31 May 2008

Can a mother forget her baby at her Avent Tempo Natural Feeding Nurser?

I can never resist the headlines about breastfeeding.

Here's one from Slate about a large study which seems to have corrected for other factors enough to conclusively indicate that breastfeeding has a positive impact on IQ. But what caught my attention was at the very end of the interview, when cute Emily asked the doctor the question that always concludes these reports, effectively: how guilty are you saying women should feel if they don't breastfeed [exclusively/at length/at all]? And the doctor obediently gives the societally prescribed answer: " . . . mothers who are enjoying breastfeeding are probably gonna do in general better, uh, than mothers who are breastfeeding and hating it. I think that, that, it'll be most beneficial for the kids if the experience is a very good one. I think that, that breastfeeding is more than just nutrition." Emily smiles in satisfaction and thanks him.

I remember reading something similar in, I think, What To Expect the First Year. This isn't an exact quote, but it was along the lines of: a bottle offered in love is better than a breast offered in resentment.

I agree with Dr Spiesel that breastfeeding is more than just nutrition (and he also doesn't exactly say that if breastfeeding makes Mom sad she should quit). But nutrition is a somewhat gigantic part of it. Let's play some Mad Libs with my What To Expect reconstruction: A Twinkie offered in love is better than hummus on whole wheat offered in resentment. I guess I'd better apologize to my babies for putting them through my struggles to nurse them when they could have glugged down Good Start with a happy mom . . . or whoever . . . behind the bottle.

I have nothing but deepest sympathy for moms who finally give up after months of pain; I know very well what drives them to it. But my fangs come out whenever the profundity of that dilemma is denigrated and Baby's needs take a backseat to Mom's hard day.

30 May 2008

I you he she it we they

Why do people speak to children in the third person? I have never understood this. I don't refer to myself as "Mom" when I'm talking to them (and NEVER "Mommy," which is prohibited at all times and in all places--Gauntlets, have you forgiven me for this yet?), and I don't refer to them by their names except when I'm directly addressing them. Is this some developmental thing that I'm screwing up, or just a weird cultural usage?

28 May 2008

Mothers of the Living

My 14-month-old recently kicked the nursing habit. I am 25 pounds lighter! Rejoice with me!

But in the dark of my mind I’m uneasy. Freedom demands payment: Now that I’ve brought up the one the laws of natural spacing dictate that I’m very likely to be blessed with another, DV, and I’m scared.

Pregnancy is very, very hard. Delivery is harder. The first months with a new baby try the best of us: the nursing is protractedly painful, the diapers are awful, the nights are miserable and long. But the source of it all is a child who curls on your shoulder and shares with you his warm, wrinkled, subtle self. As you wither he grows stronger, and come what may you do not really begrudge him for his needs. Quite the opposite.

During my third pregnancy, the baby died a mere nine weeks along. His tiny body washed from me in a flood of pain three weeks later. The pregnancy was hard; I had never been more sick. The delivery was harder, an act of violence I committed alone on the cold hospital floor. The first months without my baby almost killed me, with nights miserable and long.

I cower under the very possibility of it happening again. Lord have mercy.

In this kingdom of death, the loss of a life so short and small is regarded as something so completely insignificant it is better left unmentioned. Few mourn your loss. Many roll it around in their mouths like something bitter and spit it back in your face. They cannot, by reason or strength, believe in that which they cannot see. As the months unravel even your husband forgets. And alone on the cold kitchen floor in the dark of a protracted night you feel the silent emptiness of your womb open up to swallow you, hungry as the tomb. For that is precisely what it is.

From dust you are made, and thus your body became both grave and gravestone to someone you barely knew. As flesh of your flesh he took his share of your heart as his grave clothes. When the tomb spat him out without celebration or ceremony, his share went with him.

I miscarried my little one over two years ago. I have, as you know, been blessed with a baby who survived my womb since then. When the memories of my loss tremor through my brain, when the anger emerges, I tell myself I should be past the pain by now—that I should be whole again, glad for what has come and for what lies ahead. But I am weak. I cannot make myself forget. Instead, I linger on the ashes of guilt, anger, fear, and doubt.

While I may never be pregnant again, or while I may never lose another child, in weakness I pray for mercy and prepare with fear and trembling for the very real possibility that another pregnancy may yield another loss:

Soon afterward, he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7: 11-15).

I am not a theologian. I am a simple minded idiot, and it is as a idiot that I read my Lord’s words. With the devastated mother of Nain, Christ bids me not to weep. Should you have survived the death of a child, He bids you to do the same. Though covered with ashes and unclean, Christ regards us, the Mothers of the Dead, and comforts us. Dear Christian mothers, do not despair. The compassionate Christ who raised the woman’s long dead boy, who is Himself triumphant over the tomb, knows our babies. He sees them, loves them, and with us remembers them. They are not lost forever for He is coming again soon to make seen the unseen, to fill their lungs with the breath denied them in our bellies, to sanctify them for life everlasting in the Kingdom He has promised to reveal.

