30 November 2008

Off to the races

One of those stereotypical things: guys are more competitive; girls are more connective. I’m no expert on little girls, but little boys are indeed competitive.

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.

O, for want of a camel to race!

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

Not with a bang but a whimper

Five-year-old: (Surveys house strewn with sleeping adults while the five of us sit here in the smallest room we have) Is this how Thanksgiving ends?

Yes, dear. Every year.

Reporting live.

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

Within how many generations will all the Concordian Families of Perpetual Parturition be hopelessly inbred and genetically moribund?

Saving me the trouble of posting yet again

Read Father Rick saying dangerously true things about big families if you haven't already.

What is a boy? (Reprised)


HT: Grandparents who spend enough time with our boys to know how apt this definition is.

23 November 2008

I don't know how you do it

How long for this 'do?

All you moms out there with braids to plait, curls to comb, ribbons to secure, shoes to buckle, tights to match, purses to locate, and whatever other wonderful, mysterious things you do to get your girls ready for church…

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

Just say no to but monkeys


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

I'm probably Chartreuse

Or maybe Pear, or Springtime Moss, or even Lime.

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

Stats

I keep statistics in my head of every woman I've ever heard of who has a big family. How many kids? How old is she? When did she start? How far are they spaced? Were there longer intervals as she got older? C-sections? VBAC? And what's her vehicle of choice?

Lots of room, and the modern sleek/blocky stylings would coordinate so well with my gun.

I wish there were CSPP trading cards. I'd have those numbers memorized like a 10 year old knows his Fleer Ultras. I'd get together with my friends Reb. Mary and Gauntlets and we'd do nothing but marvel over Karin, Pam, Heidi, Linda . . . . Maybe the three of us together with our promising rookie seasons would be worth trading for a LaRena or a Dort. I want to know greatest turnovers, argue about who had the most unbelievable season, freak out over pelvimetry ratings (how 'bout that pixie Gauntlets?!) . . . it would be really twisted.

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

This is a really good idea

Oh, happy belly!

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
1/2 sugar
1 egg
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.

Book It! yourself

Why do I hate reading to the kids? I love reading on my own. But you wouldn't believe the projects I can come up with just to put off having to read to them. And, oh, I know, it's SO important. I am SUCH A BAD PERSON for not wanting to read to my kids.

18 November 2008

Make eBay work for you

I was just beginning my yearly pre-Christmas tradition of selling off some of my treasured personal belongings to make room for new junk and fund the purchase of other junk which I am required to provide for other people, when eBay asked me if I wanted to donate a portion of my sale to a charity. Easy way to get my tithe on, right? I searched for "Lutheran" in their listings and didn't come up with anything I knew that well, but there were a number of parishes and organizations there. Go here to get the ball rolling for your parish, mission society, social service, radio show, incorporated entity, or whatever to be included while I look for more cherished possessions to nobly hawk. Whoever's listed as soon as I find something will get a cut. It might be a while. And not that much. And you might have to take turns.

Fiver?

A couple of months ago Kelly was stopped on a roller coaster, waiting in that immeasurable moment at the top for the plunge. She, of course, was hovering in due date territory. I'm creaking up to another peak, always straining to hear if there's one more ratchet left or if I've summited Mt. Waiting To Be Pregnant Again. Every day the baby's first birthday gets closer, the tension builds. Once I was already pregnant by this time. I seem to have paced myself somewhat less gruelingly since then, but you never know.

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

Book, Recommended on balance: Acedia & Me

The subtitle is A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. To be honest, I could have done without the marriage and the writer's life. I was really after the acedia and what the monks had to say about it. Let's start here: Acedia is an old word from the Greek describing a state of listlessness, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. Sound familiar?

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.

Schloop

Anyway, if you're interested in exploring the boundaries of and relationships among sinful sloth, clinical depression, and plain human sadness and life-fatigue, this book is worth your time, especially the beginning and end where Norris explores acedia less autobiographically. The middle of the book is the story of her husband's death and her own difficulties as a writer. The former was too sad for me to invest myself in, and I just don't have any sympathy for the latter as someone who has lost so many phrases because someone needed me before I got a chance to put them down. My other complaints are the occasional gratuitous digs against the kinds of things liberals of faith look down on (eg creationism), and the [descriptor of your liking] notion that the author was made to "know motherhood" by some days spent caring for her sick niece and, of course, writing.

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

The mother of all Lutheran mother blogs

There's a Lutheran Frau Pastor named Pam whose credentials in terms of perpetual parturition exceed ours rather incredibly, and she is taking questions. She's also the First Girl Ever To Give Her Blog A Greek Title, which you know we love. Email her your with conundrums great and small, and we'll see you over there!

