31 December 2011

Usage you can use: Fiancé(e)


Fiancé is masculine. A man who is engaged.

Fiancée is feminine. A woman who is engaged.

E. It matters.

26 December 2011

Meditations upon Boxing Day


--I didn't win a Nook from Lulu. Hard to believe, I know. Other things I have recently not won include a gift card from a grocery chain for all the surveys I fill out for them, and a Father of the Year award for my husband from a local electric coop. Jerks. Anyway, Lulu told me I could still have a Nook if I sold more of something than anybody today. Seriously, I'm supposed to compete with Wil Wheaton? Bump it.

--You know you've arrived when you have to do laundry on Christmas on a non-emergency basis.

--Did anybody else see that bulletin cover? Ha ha ha ha ha.

--Best Christmas movie ever is A Muppet Christmas Carol.

--What is the deal with "I Saw Three Ships"? Is this another one of those weird British nationalist things?

--What is everybody else doing about the loot/space discrepancy with greed and sloth skewing the data?

23 December 2011

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto knowledge of the truth

It's been years since I last posted this little discursus by Luci Shaw, so here it is again. Merry Christmas, dear readers. God bless you and yours unto life everlasting.

It’s as if the infancy were the whole of the incarnation.

One time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere,
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need for eternity.


But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are to be wary, these days,
of beards and sandaled feet.


Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(Only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the Man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

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



20 December 2011

Yet another thing I can see no reason not to post


It's been way too long since we've had a Vanity post. Besides all of them, I mean.

Postpartum again! I'm trying not to be so vain this time. Maybe I'm just getting too old to care so much; that would be good. Anyway, in a manic moment I found a great deal of humor in the fact that I'm carrying around on my person a plurality (at least) of the food my baby is going to eat this year. What a goofy system. What do I expect to look like? It's got to go somewhere.

I could tell the moment was manic because I then began imagining what it would look like if I weren't nursing but still had to carry a year's worth of baby food on me. I have no idea how much formula a baby goes through in a week. A can? Three cans? Let's call it  one can. We won't count little Gerber jars, just formula. I am now picturing myself with 52 cans of formula affixed to my body. Sheesh, I'm huge! This formula takes up a ton of space! I'm also really loud with all these cans clanking around me every time I move. I look, like, SO silly. I can't get comfortable enough to sleep, either. I'm exhausted.

I think we've all learned an important lesson here.

19 December 2011

Above and beyond


I needed a baby so I could realize how much I needed a husband. A husband is not a BFF. A husband is the man who takes care of you when you can't take care of yourself.

I'm not saying a spouse isn't or can't be a friend, just that the "husband as BFF" motif so prevalent in contemporary conjugal piety (especially at weddings in which the couple writes the "vows") is really dumb. This has everything to do with a motif that's been dropped from contemporary conjugal piety: "husband as lord." This necessarily leads to people marrying their BFFs whether or not the BFF is of the other sex.

But anyway, although my husband is my friend, he is also more and less than that. He is my lord, and as such a great part of him is above me and therefore unknowable to me. And I will venture to assert that as his lady, I am and always will be a mystery to him. There is a great part of me that is beyond him and therefore unknowable to him. One of the greatest services husbands and wives do each other is NOT trying or pretending to share absolutely everything. Not every cross borne by a husband can be shared by a wife, as surely as a great multitude of a wife's burdens cannot be lightened by a husband. To act or expect otherwise is delusional and unfair.

Knowing this and valuing it frees us from needing to be jerks about it. I find that when I get to spend time with my female friends (which means one of us herding crawlers out of the kitchen while the other cooks), sharing with each other the burdens beyond our husbands, we end up thanking God together that he put us under the care of dudes so much better than we are.

18 December 2011

Springerle

I have my grandma's springerle rolling pin and I feel like a jerk for not using it. I remember eating springerle when I was very little and loving it. So I really want to make it but I haven't had luck with the recipe I've got (not my grandma's--alas, that one is lost). Does anybody have a good recipe? I'm paralyzed by all the internet options and would love it if one of you internet people had a recipe with commentary.

These. I want them.

15 December 2011

Alliums, or why any number of intervention-free deliveries do not a NCB advocate make

The following comes of my sick, terrible habit of hanging around birth-junkie websites in the weeks before my due date. GOT to stop that.

The main reason I wanted a med-free birth with our first baby was curiosity. I wanted to know what it was like. Not everybody gets to find out.

Now I know, and I haven't wanted one since, but I keep getting them. Lucky me. As I've said here, there are some valuable lessons in the experience, but the most valuable one for me has been learning that it wasn't really my choice. It was my preference the first time around, and it worked out. I didn't have any complications, so I got my curiosity satisfied. (In a hospital. Yes.)

Then all my friends and relations started having babies, and I started seeing that childbirth isn't any different from breakfast on a busy morning. You can't always get what you want. Some wanted to go "natural" for whatever reason, and they couldn't, honest. 2000 miles or 150 years from here, something bad would have happened to mother and/or child, no matter how ideal their birth ideals (and why the ideal would be anything other than an experience which does not induce terror upon its remembrance--which for a few of us weak-minded people would involve pain relief of some sort--is beyond me). Some decided along the way that hours of voluntary agony weren't worth the Natural Childbirth Award, which doesn't exist. Some regretted not having an anaesthetic in place when it came to the measures which had to be taken upon them after the baby's birth. Some wanted pain relief and it didn't work, or even made things worse. Some got what they planned, whether it was Interventionpalooza or a moonlit glade attended only by maiden wolves. Everyone had preferences and made choices, but not everyone got the birth story they wanted.

The only thing I feel like telling someone any more about how to have a baby is You can do it! Unless you can't. You won't know until it happens. If you get the delivery you think you want, thank God in heaven because that is the third cherry on the real whipped cream on the hottest of fudge on the Haagen-Dazs of a healthy baby. If you don't, don't feel bad AT ALL, because who cares? It is ultimately not something you can control. And however it goes, turn off the comments when you post your birth story because there is always going to be some fool out there who thinks she knows better than you what should have happened.

But I still want to lodge my major complaint about the NCB universe, and that is its ridiculous self-satisfaction. I cannot take pride in my deliveries, much as I would LOVE to after this many times, any more than I could be proud of surviving a lightening strike or bout of ebola. They prove nothing except that God dealt with me mercifully (which is pretty blasted hard to admit, considering). That first time when I got myself all educated and prepped, I was told I'd stride away with this incredible sense of strength and accomplishment. Instead I hobbled off feeling completely ruined and, moreunder (or is it lessover?), lied to. There's no buzzkill for that post-baby rush like the thought of earning it again, or maybe ten more times. I came with onions and left with garlic.

Unlike the farmer and the monk, I also left with six perfect babies. So that helps.

Update: the comments upon this post, while non-explicit, are frank. If that would trouble you, dear reader, do not attend.

13 December 2011

On the doing of homework

So there's this, which is like, you people still? And this, which is pretty funny. And a bunch of people saying stuff. But please, everybody, do yourselves the huge, huge favor of reading this book, the best book ever written on the topic outside of Heilege Schrift, The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort.

















10 December 2011

New ropes, old ropes, and the gallows, too

Rebekah's last post reminded me of something I've been saving for a rainy day. It's raining in my amygdala today. Ta da.