The dead man sat up and began to speak. Jesus gave him back to his mother. Thanks be to God.

In the meantime, we cling to Baptism and remember that the Son humbled Himself to be born of a Virgin, taking up residence in her womb, turning a place of tenuous life and imminent death into the very House of God. Mary was changed. We are changed with her. We are not empty tombs and crumbling grave stones. We are the Mothers of the Living, now and forevermore.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Strengthen us as we wait. Have mercy upon us. Amen.

Cruel and unusual?

I've heard that people with cats sometimes use a squirt gun for disciplinary purposes, e.g. to warn Kitty away from the Christmas tree.

Anyone ever tried this with toddlers? Sure would be nice not to have to interrupt Baby's eating and get my lazy bum off the couch every time BoyTwo approaches the stereo with that incorrigible gleam in his eye...

26 May 2008

Lest I forget

Not long ago, I received two emails within a few days of each other from a couple of women whose lives are completely different from mine. They contained the following:

Email 1: Those sweet, remarkable babies! How do you get through a day? I would be playing with them every waking minute and gazing at them in wonder as they sleep.

Email 2: Your day must be so much fun, and so satisfying.

Humbly submitted from a green, green grassland.

24 May 2008

Ebay, reconsidered

We've all been tempted to do this, but apparently it can get you in a spot of trouble.

23 May 2008

Those Amazing Women

Back in the days of one-childedness, I didn’t get out much. Maybe even less than I do now (!). This was because 1) Where would I go? (e.g. nearest WalMart is 35 miles away); 2) BoyOne was Oversized and Angry. His unpredictable (or all-too-predictable) nature, combined with his substantial girth and noisy refusal to ride in the cart, made solo expeditions simply Not Worth It; and 3) I had no idea what I was doing as a parent. This hasn’t necessarily improved, but my embarrassability has decreased substantially.

In those days, when we did run so completely out of food that I had to go to the grocery store, I used to marvel at those Amazing women who rolled through the store with two or three (or more! good heavens!) kids in tow. I knew I could never be like that.

Fast forward three years: Now I’m the one who’s out and about with the infant seat in the cart’s basket, the toddler up front, and the preschooler trotting more or less along. I’ve learned a little secret: those women weren’t Amazing so much as they were Desperate.

In fact, perhaps those women, whom I revered from afar for their apparent organization and competence, didn’t even set out to go to the store. Maybe the baby was colicky, the toddler not only wouldn’t nap but was literally climbing the walls, the preschooler was pushing everyone’s buttons, and the combination of household chaos and noise level made her so desperate to escape that she strapped everyone into their carseats so at least she knew where they all were and they couldn’t hurt each other or themselves and maybe just maybe the baby would finally fall asleep! And as she began that desperate drive, maybe she thought that as long as she was spending a disturbingly expensive gallon of gas to drive toward the next town she might as well try to get something done, despite realizing belatedly that her hair was somewhere south of brushed and she hadn’t changed her shirt since the baby urped on her.

And then after that first errand was accomplished and everyone was strapped in again, maybe the preschooler casually asked, “Hey, does the hardware store have a bathroom or something?” And then the Desperate mother realized that the only nearby public restroom of acceptable cleanliness and sufficient dimensions was at the library. So they headed over there and unloaded everyone again to take care of business, and then since they were there and no one was yelling, they settled in to look at the puzzles and get a couple books.

And suddenly this Desperate mother (who was swinging the baby in the carseat, reminding the toddler not to throw all the puppets off the rack, and trying to supervise the preschooler's book selection) realized that the woman across the room--who was looking frazzled as she dealt with one toddler--was looking at her like she must be Amazing, Competent, and Organized to do this with three children. And this Desperate mother was very, very amused.

Lactans, and how!

Old news by now, but wow. CSPP salutes Jiang Xiaojuan in a big way. I get thirsty just thinking about it.

22 May 2008

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My big girl is great. She tells me all the time that she wants to be a mom. :)

So I'm not looking forward to the day when one of those things I remember vividly from my own childhood starts happening to her: people asking her what she wants to be when she grows up. I never knew what to say to this question when I was little. The only options I knew about were mom and teacher (the latter by virtue of my going to school; my mom stayed home). I remember drawing a picture of myself as a teacher for a classroom assignment along these lines in first or second grade. Mom just didn't seem like a legitimate choice to me--you know, it's not a job. We were supposed to draw a job. I know now that my teacher wouldn't have had a problem with it if I had overcome my authority-pleasing personality and gone with my gut, but that just illustrates my concern. I don't want my daughter to get the impression, like I did, that she'd better have something "real" planned.

Dad and I have quizzed her on this some, and she seems to get it. May she not be as easily confused as I was (and often still am). And may no one say, "But what else do you want to do?"

21 May 2008

Question of the day

"Does the noise in my head bother you?"

