or 12 kids and really go crazy, he'll say, "You can't name someone after her."
This is one advantage of the St Louis seminary. They've got that sweet deal with the Classics department at Wash U, so every year there are a few brainy dudes who dream in Greek riding their bikes back and forth. Pick one up! (Stick with the Lutheran ones, though. Anyone who's read Ovid is dangerous.)
11 December 2008
I love Mary, in no small part because as the new Eve she enjoys even now the fulfillment of hope all women will one day receive. I also love her because as Mother of our Lord she teaches us—the daughters of Eve—what it means to be humble, what it means to trust, receive, and bear fruit in the Word of God. And I love her because she, or, rather, the thought of her, helps me through my pregnancies.*
In today’s Memorial Moment, Father Murray writes: “How impossible to conceive that the corpus of death becomes pristine through the incarnation of the Virgin. Humanity is made fully new in Mary by Mary's Son. In her womb humanity is re-created. So the angel says to Mary: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God"(Luke 1:31, 32, 35). The Garden of Eden is replanted when the divine messenger breathes upon her the message of the Life in his promise that the holy One to be born of her would be the Son of the Most High. Mary becomes the new Eve, and Christ the new Adam. Her womb is the ark of the Lord.”
Just as Christ’s death on the cross was so Once, so final, so redemptive that our death can be called but sleep in comparison, so, too, His birth—holy, perfect, final—redeems the births of His people. His birth gives mothers cause to forget their anguish in joy that a child has been born into the world. His birth alone does this, for without it there is only anguish—bad soil giving birth to the dead.
But in Mary, from whom Christ received His flesh, we see the new land in which the Garden of Eden was replanted. God made flesh created for Himself a perfect soil in which to grow. As daughters of the promise, we, too, are recreated as clean soil. We bear fruit; our fruit is good. Our pain is to a purpose. Because of His birth women are saved, not condemned, by childbirth for His good birth makes the dirt of our wombs—be they prolific or barren by the standards of death—fruitful, living, good. Unlike Mary, our offspring will achieve by themselves no deliverance upon the earth; but through her Son, by His blood and according to His will, they do not fall. Christ began His good work in the womb of the Virgin, a womb made holy by His presence there, a mother made perfect by her Son. He is coming to complete this good work in us. No one can take away our joy.
Come Jesus, come Messiah, Lord, Lost Paradise restore; Lead past the angel’s flaming sword— Come, open heaven’s door.
And thank God for it. Without this news, thoughts about my impending (DV) “birth experience” leave me a dysfunctional mess. Better for those around me if I think on Christ and His Mother, and leave the future to itself. :P
*No saint invoking around these parts, though we do hang their pretty pictures on our walls.
10 December 2008
Hoping to alleviate BoyTwo's allergy symptoms, my husband, my father-in-law, and a kind friend just installed a laminate floor in the boys' room.
As the Designated Baby Nurser/Toddler Lassoer/Grub Rustler, my actual participation in the project consisted of (drumroll, please): exclaiming with delight over the finished product. (Truly, they did a superb job.)
So, am I
A) Happy to leave the noisy, dusty, complicated mess to the menfolk
B) Sad because I didn't get to use power tools or learn a new life skill
I haven't quite decided yet, but I'm actually leaning toward Option A. Go figure.
09 December 2008
Once I got word of a very bad labor experience which of course got me upset, and I mentioned it to a friend who had never given birth. This person suspected the traumatized mother to be someone on whom I wished some adversity and asked if I were really just sad or if there were some schadenfreude involved. I had to calm myself down by reminding myself that the experience of labor changes one's perception of it drastically. Labor is not a this stinks bad day or a gol-durnit clogged toilet. There is truly not a person in the world on whom I would wish a "bad" labor. They are all bad. It is far too terrible to wish it any worse, and I speak as someone who has never had a complicated delivery. I wish no one had to go through it, especially my favorite person, me.
