20 December 2012

Bless this mess.


Well, the thinkable happened. Our dear, dear, dear and only organist went home forever in September and my heart is still broken. Also we don't have an organist any more.

Except.

No, really, we don't. But after Dad has begged everyone for miles around, I'm the person he comes home to. So I have to play this Sunday and now my stomach is also broken. I can manage the service um, serviceably, in a room with a piano by myself. If I hear my neighbor's car door, not only my fingers but also my elbows and shoulders and intestines turn to spaghetti. Never was a show more unready for the road, much less the house of Almighty God. Kyrie eleison. (At least that one's easy--and yet I can screw it up! :P )

More than enough about me. The point is that as I practice and practice and practice, all the while thinking miserably of my brothers and sisters here whose ears I will soon offend so grievously* and in such malapropos surroundings, my only comfort is that they ARE my brothers and sisters. Our parish is a family not in some feel-good spiritual metaphor. Behold, I tell you no mystery: we put up with each other's cooking and eat the leftovers until they're gone. When it's someone else's turn to clean, we let them do it their way even though they do it all wrong. We work like maniacs at screwy schemes to generate some cash and keep this operation operational. We make sure no one else could use something we'd rather just throw away, and we do our best to wear hand-me-downs with more thanks than pickiness. We put up with that awful racket because she's the only fake organist we've got and, who knows, maybe she'll get better if she keeps at it? Everyone is always invited, the bratty kids and the jerk chicks and the crazy dudes and the grumbly grandmas, because this place is our Father's house and our home. Smile for the camera, everybody.

Oh I miss Bonnie so much.

*this is not fake modesty here. I am truly terrible, and I feel truly terrible about it. :(

18 December 2012

Deck the blog

Oh, look, guys. Another bubble baby.

16 December 2012

Why is it that when I say "unmedicated" in my head it always sounds like "unmitigated"?

Funny article here, and it got me thinking about the time my doctor hustled into a prenatal checkup late. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting," she said. "I was at a delivery. First time mom, no drugs. She did it." "Oh, good for her," I said without thinking. But what did I mean by that? I did NOT mean that this newly delivered mother had achieved something better than she would have if there had been drugs involved. I do not believe that load of purest bull at all. What I meant was that I was glad that she knew. She knew she could do it. That was what she wanted: to know.

Childbirth is something one is either physically able to do or not, and a mother finds out into which category she falls when her child (each child, individually) is born. The unmedicated childbirth question is not who can and who can't (although we now usually have the luxury of providing some alternative to death or horrible maiming to those who fall into the "can't" category). The question some women want answered is, "If I'm someone who can, can I do it without asking for help?" It is not a question of physical strength but of will. It is a game of chicken, and as such it has a large component of silliness, and sometimes foolhardiness. It is as silly as being a strongman or climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon. Everyone knows those tasks are undertaken not in the service of humanity, but as a challenge to the one who undertakes them. Most of us are content never to make the effort. Those who are physically unable to do so would be unreasonable to think less of themselves for their physical incapacity.

The strongman or the Everest aspirant or the marathon trainer is certainly to be respected for his strength of will and the painful discipline to which it drives him. But at the same time, any of these trainers who cannot also laugh at himself a little and see that his goal has no inherent value is a bit uncentered. The lifter or climber or runner who becomes a bore on the topic is no stranger to any of us, and for those of us who must keep running in birth circles, the childbirth bore is every bit as familiar.

Perhaps the hippies will forgive me for pointing out that homebirth is a bit cheaty on this front. ;) At home, one can't ask for an epidural, or at least, one can't get it. One increases her chances of "succeeding" by eliminating the possibility that she could get any real help. A runner can always quit a marathon, and that is what makes it so hard. This is the only reason unmedicated childbirth has become a big deal (although making a virtue out of the hobby is a cherished and profitable endeavor). When there was no possibility of getting real help, it was no unique accomplishment to deliver a child without it. Now that there is, some women have proven that "the urge to perform feats of strength for no good reason is deeply embedded" not only "in the male psyche." 

So when a pregnant lady seeks to answer the question, "If I'm someone who can, can I do it without asking for help?" she faces another question also: "If I can do it without asking for help, can I maintain my perspective, recognize the accomplishment for exactly what it is and isn't, and not become as insufferable as my friend who's training for a marathon?"



Groan.


PS--some of my best friends are training for marathons.

11 December 2012

Let's be clear about one thing.

Cleaning with vinegar makes your house smell like vinegar. Not prelapsarian freshness. Not naturally clean. Vinegar.

04 December 2012

Shut those selfish jerks down.


Step 1: Read

All families with fewer than three children should be combined such that all the children be placed under the care of one set of parents. The other set of parents will be released from parental obligation.

Larger families are able to use resources more efficiently via economies of scale. Children in large families naturally learn better to share, to be patient and delay gratification, and to make good use of their time and resources. They are more independent and better problem solvers and initiative-takers. They develop stronger internal motivation and work ethics. They are less spoiled and indulged. In large families, the children's individual skills are cultivated, valued, and called upon for authentic tasks; they are true assets to the family and derive from this a sense of organic responsibility. Large families are more diverse and the children benefit from contact with siblings who have different gifts and interests. Children of large families also have more opportunities to acquire sensitivity to and serve the wide variety of needs to which they are exposed.