From "The Gods Must Be Crazy," which we watched the other night for the first time in a looong time, and which was just as funny as I remembered. Maybe even funnier. It's definitely "movie, recommended" for parents, maybe for the kiddos too, but I'll let someone else be the judge of that, since the only full-length movie our kids have seen to date is "Milo and Otis." There are some incidental nakey bushman bottoms, but no real "adult material" that I can think of.

Breaking News: The four-year-old just gave the aforementioned question of the day a run for its money by sprinting through here, pausing long enough to gasp out, "When is Jesus coming back? When is Heaven coming? How does Heaven come down from the sky?"

Well. Better go address the noise in the household, which may account for some of the noise in my head.

20 May 2008

Music for the Play-Doh hour

Some selections for the family with a mom who loves her kids enough to spend every waking moment with them (and quite a few sleeping ones), but not enough to listen to Baby Beluga.

1. Nothing new here, but this particular CD has Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of Animals, and A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, so I give it a Good Value award.

2. We have two so far from the Classical Kids series and like them both. The Bach one has a nice, if truncated, Wir Eilen in English. I'm not crazy for the Papagena/Papageno translation on Mozart's Magic Fantasy, but that's my only objection (the Queen of the Night's hellish wrath is toned down for the young'uns).

3. The productions in the An Introduction to the Classics series aren't as imaginative as Classical Kids. They just go through the lives of the composers, but they are still engaging and have lots of good music, and the kids like the one we have. Papa Haydn was a funny dude; who knew? Best of all, they are crazy cheap--$2.98 each!

And unrecommended, IMHO, is the Sing Along Symphony series. I don't want stupid words to plague me all of my days when I hear these timeless masterpieces (and again, my ability to tolerate the music is the most important thing here). I'm confident the kids will be able to put names to compositions later in life without gimmicks.

19 May 2008

Nomenclature in the meantime

(and it surely can be a mean time)

The wise and wonderful man I'm pleased to call my husband has anathematized household use of the "f" word. While I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind this decree, I'm left with a sizable gap in my vocabulary. I mean, now I have to find some way to fill the blank in my ritual Wardrobe Lament: "I'm still too f[at] for my clothes!"

So help me out here: how do we tactfully describe the postpartum manifestation of the CSPP shape-shifting cycle?

I can't seem to come up with anything quite right.

"Baby f[at]" contains the forbidden word, and sounds like something I should've gotten over by second grade.

"Post-parturiently plump" is rather awkward, and I've never liked "plump" anyway. Makes me think of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for some reason--an interesting woman, to be sure, but not one I'd like to resemble in shape.

"Full-bodied" is not too bad, as it connotes something that it takes a connoisseur to appreciate :)

"Crazily curvaceous" accounts for the mental state as well.

I don't know. I'm just not inspired. Must be too much of the f-- settled in my brain.

Madness, confirmed

In a WORLD magazine column titled “Mad Missions: Avoiding the soft despotism that emphasizes personal security,” Marvin Olasky quotes Alexis de Tocqueville’s 19th century warning that an overemphasis on personal security would leave people “not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided…until each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals,” leading to a “new soft despotism.”

Olasky observes: “Hard despotism today: China’s one-child policy. Soft despotism: Some Americans have one child or none, because social policies or financial fears have left them softened, bent, and guided. Hard despotism: Czar Putin persecutes Protestant groups in Russia. Soft despotism: Some American pastors self-censor their sermons in order to avoid offending those proudly engaged in what the Bible calls sin.

“Christians with big families, and preachers with biblical firmness, are all on mad missions. There’s no guarantee of success….”

[Olasky, I should be sure to clarify, is in favor of Christians pursuing "mad missions."]

18 May 2008

Tribulations, perseverance, character, hope

I'm not the best apologist for CSPP. The whole contraception thing is easy to pose in theoretical terms: although there may be allowances for extreme cases of unique hardship, contraception is out. But how extreme, and how unique, and what hardship? How hyper does the emesis have to be to make some NFP-accomplished spacing morally defensible? How poor is poor enough in our climate-controlled, overfed society? Does mom's psychological stability count for anything when it can't even be quantified? How do we measure up to our foremothers who didn't have any options when it came to family sizing regardless of how they felt*?

Even more concretely, I know only a few people who haven't encountered at least one more or less extraordinary hardship along the way. May the bold and winning personalities over at All Onan, All the Time (kidding! kidding!) have mercy on my soul, but I don't want to be the one telling the real women who throw up for months, have difficult and protracted deliveries, will never be the same after 4th-degree lacerations, fight true demons postpartum, suffer repeated miscarriages, etc., to grin and literally bear it. Babies ad menopausum is a darn tall order for someone like me who has never had a serious or lasting complication. What about these girls who don't have it so comparatively easy?