The scary thing is that I want to say no one deserves to go through childbirth. The truth, ye who think of sin but lightly, is that childbirth is exactly what we deserve.
Anyway. The worse the labor, the worse the fear of going through it again. And that's a fear that just doesn't need to get any worse.
08 December 2008
Nothing, having arrived, will stay.
The earth, even, is like a flower, so soon
passeth it away. And yet this nothing
is the seed of all—the clear eye
of Heaven, where all the worlds appear.
Where the imperfect has departed, the perfect
begins its struggle to return. The good gift
begins again its descent. The maker moves
in the unmade, stirring the water until
it clouds, dark beneath the surface,
stirring and darkening the soul until pain
perceives new possibility. There is nothing
to do but learn and wait, return to work
on what remains. Seed will sprout in the scar.
Though death is in the healing, it will heal.
How precious a misperception. Even now, when I see a host, the word that reflexively comes to my mind is "peace." I hope many other English-speaking children are confused into the same clarity.
06 December 2008
So. Leafing through an Advent program this morning, I happened across L’Engle’s “The Risk of Birth”:
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn
Love still takes the risk of birth.
Kinda makes the people who so virtuously decline to bring children into this world on the basis of its awfulness seem kinda…stingy, does it not?
Love still takes the risk of birth.
Time to sign off; all this long-distance laboring is quite exhausting, I find.
05 December 2008
First of all, they're called pantyhose. This is offensive in the extreme.
Have you seen them? What would possess any person to try to put their legs in them? As if the lower extremities of half the human race are bulk sausage.
What short of childbirth surpasses the humiliation of manuevering oneself into a pair? The humiliation is then magnified by the numerous children looking on and offering criticisms of both process and physique.
Buy the cheap ones and they're full of runs after one wearing. Buy the expensive ones and you bought the expensive ones, which still get runs.
I spend my whole Sunday morning dodging the kids. My two year old follows me around manhandling my weird feeling unskin. The baby cries as I dance about the kitchen, knife in hand, so he can't reach me to shimmy up my pantyhoed legs while I slice potatoes. I spend the sermon watching everyone's feet lest a prickly Velcro shoe fastener grab on and leave me looking like That Mom for the rest of the day.
Why not pants? Well . . . [she admits it grudgingly] men like dresses. Husbands want wives to wear dresses, and pastors think women should wear dresses to church. Some will come right out and say it, but most suspect they will be perceived as vaguely jerky so they drop hints and hope we'll notice. They think this is clever. In fact it is not clever because women communicate this way most of the time. Moreover, we do think it's vaguely jerky*. But Victor Hugo helpfully explains, "One of the magnanimities of woman is to yield." So in addition to all the other bad choices to which this magnanimity leads us (such as setting precedents for labor intensive Sunday meals), we who would otherwise never consider forfeiting our immeasurably more practical pants assume dresses, and therefore pantyhose, and therefore inferiority yet another day.
(Pastors also want hats to come back, but seriously, dudes. Seriously.)
*Pam probably doesn't; however, she is a Nice Person and Good Wife.
UPDATE: Link corrected via elimination. It's in Les Miserables. Wasn't that a handy way to get to your inbox, though?
04 December 2008
Please consider yourselves not just authorized, but encouraged and implored to straighten out my children when they are acting rotten. It helps my credibility so much.
03 December 2008
Good times, that juxtaposition of truest joy and pure terror. Eyes on the skies, guys!
02 December 2008
Household phenomenon #217: The Antigone Ploy a.k.a. She'll Never Bury My Sibling
The toddler stomps into kitchen where I stand (so call it?) at the sink, my hands immersed in lemony suds.
“MAMA! Wead. Book.”
“Not now, dear.”
The toddler walks back to the play room for a bit, then returns to grab my pants leg with authority and again make known her request.
“MAMA! Wead. Book. Now.”
“Go away, darling, I’m busy.”