15 November 2008

Just leave me alone!


Let's face it: this never worked, anyway...

I’m going to assume that I’m not the only one who’s ever been tempted to shout this at her children. (Those of you who are more virtuous need not read on.) Why do their particularly needy days inevitably wax with the waning of our personal reserves, and coincide with our painfully intense desire for just five minutes of uninterrupted thought, sleep, quiet, reading, tea, adult conversation…?

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

Pros and Cons

On the one hand, having an oddly rational creature of the preschool genre around the house is great. It breaks the monotony of talking to the oddly irrational toddler, the wordless baby, and the tiresome self.

On the other hand, it’s a lot harder to sneak off to the secret cookie stash when the need arises.


oh oreo of mine,
so creamy, so fine,
so dreamy...
i pine for thee...

The world is poison

I recently succumbed to transgression prompted by a conversation about some poor woman I know who has a baby the same age as mine (9 months). This poor woman "never gets any time away from that baby!" The poor dear! Except the eight hours she works every day, and the three week vacation the baby took to visit his grandparents over the summer! Oh, poor, poor woman!

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

A Modern Reformation moment

I saw a Westminster Catechism widget on some blog somewhere along the line and got jealous. I randomly emailed the nice Reformed guy named Mark who made it and asked him if I could get him to do a Small Catechism one for Concordian types. He was good enough to oblige, so check it out over on the right and put one up at your own place if'n you like. Thanks, Mark! :)

What the blogger owes her husband

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.


Watch out boy, she'll chew you up!


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.


Recommended reading:

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

Hephzibah

Christianity has many virtues in addition to the salvation business, and a particularly nice one is the license it gives to delight in one's daughters. Scripture speaks of daughters with touching tenderness: the beauty of Job's daughters is such that we must have their names as well, the treasured lamb of the poor man in Nathan's parable was "like a daughter to him," and every heart aches for desperate Jairus.

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

Blessed, blessed St Martin

I know I'm early, but I thought you might want a little time to prep.


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

I'm flummoxed

There's a decisive chill in the air (to say nothing of snow on the ground), and I can't keep socks on these kids. A cursory compilation of two days' household detritus yielded 27 socks (!) and 2.5 barefoot boys. Yet whenever we're late going somewhere (i.e., whenever we're going somewhere), there's nary a sock to be found, much less a matching pair.

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.


Catch me if you can!

08 November 2008

Tag

Dakota Pam wants to know seven random things about us.

1. The CSPP bloggers live in three contiguous states.

2. The CSPP bloggers were born in three contiguous years.

3. Two CSPP bloggers have nearly identical given names.

4. Two CSPP bloggers had never spoken to each other in person at the time of this blog's inception.

5. One CSPP blogger used to be the boss of the other two.

6. One CSPP blogger has never lived in New York City, one has never lived in Slovakia*, and one has never lived in Wisconsin.

7. Two CSPP bloggers play the flute, and one plays the tuba.

We tag everybody, especially you.

*lived is being defined as "had to launder their clothing in the bathtub numerous times." We've got nothing on Ashley.

07 November 2008

Realism

I'm doubtful about the long-term virtue building power of this fascinating life experiment. Sure, I've gotten over the shock of having vile human by-products left on my floor, but I'm also getting really *@#% $^&*(*@ =(*&#$&*(@)( #(*&^^ @@@@@@@@@@ sick of cleaning them up.

I'm not the dewy-skinned young thing I once wasn't, but I'm also pretty far from old enough for the end to be in sight.

06 November 2008

How quickly they go feral on us


As I was flipping through my copy of The Writing Life looking for the other anecdote, I noticed another section ripe for Mad Libbing. I will change but two words (“[written] work” to “child” in two places):

A child in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the child grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!

Skip but a day, and nature has its way. The Old Adam rises kicking and sputtering to the surface, ornerier than ever for realizing that we’ve attempted murder, biting back hard on the hand that seeks to hold it under. We choose our parenting battles carefully because we know that, although the war for our children (which sometimes feels like a war against our children) is long and fought on many fronts, we can ill afford to lose so much as a skirmish. The same, of course, is true of the battle in our own hearts.

Thank God that His grace is lavishly sufficient. And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song…

Time to step back into the next room. SIMBA!!!