To calm myself down when I start getting unhappy about all this, I remind myself of something that I'm pretty sure I came across, surprisingly, in one of those rabid papist books on the topic. For those who doubt or question, who fear or resent, with scary pasts or unpromising futures, don't try to force yourself to decide to have 53 babies. Just decide to have one (or one more). Maybe it won't be as bad as you think. You won't know until you try.

Or maybe it will be as bad as you think. But you'll have received another immeasurably precious gift of God.

I don't know what's going to happen anyway. My next baby may be my last. My last baby may be my last. For a long-ranger worrier like me, this is a hard lesson. But I know that what I need to do is just trust God today, and then do that every day (including the day I get pregnant, the day I don't get pregnant, the day the baby is born, the day the baby still isn't born). And also not think about how much I don't want to go through labor again.

*I know, all historical periods have had their methods of limiting children without abstinence. But not all people have.

16 May 2008

Has it only been four years?

Birthday Boy's Quote of the Day:

"I'm four today. It took me ten years to get to be four."

Yeah, it kind of felt like that to us too :P

[Yes, he is decorating his own cake. You can tell because it looks better than if I had tried to do it.]

15 May 2008

A long lost cause I never can win

I'm a bad mom and don't let my kids pick books at the library to help them get interested and take ownership in reading. This is because they pick books that

a. are stupid (like those awful paperbacks based on Disney movies ever so distantly related to actual literature)
b. annoy me (LOTS of these)
c. have problematic contents (eg divorced families, disrespectful treatment of elders and siblings, political propaganda, farting dogs [WHY????])

I flip through every book we bring home to see that they're satisfactory and still, almost every time, I end up with one that I have to alter when we read it or hide altogether.

This system isn't going to last forever, though. Big Girl is about five minutes away from reading independently and I can hardly keep picking out all her books until she's safely married. How well I remember the trouble that ensued when my mom picked up a book I brought home from the library sometime in middle school and discovered that the YA section is not a kid-safe zone AT ALL. Even if it isn't Judy Blume kindly taking the trouble to shape my children's sexual ethic for me, I'm scared about what my kids will run across in books. I don't want to turn our house into a police state, and I know they'll find out eventually that other kids talk back and are mean, and much worse things. But . . . ?

14 May 2008

It's all fun and games at the pastors' conference until...

It's funny when the goats do this; not so much when it's your two-year-old.

The second of our two-year-old's three ER visits was for the first time he pulled this stunt last year, following a fall and bump to the head. He recovered almost as fast as the goats, but for reasons of maternal mental well-being, if nothing else, we hauled him in to be looked at. (He was fine.)

So it's happened a couple more times since then, most recently yesterday--at the pastors' conference of all places--but my heart still stops every time, and my good sense has a hard time overriding the adrenaline-reflex of dialing 911.

A family of our acquaintance has 3 kids, all of whom lose consciousness on a regular basis (ie with any temper tantrum of decent proportions) during their young years, and it's totally no big deal for them by now. Me--I'm still pretty freaked out by this. Our guy doesn't do it with tantrums, but when he falls hard enough to give him a scare and knock the wind out of him. We can usually forestall it by picking him up, giving him a little shake during that looooooong pre-scream pause, and firmly saying "BREATHE!"

Lately I've been thinking how very good it is that he likely won't be our "middle child" forever, given what "they" say about middle children. (He's been living the problematic stereotype! But maybe it's just being two...)

I suppose this should give me more empathy for the nanny goats (I know; what is it with me and goats?) but the fainting goats--that's just funny :)


13 May 2008

On, Concordia?

I'm from one of those families in which attendance at Synodical schools is genetic; I knew from grade school that I was destined to go to Concordia (Seward, in our case). But I have mixed feelings about carrying on the tradition, for the following reasons.

When I went through (I graduated in 2000), there were two main divisions of piety on campus. The first was Absolutely None, which was extremely upsetting to me when I first got there at the height of my late adolescent Pietist phase. The second was Evangelical Pietist, which revolved around the creation and disintegration of praise bands and organizing carpools to the "good churches" (ie those with sufficiently awesome contemporary worship) in Lincoln. Neither of these is what I want for my kids.

There was near total liberalism among the professors, corresponding to their respective fields. The science department barely pretended to tow the line on creationism. The humanities were overrun with feminist and socialist rhetoric. Since professors care so deeply about students, they were very willing to go out of their way to inculcate these values into students' personal lives, especially when the poor confused young souls came looking for advice outside of the classroom. (Although the intersection of piety and professors was kind of amusing: on the one hand they seemed to endorse the contemporary worship thing as the proper anti-establishment position, churchwise--but that put them in the same political corner as all those Huckabee-votin' gun-totin' fag-hatin' knuckle draggers! What to do?)

Anti-clericalism was through the roof in the so-called church work programs. Everyone's a minister, except those jerks who formally claim the title and don't think that 20 year old interns in skin-tight bra tops who maybe had time to do a little of their Doc II reading between their last hangover and the next party, and other problematic character types, should be teaching confirmation classes.