The toddler again walks back to the play room and is gone a bit longer this time. When she returns, she pushes so that she now stands between my legs and the sink counter. I have little choice; it’s either fall on top of her (a bit front heavy, are we?) or stop working. Assured of my attention, she endures the suds dripping on her head long enough to furrow up her brow, put on her most ferocious pucker, and demand, “MAMA! WEAD. BOOK. NOW!”
“What’s gotten into you, you little ape?” I ask. Then I see them: the Big Sister and Brother peeking out the play room door. Sister holds a much beloved picture book in her hand. Brother’s eyes have a certain devious shine.
There’s only one thing to do. I waddle myself over to the play room door, wafting lemony freshness all the way.
“You want a book?” I ask.
“Yes, Mama.” They say.
“Why did you send your sister to ask for it?”
“Because she’s so cute!”
“Did you tell her to yank on my pants?”
“Did you tell her to shove me away from the sink?”
“ . . . how nice.”
Whereupon I shut the door and walk (if I may be so bold to assume) away.
01 December 2008
This illustrates how insensitive, offensive, and hurtful it is when our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in our own confession, are so quick to criticize a parish with a modest, steady, or declining membership. What does someone outside a parish family know of that family's internal life? It is just as foolish, uncharitable, and potentially cruel to judge a congregation by its communicant count as it would be foolish, uncharitable, and cruel to tell a random childless couple that they should repent of their refusal of God's gifts. Must every family be huge? Plainly God does not give a plenitude of children to every couple. It is presumptuous and abusive to demand of either a husband and his wife or a pastor and his parish a fruitfulness which a man's will is powerless to generate.
Like many childless couples who are misled by conventional wisdom to pursue children through questionable or immoral reproductive technologies, some parishes seek to grow through ill-informed or even theologically dangerous practices. Many couples come out of years of fertility treatments with crushed spirits, wasted bodies, and empty bank accounts, childless nonetheless. So do many parishes sell their catholic birthright for a mess of zeitgeist pottage with no change in numbers to show for it. Their time cannot be reclaimed, and the damage must be corrected through great effort for those willing to bear the cost of repentance. They languish alone, stories untold on convention screens or in official publications.
God grant us all to trust, be content, and offer him thanks whether he gives in staggering abundance or withholds his hand, and to think and speak of all other families in charity.
30 November 2008
The local specimens treat everything as a competition: they race to their chairs for supper; whoever finishes his milk first yells “I win!”; whoever gets up the stairs or out the door first proclaims victory while the other one wails in the agony of defeat… I thought it was just the four-year-old who was inventing these contests, with the two-year-old echoing without comprehension, as he is wont to do when the conversation exceeds his cognition or vocabulary.
Turns out he knows what’s going on too. They both announced their intent to use the bathroom at the same time, so I accompanied the toddler to one while his brother was in the other. Mr. Two completed his business in record time, hopped off the throne, speed-washed, then sprinted back to where his brother was still sitting, yelling “I win! I win!” and cackling gleefully the whole way.
Now, I used to be as competitive as the next girl, before this whole bearing-and-nurturing gig mellowed me out so much (ahem), but I don’t recall ever being tempted to compare time splits on bathroom visits.
I just consider myself fortunate that these boys haven’t yet had the bright idea for a contest like the one reported by a friend, who happened upon her boys as they were arguing about who could in fact pee the highest up on the bathroom wall.
Of course, the little apples don’t fall far from the tree. My in-laws recently bestowed their vintage pinball machine upon us. When my boys’ father achieved what he believed to be the Highest Score Ever, he immediately called his brother, which I thought was amusing. But even more amusing was that his brother remembered, to the exact point, the highest score he himself had ever attained (folks, we’re talking about when these guys were adolescents). And it was indeed higher than my husband’s. So now there’ll be no peace until that score is topped. Ah, boys…
For a cool book on differences in how the sexes communicate/relate/etc., check out Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Has this book previously come up on the blog? I can’t remember. Well, it’s still good.
