30 April 2008


I need it, but I hate needing it. In this day and age, why should anyone lend a hand when you're the crazy fool who decided to have all those kids? I made my bed.

There are lots of nice people who help us many times, many ways. Some people even get unhappy if I don't pester them enough (!). But in the back of my mind, I feel a lot of pressure to represent and not need the help. I want people to have no reason to doubt it when we say that children are a blessing and that God won't give you more than you can handle. I want people to look at us and think, that doesn't look so bad! I don't want to be the frazzled, exhausted, weepy mom in a dirty sweatshirt with a cobwebby house full of scraggly kids and overdue library books; living proof of the necessity of limiting family size. I don't want to give people a reason to think that our four kids under five are why I'm neurotic. I was neurotic to begin with, but they don't know that.

So here's my horrible secret: I can't do this. I'm too selfish and too lazy and too plain bad at all of it. I'm too scared to go through labor again. There's no way I'm hobbling through another third trimester with a painfully hyperextended pelvis. I'm done with 45-minute nursing sessions three times a night. I'm no good with kids, my own included. I can't keep up this act. This is more than I can handle. I am maudlin, dirtily shirted, and librarily negligent.

Don't tell, though, ok? I'm sure no one would believe it anyway.

29 April 2008

Wittenberg roulette

We had a great civics lesson with our 5-year-old yesterday watching the 60 Minutes profile of Justice Scalia yesterday. There was a lot of good stuff in it, but naturally this stuck with me most:

Narration: The marriage has flourished: they have 9 children and 28 grandchildren.

Leslie Stahl: Why so many children?

Maureen Scalia: Well, as someone said, they’re both overachievers, I guess.

Justice Scalia: Well, we didn't set out to have nine children. We're just old-fashioned Catholics, you know? Playing what used to be known as "Vatican roulette."

That's right, girls; nine kids is the rough vocational equivalent of Supreme Court Justice (maybe because you could fill the bench with your own children). Mrs Scalia--and Mrs Stuckwisch!--we salute you.

28 April 2008

Car seats: Not just for road trips anymore

I may have mentioned this in my previous rant about sleeping arrangements, but current household circumstances remind me of what a wondrous invention the infant car seat is. For sleeping. This latest kid has spent far more time in his car seat in the house than in the van. To settle or resettle him, we simply swing him a bit (see also: postpartum exercise).

And for the paranoid among us (paranoia being a category which I would have invented, had it not already existed), this is perfectly safe. He's on his back. He's secure. The arrangement has been approved by our former pediatrician, our current family doc, and the local baby nurse/lactation consultant (who confessed that one of her kids slept in his till he was 6 months old--!).

This is a very good thing.

Added benefit: if I suddenly get ambitious enough to take the kids to the library or realize we're out of milk, I don't have to wake him up to pack him along: just pop the seat into place and we're good to go. (Well, after everyone's bathroom stops, coats, shoes, etc. "Good to go" is, as we all know, a bit more of a process than the simple phrase implies.)

27 April 2008

The Cloth Diaper Project

I've always wanted to try them, but when we started having babies we didn't have our own laundry facility. Then the investment scared me--what if we dropped all that cash and I hated them? But I think my mother-in-law has been reading Kelly's inflammatory rhetoric ;), because out of nowhere she started sewing up cloth diapers like mad and mailing them to me. They are fitteds with an internal PUL liner. My oversized three month old wears them, and I also put them on my undersized almost-2-year-old during naps (which, in addition to overnight, is the only time she wears diapers now, woo hoo!). They are comfortably snug in the legs on both kids; I just cinch the Velcro fasteners tighter for Baby Dude. We are only partially operational so far while she sends me small batches of different designs for testing.


--This is a much more intimate enterprise than disposables. I don't know if I could have handled it on Baby 1, but I'm pretty well acclimated to extremely disgusting things by now. Do not attempt without a sprayer that attaches to your toilet, it's too demoralizing otherwise. Yes, yes, we have it so much easier than our mothers. Blessed are they.