Add these things to the ridiculous cost of admission followed by untold years of low wages from the church (for those who go into "church work," as many of the pious think they should) leading to interminable loan repayments and I really can't see the point. I'd rather send my kids to a state school where I can tell them flat out, "Don't listen to anything your professors tell you," and they won't naively expect good behavior from their fellow students. I don't want to have to make excuses for people who would choose a Lutheran school (and even a Lutheran profession) but act just as debaucherous as your standard heathen, or for professors who have vowed to uphold the Lutheran confessions but are all too willing to loan out selections from their pro-women's ordination libraries.

I'd rather leave my kids in the spiritual care of a campus Higher Things chapter than whatever LCMS church is across the street or in vogue among other students. I'd rather have my kids meet a potential spouse through Higher Things than any LCMS-sanctioned entity or event.

I can only speak for the Concordia I attended, but in talking to other relatively recent alums (and it also came up in the comments on Mollie's blog), I've learned that I'm not the only one leaning away from wanting Synodical college for my kids.

12 May 2008

Story Problem

A mother feeds everyone lunch at 12:30 p.m. At 1 p.m. the four-year-old loses his lunch all over the carpeted dining room. At 1:03 p.m., the six-year-old announces that the toilet is clogged and, "Everything is getting wet!" At 1:04 p.m., the one-year-old's diaper spills.

Question: At what time did Dad leave the scene to, you know, go do something important?

Please show proof of your work.

Extra credit question 1: How many tuna would have died had the one-year-old been sitting in the ocean when her diaper spilled?

Extra credit question 2: What was the family dog doing at 1:05 p.m.? That's right.

10 May 2008

Another Hallmark holiday?

So I'm guessing that Mother's Day is one of those things that one has the luxury to appreciate more once the kids are a bit older? And there is that safe nostalgic distance between the present and some of those, shall we say, more memorable moments of one's mothering career?

Anyway. I was thinking that the following from G.K. Chesterton on the "Emancipation of Domesticity" (from What's Wrong with the World) offers a nice Mother's Day perspective, particularly for those of us who haven't quite achieved the nostalgic distance yet. The whole drudgery part seems to go well with what Rebekah posted today, too. I broke it up a bit for easier reading. There's so much more in this segment that's so good; you really must follow the link at the end to read the rest :)

Toward the beginning of the segment, Chesterton asserts, "In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not "give her best," but gives her all." Then there's this great section, too long to repeat, about how women are expected to do many things, rather than to excel at just one.

"Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs....I do not deny that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive clerks at the same time. [And this was decades ago--wonder what he'd have to say nowadays--no doubt he'd be even more emphatic--where's the Chesterton we need for today?!] I do not deny that even under the old tradition women had a harder time than men; that is why we take off our hats. I do not deny that all these various female functions were exasperating; but I say that there was some aim and meaning in keeping them various. I do not pause even to deny that woman was a servant; but at least she was a general servant...

"Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't....our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

"But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."

More here: definitely worth the read.

So I think this piece is fantastic; kudos to Chesterton's wisdom and wit. He never was a mother, though...and in light of Rebekah's post, I would like to add that though the task is indeed gigantic, it's hard, amidst infinite "This Little Piggy," not to suspect that one's mind is being narrowed in some irreparable way...

Nonetheless: a heartily happy Mother's Day tomorrow to all my fellow Queen Elizabeths and Aristotles of the domestic sphere.

I like to be challenged

Any time I read one of those articles about working moms, some nice interviewee mentions that she likes how her job challenges her. The implication would be, of course, that her day care fodder is not so challenging.

Young children are not intellectually stimulating. They only know what you teach them, and even if you commit yourself to bringing them up to speed they get real balky when it comes to epistemology.

But it's plain silly to say that taking care of children is not challenging. Once I tried an experiment to see how long it would take for my toddler to get tired of playing "This Little Piggy." It was too challenging. I never found out. I am constantly challenged to get the clean clothes put back in the drawers before another three days' worth of laundry is piled up where the basket would be if I had gotten that clean clothes thing taken care of. I have to think of what to feed everybody--preferably something healthy, economical, and palatable to numerous people--and then go on to cook it every single day. Most challenging of all, I have to try to get myself to do things that I could probably get away with not doing.

Are my days filled with simple, mundane tasks that anyone who made it out of sixth grade is capable of handling? Yes. But that doesn't mean they're not challenging. And here, I'm finally getting to the point: the truly challenging thing about them is that they are not fun and not impressive. They are not things that anyone wants to do because they require you to quit thinking you're too smart for this and get your hands dirty and get no respect for it. They are not a challenge to ability, but a challenge to pride. I'm in much greater need of the latter.

09 May 2008

Um. Wow.

Not C, but PP for sure.

Nice to see such a positive witness for large families...the article doesn't even make any of those snide or sneering jabs like you sometimes see in such coverage.