When and why did moaning under one’s cross becoming synonymous with “whining?” Life on this side of the veil is hard, most grievously hard. Christ knows this very well. He does not sneer at His little ones who cry piteously over what in eternity amounts to a stubbed toe or missed dessert. Rather, in His mercy, He hears the groans of His Elect, those who bear His Name in Baptism, and has compassion.

Indeed, God, for the sake of Christ, lifts His countenance upon us as we muck about and stays His righteous wrath. Instead of floods, hellfire, and stonings, He provides for us the softest, gentlest of graces: a Holy Mother Church, who patiently and lovingly hears our sobbing and soothes our consciences with Words placed into her most beautiful mouth by Christ Himself.

And thus are we taught to hear the suffering of others. Dear sisters in Christ, it is not necessary to coat your face in colorful Plasticine and intone tired American lies about how lucky you are to have the Eschaton somehow immanentized in your heart. Rather, let us receive what God has given, and then do as our Mother does. It is good, normal, sensible, and poetic to see your sin and the sin of your children, and to speak it out of darkness that it may wither and die in the light. It is good, normal, sensible, and poetic to hear patiently a sister speak of her struggles, and to direct her toward her good Mother, who is a fertile land abounding with milk and honey and who will feed her the very salvation of her soul.

It is not good and far from poetic to harbor your misery or to treat with complacence the cries of your fellow Christian. Life is difficult and filled with storms we cannot understand. Even the smallest of thunderclaps finds its impetus in sin, and it was for even the smallest of peccadilloes that our Christ died.  Every cramp of flesh and soul is of importance to our Savior, who does not hesitate when we call for help but immediately puts out His hand and draws us out of the waves. He might chide, “Why did you doubt?” But such words are His and His alone to give, and His Bride is more than capable of conveying their meaning to Her babies.

You and I commune at the same altar; that is good enough for me. Let us join together in raising our voices to Christ. When you rejoice, I will rejoice with you. And when you cry out, “Oh, Lord, how long?” I’m the alto you hear over yonder.

08 December 2011

Could be better. Will be better.

I remember getting a book from the library when I was a kid called, I think, Could Be Worse. Yup. It was about a couple of kids whose grandpa always told them when they complained to him about something, "Could be worse!" Once when they brought him a complaint, he told them a long, crazy story about all these awful things that had happened to him when he was young--something like his house exploding in a hurricane while weasels ripped his flesh and his mom poached monkey gizzards in puke sauce for supper and on like that for pages and pages. The kids hear him out and then happily tell him . . . you got it.

And of course grandpa is right and the kids are right and that frowny, responsible, "you live in the first world you unpitiable whiner" voice in the back of my head is right. But there's a part of me that could do without Could Be Worse. It's not weeping with them that do weep to always be telling them "could be worse," and it could be way stinking better, and it's OK and even important to want that, and we're supposed to be sort of ready for it, and frankly there are times when it feels like that's really all there is to look forward to.

04 December 2011

One of those comments that becomes a post

I don't expect anyone to be persuaded by the following arguments which I find persuasive. I offer them as a courtesy to the polite sister in Christ who requested them, not as a call to warfare, and I have neither the time nor the desire for a spitting match. I'm sure everyone who disagrees with me is much, much smarter than I am; I forfeit. If you've already heard all this and it will make you sad, don't read it. Talk to a pastor.

1. I've said here before that the contraception question is not one of chapter and verse, but of interpretation. Until the 1930 Lambeth Convention (Anglican--a tradition founded on divorce and now swirling down the drain with a bunch of lesbians impersonating pastors), the Church catholic considered contraception an unchaste practice. There was more ecumenical unity on contraception than there was on the sacraments. As late as the 1950s publications of the LCMS condemned contraception (then they just got quiet on the topic). Interpretation belongs to the whole church, not me and my B-I-B-L-E, and that's what the whole church understood Scripture (Onan et al.) to be saying for 1930 years (and all the time before that).

This one is really the bottom line in my personal view which, again, I can't imagine being of value to anyone. But here are a few more ways of thinking about it:

2. Imagine a pastor and his parish saying, "We've made some disciples of all nations, and we're happy with them. We're going to take care of them and enjoy our time together. If we made more we might not be able to give them everything they need. Making disciples makes us tired and sick and poor. No more disciple-making." I bet the DP would love it.

3. Christians put a lot of stock in condemning fornication on the grounds that sex and marriage go together. (Chapter and verse for that? Adultery, huh? What does "adultery" mean?) Babies and sex are connected far more inextricably than marriage and sex are. It's easy to engage in intercourse outside of marriage; you don't even have to think about it, as many hungover teenagers can testify. It is normally not so easy to engage in intercourse and not have a baby happen, as many pregnant teenagers can testify. Contraception requires planning and deliberate action; it is a multi-step process (acquisition, possession, use) that can never occur in a moment of lapsed judgment. God made it harder to separate babies from sex than marriage from sex. Little wonder we should see it the other way.

4. "But what strikes me as truly extraordinary is the implication that there is something low about the objective [of marriage] being the birth of a child. Whereas it is obvious that this great natural miracle is the one creative, imaginative and disinterested part of the whole business. The creation of a new creature, not ourselves, of a new conscious centre, of a new and independent focus of experience and enjoyment, is an immeasurable more grand and godlike act even than a real love affair; how much more superior to a momentary physical satisfaction. If creating another self is not noble, why is pure self-indulgence nobler?"

G.K Chesterton, "Blasphemy and the Baby," Brave New Family

I am mystified by the elevation of the "unitive" aspect of marital love by anyone with a sacramental confession. It's not magic. The unity is REALIZED in the literal one flesh who comes from two separate people. The rest is happy thoughts, and whatever esoteric thingy seems to be indicated in 1 Cor 6 (if some qualified person would care to explain that in the comments, I'm all ears). How can unity possibly be enhanced/increased by cutting out its fullest manifestation?

5. Would it be ethical to use some method or device to remove pleasure from conjugal relations?

6. Every marriage is an icon of Christ and his holy bride, the Church, who give themselves utterly to each other and whose love is ever-bearing. Contraception is antithetical to self-giving, other-accepting love. It introduces disintegrity to the marital union. There is ample evidence that it will not necessarily kill a marriage (although we would be foolish to disregard the correspondence between the rise in contraceptive use and divorce, however it may be interpreted), but it will compromise it. It is likely to leave one spouse feeling used, even if both want to or feel they must prevent conception. Marital love normally has a consequence which causes both partners to count its blessed cost. To eliminate the cost (actually an investment) is to cheapen the act and actors. If a baby were not the act's weightiest meaning and effect, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.





Phew. Is it hot in here?

Single persons wishing to avoid all this trouble have an opportunity to do so by remaining celibate. To the married who feel they cannot have more children, the Church has historically held out the option of continence. The present day is not this option's most popular era. :P It is still an unnatural and disintegrative separation of three things God has bound together (marriage, marital intimacy, marital fruitfulness), but conforms to the "less un-divinely ordained" view of argument 3.

I'm going to stop typing now.

03 December 2011

Latch-key ambitions

More inflammatory rhetoric, on this boring, boring Saturday.  