27 November 2008
25 November 2008
A question for you to ponder as you work to keep the children quiet so every other adult in the house can nap unmolested on Thanksgiving afternoon
23 November 2008
All I’ve got to do, once the worst of breakfast is cleared from the boys’ faces, is a bunch of buttoning, unbuttoning, and rebuttoning (BoyOne’s newfound button fascination means that each button will be done at least twice). Even so, the pre-church routine can get a bit…hectic…even though we’ve all been up for hours.
Props to those of you who regularly pull off the indubitably more intricate Sunday prep for little ladies! Some day, I may be asking you for your secrets...
22 November 2008
Lately, I’m tired. Really tired. Stupid tired. I’m tired of being tired. In fact, I’m so tired of being tired that this complaint about tiredness is boring even me. But I can’t ignore the fatigue: I drop things and spill things because I’m tired. I misplace things and forget things because I’m tired. I can’t compose a coherent thought because I’m tired.
And I’m irritable and impatient. Because I’m tired, right?
Enter Amy Carmichael’s gloss of Luke 6:45: “For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.”
Carmichael’s words leapt at me from the pages of Mark Driscoll’s latest book, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross (Book: Quickly and Partially Perused but Likely Recommended, with the Usual Lutheran Qualifications/Emphases/Addendums). Driscoll continues, The jolt does not change the water... The jolt only brings out of the container what is already there.
Likewise, if you are filled with sweetness and then jolted, only sweetness will come out. If you are filled with bitterness and then jolted, bitterness will come out. It is not the fault of the person who jolted you. The question is not ‘Can I prevent being jolted?’ since we all are, but ‘What is inside of me that will come out?’
Ok, fine. Time to quit with the tired “but monkey” (I’d be more patient, but I’m so tired…I wouldn’t be so cranky, but I’m just tired..) already and ’fess up to my sins so that I can receive the forgiveness I so desperately need, and save that precious little energy for actually practicing my faith instead of protecting my excuses.
Aside to those of you seeking a Christmas present for your Reverend Husband: If you’re willing to venture a walk on the wilder side, check out Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Particularly noteworthy for Driscoll’s unique, er, counseling style (!).
21 November 2008
But thankfully, I've got too many other strange and misplaced guilt-feelings, antisocial tendencies, and countercultural customs to worry about whether I'm on the carborexic side of the Green Spectrum.
20 November 2008
And--gently now--heartbreak factor? How inextricable a part of any woman's maternal career, and how deep a fear even for those who have yet been spared it.
I'll leave it to you to decide how messed up this is.
19 November 2008
Though probably old news to everyone else around here, we just recently discovered the merits of mixing that cream cheese pudding stuff into our brownies. Wowee! Super food! It's kept me happy as a sea-bound seal all day.
Here's the secret:
8 oz. creamy cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip it good. Marble it all up with the cheap store brownie mix. DO NOT SHARE WITH THE KIDS.
You can thank me later.
18 November 2008
Blech, I just read through this again before posting it and it made my stomach squinch up. :P (Not that it wouldn't be wonderful to be pregnant, of course. But it would make my stomach squinch up.)
17 November 2008
Sloth is (let's face it) a big part of my life, and I was surprised when I learned that it traditionally ranks pretty high in the hierarchy of sins. What's so bad about being lazy, right? Well, anyone who is really committed to it knows the infectious spiralings of sloth, or as they sometimes used to call it in the wild Latin West, acedia. There's more to it than not doing what you're supposed to be doing. To keep not doing it, you have to stop feeling guilty about it, and then to stop feeling guilty about not feeling guilty, and if you really keep at it you don't feel anything, you don't care about anything, you are dead.
The difference between a Concordian Sister and a monk is that children forcefully demand some amount of care. It's really, really hard not to do something about a bum that needs wiping or a child who needs feeding, if for no more honorable motivation than the smell or the howling.