I know the article says they're real estate agents and all, but every time I see an update on them I wonder--how are they funding this, really? Particularly with real estate being what it is lately? Anyone know any more about that?

08 May 2008

Cloth diaper update

Abstract: For fitted cloth diapers with PUL liners, wool soakers are the best (though still imperfect) covers. Homemade soakers knit from organic wool yarn purchased from honest folk are the most economical option. Previous post here if you missed it.

I've been doing disposables overnight only for a week and a half (although I did take Food Poisoning Morning off). It's . . . ok. Grandma sent me three wool soakers, two knitted from organic wool and one made from wool/lycra interlock fabric. I'm lanolinizing that last guy right now and looking forward to trying it out. The other two soakers do a pretty decent job of keeping Baby Dude dryish, and I would say they are net beneficial as compared to those awful vinyl pants (and completely ineffective PUL wraps). If he takes a long nap, he's vaguely damp, but not drenched, and it doesn't really warrant a change of clothes.

The main drawback of the soakers is that they are another layer of considerable bulk. Baby is a big guy for three months and was on the verge of moving into 6-12M clothes when I started this. But with a diaper and a soaker on, I can barely get a pair of 12M pants over his bum. So if you're just starting out, invest in roomy rompers. If you're stuck with an older sibling's wardrobe, get yourself a shoehorn. The wool/lycra number is a little thinner so I hope it works well enough to be our default.

I think "organic"products are 99.99999999% marketing ploy conceived to manipulate people into allowing themselves to be ripped off, so I don't know why it has to be organic wool. But far be it from me to toy with something one short layer removed from my dear baby's dear bum.

I am still getting used to conveying nasty diapers from baby to pail--these things just don't wrap up so nice and easy with all the evil safely taped and plasticked inside. There are definitely more germs running loose in my house now. I'm trying to come up with a better system to cut down on this given our unique floor plan. I'm also not clear on why the soaker concept isn't considered gross. So these things soak up pee, and you wash them every couple of weeks, and everybody's just ok with that? I know, the miraculous properties of wool and all. Whatever.

I'll take An Album Cover for 300.

Although life is damper, I would be remiss not to tell you that I have not had a single blowout in a cloth diaper. Baby Dude is not as explosive as his predecessors (preferring the glurking route to making my life disgusting), but he still had some mishaps in disposables. CDs have been secure so far, both in the back and legs. I remember 4-6 months being prime blowout territory, so I'll report back if necessary.

One last thing. Grandma says the cost of cloth diapers is a crime. The materials aren't expensive, and a yard goes far when you're making something so small. Same goes for soakers, which I've seen online for such low prices as $48 (EACH). I heard a few places (maybe even in the comments of the last CD post? too lazy to verify) that smart shoppers buy organic wool sweaters at thrift stores and reknit them into soakers. I asked Grandma about this and she thought I was stupid. She said unless I could find an organic wool sweater for $2 ($3-4 is the base price for adult clothes at my local Goodwill, and they jack it up for premium items), it wouldn't be worth it.

The trick is to buy yarn at the right place, ie not from cloth diapering businesses. She got hers from those nice Mennonite types at the Amana Colonies at a reasonable price and dyes it herself with Kool-Aid. And as for the labor charges built into the prices, she says that when women in China are getting paid $.12 an hour to sew, seamstresses don't have any business charging so much for their work. Almost sounds like a liberal, doesn't she? :D

07 May 2008

Your theological challenge of the day

Define "incarnate" to the satisfaction of an inquisitive person who has not yet attained his fourth birthday.

Bonus points if you can do it while incurring fewer than 5 questions that begin with "but why" or "but what."

Points subtracted if this takes you so long that he loses interest and wanders off to do something else.


A Song for No Good Reason Whatsoever

O kitchen! my kitchen! the meal at last is ended,
My babes are fed, my husband says the chicken was well tended.
Our bellies full, the empty bowls boast of a job well done;
The efforts of this mother's love down hatches one by one;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the blood red stains abounding!
Where in the sink the dishes lie
and set my soul to dreading!

O kitchen! my kitchen! the heart-place of my home!
What gives? In you I slave all day and yet my work's not done:
The stove top sneers, the counter jeers, the floor is whistling cat-calls;
The dirty towels, like heavy jowls, drip with the juice of apples!
Look, kitchen! O prison!
With your chicken remnants threading
Like fingers 'round my tired heart,
You set my soul to dreading!

My kitchen does not answer, yet its mockery continues;
My kitchen does not feel my pain, yet winks through smeared-up windows.
The family fed, tucked snug in bed, knows nothing of this struggle;
This war of sorts, waged not in ports--this quintessential battle . . .
Defend the home front, mother, dear!
I shall, with stalwart tread
Clean this kitchen in the morn;
Right now, I'm off to bed.

Yeah, I robbed it all from that guy, but he deserved it.