--I don't know if I would want to go this route postpartum. My postpartum day looks like this: sitting on the couch, feeding the baby on the couch, napping with the baby on the couch, changing the baby on the couch, getting an older kid to throw away the diaper I just changed. Getting up and rinsing yellow poo out of 97 diapers a day isn't going to fit into that setup seamlessly.

--And it would be 97 diapers because they are always, always wet or worse, even with that PUL liner. Disposables absorb a lot of pee and you don't notice it (sometimes you can't even tell if they're wet). Cloth diapers are always soaked, so you go through a ton of them.

--An overnight disposable diaper is gross. I can hardly imagine how gross an overnight cloth diaper would be considering what they're like after 45 minutes. I'm afraid the carpet would be saturated. I'm not using them overnight. (Or what passes for overnight with my primary test subject.)

--They're very bulky.

--They're very cute.

--But you can't ever see how cute they are, since you always have to put plastic pants over them, since they're (see above) always, always wet. I have one diaper cover from Kushies, and it doesn't work AT ALL (also PUL, I think--can't say I'm too impressed with the stuff). So I'm using those old school Gerber numbers. I don't like them but they keep me from having to change Baby's clothes every time I change his diaper. IMHO, this pretty much shoots down the "breathability" argument you hear for cloth diapers for anyone who can't afford those fancy shmancy wool covers (and do they really work, really? Grandma is going to make one for me to try so I'll let you know). Breathable and dry are mutually exclusive. Grandma notes that PUL is described as a "wetness barrier," not "waterproof." Riiiiiight.

--Costs are going to go up during the winter. I'm relying heavily on line drying now because the sun dries, disinfects, and bleaches free. If the line isn't an option, you have to run the dryer on high heat for a LONG time (and they still aren't bleached). Dryers are the second most expensive appliance to run, so I'm not too keen on that. Church pays our utilities and I don't want to pass on the costs of this scheme. We could throw in an extra check to offset it, but it still bothers me. Nobody likes seeing the bills go up.

--They're very gratifying to use. Disposables always feel so wasteful--those huge boxes of stuff, just tossed in the trash year after year.

--I can't help thinking that if I were a baby, I'd be more comfortable in a disposable that pulls all the wetness away from my skin than a cloth that spreads it over the entire area of the diaper, making me that much wetter. (No results to report on diaper rash, this guy doesn't get it with either. One of our kids had pervasive rash with disposables, but she just has high maintenance skin. There is no doubt in my mind she'd have had rash with cloth diapers, too.) I can't bring myself to be intrinsically scared enough of diaper chemicals to blow off their dry-keeping powers.

So that's my experiment so far. I plan to stick with them on about a 3/4 basis (ie not overnight, for travel, or when we have company) because I have them and don't mind the extra work, but it is a big adjustment. I'm not really clear on why when you Google "cloth diapers" you turn up all these quotes about how people love them so much. This strikes me as another one of those things where the organic parenting community isn't being entirely forthcoming with the facts (cf natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.). I don't know why, since openness about the difficulty of these approaches makes self-righteousness that much easier. ;)

25 April 2008

I'm so vain

I probably think this post is about me.

It's easy for me to think that I'm not that vain when I'm at what I consider my "normal" weight. This usually lasts from when whatever baby I'm on is 6 months old until I'm 2ish months pregnant with the next one. My clothes fit and that's as good as I'm ever going to look, so I don't think about it that much. (So I tell myself.)

Being visibly pregnant I just have to roll with--obviously I'm not going to win any beauty contests, but at least I have a legitimate reason for weighing more than my husband.

But the long transitions in between are when it becomes clear to me how vain I am. I'm always too scared to tell people we're pregnant until I'm out of the first tri, but the main thing that makes me want to tell anyway is so people won't think I'm getting fat. I refuse to buy clothes in sizes I deem unacceptable and just rely on loans from other people because I'm too vain to have such high numbers in my closet, even though I spend a lot of time in them. I obsess about what size I'll be for various events over the course of my endless gravitational journey (Huge pregnant for sister's wedding--avoid pictures. Should be skinny for brother's wedding--yay!). Am I vain? Oh yeah.