I'm never comfortable with the talking points about how kids will teach you not to be selfish. It's still usually for selfish reasons that I deal with them. But the work itself is a partial antidote to acedia, so even if it's not making me good, it may make me the tiniest bit less bad every once in a while, or at least keep me from slipping even farther down, I don't know. If it can't put a smile on my face, it can get me out of my implosive pod of self-absorbed indifference to everything. Typical of my tendency to feel guilty about the wrong things, I would feel bad if I created a black hole in this lovely parsonage. I can hear myself apologizing to the trustees: the kids befouled the carpets, Dad broke that door upstairs, and there's a singularity in the playroom where the couch used to be so you might want to think about relocating.
While Norris helpfully ponders many quotations and insights from those heroes of prayer, the monastics, the most valuable testimony her book gives is to the power of the Scripture (especially the Psalms) not to inform, but to heal. Seeing the Word as an educational exercise or a tool for personal enrichment is a deficiency of our hypereducated, therapeutic time. For people who are busy, who are bored with these stories they've heard from infancy, whose brains have been hormonally curdled or perforated by time from steel trap to (in the words of my mother) steel sieve: pick it up anyway, even if you know you won't remember it in a month or a day or an hour, even if it won't make you feel any differently than you do now. The Word will not return void, and that's a promise.
So that's the answer I got, and it's a good one. The question the book didn't answer for me is old: how shall I pray? I know it's been answered, but I still find myself asking it all the time. When I read the monks and the mystics on prayer, they speak a language I don't understand. They speak of silence, and days filled with and framed by prayer, whereas my life feels like a spiritual "Harrison Bergeron": whenever a devout thought enters my mind, a cry or a whine or a fight drives it out to prevent me from excelling in piety.
I have trouble relating to Kathleen; we obviously have our differences. But her personal spirituality, in both its muckiness and transcendence, resonates with me, if I could only go where she has gone. I long for a spiritual retreat where I could learn the language of prayer without interruption, where I could learn silence before God, where I could restructure my life within a framework of prayer, where I could deprogram myself from the Pietist approach to prayer I contracted in ages past, where I could imprint the Psalms on my heart and no one would shout them out of my ears, where I could make the canonical hours my default setting so that when I returned to my shapeless life their rhythm would set me right, upset my rut. But I would also risk the the deeper acedia from which the tasks of my vocation protect.
A more immediate problem of monastic life is its artificiality. Most of us cannot spend our lives in retreat, and some cannot spend even a day in it. We must work, and not in contrived ways (cf. basket weaving Abba Paul from the first chapter). So I'll keep plugging and piecemealing, struggling to pray as I go about my day, putting in marathon prayer sessions in the snatches of time I can get, and struggling moreover to use those snatches for prayer and not idleness, the ever-emptying food of acedia.
16 November 2008
Email heryour with conundrums great and small, and we'll see you over there!
15 November 2008
Let's face it: this never worked, anyway...
One particularly worn-down, mauled-over, chewed-up, drained-dry, tugged-on, storied-out, generally-beleaguered day, as I was in the process of mentally wishing my children far, far away, something from C.S. Lewis echoed dimly in my head. Employing my sophisticated cross-referencing system [emailing my husband: “Cld U send me that Lewis qt about God leaving us alone/Hell”], I tracked it down:
In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: "What are you asking God to do?" To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does" (from The Problem of Pain).
To be CSPP is to be oh, so very aware that God does not leave us alone. For our good as well as for His glory, God graciously surrounds us with these immensely needy little creatures. My children are the most brutally effective way yet that He has worked to reveal, chastise and reform my slothful selfishness, which on the best of days lurks barely below the surface.
He won’t leave me alone: He incarnates His exacting, impossible standard to me in these ever-present, ever-demanding sons of mine.
He won’t leave me alone: He incarnates His freeing, irrepressible mercy to me in that ever-present, ever-giving Son of His.
The next time the mad drumbeats in my head build to a fever pitch, I shall endeavor to remember what I know to be true: that to be left alone in the meantime would put me in jeopardy of being left alone for all time.