Notice: This is a little wonkier than we usually prefer to get around here, but one of our favorite lurkers asked so we wanted to oblige. Topics like this are generally the province of Lutherans and Procreation. If you're interested in a hard-hitting policy debate on this issue, we're sure the folks over there would gladly set one up for you at your request.

Rebecca asks about infertility (scroll down to read all her comments). To summarize: infertility forces an identity crisis on a married couple. Being neither parents nor celibates, which life should they emulate?

I'm unqualified to give an authoritative answer to, you know, any question whatsoever. So I'll just say this to kick off whatever conversation people may be interested in having: I don't think people who suffer from infertility are under an obligation to come by as many children as they possibly can any more than people with typical fertility have to track their temps to maximize their chances of conceiving. I take the babies God gives me over the course of my normal life and work in other stuff as it fits around them. If God doesn't give you many or any babies to work around, well, I guess that is an opportunity to publicly serve him and his people more than those of us who closely tend a particular group of God's people. (But I don't think that infertility should be taken as a "sign" that a person is meant for some other specific task any more than their eye color or appetite should.)

Does Scripture speak to this directly? I'm not coming up with anything beyond standard Lutheran approaches to sanctification and vocation. Almost every barren woman (and even one virgin!) in the Bible ends up with a baby. Michal remains childless, and it's the last thing we hear about her (she had kind of an interesting career up to that point).

This calls to mind Reb. Mary's adoption post. There are some burdens that most of us with rapidly growing families just aren't in a position to help bear. Childless couples are, generally speaking, more able to serve the Lord by adopting children, and many are interested in doing so. The blessings of parenthood are certainly available to them through adoption, and there is much to be said for seeking out this honor and its benefits even when they are not granted by normal means (to say nothing of the benefits for the children).

But neither is there any shortage of sheaves to be borne away. I think a childless couple or a smaller family is ultimately free to use their time and resources in whatever service to the Lord they feel suited. If they have the desire and finances to adopt two or 18 kids, wonderful. Or they can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet's hands. Their exclusion from one virtuous enterprise leaves them free to choose among others; they may but are not obligated to pursue an office which has not been given to them.

There, I opened the can. Anybody who's interested, get in on some worms. I, a total idiot, am very open to correction.

06 May 2008

When the grass seems greener

Or the shoe is on the other foot, or something like that.

Some days, I foolishly like to think that I’ve got a corner on the market of justifiable self-pity. (Never mind that self-pity is never really justifiable.) Like some of these latter days, when my clothes don’t fit, the baby won’t sleep, the big brothers fight, everyone’s been sick, the house is a wreck that I never escape, and I’d really like some adult company, conversation, or challenges. And worst of all, I see these days marching ahead in infinite progression, no end in sight…

Days like those, the single life (or life with a small, predictable number of children) can seem pretty darn appealing. I can catch myself not only in self-pity, but in self-righteousness: Anyone who’s not currently living in the midst of the messy CSPP life don’t know nothin’ about carrying a cross. They think they’ve got it tough? Crying their woes into their lattes on their coffee break when my cup of tea on the counter is long past cold and I don’t even get a bathroom break? Snort! Try my life on for a day!

Well. I try to hoist myself out of such wallowing before I’ve been there long enough to get really yucky. Trying to stay in touch with people who have been called to other vocations, or who must deal with other challenges of which I know nothing, helps. I meet some such people through books. For instance, Lori Smith writes in her A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love &Faith about how much she’d like to get married and have a family. She’s in her thirties now, and it just hasn’t happened yet.

So here I am, thinking how nice it would to be freelance and footloose, traveling the world at one’s whim on a self-chosen project. And there she is, doing just that. She writes about how she appreciates many things about her life, but she also writes about the longing she feels at her yearly OB-GYN appointment, when she sees all the pictures on the wall of mothers with their newborns. And she writes about her “achingly empty” bed:

“I don’t regret pursuing chastity. I’m not sorry that this is how I’ve lived my life. But in the present and future, it’s harder to be certain. I believe this is the right decision and the healthiest decision, the intention of God’s creation and the best way to fulfill it (if one can talk about being fulfilled not having sex) and all that. It’s just that it doesn’t always make sense. More than anything else, this one aspect of my life throws into stark relief the fact that I am not living for myself. It is the central tenet of Christianity—your life is not your own; it is not solely about your pleasure but about serving and obeying God.”

Huh. And here I’ve been liking to think that the only real way of “not living for myself” is my way. Much needed note to self: CSPP doesn’t have the corner on vocational self-denial. And so I will remember, at least for a day, not to complain about my bed seeming not too empty but too full nowadays. I will remember, at least for today, to enjoy the greenness of this pasture in which God has placed me, without all those surreptitious glances over the fence.

For tomorrow, I will throw myself once again upon the grace of our infinitely wise and unfailingly compassionate God. I will ask for the humility to learn not only from the challenges of my own vocation, but also from those of others who are called to different crosses and joys. I will fail, and fail again, but His mercies are new every morning (and midday, and evening… ).