Just another example of how perpetual parturition is a useful spiritual exercise. Sometimes feeding the flesh is what mortifies it.

24 April 2008

Another of my unresolved issues

So I’m supposed to be writing an article for our church’s May newsletter, but I got hung up on nomenclature. I was trying to be inclusive of mothers who work outside the home as well as those who don’t, and I was reminded of how annoyed I am about the lack of a proper job title. I’ve never resolved this to my satisfaction. I mean, what am I supposed to put on my business cards? “Housewife”—sooo 50s. “Homemaker”—well, that’s a little better, but I feel like it represents me as more domestically gifted than I actually am. “Stay-at-home-mom”—don’t remind me of how trapped I feel in this house right now! (Or, when the kids get a little older and need to be carted all over creation, that one will take on an ironic twist). “A mom who doesn’t work outside the home” seems like an underachiever who can’t pull off the double duty done by many women.

So when I hang out my shingle, what title should be engraved on it? I think Rebekah’s mentioned that her official title is “Minister of the Interior." That’s pretty good. I’ve also heard “Domestic Engineer,” which has potential, although I’ve never been really good at math, so I’d feel rather fraudulent in claiming that one. Part of the problem is that after the last couple of weeks, the only ideas I have for descriptions of what I do would be things like Zookeeper or Sergeant-at-Arms. Or maybe Bouncer Extraordinaire (of bawling baby as well as brawling brothers).

Help me out here?

23 April 2008

Bleeding the beast

(as they say in the FLDS)

I got this in the mail. I don't remember applying for it, although it says I did.

That's right, folks, watching TV is such a basic human right that the government is footing the bill for it. The letter also tells me where I can buy these newfangled converter boxes (assured to cost no less than $40 thanks to this ingenious plan), and four of the six places listed are Walmart. I guess that's to appease the evil conservatives. Please note, the average American household has at least two TVs.

While I personally disagree that huge government programs like universal health care benefit society, I can at least understand the reasons that make other people want them. But TV upgrades? For real?

If I Ebay these things, I bet I'll actually come out ahead. Maybe I shouldn't complain.

Update: That's illegal! Back to complaining!

How to get a toddler to eat vegetables

Glenda is worried about vegetables, which reminded me that I've been meaning to share a trick. The best way to get un-cheesed vegetables into Dad is with a salad (and he only like homemade vinaigrettes, so even the dressing cost and calorie count is low). I can't deal with the babies eating salad; it's too messy and my almost 2-yr-old won't touch anything green on her plate. Making salad is a time consuming pain in the neck (budget and quality standards preclude the pre-bagged kind), so I usually do it in the morning after breakfast when the baby is still in a good mood. Here's the trick part: the kids think it's some kind of treat to eat the leavings. They all stand around anxiously, waiting for me to toss them a romaine rib, a broccoli stump, the end of a carrot, etc--even Little Miss Too Cool To Eat Vegetables. They eat a LOT of vegetables this way. ???

I don't know if other kids would fall for this, but I rely heavily on this method, so it didn't seem right not to tell you.

21 April 2008

Playing chicken with my conscience

Rebekah’s post on her new, green-glam shopping bag sparked some sort of reaction in the random firing of neurons that passes for postpartum thought, resulting in me recalling a statement from Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons:

“Cheap chicken is not worth a compromised conscience.”

Obviously, he was stumping for chicken rights: Buy free-range, organic chickens, preferably purchased from local farmers, rather than the ones that lived what were undoubtedly nasty, brutish, short, and unnatural lives before ending up in Hy-Vee’s cooler case.

Now, it’s been awhile since I read the book, but I recall it as compelling. Life-changing, even. But some of his arguments caused me significant angst, which I could not resolve to my satisfaction and therefore dealt with through the ever-healthy psychological technique of repression. Well, not quite. But it’s true that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with some of the information, and with cheap chicken hanging on my conscience, I thought maybe y’all could help me out here.