The parents who are not given the care of the children will be better able to serve society since their interests will not be divided. They may wish to devote themselves entirely to their previous extra-familial duties, which will enable them to contribute more to society since their assets will not go toward an inefficient model of family maintenance. Alternatively, they could provide foster care to or adopt groups of three or more children. Perhaps, drawing on their (albeit inadequate) parental experience, they could also seek part-time employment in an auxiliary capacity or volunteer for a [proper] family.

Some families are simply too small to benefit society. It is selfish of both parents and children of such families to insist upon existing autonomously. This insistence is stubborn, greedy, unneighborly, and sentimental. Any families with fewer than three children who do not want to be restructured should have more children.


Step 2: Multiply all numbers by 10. Replace family with congregation, children with parishioners, parents with pastors, and society with Our Beloved Synod.

03 December 2012

"At least he's liturgical."


Sometime during my husband's excellent adventure/bogus journey through seminary, there was a panel discussion among a WELS pastor, an LCMS pastor, and an ELCA pastor. The WELS guy wore a sport coat and tie. The ELCA guy wore clerics with a sharp suit. The LCMS guy was the horrific hybrid of both we all know and love. I was a fly on the wall for some discussion of these telling facts and remember hearing someone say of the ELCA guy, "At least he's liturgical."

I am not so sure about this. It seems to me that a guy in clerics who chants the liturgy AND thinks it's fine for a chick to do the same because he doesn't think God really said thus and such is not on the side of the church or the liturgy or clerical dignity or any good and blessed thing. He is a burlesque of every good and blessed thing. He is not closer to being right and he is not at least a little bit on the right side. He is the lie that is so much stronger because it is mostly true.

Vestments and liturgy and ceremony originate rightly in Scripture, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, and humility; they prefigure the marriage feast of the Lamb. Where Scripture is interpreted through the whims of the world and the flesh and the devil, where the holy catholic and apostolic Church is mocked and defamed, vestments and liturgy and ceremony make a shameful parody of Jesus Christ and his holy Bride. It is a strange tradition which cherishes external forms while scrambling the substance from which they arose (cf American Christmas). In fact, scrambling the substance renders the forms merely accidental, and when the forms are accidental, phylacteries are broad and the borders of garments are enlarged and no room is too uppermost.

Please, church-resembling entities in the habit of choosing your own Bible adventure, stop being liturgical.



“If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”


Expert opinion


Here you may read a graciously sympathetic post from the Anchoress, who kindly takes the time to consider what the life of a mother of many young children is really like, and a vision for a program of care to such mothers. Also included is this link to a writing from a Roman Catholic mother who is upfront about a hard fact of perpetual parturition: it places extreme demands on a marriage (NFP or not), even a strong marriage, even a strong marriage between two people equally convicted about the catholic teaching on marriage. The writer told her husband,

The worst part is, I blame the Church. I blame the ban on birth control, the fact that NFP doesn’t work for us, the reality that I will never, ever have a chance to get a handle on things because I’m constantly pregnant or nursing. I can’t crawl out from under the pregnancy-and-postpartum rock because the rock follows me everywhere, just waiting to smash me again. Intellectually, I believe the Church. I understand the arguments against birth control. I agree with them, even. I just no longer think I’m a good enough person to follow the rules.

There are many reasons people use contraception, and no one understands them better than people who don't. I have no use for the faux-debaters who will bellow forever about binding consciences, the first and last refuge of the lazy Lutheran. The loyal opposition I DO respect is comprised of those who are honest enough to say: "The church might really be right about that, but we just can't do it. It's too hard." They're right. It IS too hard. :P

The Anchoress' vision is unlikely to become a systemic reality anywhere. It may happen in individual Roman Catholic parishes where someone with a "heart for that ministry" undertakes it. Much less will it happen in our Synod where anybody with more than four kids is a caricatured joke, the lowest of the evangelists and the blandest of persons. The Republican Party at Prayer will never stop secretly wanting us all to be Michele Bachmann (physically attractive, kid count in the high-reasonables, bonus good-personism, successful career, and of course "conservative"). I can only be thankful for the dear people in my parish who are kind to me and help me as they are able simply because we are sisters in Christ, not because they share an interest in my personal pious cause. Developing a fantasy about some kind of formal support system serves merely to depress; my recommendation is don't bother.

BUT--I will remember what this is like. When these years end for me, I will try to be the loving presence; the listening, understanding, forgiving ear; the willing hands for any young mother who needs them so much, who is so disrespected and alone, beginning with the mothers of any grandchildren God should see fit to grant me.

14 November 2012

News from 1857


"No priestly pride has ever exceeded that of sacerdotal females."

Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope

07 November 2012

Nobody withstands the machine

In falling back the house of babies surely does not sleep an extra hour, yet it feels the pang of each minute over which it must spring in March. I could not ask less rhetorically: where did the time go?


Daylight Savings Time

05 November 2012

Poured from a steady hand

The other day, I sat and rocked my baby for an entire hour. My fifthborn—can you imagine? I just sat, and rocked him.