There is never a good time for a mother to return to “the workforce.” Children are far louder about needing you when they are babies, but they never stop needing you. They merely become a lot more polite about expressing how terribly they need you the older they get.*

Yes, there comes a point when children no longer need help doing the more banal tasks of being alive. (Someday, I will not have to summon the sitzfleisch for toilet training! HOO-FREAKING-RAY!) But there is never a day when suddenly a child can accomplish by himself the terrible and the beautiful tasks given all men to accomplish. There is never a day when a child, boy or girl, man or woman, stops needing his mother, not to coddle and coo, but just to be there. The child needs his mother as a structure needs its pillars, and as the ocean needs its boundaries.  

A daughter never stops wanting her mother, especially if that daughter is blessed to become a mother herself, as everyone here well understands. A daughter, be she married or virgin, never stops needing the consolation and shelter of her mother’s voice, presence, and help. There is never a good time for a mother to take on work that interferes with her ability to be a blessing and help to her adult daughters and to be fully a grandmother.

A man will leave his mother and father and hold fast to his wife, and in things both salient and subtle a good wife supplants a good mother in the life of a man. Thanks be to God. Even so, a man never stops being his mother’s son. If a mother takes work that interferes with her sons’ lives and happiness and well-being, then so much the worse for everyone. If a mother takes on work that makes her relationships with her daughters-in-law unnecessarily strained, that mother has cut and cauterized those heartstrings that once held her sons.

You absolutely cannot have it all. Should you go scrabbling after a sense of worth, you will find yourself begging for scraps of love in all the wrong places. Stay home, even when your house is empty. They need you there.   

Yes, this being there, this being a mother, is a cross for women. Being a woman is a much bigger deal than all that is stored up for fire would have you believe. But this being doesn’t look like much. It looks like years and years of patient waiting, of quietly resisting the erosion of your body and mind, and a lot of missed chances to contribute to the Social Welfare. It means submitting to being consumed and being all things to all your own people, instead of one comfortable blip to a myopic People that just barely exists. It means reflecting however imperfectly the Church who gave you birth unto life everlasting, until your days accumulate in the death of your flesh to the glory of your soul. But, look: we Christians know what to do with crosses. We do not flee from them. We do not decorate them with flowers, soak them in essential oils, and put them in storage to be borne when we have the inclination. We pick them up, splinters and all, when they’re given to us, trusting in Christ who promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light.

Regardless of what she does with her life, the Christian mother never ceases to be a mother to her children. Children are made to thrive in the warmth of a mother’s faithful, long-suffering obedience to Christ (and her faithful repentance of failure), even when that mother draws down a paycheck. But, think it over. Your children want you when they're small; they will want you even when they’re grown and busy and distracted (sinners are we all, and thus do we take for granted that which is best for us). And when the times comes for you to leave your children on their own, when your angel comes to bear you unto the bosom of Abraham, knowing that you wait beyond all shadows with the angels and archangels for that glorious Day wherein you will breathe again and be reunited to your peoplethat even in death you have not ceased to be their mother—gives your children courage to mourn as those who have hope. They will not stop needing you, even then. Be alive for them while you can. 

*Again, I know there are Reasons why some of you cannot be home, and that those reasons are good. Especially you, dear friend whom I love. Christ redeems my "good works" right along with yours, that we might have no cause to fret. Thanks be to God. 

02 December 2011

Why casuistry should be left to the professionals

A post you won't like if you don't like this blog. And if you don't like this blog, I urge you again, don't visit it.

If you want to me to pray, tell me about the Kerlumpkins and their seven unruly children and poor Mrs. Kerlumpkin whose health is so bad. Tell me about the Sammyads and how chronic unemployment has ruined their marriage and their family life. Tell me about the Bagginses and their terrible pregnancy losses. Tell me about the Ottery-St. Catchpoles and their two-bedroom apartment and their second set of twins. Tell me how Mrs. Spumoni is penguin-guano crazy and their kids' lives are wrecks and Mr. Spumoni gets blamed for it all.

If you want to see my eyes glaze over, tell me about all those people and then look at me with the squinting frown which asks, "And NOW what do you think of your judgy convictions, you judging judger?"

I'll tell you right now what I think about every single one of those situations. They're unspeakably awful. Lord, have mercy. They also have nothing to do with how I should live my life. The personal experiences of the Kerlumpkins or the Ottery-St. Catchpoles or anyone else have zero bearing whatsoever on what constitutes sin in the court of God Almighty. Hard cases make bad law, and sometimes the Law makes hard cases.

As big of a deal as a sick mom or a lost income or a bunch of people just plain coming apart are to the individuals under scrutiny, it does not change the answer to the question of whether it is OK to enjoy sex while avoiding children. That question I must always answer the same way whether I like it or not. I have all kinds of sympathy for those who grew up and got married without ever being taught the whole truth of such things (which my beautiful associate has written about so well in the previous post) and are now mucking through a muck they didn't know existed. I am one of those people. It's been, you know, rough. It still is.

The question of the what the poor Spumonis should do about their situation I am in no way qualified or authorized to answer. I'm a freakin housewife who doesn't even know those people. I also can't help noticing that no amount of stories about the marvelous Sarsparillas and their 14 marvelous, talented, successful children who made it through on powdered milk and prayers or Ethel Kennedy and her 11 C-sections (before the bikini cut!) manage to convince anyone on the other side. Hasn't TLC alone provided us with ample evidence that the anecdotal approach to persuasion or proof on this topic is completely fruitless?

So, Bagginses and Spumonis and all you other people I know only through the bald gossip of Christians, I am sorry that you have been turned into situationally ethical footballs. I am sorry your names have become bywords among those who ought to be treating you with the most charity rather than the least. The details of your situation are between you and God and your pastor. If you wish for me to be involved, I will pray for you. That is absolutely all I can do.

30 November 2011

Some inflammatory rhetoric, because I'm getting bored

It would appear that, generally speaking, one who detests the more normal functions of a woman's body, even if she who detests such functions is herself in so-called possession of that body, is fundamentally un-poetic. Which is to say, out of touch with the metaphysical, with who Woman is as She was created and as She exists even now as the Bride of Christ.

The Bride feeds her children from her Body. So, then, because this is what Woman does, this is also what women do, insofar as they are given to do so by God. To do otherwise when it has been given you to do is to deny your existence as a woman, and to become Something Else.

There are really but two choices for a woman who desires to be fully a woman: to remain a virgin and thence serve her neighbor out of love for Christ; to marry, chastely submit to her husband, and serve her own people out of love for Christ. Either choice is equally good, for the Woman is both virgin and mother, and thus, to have Woman reflected among us today, we need both virgins and mothers in our society, all working in their given roles to the best of their abilities as they have been blessed by God.

However, to try somehow to be both is aberrant and plain weird, because, then, what exactly are you?* There has been but one perfect reflection of the Virgin Mother: Mary, who bore unto us Christ, our Lord. The rest of us can't have it all, because "all" hasn't been proffered to us. We must choose. And if you are married, then you have chosen to have children insofar as they are given to you (Wives have the option of not having children? What does that even mean?). And once you have borne a child, then you have chosen to feed that child from your own body and to pour yourself out as a drink offering over the child, because this is what your Mother does for you. You cannot continue as if you were a virgin, just as the virgin cannot feed a child from her body. And yes, we live in a veil of tears, and it's difficult to die to yourself and to become your child's mother. I daresay, that very exercise is much of the point, for it is this exercise which makes a mother more like the Woman. As such, it is God's gift to women, further evidence that He loves us and counts us among His children. As if we needed any evidence beyond Christ's blood! But see how our cups overflow! Do you see?