05 November 2008

I love Reporter day

Cool Kids Form Group, Meet In Cool Places To Reach Out To Other Cool Kids

LCMS Youth Ministry Office anthropologists' recent discovery of the new human demographic designated "kidults" has led to the formation of the Kidult Ministry Advisory Committee. This seven member committee seeks to grant credence to the YMO's ongoing existence and use of LCMS mission dollars, in addition to providing aesthetically pleasing LCMS visibility in fashionable centers of commerce.

"Young adults are marrying later and having kids later," said the committee convener, expressing no suspicion that these factors may be intrinsically problematic and indicative of even greater problems. "By this time, their lifestyle is already established and church just isn't a part of it." The committee believes that more ironic personal accessories and increased use of church names incorporating non-representational graphemes will attract loft-dwelling kidults to trendy alternative post-contemporary ecclesiastical cliques.

While many members of LCMS churches are in their 20s and 30s, these faux-kidults actually hinder kidult ministry by showing up for conventional church services at conventional times in inexpensive clothing with inexpensively clothed children (occasionally in gauche quantity). Faux-kidults further damage kidult outreach by their participation in socially suicidal church groups such as Ladies' Aid, and with self-betraying lifestyle choices like the full-time care of their children, and having children to begin with.

Questions regarding tensions arising from the style-conscious values of the Kidult Ministry Advisory Committee vis-รก-vis the inherent Boomerish lameness of the Ablaze! program remain unanswered.

Ok, I'm sorry, I'll lay off the partisan rhetoric for a while now--but I just couldn't resist this one. And I know the accent is supposed to be grave, and I'm too lazy to find out how to fix it.

The utterances of the deranged

I’ve been feeling rather melancholy about the difficulty of connecting with a longtime friend whose path in life has diverged greatly from mine. Friendships, particularly long-distance ones, tend to roll this way: you get married, and gradually you notice that you’re hanging out more with couples and less with your single friends. You have kids, and it gets harder and harder to connect with friends who don’t.

Particularly vexing in this situation is the fact that, when it’s my turn to talk, I find that I have basically nothing of interest to say about anything, unless your tastes run toward the obsessive details of pediatric regularity or lack thereof. Then, too, there is the awkwardness of attempting to explain to someone who knew you Back in the Day that your husband, children, and church Are. Your. Life. Yup, that’s about all there is to it. Nope, nothing else going on. Really, nothin’ else to declare.

It’s rather ticklish to explain oneself to someone who doesn’t have children, isn’t even married, and has a different understanding of faith and vocation. Yeah, being at home with these kids drives me crazy. No, I don’t have any plans to stop having crazy-making kids or to get out of the house. Yes, (even if you’re too polite to come right out and say it), I’m aware that this doesn’t make any sense to you and that you’re concerned that I’ve become a brainwashed fanatic, a complete lunatic, a dimwitted doormat...

Pondering this dilemma, I recalled one of my favorite scenes from The Writing Life, in which Annie Dillard finds herself stumbling through an explanation of how very much she often despises her vocation (of writer), though she couldn’t live any other way:

Whenever an encounter between a writer of good will and a regular person of good will happens to touch on the subject of writing, each person discovers, dismayed, that good will is of no earthly use. The conversation cannot proceed. From such chastening encounters I have always learned far more than I intended.

Let’s CSPP MadLib it:

Whenever an encounter between a Concordian Sister of Perpetual Parturition and a regular person of good will happens to touch on the subject of [vocation/having another child/staying at home with the kids/contraception/etc.], each person discovers, dismayed, that good will is of no earthly use. The conversation cannot proceed…

See how well it works? I’ll include most of the rest of the scene as she wrote it; just substitute “CSPPer” for “writer” and CSPP-related things for “writing” and “write,” and there you have a very apt description of the dilemma:

This neighbor, who crewed on a ferryboat, was one of the world’s good, sane people…One rainy day, this member of the real world gave me a ride home. I invited him in for a minute, and somehow all hell broke loose.

Politely, he asked me about my writing. Foolishly, not dreaming I was about to set my own world tumbling down about my ears, I said I hated to write. I said I would rather do anything else. He was amazed. He said, ‘That’s like a guy who works in a factory all day, and hates it.’ Then I was amazed, for so it was. It was just like that. Why did I do it? I had never inquired. How had I let it creep up on me? Why wasn’t I running a ferryboat, like sane people?

…But I rallied and mustered and said that the idea was to learn things; that you learn a thing and then as a matter of course you learn the next thing, and the next thing….As I spoke he nodded precisely in the way that one nods at the utterances of the deranged. ‘…And then,’ I finished brightly, ‘you die!’

At this we exchanged a mutual and enormous smile. Still nodding and smiling in perfect agreement, we ended the visit and walked to the door.


