30 June 2008

Baby blues

"Baby blues" sounds cute, like a nursery paint color or professional garb for babies. It's a really bad name for what it designates: the precipice overlooking postpartum depression and OCD, where a terrified new mother sways unsteadily in the updraft, choking on its stink, hypnotized by the horrific visions below.

Cursed be the ancient serpent who strikes the weaker vessel at her weakest, with her body and mind so recently and brutally torn by childbirth. When she has never felt needier, she is overwhelmed by her baby's relentless need for her, and this is when he skewers her brain on his venomous fangs. Lord Jesus, have mercy on us when you call us to labors beyond our strength.

27 June 2008

More conflicting absolutes

+ Pan of triple fudge brownies

+ Postpartum weight loss plan

To all husbands everywhere

Dear Husbands,

When you have a baby and want to tell all your friends, do not email other husbands! When you do this, they read your message and think, "Oh good," and immediately forget about it. They do not remember to tell their wives, the ones who are really actively interested and worried about your wife and baby. A week later, these wives say, "Wow, I can't believe we haven't heard from the Gehnerschwarzgerstenknechtbergkopfs yet!" And your friends their husbands say, "Oh yeah, they had their baby. I forgot to tell you." And then the wives say, "How could you forget a thing like that? Boy or girl? How big? How was the labor? Is Mom ok?" And the husband says, "Uh . . . . "

Instead, when you send out your baby announcement, go to your wife's email account and send your announcement from there to all of her friends, ie the wives of all your family friends. They will make a prompt report to their husbands and will have all the information they love to look over and savor and think about how great their friend is and how happy they are for her. They will also update their prayers from petitions regarding pregnancy and delivery to postpartum needs (which, as you know, is absolutely critical).

This has the added advantage of allowing your heroic wife to read the congratulations that roll in once she feels like getting back to her email. They mean a lot to her.

Your friends,
The Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition

25 June 2008

Conflicing absolutes

--5-yr-old vomiting upstairs

--2- and 3-yr-olds engaged in screaming death match downstairs over a book neither of them is supposed to have

--Infant afflicted with weltschmertz howling on behalf of fallen man and nature

--Food at various stages of preparation in ant-infested kitchen

--Unknown, undersupervised young children driving large motorized vehicles through our yard

--Me wondering if that bathroom trip I started planning an hour and a half ago is ever going to happen

24 June 2008

Lactose intolerance

A while back I read Leon Podles' The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity. Although I'm not convinced that he really needed the Old Icelandic and Beowulf references to make his point, it was good. Western Christianity has gotten fluffy and emotional and too many pastors are too wimpy to play football. Issues, Etc. picked this up at least once also; I remember an article in their supplementary magazine in which Pastor Wilken amusingly pointed out that dudes traditionally don't close their eyes and sigh between verses of gooey love songs to other dudes, even if the other dude is Jesus.

But I respectfully here submit my objection to the use of the word "feminization" to describe the phenomenon. "Feminine" has been used as a proxy in this argument for vacuous, sentimental, insipid, emotion-driven, and a lot of other uncomplimentary adjectives that I wouldn't want used about myself. While these adjectives have become unfortunately accurate in describing many churches, and they are follies to which women are generally more susceptible, summing them all up under the term "feminine" insults half the human race. This use of the term also cheapens positive attributes and virtues traditionally considered more feminine--gentleness, compassion, patience, nurture, etc (and aren't these the things we all love in our father confessors?). Finally, the church is our mother. I don't think it behooves us to speak of a feminine church as a problem.

I'm not denying that the problems identified by the "feminization" police are very likely to arise when women are in the majority in church. But any pastor can tell you women nearly always are the majority, and many churches are still able to maintain doctrinally robust theology and practice. Furthermore, anybody with a male baby boomer in her life knows that the ladies aren't the only ones tearing up when the Clavinova croons sweet and low. Insipidity will spiral out of control in any congregation if it's allowed to, headed by men and women who care more about atmosphere than what they're being served. The problem isn't women devouring men, but milk drinkers out-bawling the meat eaters. Those of us in houses full of milk drinkers know how easily this can happen.

In these metrosexual latter days it's not just the pastor who can't play football. Until the shaggy, skinny dudes with square glasses who have never even considered enlisting are destroyed by forces of history, faithful people must be vigilant in defending the church against the broad and easy road of just loving Jesus so much that we can't handle his hard teachings, worship like reverent adults rather than manic children or moony adolescents, or face the pain of repentance head-on.