More particularly, the crunchy lifestyle Dreher so passionately and (to me) convincingly advocates seems inevitably to collide with the CSPP gig, particularly for those of us raising families on one more-or-less fixed income. I can’t speak definitively about his position on this, but the gist as I perceived it was that although humans are indeed foremost among God’s creation, stewardship means that concern for creation might limit family size to the point where you can afford to live in a responsibly crunchy way. So: what’s a good response to this?

Again, I’m remembering this through a haze of time and hormones (postpartum as well as those ingested from all the nonorganic food I’ve consumed), so I can’t recall precisely why I found this so compelling—but he makes a good case, and I think there is a tension here.

But for now, if you see a store advertising the 79-cents-a-pound sale on chicken, you'll find me there, buying one for the week and one for the freezer.

I know this general topic has more or less been kicked around on this blog before, and I’m resigned to, as usual, doing what we can with what we’ve got. But that cheap chicken suddenly got heavy around my neck again when I recalled the Dreher quote…

God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! -
Why look'st thou so?' -"With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.


He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Bag lady

Check out my sweet new grocery bag from my favorite store:

My favorite thing about it, aside from its spacious interior and $1.99 price tag, is the pro-capitalist message couched in environmentalist terms and symbols, which pretty much sums up my approach to ecology. (Apologies to genuinely crunchy bloggers and readers! Ha!)

I know not all of you are fortunate enough to have an Aldi, so here's a related project to cheer you up.

18 April 2008

Good Strong Hands

Baby Boy was going strong in his longest sleep stretch yet when the earthquake started rattling our house--we wouldn't want him to know the pleasure of a full night's sleep, after all. Dad and I are major overreactors to perceived safety threats, especially when fallen nature is involved, so we rushed madly through the bedrooms, gathering up babies. We got everybody outside in pretty good time while all the sane people in town dreamed they were in hammocks gently swayed by tropical breezes. 5-yr-old thought it was a wonderful adventure, 3-yr-old was enraged at having been dragged from bed, almost-2-yr-old was utterly confused, baby was glad somebody remembered it was snack time and woke him up for it.

It was kind of a reassuring drill. The more babies we add, the more terrifying my worst nightmares get. I feel like the Rockbiter. I can only carry so many babies out of a burning house at one time. If our oldest were the only one, she'd be getting held through these things instead of being asked to hold her little brother's hand.

Letting God pick your family size means trusting him for a lot more than getting all the groceries paid for. Trusting that everyone is in his hands becomes a very literal exercise as soon as you have more than two small children.

17 April 2008

Conspiracy Theories and Sleeping Arrangements

(Warning: Long rant follows)

Sleep: the default idol of households with newborns.

We covet it. We scheme to get it. We feel that our happiness, perhaps even our very survival, hinges on whether we are able to obtain it in sufficient quantity (well…?).

But there’s a conspiracy afoot that’s determined to make new parents’ lives even more sleepless. Ironically, this campaign masquerades its malevolence under the innocuous slogan of “Back to Sleep.” In the hospital, even if it’s your third baby, you’re told by at least four officious people and/or frightening informational pamphlets that you MUST put Baby to sleep on his back, by himself, in his bare crib.

This sounded just fine to us when we took our firstborn home (except that we couldn’t afford/didn’t have room for a crib, so it was a pack n play). Back, belly—what’s the difference to us, anyway?

The difference—what they don’t tell you—is that babies do not like to sleep on their backs. (At least, none of ours do, nor do most of the babies of our acquaintance. Maybe some of you out there have babies that actually do?)

So you take that first baby home, nurse or shush him to a restful state, lay him gently in bed on his back, and step back to beam tenderly on the angelic sleep of the incarnation of your love.

Which lasts for maybe a minute before he starts screaming.

At first you think it’s a fluke. Maybe it’s just a gas bubble. But with increasing desperation over the next few nights, you realize that the little darling Just. Won’t. Sleep like that. He may weigh less than ten pounds, but you will lose this battle.