13 November 2008
On the other hand, it’s a lot harder to sneak off to the secret cookie stash when the need arises.
Nice. I hear these stories and instantly turn into a self-pitying, comparatively analyzing harpy. I start thinking about what a good person I am for not using formula and for taking care of my own children. Next thing you know I'll be congratulating myself for not mowing down pedestrians in crosswalks.
12 November 2008
One of our readers recently emailed to ask if we would include a post specific to the trials faced by pastors’ wives. While we are neither in the habit of taking requests nor experts of anything, this particular topic has been on my mind much of late and I was planning to hold forth on it anyway. I find myself in need of much discipline and many pep talks when pregnant. PS- This post is really, really long. So. You know.
Some ladies of my acquaintance have a game they love to play:
“My husband is such a baby when he’s sick. A little snuffle and he won’t lift a finger to help himself.”
“My husband broke his foot last week and insisted on trying to cook for himself. I said, ‘Oh sure, you think you can cook; but how will you carry the food to the table on those crutches?’ He got the picture after that!”
“After all these years, my husband can’t change the videos in the player and he can’t even figure out how to operate the remote!”
“I try and give my husband projects—‘cause he likes helping out, you know—but it takes him so long in the end I just as well do it myself. He can’t even load the dishwasher!”
And a good time is had by all. Please note the clever non sequitors, compliments of the only rule: each lady must make clear to the others that her husband is perhaps the laziest, meanest, most incompetent man ever hatched on God’s green earth. The game brings such joy to these good women I’m really hard pressed to criticize. On the contrary, I enjoy it, for it regularly reminds me just how sinister and bleak the heart of woman can be. Mea culpa. My heart is the most barren of all.
Behold, should I choose to play the game with those unsuspecting women I would win. Your husband can’t load the dishwasher? My husband is never home. In the unlikely event that he is home, he is reading a book. He doesn’t wash the dishes. He doesn’t bathe the children. He doesn’t hear the children killing each other in the next room. He doesn’t see that I’m tired, petty, and terrible at this motherhood thing. If he were to notice he would jump right up and save the entire bloody day.
In his Table of Duties, Luther kindly sums up the burden wives bear by culling from Scripture two simple verses: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” Eph. 5:22, and “They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” 1 Peter 3:5-6.
Of course I agree. Of course I know to submit, to do my work with joy, to speak peace in rainbow colored words all over my pristine house to my well-behaved children. But knowing isn’t half the battle once the kids start screaming and the inner dialogue starts in . . .
I didn’t intend to marry a pastor. I didn’t intend to marry, period. I certainly didn’t intend to spend my productive years producing babies. When I allow myself to think about all I did intend to do I get pretty angry. When I allow myself to remember that no one thinks all that much of what I am doing I get pretty sad. When I then look around and notice that my husband is an hour late for supper I get pretty crazy. The ingredients for a perfect Molotov cocktail—drink it down, sister; everyone’s doing it.
Let’s try this instead: God’s own child I gladly say it, “Self, shut up.”
Pastor’s wife, consider that the man God gave you is your husband but he is Christ’s slave. Do not, with cheap, repetitive rhetoric, distract him from his Master. The boiling pot of anger you so meticulously stir throughout your lonely day has very little to do with the real, flesh and blood man who bears the onslaught of your wrath. That inner dialogue that plagues you, that fills your brain pan with the sizzling fats of disappointment, revenge, and self pity, is born of lies. It is the serpent whispering, “Did God really say . . .” His whispers ape reality, but they do not reveal it. Close your ears and open your eyes of faith. You and your husband are both of you saints in the Kingdom of God, are both of you sinners carrying your crosses until the day of His coming. And your crosses are not entirely unequal:
You wash grime from the dimpled bodies of your children; your husband labors to scrub decades of poor catechesis from the minds of his people.
You endure the unending prattle of your little ones; he endures the unending prattle of his secretary, his catechism class, his shut ins.