It's the church's business to confess that male and female he created them, and it was very good. To villify one sex through a lazy circumlocution serves neither.

23 June 2008

My Favorite Things

Males in my house who pee INTO the toilet
Dad's evening off if the babies don't spoil it
Children who cross themselves in church and sing
These are a few of my favorite things

Reb. Mary goaded into righteous furies
When Gauntlets posts; when my 3-yr-old hurries
Nursing the babe and no bell or phone rings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the cat pukes
When the milk spills
Months when I don't floss
I try to forget fav'rite things and recall the
Theology of the cross

When my big girl wants to read to the others
When Little Girl doesn't torment her brothers
When someone tells me there's nothing to bring
These are a few of my favorite things

21 June 2008

Parallel play

With apologies to Wikipedia:

Parallel play is a concept from developmental psychology. It means mothers wiping off, feeding, sunscreening, locating, chasing, comforting, and/or punishing children side by side without interaction. It is commonly seen among mothers of children of ages 2 or 3 who only get to see each other once a year.

No further reports at this time as I'm still susceptible to the bends. (And actually, thanks to some very generous people, there was some group play as well!)

17 June 2008

The politics of multiparity

A woman pregnant with her first baby is radiant, beautiful, adorable.

A woman pregnant with her second baby is matronly, serene, not disrespectable.

A woman pregnant with her third baby is a trouper, pitiable. We're glad for her that she's about to be put out to pasture.

A woman pregnant with her fourth+ baby is a sow. A breeder. A glutton. An abuser of the environment. Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and childrearing are obviously not difficult for her or she'd have quit by now like any sane, unselfish, thinking person. All she's doing is, as I heard it described on Talk of the Nation a few weeks ago, "pop[ping] out puppies," and she needs to be publicly derided for it. (Thanks, Russ in Kansas City--your insights on Christianity were strikingly original. And Ira, the ideological balance of calls you accept on the show is a fine reflection of your journalistic integrity).

More environment, please! Oink oink oink.

Female circumcision motivated by religious belief? Hey, who are we to judge (at least in certain times and places; find on this page "genital mutilation")? The tiny minority of adherents to catholic doctrine who take babies as God gives them (which only sometimes means a lot)? Christianist militant nut jobs, and stupid to boot.

16 June 2008

Stand by your pad

Curity Nursing Pads, you used to be cool. You never made me crinkle annoying cellophane in a sleeping baby's ear when I packed up. You were 700 layers thick and could make it through long naps and other catastrophes. You screamed to the world through my shirt, "This woman is wearing the world's most unstreamlined nursing pads because they're the cheapest, and so is she!" You had that freaky lady with the spaghetti hair baring her teeth at a pathetically uncorpulent baby on the box. Then on the other side of the box you had all those helpful directions for breastfeeding, once dramatically interpreted to unsettling effect by a certain holy man in my very own family room. I bet those directions used to help a lot of people with breastfeeding. Oh, and the box was as big as my sofa. I never lost track of that bad boy, that's for sure.

You've sold out, Curity. Now you're oval and and individually wrapped and sold in compact boxes with cross-section diagrams and arrows explaining lame things about the secrets of your absorbency, like I care.

You're still the cheapest, so you know I'll keep coming back. But you've changed, man. You've changed.

15 June 2008

The virtues of fathers

There are many, but one that I particularly appreciate is that if you don't put anything on your blog about Father's Day, they don't care.

CSPP salutes our more rational halves. Thanks for doing business with us.

14 June 2008

A word from our sponsor

Go here! Buy this! Then write to CPH and tell them how much you liked a certain contributor! (Adriane. And in the other book, Rosie and Julie.)

13 June 2008

If you can't beat 'em

at least you can confuse them enough to get a few minutes' respite from the screaming.

I submit:

"QUICK!! [drop voice to urgent whisper] We have to be very, very quiet. How quiet can you be? We have to be sooooo quiet because we have to sneak up on the laundry. Shhhhh. Let's tiptoe so that we can sneak up on the laundry."


"WAIT! We can't cry now! It's 9:24! That means it's time to count down from ten in Spanish! That makes the dust bunnies dance!"