[And meanwhile, it really helps to have a blog where I can vent when I need to ;D ]

05 May 2008

If you ignore them

they will in fact NOT go away. They will in fact follow you quite closely and whine all the louder.

Long ago and far away, when I foolishly believed that parenting books could actually help me, I recall ingesting the helpful advice that ignoring unwanted behavior would make it simply disappear. I understand the principle here: acting out is often a ploy for attention; hence, any attention, even negative attention, achieves the child's desired goal and puts the control back in his court. But in parenting, principle and practice often seem to be two very different things.

I was relieved to hear off-blog from Rebekah that excessive whining among the preschool set is not necessarily a phenomenon limited to our household. Lately, though, it's been ridiculously excessive (We've had a few things disrupting the routine around here lately, which hasn't helped, but enough is enough!)

So if anyone has whining-management techniques that have proved effective, by all means, SHARE! We've tried everything from the sugary-sweet "Oh, honey, Mommy's ears can't hear you when you use that whiney voice" (HA! Verbatim from another of those parenting books that we gave up LONG ago) to "GO TO TIME OUT RIGHT NOW AND DON'T COME OUT UNTIL YOU'RE DONE WHINING UNLESS YOU WANT A SMACK ON YOUR BOTTOM!" and quite a bit in between...and still the whining goes on. Makes the two-year-old's tantrums seem downright refreshing :P

04 May 2008

Hospital gowns shouldn't come in 2T

Last week was quite a week. Before it was all over (assuming that it is over!) Pookie Baby (the two-year-old, whose full-throttle toddlerhood nicknames don’t apply to the pitiful little heap Dad hauled into the ER in the wee hours the other day) spent some time in the hospital with pneumonia.

He’s home now, earlier than expected, with what seems to be the entire pharmaceutical department and a nifty Nebulizer thingie, and he’s back to all his usual tricks. Meanwhile, Dad’s voice barely lasted through church today, any semblance of a schedule for New Guy is out the window, and Biggest Brother is sporting an apparently random but very impressive case of hives. We’re tired, we’re strung out, and we have an adrenaline hangover—but above all, we are just so very thankful, for so many things. And that in itself testifies to the amazing grace of God.

This little adventure got me to thinking: When you put a limp toddler in a little bitty hospital gown and hook him up to oxygen and an IV, the brokenness of our world, and the unnaturalness of Death, the ever-lurking intruder, is suddenly glaringly apparent. There is something terribly wrong, terribly heartbreaking about those tiny hospital gowns.

But we should not be more complacent about the death of the elderly than we are of the young—death is no more natural for a 99 year old than it is for a 9 day old. Even those of us who know better can find ourselves murmuring the usual platitudes at the funerals of octogenarians: “It was his time to go…At least she had a good, full life…Just look at all that he accomplished…” When our elderly loved ones become our dearly departed ones, we miss them, often quite painfully. Yet we sometimes get sucked into the whole “life cycle” thing—death is just a natural part of life; she’s gone to a better place, etc., etc.

No, we groan with all creation, longing for Victorious King Jesus to banish our foe forever in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, with the blast of a trumpet. Meanwhile, let us have no more of the well-intentioned platitudes. Let us not grieve like those who have no hope, let us speak boldly of the hope that we have, but let us grieve honestly: Death is no friend; death is not natural. Pretending that it is mocks the goodness of God’s design, misses an opportunity for proclamation, and robs mourners of their right and their need to grieve.

We groan, and we hope.

Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

Casuistry: mess vs. crying

Which is worse: leaving a pile of dirty dishes on the counter or letting the baby cry while you wash them? (Assume the baby is not hungry or in other serious distress, he just wants to be held.)

02 May 2008

Little angels

You tell yourself that you won't have those snot-nosed, uncombed, mismatched grubby kids you saw all over the place at the seminary. And then you find out that 5-year-old girls want to do their own hair and 3-year-old boys want to pick out their own clothes and a toddler is too cranky after naptime to have her ponytails reconstructed.

My son already looks like that weird kid who from 6th-11th grade only wore sweatpants and long sleeved t-shirts with Darth Vader on them (relying on hand-me-downs has its drawbacks).

01 May 2008

A Song for Rebekah

Well, it's just one line from a song. And I'm not clever enough to have written the lyrics myself, like she did awhile back. Nonetheless, I've found this line from Over the Rhine's "Lookin' Forward" stuck on repeat in my head lately....

"I'm lookin' forward to lookin' back"

Someday, we too will be among those people tellin' the youngsters struggling with their kids to "enjoy every minute, these are the best days of your life." (Really? Will we really? Will we too be afflicted--perhaps blessed--with selective amnesia? Well, at least we'll have some great moments to look back on, and (DV) a passel of grandchildren to share them with...)

Don't have a clip of this song, but if you want to hear "Drunkard's Prayer" (the title track from the same album), go here (Album, recommended.)