You change the baby's diaper, maneuvering your swollen belly out of her leg's reach; he carefully labors to change the heterodox practices of his parish--the individual cups, etc.-- all the while maneuvering around the ego and pride of the people.
You kiss bruises and bandage scrapes; he holds the dying as they depart this earth and soothes the grief of those left behind. This and other tasks far beyond your calling and expertise he performs day after day, and he performs them alone. Who are you to snarl when he doesn’t help with the dishes? Though you may not always see it for the blinders, you and your husband wear the same yoke and plow the same field.
Be still. Stop being afraid and know that Christ is God. By His blood you have been made pure and holy, a worthy bride. Like Sarah before you, you have a master who worships Him. Like His mother before you, you are both humbled in childbirth and promised exultation in the time to come. And like Mary, quietly sitting at the feet of the Master of All, He gives you His good, restorative, eternal gifts out of unfettered love and concern for your well being. Do what is right and do not give way to fear. Rather, fix your eyes on Christ, the perfect Bridegroom, the author and perfecter of your faith, and recall with daily prayer and repentance that it was ultimately out of submission to Him, love and devotion to the One who gave His life for you, that you gave up your sovereignty, your body, and your heart. Your work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light, and you will receive your reward.
Thus, when your Christ fearing husband fails, do not hold it against him. By the grace of God, he just as often succeeds. When you fail, do not hold it against him. God redeems your filthy rags and makes you a fruitful vine, a blessing in your husband’s house. The dishes may get done one day, the next day they may not. The dishes aren’t important. Do what is right: Bear one another’s burdens in love, for the Day is very near indeed.
That said, I have additional thoughts on those lovely inner dialogues that plague the lonely wife and mother. I’ll get out a post on the Burden of Sheer Crazy one of these days. I’m going to need another talk session before I get too much closer to the birth (DV) of another little person.
The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
11 November 2008
This world's prince subverts human society by whispering words of scorn toward the work and worth of women in the ears of men and women alike. Who could forget how O-Lan despised her baby girl as "only a slave" in The Good Earth? Also imprinted on my memory is an interview I heard of a man of some other culture who sneered that educating a daughter is like feeding a neighbor's livestock. To have all her work and suffering in bringing a child into the world rejected--rejected because her child is what she herself is--would surely destroy a woman's spirit.
It meant so much to me that my husband didn't grumble in disappointment about wanting a boy when we learned that our first child was a girl, and some of my most precious memories are of how dearly and completely he loved her when she was born. I've seen women laugh it off when their husbands gripe about a preponderance of female offspring (even in the presence of said offspring), but it would crush me.
For all the difficulty I have in carrying out the duties of motherhood, there can be no shame or second class citizenship in that office, for God does not allow it. The daughters of Eve inherit the honor she received from her husband when he named her for her wondrous giving of life. Only the father of lies can turn that name and work into a derision. I marvel that my sweet little girls will someday, as God allows and provides, find in themselves the strange strength of body and will maternity requires.
It is wonderful to be free to rejoice wholeheartedly upon hearing the words, "It's a girl!"
10 November 2008
The babies and I got a book about Germany from the library a while ago. One of the things it talked about was St Martin's Day, and that it's traditional in Germany for children to pick one of their toys to give away to the poor.
The CSPP perfect storm! Educate, live the liturgical calendar, be charitable, kill an hour of your interminable day, and clear some schwat out of your house! Our kids have been looking forward to it ever since we read about it, perceiving that they will have less to pick up. So gather round tomorrow and read about good old St Martin (with obvious Luther tie-in), hand everybody a bag, and start cutting cloaks. Hard to say who will benefit most.
09 November 2008
BabyGuy, like all babies, views socks as challenges and chew toys. Then too, Boy2 often wears 4 socks at once (two on his hands, for eczema purposes). And Boy1 sometimes changes his socks for no apparent reason at all. Still. This is ridiculous.