Carry on.

*My friends, I know there are Hard Cases. I am sad with you.  

23 November 2011

2:00--someday

22 November 2011

A story about a story

Katie sent me a heads up a few weeks ago about a short fiction contest from Lulu. My natural inclination was to say that I can't write fiction.

But then I saw that one of the prizes was a Nook. And I would really like a Nook because then I could give it to my kid for Christmas and she could stop stealing my Kindle (can you get tons of free old-timey kid books on Nook like you can on Kindle?).

So back to not being able to write fiction: I got to thinking and realized I'd just written up my birth story for the benefit of myself and the boredom of a few friends and relatives. Contest stories only had to be 600 words long. I could write 6000 words about making lunch yesterday and it, like much of my life, would sound ridiculously fictional.

So I did some editing and published that silly thing on Lulu. It is an EPUB. I have no idea what this means except that I can't read it on my Kindle (I guess it can be read on a Nook, which is great because the only person I know with a Nook is Gauntlets and she's already read it). I don't know if it's done properly because I couldn't figure out how to preview it. I wanted to charge about $0.04 for it but then I learned I'd have to charge a dollar to turn a profit of one bright zinc-y penny. At the end, I got a message that said, "Your story has successfully be submitted." I thought that sounded really promising.

So if you'd like to pay $1 for the privilege of attempting to read an unpreviewed EPUB of my most recent birth story (oh yeah, it's a birth story--ew! Don't worry, though; it's just about the human condition), here's your big chance. Only 9900 zinc-y pennies and I'll be able to buy a Nook like suckers who would never win that dang contest anyway. Or a Kindle!

So.

20 November 2011

What I remember from high school

Sheesh, I've been looking for this poem on the internets for years. Finally found it here. Thought you should know.

BLINDMAN'S BUFF
Peter Viereck

Night-watchmen think of dawn and things auroral.
Clerks wistful for Bermudas think of coral.
The poet in New York still thinks of laurel.
(But lovers think of death and touch each other
As if to prove that love is still alive.)

The Martian space-crew, in an Earthward dive,
Think of their sweet unearthly earth Up There,
Where darling monsters romp in airless air.
(Two lovers think of death and touch each other,
Fearing that day when only one's alive.)

We think of cash, but cash does not arrive.
We think of fun, but fate will not connive.
We never mention death. Do we survive?
(The lovers think of death and touch each other
To live their love while love is yet alive.)

Prize-winners are so avid when they strive;
They race so far; they pile their toys so high
Only a cad would trip them. Yet they die.
(The lovers think of death and touch each other;
Of all who live, these are the most alive.)

Plump creatures smack their lips and think they thrive;
The hibernating bear, but half alive,
Dreams of free honey in a stingless hive.
He thinks of life at every lifeless breath.
(The lovers think of death.)

16 November 2011

Blessed are ye that hunger now

It is sometimes difficult to see, but it is nonetheless true that those of us living this CSPP life have more in common with folk who confess the real presence of Christ in His supper, even if those folk use birth control, than we have in common with Michelle Duggar.

08 November 2011

Personhood

The reason Mississippi's "personhood" initiative is getting attention is its implication for contraception. If personhood begins at fertilization, the initiative would de facto illegalize hormonal contraceptives. It is abortion advocates, not crazy anti-contraceptive people, making the noise. Abortion supporters are completely comfortable with hormonal contraceptives' failsafe mechanism of creating a uterine environment unfavorable for the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
Diane Derzis, who runs Mississippi's only abortion clinic, said most people don't understand how far-reaching the amendment could be. "By this very definition of this bill, a fertilized egg is a person, so that does away with the IUD and most forms of birth control," she said.

Pro-contraception Christians are the only people who have ever balked at accepting the potential for all forms of hormonal contraception to function as an abortifacient.

Disclaimer: Mea maxima culpa.

07 November 2011

Funny you've likely already seen, recommended

If you haven't used up all your YouTube time today, spend it on The Lutheran Satire channel. You won't be sorry.

05 November 2011

Fish, flesh, good red herring, and the Church of the Augsburg Confession

This thingy was at Mere Comments a while back. It looks at the "religious fertility" of a variety of traditions and categorizes them into four groups:

Religious Malthusianism idealizes 0-2 children
Implicit Natalism idealizes 2-3 children
Patriarchal Moderate Natalism idealizes 2-4 children
Patriarchal Extreme Natalism idealizes "the more, the better"

This struck me as another one of those times when we just don't fit. I have never heard any CSPP type say or imply, "the more, the better" (although they have been caricatured by their detractors as saying so, and worse). Once again, we are not Quiverfull™. The theology of the cross tells us that some won't get many or any and some will be overwhelmed. There is no right or wrong number. There is only faith's response to the gifts God would give, and faith's response to the gifts it does or does not receive.

02 November 2011

This cup

Sometimes, my heart breaks for the child who ran outside today, shockingly shoeless at first, to capture the first snow of the season.

Cup outstretched, he spun in the rain, the sleet, dashing between drops in his pursuit of the precious white stuff. Wads of snow clumped thickly downward in the mix, bright against dark wet bark, incongruous over lingering autumn color-collage.

But the snow he was so earnestly after—it disappeared even as he touched it. His cup was filled not with the abundance of magical flakes he hoped for, but with a scant spattering of dreary drops. A small disappointment, perhaps—but my mother-heart in that one moment ached under the weight of many moments, heavy for this child of mine to whom many things come hard.

But when he turned and saw me where I’d stepped out to snap his picture, his face was flushed with wet glee. “Look!” he shout-chortled joyously: “Your back has snow on it!”

And then he drank impossibly deeply from what appeared to me to be a woefully meager cupfull, and was satisfied beyond words.

I ducked back into the house to ponder these things, and to treasure them in my overflowing heart. He returned a bit later, soaked, glowing, and unusually quietly contented of spirit.

When I want a heap of snow, and I get a spattering of sleet instead, can I too drink and be satisfied—even unto quiet contentedness of spirit, even unto overflowing joy?

This is grace: our daily cup. We spin madly about, waving our tumbler heavenward, trying to capture only what we want from the mix, demanding the refills we think we need—but our Lord knows that too much can be deadlier than too little. We pray, “Lord, take this cup from me”—but our Lord knows that heavy luggage can be His revolutionary prescription for weary souls. For each of us, He lovingly mixes the bitter and the sweet, titrating with a precision we could never even approximate.

Lord, teach me to pray: Take not this cup from me—only teach me to drink from it deeply, to find even in its dregs an impossible satisfaction, a contentment surpassing words, a joy glowing strong.

01 November 2011

An idea

We're plowing into the holiday season, and you know what that means! A significant uptick in nominally-planned conversations about your lack of procreative sense!

Word to the wise: when the topic comes up, say, "You are sweet to be concerned. Why don't you discuss your concerns with my husband?" Chances are very, very good the crickets will start chirping your favorite tune then and there. ;)

31 October 2011

Where did they come from? Where did they go?