The big boys were happily occupied at school a few blocks away. The preschooler was pleased to have the play-doh all to himself. The toddler was taking a much-needed nap. And the overtired baby just couldn’t get to sleep.

The appliances were doing my work for me: clothes swished in the washer; potato soup bubbled in one crockpot while yogurt did its magical thing in the other; an oatmeal loaf was rising in the machine.

So I snuggled my nursling under a fleece blanket, and he settled, and sighed, and periodically shuddered in utter contentment. The autumn rain spattered on the panes, and the leaves swirled wetly down in clumps.

I was fighting one of those two-day headaches, which precluded reading, so I listened to the rain, I watched the leaves, I breathed the soft-sweetness of the warm weight in my arms.

And I thought,
My life is impossibly rich.

In that day, in that week, that hour was the eye of a hurricane: a temporary calm bracketed by swirling, buffeting activity that seemed certain to inundate me.

How soon I forget: the raging waters that threaten to overwhelm me spill from my overflowing cup. Sometimes, it feels as though the ludicrous Generosity that poured these blessings upon me was so rashly lavish that the sloshing will never subside. But our Lord is no careless server; His hand is steady. Once, and only once, was the water poured abundantly enough to drown me—so that forever after the waves may hold for me no ultimate fear.

Temporarily overwhelmed by the waves? Often, to be sure. But also—pure grace-gift in odd and unplanned moments—
unexpectedly and heart-swellingly overwhelmed by the impossible richness of this crazy, crazy life.

31 October 2012

Just another sign that I'm getting all old and matronly

But I’m also curious as to whether this is a rural Midwestern phenomenon, or indicative of a wider cultural trend.

When we vicared out on the East Coast, yea those many years ago, my husband was Vicar Lastname, and I was Mrs. Lastname. At the time, this felt a little funny to me, because I felt very young, and also because I was still fairly new at being Mrs. Lastname. But it also felt appropriate, because I did some substitute teaching at the church’s school. 

Fast forward to my husband’s first Call. We arrived with a six-week-old, so the question of how our kid(s) would address people was initially moot, but I noticed that kids tended to Firstname adults, even those old enough to be their grandparents. My husband was Pastor Lastname, and I was Firstname. There weren’t zillions of “youth” running around, and I didn’t have much interaction with them, and I still felt young and quite inexperienced at pastoral wifery, so I didn’t think much of being Firstnamed. 

Then our kids started getting old enough to talk. (This took quite some time, as our firstborn was a conscientious speech dissenter for nearly three years, and it was nearly another two years after that before he’d condescend to speak to people in public.) We decided to establish a policy of using “titles of respect,” as the good ol’ grammar books call them. While there are a few people who so persistently Firstnamed themselves that we just let our kids Firstname them, our kids address most adults as Mr.-, Mrs.-, Pastor-, Dr.-, etc., -Lastname. 

Fast forward to my husband’s present call. There are lots of “youth” running around, and I have more interaction with them. My husband is still Pastor Lastname, and I am again Firstname, as are most other adults. Even in Little League, our kid was the only one to Coach Lastname his coach; the other kids called him by his first name. I dunno; this just isn’t how I was brought up (see how old and matronly I’m getting?!). I would never have dreamed of Firstnaming my Sunday School teachers, or even the “cool” youth director at the church we attended when I was in middle school. I still think of my high school friends’ parents as Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. 

I stand firmly by our decision to make our kids the “weird” ones who don’t Firstname everybody; and many people (older folks at church especially) seem to appreciate it.* It’s kind of funny when my third-grader Mrs. Lastnames someone in the same interaction that her preschooler Firstnames me. Generally speaking, I have enough things in life to fret about without being annoyed by a knee-high rugrat presuming upon the use of my first name, but there are times when I do feel that Firstnaming does convey, even facilitate, a certain lack of respect (see? Old and matronly again). 

For instance, a certain neighborhood waif often drifts over to play with our kids. It’s fairly apparent that the poor child has received little guidance from her parents in many regards, and I find myself in the unasked-for and frankly undesirable position of having to be quite firm with her regarding the rules while she is on our grounds and the times at which she must depart said grounds. In such a case, I do find it quite annoying to be Firstnamed by someone who has yet to attain a decade of life, and I wonder whether this reluctant job of mine might be easier, were we not assumed to be on a Firstname basis. (My husband corrects her when he hears her Firstname me, but how can you fight a town-wide trend? All the other kids Firstname me, and to insist otherwise, when people older and wiser are Firstnamed, would seem pretty snobbish.)

Anyway. Just wondering if this is a small-town phenomenon or if the whole dang culture of our country has gone this way. 

*I know some people who have their kids Miss/Miz Firstname people, which seems to me to have a charming Southern touch to it, and to be a mannerly alternative in some cases to Mrs. Lastnaming, as well as a good solution to the sometimes-sticky issue of How to Address High Schoolers and College Students.

29 October 2012

It's when something is . . . ironic

I guess I only thought I knew it when I saw it?


24 October 2012

Baffling

that a tree would work so hard to generate so many of something so large, and so utterly useless.


17 October 2012

Guest Post: On Why Single Females Should Not Attempt to Save the World

From a friend of CSPP who wishes to remain anonymous.