And then you realize, who can blame the poor little things, really? After nine months in Mom’s continuous company, in the coziest, snuggest environment possible, we expect them to sleep alone and like helpless upside-down turtles? Is that how it’s supposed to be?

Many people, including but certainly not limited to the inevitable Dr. Sears, recommend “sleep-sharing”—just letting the kid move into your bed. I will admit that much about this approach, including his argument that it might even reduce SIDS risk, is appealing. And it’s kind of our default setting, at least for chunks of the night, when I fall asleep while nursing Baby in bed and everyone settles cozily in together, finally piecing some sleep together.

But then there’s the American Academy of Pediatrics with its insistence on the “supine position” and “the hazards of adults sleeping with an infant in the same bed.” Sigh.

I must also confess here that with Babies 1 and 2, we finally gave up, and let them sleep on their bellies. (And I have so many other tired parents confess to this as well that it makes me wonder whether any babies really are sleeping on their backs?) We’re still making a valiant fight of it with Baby 3—swaddling helps, and so does wedging him into one of those sleep positioners, and sometimes angling him more on his side. But he’s already taken a couple (supervised) naps on his belly, too, and I wonder whether we’re eventually going to tire of the fight and just let him be a belly sleeper too, though doing that really does scare me, so well have I absorbed the messages of those frightening brochures. Anecdotally, we know of only one couple who has lost a baby to SIDS—and he was sleeping on his back.

This is a source of angst for me (if you’re still actually reading at this point, you may have guessed that by now). I want my babies to be safe, healthy, and well-adjusted. I want everyone to get reasonable quantities of sleep. And after spending every day with the little darling more or less attached to my person, I’m ready not to have a baby in bed with us all night, too. (Dr. Sears assures us that babies will eventually be ready to sleep on their own, so Mom and Dad will have the bed to themselves again…he suggests two years as an average. Uh, that really just doesn’t work for me.) Incompatible goals?

At least make me feel better by telling me that someone else has struggled with this too. Misery, company, and all that. :O

15 April 2008

Women in combat

One of my favorite lines in CS Lewis' Till We Have Faces comes when the virgin warrior queen gets into a spitting match with the wife of her military captain. The queen, thinking the wife is essentially a soft, selfish freeloader asks the wife where her battle scars are. The wife answers, "Where a woman's are when she has borne eight children."

Don't I know it. One short babe past, we sag eternally (and worse). The nonchalance with which the birth of a child is treated has amazed me ever since I done birthed up one of my own. After recovering somewhat from the shell-shock we contracted when our first baby was born, my husband remarked that the whole thing had struck him as a real throwback. I told him that I couldn't believe anyone ever had more than one kid.

An event so inescapably visceral, bloody, painful, and violent feels weirdly out of place in this day and age: behold the power of the Word of God. Chivalry made a lot more sense to me after that first baby. Considering what I'd gone through to bring a human being into the world, holding the door for me struck me as the least some dude could do. And I'll leave the phalanxes and foxholes and IEDs to him, too.

It's no fun knowing that my husband--who, of course, still looks great--isn't coming home to the pretty young thing he married any more. But he knew young wouldn't last, and pretty, I'm told, is a matter of perspective. A wife welcoming her husband home from war is happy to have him back at all. She mourns his scars only insofar as they signify his pain. Otherwise, she finds them an endearing and admirable testament to his strength and courage. Any husband worth his salt knows the same about the mother of his children.

Onward, Christian mothers. It would take guts to enlist knowing beyond doubt that there was a Purple Heart coming your way, which is what everyone who signs up for motherhood does. As for the scars . . . I'm just trying to keep my eyes off the mirror and on my eschatological extreme makeover.