Yes, I'm pretty much certifiable.

Anyone have other examples to share?

Dontcha just love two-year-olds?

The Sticker Club

Welcome to the STICKER CLUB! Please send one packet of stickers to the person listed in the #1 spot below. Move my name to the first spot & put your name in the 2nd spot. Then, send this letter to six of your friends.

If you cannot do this within six days, please let my mom know because it is not fair to the kids who have participated so far. (emphasis added) Within 2 weeks, you should have received 36 packets of stickers!! (sic) It's lot of fun & exciting to see where your stickers come from and it is always nice to get mail.

Good luck and Thank You (sic) for participating in the Sticker Club!

P.S. Parents, please take the time for this cute project. It is worth it to see the smile on your child's face when they (sic) open "their (sic) mail". (sic) To make this easier, we have included a blank letter for you to photocopy. Run 12 copies of the enclosed blank letter before you write on it. Then mail it to six of your child's friends &/or relatives. Make sure to include one blank one for them to copy & send to their friends.

Friends, WHY?!?!?!?!?! I bear no grudge against the dutiful mother who sent this to me; as you can see, her conscience was shamelessly bound. But: it ends here! With liberty and justice for all!

I will purchase one packet of stickers to mail to dear little H----- in N--------- whose name is in the number one spot. I will purchase six packets of stickers, put them in six stamped envelopes, and address them in various disguised handwritings to dear little A------- in H----- whose name is in the number two spot. I will take them with me on our trip to CCA. When I run into you at the Augsburger Barbecue, I will give you one to take back to your own exotic locale for postmarking to comply with the geographic provision in the last sentence of the second paragraph.

I will put an end to this madness, and you will help me.

12 June 2008

Who knew?

I always feel guilty for things I shouldn't, and not for things I should. One that falls into the former category is giving blood, which I haven't been able to do for 6 years now what with the perpetual parturition/lactational longevity. To assuage this misplaced guilt, I was poking around to find out about milk donation. I'm too much of a capitalist to donate my own personal self to this for-profit company, but I came across this in their FAQs and found it darn interesting:

Breast milk does have uses for adult diseases as well. People with cancer drink breast milk to calm their stomachs after chemotherapy, bolster their immune systems and help digest food. In some parts of the world, it is used for burn patients and organ transplant patients. If you are interested in donating your milk for these other uses, contact one of the 6 milk banks associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).

11 June 2008


I have a list problem. I’m so compulsive about my to-do lists that sometimes my lists have lists. This doesn’t mean that I’m an organized person; I’m always losing my lists and having to make new ones, then finding the old ones and making composite lists, which cross-pollinate into third-generation hybrids. But if I didn’t write things down, I might never get anything done. There’s a serious sense of satisfaction in crossing off a task that’s been accomplished in a timely manner.

As we all know, there are few things quite so antithetical to to-do lists as newborns. After the first baby came along, days would pass and my beautiful lists would remain untouched save for the tears of frustration that stained them. I was used to deadlines and schedules, to tasking my time precisely and efficiently. Six weeks after Boy One was born, I found myself in a whole new world, alone in a house full of boxes, holding an intense, often inexplicably Angry little bundle, regarding my lists with a mixture of wistfulness and helpless rage, wondering how a 12-lb. creature could so completely prevent me from accomplishing anything.

Then my wise mother saved my sanity (at least temporarily) by introducing my desperate self to the concept of the Reverse To-Do List. Rules: everything counts. If you do it, write it down, and then you get to cross it off. If you get the table cleared after breakfast, you get to write it down and cross it off. Feeding and changing the baby count (it takes time, and no one else is going to do it, are they now?). Walking across the street to the mailbox counts; trimming Baby’s fingernails counts; bouncing the babe while pacing and singing endless hymns or crazy rhymes counts. Yeah. You get the idea. Everything counts.

The Reverse To-Do List is also helpful if one’s husband is puzzled as to how the existence of just one small baby justifies him coming home to a messy house and an exhausted, disheveled wife who rages incoherently about the fact that he will be ordering pizza if he wants to eat that night or whimpers inconsolably about the fact that she hasn’t brushed her hair or teeth yet—that week. (My husband is fortunately of the understanding variety, and has never attempted to suggest that perhaps more could be accomplished in his absence. But sometimes it makes me feel better when I can present him with a list of what’s gone on while he’s been gone.)