Ok, first of all, a shout-out to the doctrine of election and an acknowledgement that none of us can save the world.  Jesus does that.  We don’t.

Moving on –

If you know a Save the World type who is a single female, please make every effort to curb her enthusiasm.  By STW types, I’m referring to those optimistic and generally sincere individuals who leave the comforts of home and move to a developing country where they teach English or feed the hungry or educate women or something.  (A side discussion could easily be had about whether any of these efforts are even needed or helpful. Another time, another place.)

The problem with the single female Save-the-Worlders is that they are subjecting themselves to dangerous, hostile environs, and they often think they have some kind of force field around them for going under the name of a Christian sending organization.  I am here to warn you: No such force field exists.

The Christian sending organization will not protect you from knife-wielding malandros*  lurking at an otherwise deserted metro bus stop as you go on your merry way to church. The Christian sending organization will also not protect you from dreadful illnesses that cannot be understood or treated in the local clinica**.  Neither will it not protect you from illegit taxi drivers who are actually there to kidnap your pretty single self.  Oh, and the Christian sending agency will not protect you from experimental vaccines that are required in the foreign airports (but your out-of-country immunization record could spare you from this if you have the clarity of mind to produce it in time).  Let's not forget angry, violent political demonstrations involving tear gas and loud shoutings of anti-American rhetoric.  Oh, and house fires.  Those too.  Then again, those could happen anywhere.  But emergency response time is a LOT better in the U.S.of A.

[Alert! Alert! All of these examples are actually real! And all in the time span of one short year. I am not making this stuff up!]

Here’s the point -- and as you've already gathered, it’s coming from someone who knows:  The “mission field” is not a safe place for single ladies.  It is not.

And I know I’m being cynical with this talk about the imagined magic powers of the Christian sending agency…  We recognize that it is our own heavenly Father who commands His angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways.  I know and believe that it is only by the grace of God that I am safe and well today. I was a very stupid young woman and I realize now that things could have gone a lot worse. I am so incredibly grateful.  The same hindsight which produces this sincere gratitude, also compels me to urge others to be smarter than I was.  I did not need to go to those corners of the world. The Lord has promised that His Word will reach everyone.  I could have easily left it in His capable hands and spared myself a lot of calamity and hardship.  If my parents had had any real idea of what was going on over there, they would not have slept for an entire year.  Thankfully they were a tad on the ignorant/naive side. (Love you, Mom! Love you, Dad!)

Single ladies, please do not think you have to STW to feel good about yourself. Serve the neighbors closest to you. No passport required.  And no deadliness, either! I do understand that you may not have the same satisfaction of having done something super glamorous (Since when was living without running water glamorous? We’re all so backward!). But you will be no less a Christian.

If you have a daughter who aspires to STW, please encourage her to use her many gifts and talents in a setting that will not put her in great bodily danger.  If we aren’t ok with our baby girls sticking their fingers in electrical outlets, why would it be ok for them to wander alone into a crime-ridden foreign city 22 years later?


* Scroungers. Or a more literal translation: bad men walking.
** Oh wait, that's a cognate.  I'm not needed here!

Since they're not really debating ...

... they just as well be making us laugh and laugh.

Clip rated something like PG, just in case you've a couple babies at your elbow.

16 October 2012

A question for the ages


Is this still a brush?

15 October 2012

Mind over matter

There is a fine and often mostly mental line between joyful hubbub and dismal squalor.

Think the good thoughts, friends. Think the good thoughts.

14 October 2012

Huh.

03 October 2012

Swamp thing


Here is something everybody just has to know: anything one thinks in the middle of the night while lying in bed is completely crazy and must be discarded from one's brain pan as soon as possible. I will provide a humiliating personal example because my sister likes it when I do this.

For a long time I have wanted to visit the Heron Pond cypress swamp in the Shawnee National Forest. I had seen pictures of it and thought it looked really cool, and hiking in cool places with the kids is one of my favorite things to do.

An opportunity arose. In the shining light of this opportunity, I hazarded to look forward to it. In the middle of the night while lying in bed did I hazard to do so. Doing so, I went completely crazy.

I imagined that we were hiking in the cypress swamp, and that some unknown sick freak had released an unwanted pet caiman into it, and the caiman grew into a mighty alligator, and attacked my defenseless family. I am fairly knowledgeable about alligators, having streamed a few episodes of Swamp People, so I knew that my beloved family was done for. We could not outrun it and we could not kill it by shooting it in its one tiny vulnerable area in the back of the head (see how knowledgeable?). We would all be torn to pieces in sight of each other by an alligator in Illinois. I lay in the dark breathing heavily, heart pounding, sweating, freaking out.

Need I mention it? Alligators don't live in Illinois. Caimans don't grow up to be alligators. A swamp in Illinois after a summer of drought is about two inches deep. My brain in the dark bed in the dark night was the only sick freak I needed to worry about. We went to the cypress swamp and it was awesome.

What is it you're worried about? Did you think of it in the middle of the night while you were lying in bed? I guarantee: it is insane.



You idiot.

01 October 2012

Hey politicians

The best way to get me NOT to vote for you is by robo-calling me while I'm trying to get six kids ready for bed.



Yes, even you.