14 April 2008

Home freakonomics

Cooking really doesn't bother me. I'm convinced enough of the importance of my spending some time actively engaged with the kids every day that I usually do it despite not liking it (evil enough for you?). But cleaning is barely on my radar screen. My husband hassles me about this regularly, and it's really mean, like teasing the girl with buck teeth about having buck teeth. I'm torn between my guilt and my conviction that as long as we don't have rats and owls and jackals it's really not that bad.

Here's what only I can appreciate: it's not as bad as it was. So there are still breakfast crumbs all over the table, but I cleared the counter! The bathtub ledge is hairy but what do you think happened to all those globs of toothpaste in the sink, huh? The office is a disaster but I hung up all the coats in the entryway and got the shoes out of sight. Anyone who was here an hour ago would think this place looked great now.

I would really love to have a beautiful house such that I didn't panic every time I see someone walking up the porch steps unexpectedly. The kids are a legitimate impediment to this, especially the baby. If I'm not carrying him around, I'm feeding him or bouncing him (that last one is how I get my blog on); I usually use his nap times to do stuff with the other kids. Then there's the task of just maintaining the baseline: everyone being fed, dressed, and groomed takes up a good chunk of my non-baby-holding time. But the pervasive problem is that I am totally unable to de-clutter. I just don't know what to do with stuff. I do my best and then have to settle for putting the rest into neat stacks, when I get to it at all. Entropy kicks in within minutes and the place is a mess again. I am a worm and no mom.

11 April 2008

Courageous or Crass?

Since we're on the topic--Breastfeeding in public: Talk to me about it.

Specifically, I'm wondering whether anyone who stops by here has nursed a baby in the pew during church. And whether in general we are in favor of such, neutral, or horrified by the suggestion.

I can't make up my mind. Haven't ever done it, but with New Guy liking to eat quite often, and with the possibility that the whole baby train will follow me out if I try to make a discreet exit from the sanctuary for a quick feeding, the thought does become more tempting. It would make getting ready for church much easier, too, if I weren't trying desperately to tweak his (non) schedule while getting the rest of us ready too.

Of course, this would be done under discreet cover, with the expectation that few if any would realize what was taking place (which is another reason that these early weeks are probably the only time I'd consider this--I don't know about your babies, but mine tend to get rather noisy about the process as they get older, and tend to resent being undercover).

Part of me hates that this is even a question. I mean, Baby is hungry, Baby should get to eat. This is how God designed babies to eat.

Almost enough to make me look enviously at the woman in the next pew who whips out the Similac and gets to sit quietly through the sermon as her baby works on the bottle.

Joke of the day

I was just recalling this standard for how often to vacuum/clean one's floors:

Start with a baseline of one weekly cleaning. Add a weekly cleaning for each additional household member, including pets.

[Cue laugh track]

10 April 2008

Pain and prejudice

For the first time, on my fourth baby, nursing has gone almost like the books say. A few rough weeks and none of the horrible, nasty things that shouldn't happen. I am so, so thankful.

Also for the first time, I've had virtually no visits to the postpartum dark side. This decreased markedly after Baby 1, who brought with her some bad and scary times. But it was still there to a notable extent with Babies 2 and 3, and there were also notable nursing difficulties with them (although, again, nothing like Baby 1). I was still farther from rational than I am under normal circumstances this time around, but I don't think my husband was as scared to come home as he has been with previous babies.

I can't help wondering if there's a connection here. The nursing probs didn't cause the other probs, but I do think they exacerbated them. Pain is a big deal, and constant pain changes your outlook on life. I don't like not liking nursing, but I have had so much difficulty with it that I struggle to think of it without dread and resentment and wishing the broad and easy road of Enfamil were an option. I'm so glad that I'm finally having a bearable go of it, and so grateful for the peace of mind and spirit that have accompanied it. So put both nursing and neurosis down as something that has improved significantly with more babies for at least for one person.

09 April 2008

You know you're Postpartum

(and also what's known hereabouts as Stupid Tired) when you have this moment of total panic: "Where did I leave the baby?!?" and then you realize that he's snoring in the front pack 5 inches under your chin.

We've changed our minds

He's not necessarily a Good Baby.

But he's not an Angry Baby.