A difference, of course, is that we at CSPP may frequently be amazed to find ourselves in our vocation, but not for lack of enquiry; rather because our inquiries increasingly convicted our hearts that it must be so.

MadLibs or no, The Writing Life is solidly in the Book, Recommended category.

04 November 2008

Stuff Confessional Lutherans like

A definitive guide to the unique taste of scores.

Making the sign of the cross

Paul Gerhardt

Three-year-olds who know all the ordinaries

Blogging

The Mother of our Lord

Issues, Etc.

Not being pietists

The Office of the Holy Ministry

Mollie Z. Hemingway

Mollie, why are you so cool?

Pining for bishops

Pining for just basic church discipline, then

The liturgy

The Wyoming District

Not saying "Merry Christmas" during Advent

Individual Confession and Absolution

Higher Things

The canonical hours

AC XIV

Making snarky comments about choosing our neighbors when they drive past the corner of Bellevue and Clayton

When someone comes up with a name for them like "past-oriented museum keepers"

O Lord, open Thou my lips

When Cyberstones got back from sabbatical

Being theologians of the cross

Saying Luther's table prayers instead of Come, Lord Jesus

The Wittenberg Trail

Being called antinomians

David O. Berger

David O. Berger, why are you so cool?

Lent

Easter

Weekly Communion

That picture Pastor Weedon linked to of the consecration of the Latvian bishops that you can't get to any more unless you know Latvian

Martin Chemnitz

Being from Baptist country and making do

Denouncing "This Is The Feast"

Lay people who hate lay readers

Down in front, already!

The historic lectionary

Catechesis

Observing second-class feasts

Beer

Every Day Will I Bless Thee


Preaching Christ crucified

Bach

The Lutheran Heritage Foundation

Malachi 4:1 (ESV)

Stubble Ablaze!

Giving their kids weird and/or extra names

Starke's Te Deum

Chiseling out some unique and nuanced position on corporate absolution, acolytes, contraception, how the Athanasian Creed should be confessed on Trinity Sunday, etc.

Planning what they're going to say about the thing confessional Lutherans like that they don't like that much as soon they have opportunity to do so nonchalantly

UPDATE: And how could I forget?! THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER!!!!!!!

03 November 2008

John 16:33 and Pascal's Wager for CSPP

I blame CSPP for everything. I'm tired, I'm cranky, I never leave, I have no interests, I don't exist, I look awful, my brain has gone to seed, I don't know what to make for supper, everyone's clothes are in baskets in the hall instead of the dressers . . . it's because we have four kids under six, it's because we have two kids under three, it's because I'm nursing, it's because I could be pregnant any day now if I'm not already.

As if my life would be any easier if my kids were older, or there were fewer of them, or I went to work every day and got home five minutes before however many people lived here started sniffing worriedly around the kitchen. A while ago I read The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris, expecting to really, really like it. Instead I found myself thinking the whole time, what is she whining about? She doesn't have any kids! She doesn't have quotidian mysteries, she's eating quotidian cheesecake! I'm supposed to feel sorry for someone whose biggest problems are laundry for two people and writer's block?

What can I say, I'm a jerk. Of course Kathleen's life is hard. Everyone's is. So on to the wager: why not have a bunch of kids? In this world I will have trouble regardless of how many children I have, so I might as well invest myself in some eternal capital. Just think how awe-struck strangers will be seeing our family Christmas picture on our friends' refrigerators a few years from now, DV.

02 November 2008

When you put it that way

Expanding the horizons of our genre: your daily dose of soul preaching.




HT: My strangely resourceful husband.

01 November 2008

New Lows

1. If you can't find the facepaint and it's time to trick or treat, you can always use a Sharpie for noses and whiskers. But how will you get it off their dear little faces, you ask? Just put the kids to bed without bathing them. Most of the ink will smear off gently and naturally into their pillows overnight.

2. A year ago, when this blog was an ugly wrinkled newborn instead of the snot-nosed urchin it's become, I think I complained about this locality's deep commitment to Halloween. Revoco. Two nights of trick-or-treating mean that inferior treats acquired the first night can be redistributed from one's own door on the second, saving you money and sugar. And you thought regifting was only for Christmas and baby showers!

3. When I was a kid I never knew why I, of the four children in our family, always had the most candy even though we all went trick-or-treating together. Now I know that it is because as the oldest, I was the most likely to notice and protest if my candy started disappearing. We haven't touched Big Girl's bag, but Dad and I have hit Little Girl's HARD.