27 September 2012

When we seek relief

Of all the freedoms the mother of very young children surrenders, perhaps the most emptying is the freedom to grieve. A baby's smile must be returned. A toddler's manic, violent adoration must be reciprocated. They cannot understand another's sadness. A mother cannot close her door and bawl out her sorrow, scream at it or sleep it away. Is mourning selfish? Is even this another avarice of which she must be purged? Grief denied; who could imagine such a thing?

19 September 2012

My cloudy crystal ball

(Nothing profound. Just pep-talking myself a bit.)

I know that if it is granted unto me to live into my seventh decade of life, I will look back on these days, and I will think that every messy and exhausting and overwhelming moment was Totally Worth It. There will even be some things about these days that I will miss (a nostalgia that will, God willing, be more than adequately sated by means of the time I spend helping out with my grandchildren). I know this, because all the septuagenarians I’ve ever met can’t be wrong.

 (The tricky part, of course, is that I can’t see quite how I’m going to get from here to there…)

Also, if I make it to 70, I will in all likelihood smile with nostalgic empathy at the moms wrestling their toddlers in the pew, and I will talk crazy-talk to young mothers; i.e., “Enjoy them while you can! They don’t stay little long! It really does go fast!” I know that I will say these things, because all the septuagenarians I’ve met, even the most sensible ones, talk like that.

I just pray that I will be granted the grace to become my favorite kind of septuagenarian: the kind whose nostalgia is realistic enough to recall, even amid fond reminiscing, “I was just so tired all the time;” and “It was hard and I sometimes wondered how I’d make it through.” The kind who inquires with true empathy about Baby’s sleeping habits, who volunteers to be a warm body between the more volatile elements in your pew, who drops off chicken soup when everybody’s dragging around with a cold. What a precious, precious resource: a woman who has been there and done that, who has not forgotten that the investment required to make eternal treasures is heavy, and who is willing to continue investing herself after her intial tour of duty is done.  

(And I still totally respect the octogenarian who once told me, “I wouldn’t trade those years for a million dollars. And I wouldn’t give a dime to go back.”)

17 September 2012

Indelible character

After a acquiring a some comparatively high number of kids, one becomes a character. I consider this a benefit. It saves the public from my personality and makes socializing easy. All I have to do is be Mrs. Sowerby, Mrs. Quiverful, Mrs. Pike, Mrs. Weasley, Mrs. McBroom, Mrs. Gilbreth, etc. I don't have to have any other interests or features. The plot lines and conversations are all about the number of children I have and what my life must be like in that context. Straightforward, if occasionally a little embarrassing when one of those jokey characters shows up. Also mostly true.

12 September 2012

Failure


Recently several women have described themselves to me as failures. One was unable to breastfeed one of her children. One was unable to deliver her first child in the usual way, and followed the experience with an unsuccessful VBAC attempt. Another was unable to conceive a child at all.

Nothing has demonstrated to me more effectively my own impotence than my apparent success at each of these tasks. Boob Hell I survived, but my laughably excessive reflections on it leave me nothing but bewildered as to how I did so. The births of my children have revealed to me only a body beyond my control and a mind and heart full of weakness and sin. I cannot imagine using the verb phrase "I conceived." How could I claim agency for an event I did not even know was happening? It is inelegant, but I always say, "I got pregnant." That sounds more like the truth: that someone else was the effective force. If I have succeeded as a nursing mother, as a laboring mother, as a bio-mother, I have not succeeded as a person, for each of these successes has crashed out of me in an avalanche of resistance, resentment, fear, anger, and ungratefulness.

Maybe it is easy for me as someone who has nominally succeeded in these tasks, listed above in order of decreasing "controlability," to downplay their importance. I don't even exactly mean to do that, because the tasks are important. But their importance is not in some measurement they may grant of the person who accomplishes them. The important thing is that the baby gets fed. The important thing is that the baby gets born with minimal damage to mother and child (and when a C-section is the least damaging way for that to happen, my stomach is too weak to ponder the alternative). The important thing is that a woman receive what God would give her, whatever that is or isn't. The important thing is that a woman who is given the gift of motherhood make a good faith effort to do what is best for her child. At this she will fail, for goodness and faith are not natural to her.

All this failure notwithstanding, we must still be cautious. Success, real or apparent, is a dangerous gift, for it always tempts to pride, the chief of sins.

10 September 2012

Parish-famous


Little has made me feel more at home in this place we've landed than having crazy rumors about me get back to me. The first major one I remember was soon after the birth of Baby 5. Scouts were sent to discover if I was, in fact, pregnant again already. No, I explained calmly, I am merely fat. I just had a baby.

Later, word came in from the street that I was going to be making all the pies for our church's sausage supper. The sausage supper feeds over 1000 people and requires approximately 80 grillion pies. I was pleased that someone imagined I would be capable of this.

A few months ago I learned of a belief that the lady who sits with me in church was going to quit her job and become my full-time nanny. It's a great idea.

Last week I received congratulations from someone who had heard I was expecting again. I congratulated her on receiving the news before I did. She was apologetic. I assured her it was a mistake anyone could make.