And we still love him, and even like him :)

08 April 2008

The Good Wife

I received an email from a friend of mine today, which contained this article from a 1950s Good Housekeeping magazine:

The email ended: Ok when you guys stop laughing long enough to pick yourself off the floor forward this to all the women you know so they can have a good laugh too.

Ha ha? There's quite a few good reminders to be gleaned from that cute little picture alone. Make the kids behave. Why? So you and your beloved can hear yourselves think. Have dinner prepared. Why? Because it's time to eat and it's your job. Look nice. Gulp. "Hey, Self! Just comb your hair, for crying out loud!"

My favorite bit from the text comes at the end: "A good wife knows her place." That's pretty wise; submit and be cherished. Magazine editors have come such a long way since then. It's so nice to be liberated from helpful advice and pleasant reminders and liberated to topics like, "How to wake up hot in the morning!" and "How to spend less by spending more!"

I'd love to say more about this very important topic, but I've got cookies to make.

For the rest of us

Some people actually like babies, in theory as well as in person. The rest of us sometimes have to work at finding ways to enjoy the demanding little critters.

I have noticed that the people who rhapsodize the most about babies are those who are not currently raising small children, which makes me feel a bit better about my dearth of maternal gushing. (We received one birth announcement titled “Our precious angel has arrived.” Yes, it was their first…and I must admit to a rather wicked feeling of gratification when she emailed me a couple weeks later, basically asking whether it was ok not to always like your baby!)

Sure, we think our kids are precious (though I wouldn’t go so far as angelic…). And we marvel at the tiny hands and feet, that sweet baby smell, and all that good stuff. But we’re not warmhearted enough, or something, around here; the sweetness alone won’t get us through. So we survive the sometimes difficult early weeks by noticing just what ridiculous little creatures babies are.

For instance:

The way a 9 lb. person can belch just as loudly as a 300 lb. person.

Those big, greedy eyes they get when they know they’re about to nurse.

The way they can, without changing expression, perform routine bodily functions so loudly that the windows rattle.

How silly they look in hats.

Those little guinea-pig grunty noises.

The pouty face.

Dad’s favorite trick: the tongue reflex. (For the uninitiated: stick out your tongue at your baby. Baby will stick out his tongue too. Repeat. This works best from about weeks 3-6, if I remember correctly, so we'll be playing this game again soon.) Now there’s some quality father-baby bonding time.

That’s just off the top of my head; what else can we add to the list?

06 April 2008

Help a girl out

I'm sure people around here wonder why I'm not more involved with kid-type stuff at church, considering that I'm the main contributor of kids to these functions. Well, I don't like kids. Ha!

But whether I like them or not, Dad is trying to recruit for VBS again and I'm in the habit of bailing him out. Last year I did the music, which I found somewhat less unappealing than teaching (I'm also not all that musically gifted, but that's life in a small town).

We use stuff from Pax Domini, which is economical, theologically reliable, and free of garish colors and patronizing lessons and activities designed around the premise that kids are stupid, which makes the week less painful for me. It's a bare-bones curriculum that gives suggestions rather than prescriptions for crafts and music. Last year we did "The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want" (easy to put actions to for the little guys), "All Who Believe and Are Baptized" (I had some visual aid type things for this one), and "I Am Trusting Thee Lord Jesus" (the older kids learned more of the verses). I may use one of these again, but I thought I'd ask if anybody stopping by had some recommendations for particularly kid-friendly hymns, possibly with actions or other extras to help non-readers learn the words over the course of the week (and maybe even remember them after that?). Please feel free to leave ideas in the comments of later posts after this one cycles out if you think of something two months from now, as I will doubtless still be putting it off at that time (I think I have until July).

05 April 2008


From one of Jane Austen's evening prayers:

"We feel that we have been blessed far beyond any thing that we have deserved; and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of these mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore thee to pardon the presumption of our desires."