With a new baby in the house again, I sometimes resort again to this sanity saving trick, though I do generally accomplish much more in a day with 3 kids than I did with just one. As an example, I submit the following: a recent morning’s list that I came across while I was, uh, organizing my lists.

Call vet
Call dr. (2 calls)
Sweep floor
Spot-clean floor [notice that the floor gets 2 separate entries—it was two separate accomplishments, after all]
Fed everyone snack
Fed baby—2x [this can be broken down into individual line items if desired]
Changed baby—3x including Bowel Event of the Week (details available upon request)
Load of laundry
Pay phone bill
Clean pee off carpet (mental note to delay potty training again till I’m seriously battle-ready)
Write 2 thx
Renewed library books over phone
Put away some clothes
Cleared kitchen counter (partially)
Didn’t kill children
Didn’t even beat children

Though for some reason he seemed rather amused, the father of said children recognized those last two items as perhaps the most significant, if intangible, accomplishments of that morning, given the rather un-charming phase the Big Brothers were going through that week. And writing it down helped me realize that my morning hadn't been a total wash and that my character was developing along with my household management skills :O. Ah, the power of lists!


Dr Laura says that my bedroom should be a beautiful sanctuary. I couldn't agree more. But I don't know what I'd do with the piles of junk on our dressers, or how I'd justify the expense of a not-really-necessary nightstand to replace the Walmart barstool I used as a ladder to the top bunk in college which now stands on my side of the bed, or where I'd put the sewing machine that I'm going to start using any day now. I hope our marriage survives.

The bathroom? Ha! Not only is it impossible to convince my dear children that privacy is the nicest thing they could offer me while I'm in this room with the charmingly broken doorknob, but how would I dry off without a preschooler to bring me a new towel when I've stupidly tossed the old one in the laundry without replacing it?

Church, of course, is sanctuary by definition. And yet, as we've discussed before in this cyberspace, everyone with kids is on vocational call even during that hour. I've always got someone's arms to pin down when the chalice is within striking distance. And at home, too, personal piety is sacred only in a technical sense. If someone starts crying mid-petition, it's the petition (for better or worse) that gets put on hold.

But the confessional. There is a true sanctuary. No toddler can come crashing through that door. I am so thankful for my wonderful husband who gets me to confession as regularly as possible, despite the inconvenience to him, with additional sessions whenever I request them. He sees to it that my time there is completely uninterrupted and as long as I need it to be. And need I mention that the comfort of Holy Absolution is rather singular?

09 June 2008

Experts needed

Yes, someone cares what you think! Really!

Marie MacPherson, an at-home mom whose husband teaches at the lovely campus of Bethany Lutheran College, is conducting a study of moms with 4 or more kids and requests your assistance for the betterment of our noble office. If you are in the process of raising 4+ kids, or have completed that task (to whatever extent it's ever completed) and would like to share your wisdom, please email her at mmacpher AT blc DOT edu. Let her know whether your kids are still at home or if they're out of the house so that she can send you the applicable survey. Thanks to Marie for her work, and you for your participation!

God loves me dearly

Lofty words about parenthood being an icon of God the Father's love for us cut both ways. I fail frequently and deplorably, and in doing so remind myself how I profane this office.

The truth is, the babies' love is often a much better likeness of the Father's than mine. No matter how much I've ignored them, no matter how impatient I've been with them, they still want to be with me. Two minutes after I snap or growl or criticize they're proposing book reading and Memory games, making me "treats" and asking me to cuddle with them on the couch. They forgive me without even thinking about it, without even realizing they're doing it. They love me so much that no offense on my part is worth losing a hug or a puzzle or a song over.

I know they'll grow up and come to their senses and figure out that I don't treat them as well as I should. They'll get mad at me and hold grudges and struggle to forgive as much as I do. But in the meantime, their dogged love is, to understate, humbling.

07 June 2008

Please excuse the potty humor

I've had some days lately that haven't been the best, and I've spent what I would consider to be more than my fair share of time in the bathroom, dealing with other people's bodily functions. But thankfully it hasn't gotten quite this bad.

05 June 2008

Fill up that quiver!