Back in my tender youth, the Lutheran school I attended had a songbook we used in chapel. It was a bunch of typewritten pages bound with a brown back and a clear cover. There was a big treble clef on the front. Some of the songs were:

Jesus Is the Light
I Cannot Come To the Banquet
Give Me Oil In My Lamp
I've Been Redeemed
It's a Happy Day
What Do You Do With a Man Named Jonah (sung to "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor")
They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love
Kum Bah Yah
He's a Peach Of a Savior
I Am a C
My God Is So Big
Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia

I am curious as to the provenance of these songs. None of them were sung at the AWANA program I attended with a friend at a Bible church* during the same time period. Some of them were sung at the Lutheran summer camp** I attended a few times. The brown/treble clef book did not survive the parish's transition to contemporary worship. Turns out praise songs are great for kids to sing, and then the kids know the songs for church! Wow! However, there was a memorable transition which set "Go To Dark Gethsemane" to a funky rock beat on the Clavinova.

Have these songs been utterly consumed by the contemporary worship machine? How did they get into Lutheran use in the first place? Am I the only person who remembers them?

*The Bible churchers sang, in addition to the Awana songs, "Peace Like a River" and "I Like Bananas" and . . . hey, that's all I can remember! I'm shocked.

**The dorky Lutheran summer camp musical canon is another curious topic, but I'm not as familiar with it beyond knowing that a bit over ten years ago it was prospering in Seward's DCE program and at a certain Lutheran Gymnasium in Slovakia.

28 October 2011

Great news for Anonymous and the creep in Gauntlets' grocery line

Apparently all the ethical women of the world have taken care of the population sitch, and now you jerks who buy clothes at Target are the problem.

24 October 2011

To the person who donated these pjs to the CSL Resellit Shop nigh on ten years ago

I just wanted to let you know that six babies have worn them. Thanks. :)

22 October 2011

Is there a happier sound in the world

than the kids all giggling at some silliness they have conspired together?

20 October 2011

Open letter

Accomplishing nothing, CSPP style

Dear Everyone Else,

You have your reasons, a million different things ranging from passionate intensity to a lack of all conviction. You look to like, if looking liking move; and when it doesn’t, well then the First Amendment paves your tongue’s way and if you have a right to your mind then surely I have a right to it, too.  

But listen here: There is something wrong with a man who would follow a woman into check-out lane number nine just to tell her—loudly, persistently, and in front of the sentient recipients of his scorn—that children are scum. (I’m looking at you, squashy dude with that archipelago of warts floating on your wind-whipped face. Why? You looked into those aeviternal baby eyes, and failed to see that it is Life who animates them? That sneer was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. If the sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds, then what is to become of you?)

Don’t be that guy, dear Everyone Else. I get that you're you, but don’t be that guy. Wrinkle your brow or curl your lip. Mutter to your companion words like “disgusting” and “irresponsible,” just loudly enough for me to hear. Glower at my back. Be rude, if you like. Charge me more. Whatever. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and we’re used to it by now.

But try. Affect the likeness of Man. Don’t ever speak your invectives to my children’s faces, ever again.  

All the best.

Me 

17 October 2011

Internet doula

Big thanks to Pastor Weedon for saving me some one-handed typing. :D She's here, she's great, and we didn't have to use the carbirth preparedness kit. How can we thank thee, Lord?

15 October 2011

Have you had

that baby yet?

12 October 2011

Better safe than sorry.

10 October 2011

If Scrooge had been in prodromal labor instead of haunted

"You may be an undigested bit of pickle, a blot of yogurt, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone macaroni. There's more of Baby Ruth than of baby about you, whatever you are!"

Or is it?

08 October 2011

Word to the unwise

Dear kid,

If you're going to write on something on which you should totally not be writing (such as a book or the couch or someone's pants), write something other than your own name.

Love, Mom

05 October 2011

I'm waiting to be impressed

When is TV going to make cleaning up the kitchen as hip as it made cooking?

I really don't care how great this tastes. Where are my sink and counters?

04 October 2011

Childbirth Orthodoxy Translation

And it came to pass, as [Rachel's] soul was in departing (for she had special circumstances) that she called his name Benhazak: but his father called him Benjamin. Genesis 35:18

The need to trust their bodies took hold upon them there, and powerful sensations, as of a woman breathing down her baby. Psalm 48:6

Therefore are my loins filled with pressure: surges have taken hold upon me, as the surges of a woman that birtheth Isaiah 21:3

I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I vocalize like a woman experiencing uterine waves Isaiah 42:14

For we know that the whole creation chanteth and worketh hard toward the natural expulsive reflex together until now. Romans 8:22

And she being with child produced harmonics, deeply relaxing in birth, and visualizing to be delivered. Revelation 12:2

Quit scaring women, you medicalizing medicalizer!

02 October 2011

Crazy, conjugated

I’m Crazy.
You[sing.]’re Crazy.
He, she, or it (especially she) is Crazy.
We’re Crazy.

You[pl.]’re Crazy.

They’re Crazy.


Gauntlets helpfully brought this up again recently, but I think we can scarcely revisit the topic too often—if for no other reason, than because the creeping creatures of darkness skitter and scatter when we spotlight them.

There are so many things we could say about Crazy. Here’s one important corollary (or perhaps antecedent) to the universal conjugation of Crazy: The Grass Is Not Greener. Still. Really. I’ve had a few recent peeks into “normal” (i.e., two-income, Done after limited number of babies, outwardly sane-looking households) and I say again with confidence, The Grass Is Not Greener.
Why is this so hard to get? While I’m thinking wistfully about how clean her house must be, without barbaric mud-footed hordes tromping through all day on their various (but invariably messy) projects, she’s thinking wistfully about how clean my house must be, since I’m there all day to clean it (*cough*). Meanwhile, no one’s house is clean! For real! Unless they’re expecting company! And maybe not even then!

Or: I’m peeling potatoes or kneading dough and thinking that a break from the kitchen might be nice; she’s buying DiGiorno and wishing she had time to cook from scratch. I’m thinking how I might like my kids more if I saw them a bit less; she’s wishing that between her schedule and theirs, she got to see hers a bit more.

This is true: We all make meaningful choices. This too is true: We are none of us as free as we like to think—nor is the woman on the other side of the fence as free as we like to think she is (“freedom” to leave the house and commute to work does not of itself true freedom comprise, despite what we housebound fence-hangers may feel in our darker moments).

Comparison isn’t simply the death of contentment—it’s also a very slick step on the Crazy overlook. We spiral downward to Crazy when we play the comparison game, foolishly pretending that we’re making a valid assessment. Apples to apples, people—and as it turns out, life’s fruitbasket is so diverse that bucket balances and bar graphs are useless here.

Routes to Crazy abound (as even a brief review of posts on this blog will attest). So, I remind my foolish self, if you must go to Crazy from time to time, at least take an honest route, and get back as soon as you can. Don’t let bad math trick you into a needless dark detour—and if you catch yourself going down that road, pull a quick U-turn and burn some serious rubber out of there.

Make tracks, before you're needlessly mired in the Slough of Despond.

29 September 2011

Ego boost

The upside to having a kitchen full of fruit flies: The tiny creatures put on a show of being intimidated when I irritatedly storm into their midst. My children do me no such favors; they think I'm hilarious when I'm angry.

Ha, ha! Mom's gonna blow her top again!

28 September 2011

For three headlines I am disquieted, and for four which I cannot bear:

1. Rich person pursues random feat ad absurdum

2. Female celebrity appears in meretricious dress

3. Thing happens on TV show

4. Israel can't get along with neighbors

27 September 2011

The benefit of preaching to the choir

is a well-catechized choir.

25 September 2011

You awful hospitals it's all your fault!!