04 April 2008

Fears, Blessedly Groundless

During this latest pregnancy, I was actually rather afraid that another baby would seem like, well, just another baby. Of course I knew we’d love him with that fierce and irrational love we can’t help but have for our offspring. But I was also secretly concerned that, with my hands already seemingly full with his brothers, I might find the new arrival to be...more bother than brother, more pest than personality, more work than wonder—you get the idea.

After all, we’d already done this baby boy thing a couple of times. The new baby prep this time around consisted mostly of hauling some things out of the basement—none of the extensive, anticipation-building preparations, registering, childbirth classes, and shopping sprees that tend to precede the first and second child. So I was kind of bracing myself to be rather underwhelmed by New Guy’s arrival.

With great wonder and joy, I can honestly report that the opposite is true: I’ve been, if anything, more overwhelmed at God’s graciousness in adding him to our family than I was with the first two. Yes, ours is a busy and sometimes chaotic household, and I don’t have hours to gaze dreamily on his pug-y little button nose or to watch his face as he sleeps. Yes, the poor little dude had better get used to having his nursing sessions interrupted, and to being hauled around the house and yard like a (very small) sack of potatoes as we keep pace with his older brothers. And emphatically yes, we will be grateful when he starts to sleep for longer stretches. (Though he’s a remarkably good baby so far—the best we’ve had yet. Knock on crib…)

But here he is, and he’s a miracle. And I’m overwhelmed. I have this incredible sense of our unworthiness to receive this greatest of gifts, the gift of life, of love incarnate. I may feel this more strongly now because we know more couples who very much want multiple children but who have struggled with miscarriages or with hard cases of health and life circumstances. We like to pretend to be in control of every aspect of our lives, including and often especially our fertility, but it is God ‘s grace, and God’s grace alone, that ordains and sustains each new heartbeat, each breath of life.

Even more, I’m realizing that if we had never been awakened from our narrow little newlywed dream life, which included two carefully scheduled children, we might never have met this little guy.

“the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23

03 April 2008

Heloise I am not

so I'm seeking some helpful hints here.

Gauntlets' laundry is staging a coup and mine isn't being too cooperative either--it's looking a little shabby around the edges, more specifically, the edges that are now in their third round of being urped upon.

Anyone have a good way to treat/prevent that seemingly inevitable yellowing of little baby clothes?

Seems like some of them even came out of storage with discoloration that I don't remember from the last round.

02 April 2008

Not a bad gig

Father David thinks it's good to be a pastor. I pray always that my husband does too, because this would sure be a drag if he didn't. But I'm glad Father David brought it up, because it gives me an excuse to say something that I think is also worth saying: it's good to be a pastor's wife. We all know there are challenges, and they've been cried about enough that I don't feel any need to rehash them here. Here's the other side:

--I don't have to beg my husband to go to church with me. He sees to it that I am well-cared for spiritually. He models sanctity for me and our children. He cares deeply about and invests himself heavily in the spiritual welfare of our children.

--Church is close and familiar to us. We feel at home there. We spend time around other pastors, so our kids feel comfortable around them.

--He gets it about vocation, including mine.

--He sees a lot of messed up families and knows better than most people how not worth it it is to mess up your family.

--I don't have to feel bad about pestering Pastor all the time with my moral dilemmas and theological confusion (no one should feel bad about that, but I would). He's great at fielding questions from the babies, too.

--We never have to travel on holidays.

--I never have to worry that he'll go out dressed like a goober.

--His schedule has more built-in flexibility than another job would. He can often be home during the day, which means I don't have to try to find a babysitter when somebody has a doctor's appointment.

--People do nice things for us. Food shows up on our porch in bewildering quantities.

--He knows all the hospitals really well so we know which ones not to have a baby at.

--He doesn't have to travel much, and when he does, we often get to come along.

--I know this isn't the case everywhere, but it is for me so I'll include it: the local specimen happens to be a real looker. Lucky me! (Oh, and he preaches ok too.)

--And a lot of other things I can't think of now that I'm trying to.

01 April 2008


The laundry is staging a coup. Send help immediately.