I have also heard various reports as to the number of children my husband and I are purportedly aiming to have. Some say seven, some say eight. I think I have even heard ten floated. Imagine my surprise when this very evening someone disputed a number projected by a third party on the grounds that fruitfulness was the relevant non-numeric. Imagine also the color of my face while this discussion took place around me.

I am not kidding at all when I say I am, overall, deeply honored to have become part of the local rumor mill. I find it hilarious and flattering to be a Person of Interest. It makes me feel like I really belong here. I can't wait to hear what I'm up to next.

09 September 2012

God has spoken by his prophets

It says, "thy belly is like an heap of wheat," not "thy belly is like an slab of marble."



Cuddle up!

06 September 2012

Not-Homeschooling 101


Knowing that our Adventures in Homeschooling have recently taken a detour (i.e., our two oldest are attending the local public school this year), Rebekah sent me this link, which instantly became my new favorite blog post on homeschooling.

Why? Just because someone else was “dropping out of home school?” No. Because Simcha Fisher wrote it so…freely. Because it is so matter-of-fact. Because it’s real, and it’s funny. But above all, because it feels almost entirely devoid of the sometimes-crushing guilt too often associated with homeschooling and/or not-homeschooling.

So much of homeschooling talk is so…ultimate. Final. Decided. Case closed. Homeschool or bust (even if it turns out to be homeschool and bust). We attended a statewide homeschooling conference a couple years ago, and I’m really glad that we did. We came home newly inspired, with tons of ideas and resources and encouragement. We crossed paths with some really wonderful people, and also with some people who are really militant about homeschooling (those categories of course not being mutually exclusive :D).

We’ve never been terribly militant about homeschooling. (Our charity of speech in this regard was learned partly of necessity, as a rare homeschooling/pastor’s family in small towns in which schools and teachers comprise important parts of community and parish.) Are there a lot of things that are ideal about homeschooling? Yes. Is homeschooling The Ideal? Perhaps--but our world isn’t exactly idyllic, and I’d have to put so many qualifying and explanatory asterisks after “Ideal” that the word would become, for all practical purposes, devoid of meaning.

Was sending our kids to school an easy decision? No. Heck no. But it could have been a lot easier, had I allowed myself, in the throes of the “gut-wrenching decision” (aptly described by Fisher in another hilariously true article that Monique recently sent me), to accept three simple truths: We began homeschooling because it was the best thing for our kid(s) and our family in that town at that point in our lives. Now we’re sending two kids to the community school just down the road because it’s the best thing for our kids and our family in this town at this point in our lives. Furthermore, should any of those factors change, this decision is immediately reversible.

Those statements sound so much simpler than the hopes and fears and prayers that cluttered (and to some extent still clutter) the mental space occupied by this decision. But that’s the honest distilled truth of our present situation, whether I like it or no. As Fisher wrote elsewhere,“The best advice I got about homeschooling? Do it one year at a time.” And, I would add, evaluate it one kid at a time. Boy, do I wish that more people on both sides of the homeschooling fence, even public school teachers, even people at homeschooling conferences, were wise and brave and kind enough to give and/or heed that advice. While I might still secretly envy stalwart homeschoolers’ twelve-year master plan, I must live in the reality of my family—these children, in this place, at this time.    

Whether we’re back at homeschooling in a year or three years or never, I pray that I will become wiser and braver and kinder all the while—confident (but not militant) about the educational choices we make for each of our children. And above all, confident in the mercy that covers my sinful shortcomings and in the grace that blesses my children in spite of my mistakes.

05 September 2012

More to life than Bad Mister SIN

Just because something isn't a chapter-and-verse sin doesn't mean it can't be ill-informed, in poor taste, against conscience, badly timed, impolite, inconsiderate, unhealthy, malodorous, unwise, and/or just not something a person behaving decently or circumspectly would do.

29 August 2012

JSM

Funny story. John Stuart Mill spends a ton of words arguing against the oppression of women and then comes to this conclusion:


If, in addition to the physical suffering of bearing children, and the whole responsibility of their care and education in early years, the wife undertakes the careful and economical application of the husband's earnings to the general comfort of the family; she takes not only her fair share, but usually the larger share, of the bodily and mental exertion required by their joint existence.

If she undertakes any additional portion, it seldom relieves her from this, but only prevents her from performing it properly.

The care which she is herself disabled from taking of the children and the household, nobody else takes; those of the children who do not die, grow up as they best can, and the management of the household is likely to be so bad, as even in point of economy to be a great drawback from the value of the wife's earnings.

In an otherwise just state of things, it is not, therefore, I think, a desirable custom, that the wife should contribute by her labour to the income of the family. In an unjust state of things, her doing so may be useful to her, by making her of more value in the eyes of the man who is legally her master; but, on the other hand, it enables him still farther to abuse his power, by forcing her to work, and leaving the support of the family to her exertions, while he spends most of his time in drinking and idleness. 
John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

(Spaces added to help me read the whole thing. And one more funnyism from the same essay: The greater part of what women write about women is mere sycophancy to men. Busted.)

23 August 2012

Another perspective

Child-led weaning: Once the child starts biting, I'm done.

  Die, Mommy! Die!

16 August 2012

My homegirl Phoebs


I finally caved and bought Cheryl Naumann's LCMS deaconess history on Kindle. It has a lot of primary documents, so thumbs up there.