Look, CNN, just don't publish stories that annoy pregnant ladies. They might spend way too much time when they should be sleeping writing long and pointless rants they'll wonder why they bothered posting as soon as they hit post.

But hey, what else is going on here today? So: this story contains claims I have a lot of trouble believing. The headline itself is indicative of its outlook on responsibility: "Hospitals need to do more to encourage breastfeeding," handmaidens that they are of leviathan state (where breastfeeding is in esoteric vogue right now) rather than private businesses free to offer whatever services they choose. Sheesh.

As for the claims: "nearly 80% of hospitals were giving babies formula, water or sugar-water." I've had newborns in four different hospitals. As soon as I tell the nurses I'm breastfeeding, they slap a sticker on the baby's bucket that says I'M BREASTFED. What it means is, DON'T GIVE THIS BABY ANYTHING IN A BOTTLE. And they don't, because if they did I could (and would) go medieval on their hineys for violating my instructions.

I suspect that the real trouble is not hospitals sneaking formula into babies (in fact I have never seen a hospital do anything; they are quite inanimate), but mothers not saying, "I'm breastfeeding." What mothers say is, "We're going to try breastfeeding. Where's the pump?" They are uncertain that they'll be able to breastfeed, whether they really want to, and with regards to all the stupid things some anti-breastfeeding great aunt told them. Moreover, virtually no one breastfeeds using only their breasts any more. So suddenly, it's not an I'M BREASTFED baby. It's a DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO GET SOME NUTRITIONAL SUBSTANCE INTO ME, IDEALLY BREASTMILK BUT REALLY WHATEVER WE CAN GET TO WORK OUT OK baby. And the dear nurses, bless their baby-loving, new mom-pitying hearts, do.

Another one: "Only one-third of hospitals allow mother and child to stay in the same room." I'm curious about the "allow" here. I don't doubt that at many hospitals, rooming in is not actively offered or encouraged. I have a hard time imagining it prohibited. At least one of our babies was born in nursery-normed hospital. When a nurse came in to wheel my baby off I just said, "Oh, she'll stay with us." And the nurse said, "Oh! Well . . . OK. Call us if you need a break." The hospital administration did not barrel into the room demanding that we give the nursery our baby. No one cared. Again, I wonder if this isn't a matter of mothers simply not knowing their options. Otherwise, I guess I'm just really lucky that out of four hospitals none of them "disallowed" rooming in when statistically 2.667 them should have.

Also regarding the "allow," if there's one thing I've learned from delivering in hospitals it's that, at least on the relatively minor questions I've had come up, hospital policy bows to fear of lawsuit. We've had nurses opt out of assisting in our room because of my weirdo demands like "Don't stick that pointy thing full of creepy juice in me." "That's hospital policy," they say. "Don't stick it in me," I say. "I'll have to go ask Dr. Important," they say importantly. A different nurse comes back, nothing gets stuck in me, and we all go on our way.

Let's see, what else? Oh yeah--want skin to skin contact with your baby immediately following birth? Say, "Hand over my baby." You can even be polite about it if you want because it turns out that being the person who gets to hand a brand newling over to its mom for the first time is a really awesome job that humans, including evil hospital doctors and nurses, like doing. (My only baby who didn't get immediate contact and nursing was the one who wasn't born in a hospital--freakin ha ha.) What if I need breastfeeding help after leaving the hospital? Well, there's a case to be made for the fact that I've, um, left the hospital. I don't expect Pizza Hut to keep supplying me with pizza after I've driven home. Etc.

Much of this "oh those horrible hospitals" report also strikes me as a bit optimistic with regard to mothers. The stories I hear from real live moms who called off breastfeeding usually go something like, "I was just so tired!" (this is before their 24-72 hour hospital discharge, not after three horrific weeks of trying to nurse at home) or "The baby liked the bottle better" (of course he did; he didn't have to work for it).

They honestly don't get it, and how could they? Few baby-free people in our comfortable society have any notion of how much a newborn needs. Asking one significantly injured person to deal with all those hitherto unknown needs is objectively sobering, and contextually insane. One hospital where I delivered DID actively encourage rooming in, and offered extensive breastfeeding services. The nursery was full, and the babies chowed down Enfamil without scarceness. When I availed myself of its breastfeeding assistance in the dark weeks that followed, it didn't help in the least, because breastfeeding problems are one of the main things that cannot be helped, but only endured.

I've got no shortage of objections to hospitals. The extremes of my delivery-related complaints and praises, though, are never for hospitals, but for a horrible doctor or a saintly nurse. Of far more relevance than the hospital are the individuals who happen to be on duty during one's stay. A hospital is not evil. It is too big and stupid to be evil. Its only motive is to attract my business again. The real potential for good or ill lies with the nurse in my room and the doctor or midwife I've hired. Bad ones ruin everything. Good ones make everything as good as possible.

I'd contend that whether or not a woman ends up breastfeeding is in most cases consistent with her previously held ideas about breastfeeding, and that in those cases where her intent is thwarted, it has a lot to do with a circumstance no hospital could have changed.

22 September 2011

Learn from the dugongs

I've got no interest in water birth, but what about a water pregnancy?

Light as a feather

20 September 2011

The words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Pregnant lady says, "Hey, dude. You ready for breakfast?"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "I think you left them on the porch."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "Don't poke him with toothpicks. Why do you HAVE a toothpick?"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "I do, I like green eggs and ham! Thank you, thank you, Sam I am!"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "He's out, can I take a message?"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "Can you take that laundry busket up when you go?"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady sings, "And on earth peace, goodwill toward men."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "Thank you so much!"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "Asked and answered. Listen if you want to know what's going on."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "How bout them Hawks!"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "No, sixth."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "About four more weeks."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "They can't blow up the Enterprise!"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "Roy Rogers. Four cherries."
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

Pregnant lady says, "How can it not be bedtime yet?"
Pregnant lady is thinking, This baby is going to come out of me.

18 September 2011

Usage you can use: joint possession

Don't say it:

Timbo and I's anniversary was so amazing!

Don't ruin your anniversary like this. Timbo will still love you, but he'll be embarrassed.

To fix it, you can say:

Timbo and my anniversary was so amazing!

What? Not Timbo's and my anniversary was so amazing!? No, because you and Timbo share the anniversary, so you only use one possessive (my). (If you're talking about unshared possessions, it goes like this: Timbo's and my Corgis got in an amazing fight again!)

But you're right, the fix sounds weird. So why not redirect the whole thing into something like,

Our anniversary was so amazing! or, Timbo and I had an amazing anniversary! ?

Right again, because every time an American says something is amazing the Daughters of the Air have another day added to their amortization. Let's try once more:

Our anniversary was so [any adjective but amazing]!

There you go.

If that still isn't sitting well with you, you can always try one of these:

Hot enough for ya!

How bout them Hawks!

Are you still nursing that baby!

13 September 2011

Remediation

I’m still thinking about Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. (I’ve long gotten over my malingering inclination to be snarky about it since it’s so popular. Actually I think that the first three pages are enough to knock the snark out of anyone, and I mean that in a very complimentary way.)

If I were living the more birth- and otherwise- controlled life I’d anticipated back when I made my blissfully ignorant hike down that long, long aisle, I’m not sure what this book would have meant to me. The painfully lovely writing would have moved me, to be sure, but in perhaps a less personal way. I’m sure that I would have spent a few weeks, maybe even months, being a more grateful person, remembering to look for the silver linings in the thunderclouds, and all that.