I'd heard of an evangelical outfit called Quiverfull that falls generally into CSPP territory, but a reader has informed us that our similarities are very general indeed. Apparently these folks are opposed to fertility treatments that help people conceive. To each her own confession; maybe Quiverfillers don't believe in chemo either, and they probably wouldn't think much of our baptized babies (and do they have anything to say on the topic of mandrakes?). But I just wanted to clarify that CSPP has no problem with fertility treatments that are non-abortifacient and do not violate natural law (IVF, for example, fails on both counts; Clomid, to my knowledge, passes). Thanks to Christine for helping us define our terms. If it's broke, fix it!

04 June 2008


15 She gets up while it is still dark; (the baby is crying)
she provides food for her family (it's the only way to get him quiet)
and portions for her servant girls. (where'd they get to, anyway?)

This is the song that never ends

Sometimes I have to resort to my secret weapon--badly made-up song lyrics set to much despised tunes--to convey important points around here. For instance:

Sing to tune for The Song That Never Ends

I have a family that will not clean up its own mess!
I'm not 100% why, but I think I can guess:
They do not bother to clean up because they know that I
Will get to it eventually, though it may make me cry.

Repeat as long as necessary. Results guaranteed.

Salmonella Roulette

My kitchen helpers assisted me with a new pumpkin/whole wheat/applesauce muffin recipe this morning. (In the oven as I type. If they turn out, I'll eventually post it over at CSPP cooks.)

As a reward for their labors, they get to lick the spoons when we're done. There are raw eggs in the batter. So how horrible of a mom does this make me? Helping and tasting in the kitchen are some of my favorite childhood memories and I want my kids to have those memories (and skills!) too. I know: I could just let them sample the ingredients, and the batter before the eggs are added. But it's just not the same.

I have had salmonella once--from the college cafeteria salad bar. Wasn't fun. And I don't mess with the raw stuff when I'm pregnant. But in nearly three decades of sampling cookie dough, I've never once gotten sick off it.

Anyone else willing to admit to gambling with salmonella? Or will you all castigate me so thoroughly that I am compelled to change my kitchen practices?

My letter to the world that never wrote to me

Everything is not ok and I'm tired of pretending that it is.

There, I've said it, so now I can move on. Thank you; that was cathartic.

Extra credit if you can identify the contrived literary allusion in this post's title.

03 June 2008

We're not worthy!

Dad and I are always trying to get the kids to be polite when they meet grownups: to shake hands, speak clearly, look the person in the eye, etc. But when their big chance comes, of course they mumble, hide, and generally don't do any of the things we told them to.

I was thinking about this and it struck me how unnatural most of these conventional politenesses are to children. In fact, what made me think of it was how shy I feel when meeting new people, especially those who are particularly distinguished (whether by the world or in my mind). When I meet someone of a higher office or greater accomplishment, I have to fight to make eye contact because I know my place in the presence of comparative greatness: lower, down there where my eyes feel like they belong. Our culture's faux-democratic rituals of acquaintance are counterintuitive and uncomfortable for us lowly types.

So now what do I tell the babies?

02 June 2008

CSPP: symptoms may include malaise

Consider this a letter from me four years ago. I don't get into this funk too often any more . . . but then again, I was moved to write this not all that long ago.

We went to college together. We went to grad school together. We had jobs and went places and talked about classes and books and the papers we were working on.

I don't know how things would have gone if nothing had made us drop our original plan, but when I thought of it then it was always something like, get our two kid thing out of the way, get them into school, and get me back into real life.

This is real life, but it doesn't feel like it. You did what everybody does, you went to school and had fun and thought you were smart and did what you wanted and everybody was even. And then you have kids and realize you've flown into a cage while he soars on past along with everybody else.

I hate being the awkward cipher-wife smiling boringly when the grownups get together since I don't know what they're talking about. I hate having nothing to say to him when he gets home besides who hasn't pooped yet today. I hate feeling so left out of such silly things as his saying good morning to other people who go to work and shooting the breeze and making dumb jokes and getting stuck in annoyingly endless conversations about stupid things and having responsibilities besides just living. When he leaves in the morning, my heart sinks. When an afternoon or evening that was supposed to be free suddenly isn't, my heart sinks. When his car needs an oil change, my heart sinks. The door closes behind him and the house feels darker.

My world is very small and out of the loop. I'm running out of energy to keep being angry about it, but it is a personally diminishing journey from there to here.