The Lutheran deaconesses back in Germany were nurses. Later, people in the LCMS made an argument that there should be LCMS deaconess nurses because sick Lutherans should have Lutheran nurses. This is interesting. Sick people are vulnerable. I've heard of pastors having trouble with theologically stupid things nurses say to patients, and I myself have had theologically stupid things said to me by dear and loving nurses who wished to comfort my in my trouble. There's no doubt that a well-catechized nurse population would be a nice thing to have available.

But it turned out that the LCMS girls didn't want to be nurses, just deaconesses.

The Lutheran deaconesses back in Germany were also celibate, either virgins or widows. They were free to marry, but then they weren't deaconesses any more. OBVIOUSLY. OK, I hate it when people get snotty about obviouslies so here is why marriage and deaconessing were considered incompatible: when a woman marries, her job is to care for her family. Deaconesses are people who, since they are free of family constraints, may care for those whose only family is the Church. Speculation is of limited value, but I have a hard time imagining that Loehe and other champions of the deaconess concept would have responded favorably to the notion that a woman should leave her children and husband each morning to go and work as a deaconess. She would have failed in her service the minute she walked out the door (and if it is necessary for her to work--wouldn't it make sense for her to pursue employment that pays better? :P)

It is clear that some people, especially Loehe, really wanted there to be deaconesses. But I don't think their motive is clear. Was it because the church needed Lutheran nurses and other caregivers? Or was it because the unmarried woman (especially the unmarried young woman) was as big a practical problem back in old timey times as it is now? Probably some of both.

I found this quotation from Loehe astonishing:

"From the outset the deaconesshood is joined to the preaching office as Eve is to Adam, and a church which does God's work among the Gentiles without deacony [sic] seems to me like a one-legged man."

I respectfully (and nervously given my total lack of qualifications) disagree. I am curious about the word "deaconesshood." I do not know German. I don't know if the word used by Loehe is somehow distinct from that which might normally be translated "diaconate," or how either of these word[s] compare[s] with what comes out later in the sentence as "deacony," or if this is a translator's rendering of the same word, whatever that might be. Either way, the expression as it comes across in English suggests that deaconesses are a female counterpart to pastors. They are not. The parish is the feminine counterpart to the masculine pastor as the Church is to Christ.

Deaconesses are made up. The best way I can think to describe them is as a distillation of the Church which has occasionally been considered beneficial to have. It would help a lot if we called them something other than deaconesses since there is a New Testament OFFICE of deacon and the two can't help getting tangled up with each other when discussed. Deacon is a technical term in Scripture with specific requirements. There is simply no New Testament OFFICE of deaconess. There is only an itsy-bitsy reference to a woman named Phoebe who serves, end of Phoebe story. I could name 15 women off the top of my head from my own little parish about whom the exact same bio could be written. I could be completely wrong here, but I contend that it is hard to make a case for Phoebe's service as an OFFICIAL one. It's the exact same problem we run into today with "ministry."

Also interesting: the same idiotic arguments for everything are old news. Even back in the bad old LCMS days of women on one side, men on the other, people were boohooing about Galatians 3:28 and the horrific prospect of women's talents being wasted. I'd make a crabby comment about women being considered too stupid to figure out that they should use their talents; on the other hand, there is a bit of a problem with talentolatry conflated with hobbyism on the part of women, the novelty of which I also doubt. Golly, maybe everybody has always been pandering and/or self-obsessed! I wouldn't know, naturally . . . .

That's as far as I've gotten. It's a really long book.

15 August 2012

Usage you can use: O[h]


Anyone familiar with hymns has an advantage in knowing "O" from "Oh". The hymn-literate person may have an intuitive descriptive understanding of this.

"O" introduces a direct address (for fancy types, the vocative case):

I am very tired of swimming about here, O Mouse!

O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken?

O Kitchen! my kitchen!

"Oh" is an interjection.

Oh, I'm not particular as to size.

Oh, that I had a thousand voices to praise my God with thousand tongues!

--but oh! We were all such earnest students!



The O- section of the first line index of LSB is a helpful diagnostic resource. Then for fun, compare it with TLH's. ;)


Oh, who cares?

14 August 2012

To go with your Middlemarch


I read Middlemarch during a really good stretch of reading I had after Baby 2. (I had no friends. None. I almost joined an exercise group at St. Barbara's.) I needed some help with it, though, of precisely the kind this book provides. I'll leave the fun of getting the clergy straight to you (not to mention the drinks and the carriages), but here were the funny parts I remember even now:

One of the quainter, and more confusing, fixtures in your nineteenth century novel is the local clergyman. On the one hand, it was hard to arrange an evening of whist without deferring to the rector; on the other hand, his wife always seemed to show up wearing someone's cast-off frock. Or was that the vicar's wife? And why, pray tell, wasn't the curate invited?

. . .

Members of the "inferior clergy," curates were known for being poor, insecure, and a little uncouth; in your novel, the curate will probably have a large brood of ragged children for whom the gentle heroine is constantly making up baskets of provisions.

An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson



Whist again? They know we have six kids, right?