But. Here I am. Instead of stretching out to soar (that was the plan, you know: stay home till the 2-3 kids start school, then work my way back into the real world), I’m hunkering down to home.

If I weren’t here, I would still be seeking to give thanks in every circumstance. I would probably be succeeding in that to a superficially greater degree than I am now. I might look more put together (I might have an actual wardrobe!). I might have fewer dark nights of the soul (I might get to sleep through the night!).

And--I might fail to realize the extent to which in Him I live and move and have my being. I might think it poetic rather than practical that in Him all things hold together.

It’s obvious, but I’m molasses-slow: In the depth of the darkness, I remember to cry out for the Light. When my spiritual fruits wither and sour, I remember to abide in the Vine. Stretched beyond what I am capable of giving, I remember, This is my body, given for you.

I am thick-skulled and hard-hearted. A carefully contoured life would not suffice to save me from myself. God graciously brings me to the very brink where I can feel for myself what is always true: that the Father’s hand alone restrains and sustains me as I teeter childishly over the gaping abyss.

The conscious thanks-giving that I’m attempting to live unwraps a beautiful surprise: the grace in every vexing moment, if only I have eyes to see. God, grant me eyes to see! And He does: the hilariously literal earnestness of three-year-olds; baby-silk hair curling damp in the humidity; the ice-cream sparkle in a kindergartner’s blue eyes; the freckledness of a boyish nose…

The list is endless and deep-joyful, sometimes lighthearted, but never trite. This wild earthly adventure, overflowing with more life than I can begin to control, is God’s crucible-classroom for my dross-ridden soul. Some lessons burn especially bright: I can take God at His Word—even when the life in question is that of the impossibly tiny baby I never got to hold. Yes. I can take Him at His Word!

Every morning, daily manna, He sends this truth, His mercies, anew. (Lord, grant me to receive with gratefulness not grumbling the manna that sustains me!)

Stop me if you've heard this one

The joys of motherhood are primarily eschatological.

10 September 2011

Makes no sense

It seems really weird to me that the internet can't tell me when this baby is going to be born and how it's going to go.

What am I paying you for, anyway?

08 September 2011

Unthinkable Molly Brown

Once I had a big adventure out of the midwest and saw in the exotic city of Denver the Molly Brown house. Here's what I learned: if you have lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of servants, mutual spousal disinterest, and two kids who are always away at boarding school, you can devote your life to public meddling on a really grand scale. And if you don't go down with the Titanic (she was dropped into a lifeboat by authorities who couldn't get her to stop loading them with men--equal rights!), you can demand $450, 1912 style, for your lost hosiery and lingerie from the boat company (just two of her line items).

Anyway, the real takeaway lesson for me was that while the world makes the woman whose life is not consumed with childrearing into Molly Brown, the church gives us saints like these ladies. The grace and selflessness with which they bear their cross, using their relative freedom for acts of mercy small to the world but HUGE to another family, is truly a precious service and example to us all.

One of the struggles of perpetual parturition is wishing we were able to give more of ourselves to the church (disregarding the little pieces of ourselves bashing their heads on the pews). What a blessing to be able to rejoice in the different gifts of faithful sisters, even as they graciously rejoice in gifts which have been mysteriously withheld from them. In our largely dissimilar lives God gives us a common comfort in each other.

(And thanks for nothing, Molly. :P )

Don't forget:

He Remembers the Barren by Katie Schuermann

Book Tour with Katie and Rebecca

Issues, Etc. interviews with Katie and her husband

07 September 2011

Hippie talk

I'm not really lecturing you, you know. I wouldn't presume. 

Ten years of parenting have taught me that it is not possible to force a child to become enriched. They aren't like wheat, you know? You can lead a girl to Latin and you can make her conjugate for hours, but you cannot force her to love Virgil. You can lead a boy to the piano and you can make him practice, but you cannot force him to have a heart for music. You can even lead a child to the twelve times table and you can make her memorize it; you can make her rattle it off like a trained monkey to the amazement of all your friends; but you absolutely cannot force her to grasp that numbers are never cruel, but always clever and often amusing. And so it goes.

What do you mean you don't want to play with the pluperfect subjunctive?

However, hope springs eternal! One of perhaps two things the mavens of child psychology have gotten right is the practice of providing children with enriched environments. There is no real need to force a child to want what is beautiful. A child is a man, and thus the apex of beauty. Give him beauty and he can be trusted to absorb it into his being by sheer accident. I have found this to be doubly the case when a child’s life is filled with what is genuinely, objectively beautiful over and above those things that are educational, manipulative, and loud. If, however, you would like to ensure that your children lose as many their rough edges as they sanely may, there is one thing above all others that you need to do: be enriched yourself.

If you want your kid to love reading the Aeneid in the language of Virgil, take up Latin yourself. If you want your kid to love practicing his arpeggios, take up the piano yourself. If you want your children to feel comfortable around numbers, don’t be shy about what you don’t know; rather, become reacquainted with mathematics and discover again how charming it can be. Learn before your children, with them, and after them all the things you want them to learn, especially when they are little. Let them see you struggling to become a more beautiful person, and they will seek to join you in the struggle simply because that is how love works.

Work with them instead of on them, and you'll both be happier. Then the day will come when they surpass you, which is really what you wanted all along.

02 September 2011

Who shall stand?

I wonder how many of us are from the kind of families we imagine our children's future spouses must come from. Although I'm inclined to think I came from a pretty decent family, I'm sure some purists would consider it unacceptable. After all, anyone who grew up wrong regarding certain matters can't really be trusted, no matter what they say they think now. You can take the girl out of Sulva, but . . . ?

Furthermore, anyone who grew up right won't make Certain Mistakes, and Certain Mistakes are unforgiveable. Not for God of course (it's his job to forgive people), but for future parents of our grandchildren, who must be exactly as undamaged as we've imagined them.

01 September 2011

Way to go, everybody else

OK, this is pathetic and small, but the ongoing existence of this blog testifies to my belief that it's a good idea to keep telling the world how pathetic and small I am (yesterday's post notwithstanding).

Nothing makes me more sad and jealous than hearing some other mother praised in the gates, especially by the proud husband and the proud parents, for her work-related accomplishments. That's a bonus I just can't earn.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

31 August 2011

I have arrived

I'm at that point where I would really like to know why I was complaining about being huge at Easter.

Too big to live, I cry to my husband. Nay, says he: too big to fail.

You pitiful, insignificant fools!

30 August 2011

Better early than never?

I grew up at a church that turned its late service contemporary when I was in jr. high. This has proved an interesting experiment in memory for me--it's amazing what I remember from the hymnal, having used it during the years of my life I remember least. Canticles, propers chanted in my father's voice (yup, there was chanting even at a church that went contemporary), multiple verses of hymns . . . somehow all there. Also of note to some may be the fact that LW, that old thing we're all embarrassed about, was my lifeline to the liturgy. I know, I'm supposed to be mad about the Dignus sneaking in where it doesn't belong. But I'm mad about so many other things in life I'm not sure how bad I am for failing to nurture ire at that particular offense. My husband indulges me on this matter. He's a dear.