13 August 2012

Book, enthusiastically recommended

. . . for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. 
Middlemarch, George Eliot

Friends, I have not been so completely satisfied at the close of a book in quite some time. From start to finish, Middlemarch added mint to what I have constantly to imbibe anyway. Ms. Evans, even with all her follies, really, really got it.

Surely, it's not just me. 

07 August 2012

Another miraculous crisis


[Ramblings of a recently postpartum mind trying to make sense of the experience. Skip unless you’re into L&D details.]

Typing up my latest birth story, I noticed something really odd: if read by an objective third party, it might not sound like such a bad deal. I mean, from an outsider’s view, the main post-water-breaking action could be boiled down to three ginormous contractions that made me wish desperately for instant death (but that were spaced far enough for me to fall asleep (!) in between), fifteen or twenty more minutes of unrelenting, excruciating back pain, 2.5 pushes, and---Baby!

Wow, what a lot of women wouldn’t give for that, huh? Although the doctor, in a post-action review, described this L&D as somewhat “surreal” even from her end of the proceedings, she still seemed inclined to classify it as not such a bad deal, considering. In my mind, however, this L&D looms large and terrifying. Go through that again, ever? I can’t even begin to mentally broach the edges of that thought without reaching for a paper bag to breathe into.

In fact, I think I was more nervous heading into this L&D than any of the preceding ones (possibly excepting the first). What gives? Am I the only one who’s actually losing confidence as she goes along? Shouldn’t the fact that babies and I have come out all right on the other side five times now make me ever more assured?

The pain is not fun. I dread the pain, but I can deal with pain, especially pain that I know is finite and productive. And there are drugs to deal with the pain (though unfortunately it seems I’m becoming less and less likely a candidate for such interventions, should I be inclined to request them).    

The uncertainty is unsettling, to say the least. Does anyone really have “textbook” labors, going to the hospital when regular contractions are 5 minutes apart, proceeding smoothly through transition, etc.? I kind of doubt it, but I’d settle for my own stories resembling each other, at least. Deliveries #2 and #3 were somewhat semblant, but that’s about it. Well, at least I can count on the fact that the doctor will have to break my water every time, either as an overdue induction, or to get things progressing in a labor that’s already underway. Oh, except for the time that my water spontaneously broke first, and then nothing else happened until they started the pit drip. Oh yeah, and the time that it actually broke on its own mid-labor.

Well, at least I know that my babies are always late, or else reasonably close to due date. Oh, except for the one that was two weeks early.

Well, at least I know that my babies come pretty fast once it’s pushing time. Oh, except for the time I spent 45 (drug-free) excruciating minutes pushing to turn a large-headed misrotated baby.

Well, at least I’ll always know for sure when it’s time to head to the hospital. Oh, except for the time I showed up for a scheduled checkup kind of thinking things were getting going, and amused and alarmed the doctor by being at 8 cm already.

See what I mean? There’s just not even a hint of a pattern to go by here.

Well, at least I know that the babies always come out OK, with no hint of delivery-related complications. Oh, except for the time a baby swallowed a bunch of amniotic fluid that I think he’s still working out years later ;P. Oh yeah, and that time a few weeks ago when I delivered a purple baby with an almost-triple nuchal cord.

And there, I think, is where the real terror comes in. Those babies were safely delivered. And statistically speaking, and as my own personal statistics have borne out, I am much more likely to lose a baby in the first trimester than in the delivery room. But—what if there hadn’t been enough slack in the cord? What if his head had still been rotated the wrong way like it was when then doctor first checked? What if I had run out of strength to push him out fast enough so that the little bit of “fetal distress” became an unbearable amount of distress? (The fastest our little hospital can pull off an emergency C-section is probably an hour.) What if? What if?  

My delivery room stories have all had happy endings. But I know that not every story does, and I ache for those who have endured a harsher turn of plot. In the delivery room, as a mother pants and struggles through what should be the most natural and fulfilling of roles for her, the bearing of new life, the words of the curse echo loud.

In the delivery room, these present sufferings, this eager longing, bear down sharply. The cursed crisis of the delivery room under which we groan is at once both intensely personal and weighted with the collective universal pain of our foremothers, indeed of all creation.We labor under the weight of the weary world: small wonder that we should groan!

In the delivery room, as the world condenses to another miraculous crisis, Eden is mere memory too distant to be anything but mockery, and the New Earth gleams just beyond the far horizon, promised rather than perceived. Between paradises, we labor by faith and not by sight. We must fight back the vivid uncertainty of What Ifs with the unseen but Realer than real, sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

The curse is visible. The pain is tangible. The What Ifs, not just of pregnancy and delivery, but of the entirety of the child’s future life, are overwhelming. But hope that is seen is not hope. And lest we forget, Eve was called, in sure and certain hope, mother of all the living--after the Fall.

The What Ifs can be terrifying—but they cannot have the last word. As my overanxious brain would do well to remember, the last word has already been spoken. The plot of every life is watered by tears—for some a trickle; others a torrent. But take heart, o my timid soul: the Ending is happy beyond measure, its luster all the more brilliant for the gloss of each precious tear shed.     

04 August 2012

Weirdos

So if someone says to me, "You have SIX kids?" is it somehow not OK for me to respond by saying, "You got your ENTIRE leg tatted?"