Everything after the first sentence is beside the point, though. The point is "its late service." The only parishes where I have seen an early contemporary service are those that have so many services some of them run concurrently (so the early contemporary service competes with a traditional service--usually the only traditional service offered). I have NEVER seen a late traditional service.

I know as well as anyone can that most people hauling kids to church will choose a later rising time and more prep time if they have the option. In fact, I do this myself and almost always attend, of my husband's two churches, the parish with a later service. But what the traditional=early equation amounts to is most of the parish's children never hearing the liturgy; never accidentally memorizing it; never learning that if you're somewhere and you hear the liturgy, you're in church; never finding a refuge from the sounds and mannerisms of pop culture. I think often of the kids younger than I was at my church who just never got to notice that things changed during Lent, who never discovered that they didn't need the hymnal for this song, who would be completely lost if they ever blundered into a liturgical church, who never heard their pastor's voice running through their heads sometime during the week--"Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord"--to make up for the sermon they weren't listening to.

I'm sure contemporary proponents would argue that this is merely a matter of practicality and has nothing to do with a desire to influence the piety of the church's children. Let's exercise some largesse about that for now. But I wonder what would happen if a church decided to hold its contemporary service early and its traditional service late.

28 August 2011

Book, recommended

If you haven’t already read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I think you might want to—if for no other reason than because, as she says in the afterword, “Every breath’s a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy.”

My curiosity about all the Thousand Gifts buzz was fueled when a friend of similar lifestyle and sound literary taste recommended it, overcoming my initial (and totally uninformed) skepticism that this would be the latest chick-sensation in feel-good pop psycholo-theology.

I hereby publicly repent of those suspicions. The first three pages cured me of any fears that One Thousand Gifts would be a “count your blessings and be grateful for what you have, dear,” kind of book. So what kind of book is it? It’s a theology-of-the-cross kind of book, in the skin-life of laundry, of mother-love and loss: “That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart—and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?” (100).

It’s been awhile now since I finished the book, and I’m still gnawing on it. I had to read it slowly, chewing all the while. Voskamp quotes everyone from Augustine to C.S. Lewis to G.K Chesterton to Annie Dilliard to Teresa of Avila… Her writing is lovely, lyrical, even haunting at times as she writes her way through the life that becomes her book (or is it vice versa?).

I’ve only hopped over to her blog a few times as yet (that trip is worth it for her photos alone). I’m not really a joiner, but I will admit that I’ve started my own List—and it’s made a difference in my life. Because there is deep truth in what Voskamp writes: “All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him. For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being. Thus Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember. To know how we count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is really only One” (155).

Yes, I think you might want to read this book.

25 August 2011

F everyone's I

I have been advised by countless individuals since the carbaby incident that I should just have a homebirth this time. I looked into it, assisted by a number of variously connected and convicted people. Here is why I'm going to disappoint everyone.

I cannot have a homebirth for the same reason that I need one; namely, my precipitous labors in combination with my distance from a maternity hospital. I have been unable to find a homebirth midwife who can get to my house in well over twice the time my last labor took (or the three before that). If there were such a person, she could not without use of a tesseract get me to a hospital quickly in the event that we should need to go (and I thank everyone who has refused to offer me false security along the lines of probably not needing to go anyway).

Although I live in a very small town surrounded by cornfields, I'm not light years from civilization. There are four hospitals with maternity services within 45 minutes of my house. For the factors we have to consider, that's not close enough. I, with my good health and good L&D history, am a good candidate for homebirth. Our baby, to the much more limited extent that this can be determined, appears to be a good candidate for homebirth. Our home isn't. Delivery options are not the universal Burger King menu that pregnancy books make them out to be.

This leaves me with a few other choices, none of which are good. But a [competently attended] homebirth, I learned, was never really among them. So I'm pretty blamed unhappy about the situation, and ever moreso as we see the day approaching. :(

24 August 2011

Quintessential moments in maternity and paternity

Not long before the conclusion of my sentence to a government high school, I told my mom I wasn't really ready for college yet because I didn't know how to do laundry. She had never given any of the four of us the "If you want clean clothes, wash them yourselves, you overgrown freeloaders" speech and tutorial. I had no idea what went on in that corner of the basement. Blessed, blessed Mom. She said, "I know. I never taught you that because then you'd know everything and move out." !!!

Not long after the conclusion of my sentence to a government high school, I received a tale from my younger siblings. The toilet had broken. They informed our father. He paused; then came to his face an expression of genuine relish and he pronounced, inexplicably, "Cool." He took no action and gave no other indication of having heard them. There they stood, with neither toilet nor help. And we all knew. Dad was not a grownup at all, but a doofus like the rest of us. He'd been faking this whole time.

21 August 2011

Relief

Waking up and realizing you didn't actually eat the vast and shameful foodstuffs you were just dreaming about eating.

No, I don't want a doughnut. I want the whole case.

20 August 2011

It is an ever-fixed mark

My mind is a better place for having seen this painting. Thus, naturally, did I have to share it with you.

Wedded, by Lord Fredrick Leighton, c.1881

Happy Saturday.

18 August 2011

Supper panic: Buy yourself a little time

Listen up, girls, because I’m going to tell you one of the great kitchen secrets that my mother shared with me shortly before my wedding.

Scene: For one reason or another (most likely one reason and another, and another…), supper plans have slipped your mind. It’s only when you remember that you’re supposed to be teaching a kid or two to tell time and you ask one of them to read the clock that you suddenly realize Dad will be home any minute…and you have no idea what’s for supper.

Now, you’ve got a few options. Here’s one that I’ve tried in several variations, but don’t necessarily recommend: As soon as your husband walks in the door, fresh from the bread-earning cares of the day, thrust the fretful baby at him, incoherently weeping and gnashing your teeth about how there’s no way you can possibly accomplish all the tasks in your day, and how he’d better peel all those brats off you RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, and anyone who wants supper can jolly well make himself a PBJ.

You might have better luck with this one: turn on the stove, and slice an onion into a pan with some butter. In a matter of seconds, the house will smell purposefully wonderful. Dad will walk in, sniff the air, and declare appreciatively: “Smells great!” That’s your cue to say, “Mmm-hmm. Now if you could just take the kids [outside, to the basement, wherever] after you’ve changed, I’ll be able to finish up in here.” Dad, feeling useful, and anticipating a good meal in reward for his labors, will cheerfully whisk the young’uns away to such activities as only fathers can pull off enthusiastically. The kids will be thrilled to have Dad to themselves. And you get a peacefully empty kitchen…and a few minutes to run to Allrecipes or CSPP cooks to figure out what on earth to do with those onions.

No, no, don't peek in the pot now. You just run along and have fun and I'll call you when it's ready.

17 August 2011

Sorry, I have to wash my hair that day.

I have questioned my husband and learned that at his various conventicles, conferences, and clambakes he is never expected to sing songs with actions or props, make foam crafts, pray prayers used by a host church's preschool, wrap a colleague in toilet paper, smell some viscous mass out of a diaper, or share factoids about himself by means of a vacuous anagram while wearing a stupid hat.*

So tell me: do women actually like doing these things? Or are we being enslaved by an oligarchy of crazed female event planners who either truly enjoy puerile diversions themselves or, more sinisterly, enjoy watching other women being forced into such performances?

Because pregnancy needs more indignities.

*Even men must beware; there are entities in which it is considered good form for them to share extremely personal information with groups of acquaintances, possibly facilitated in the endeavor by weeping.