31 December 2008

Honesty at last

Oh my. A completely practical, totally apolitical post on diapering with bonus of large family context. This is why I pestered the poor girl so much about blogging.

As the ball drops

Your New Year’s Eve looking a bit blah? Here’s the excitement you’ve been longing for: Make New Year’s resolutions—for each other. Ladies, take this opportunity to get a head start on your husband. Grab a crayon and some of those construction paper scraps off the floor and start your list.

Instant Fireworks! Wow! Zow! Bang! Yow!

After all, don’t you know your husband better than he knows himself? Sure, he’s a great provider, a real looker, and involved with the kids, but who knows better than you how he needs to be nagged about all those really important character issues, like the socks that never seem to make it into the hamper?

For best results, be sure to ambush, er, greet him at the door with your list of ill-considered demands, er, helpful suggestions.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

*NB: The author is not liable for the cost of marriage counseling or household damage that may result from taking this advice seriously. But if you do try this, by all means come back and leave a comment to tell us how it went :D

Further reflections on cloth diapers

This is, what, Month 8 of the experiment? I'll be honest, when it got cold I went through a burnout phase and retreated to disposables for I'm not sure how long. I'd guess at least two months. Running the dryer so much was too depressing, and I was also sick of carrying around a pee-soaked baby all the time. But Lil Dude took very slowly to solids, so this place was still Blowout Central, and you may recall the one truly compelling virtue of my homemade cloth diapers from Grandma is that they are blowout proof. So I went back. I was worried about staining now that I can't sun-bleach them any more, and indeed no one's going to mistake them for the driven snow, but what do I expect diapers to look like anyway? I toss in some OxiClean for superstition.

I've called off the wool soakers, though (at least for the winter months). They are too much maintenance for a product that just doesn't work. It wasn't that big of a deal for him to be dampish all the time when the weather was warm, but I don't want him crawling around wet in the winter, and I don't have enough clothes to change his entire outfit every time he goes, and I don't want to create that much more laundry. So he's in the fitteds with internal PUL liner and the old school Gerber plastic pants, and a pox on breathability. The rash factor isn't any better or worse than in disposables or wool soakers. Change him right away and he's fine. Miss one and you're bleeped.

I have a hypothesis about that early toilet training thing. Even housebreaking a kid who's ready for it stinks. You're bound to have more pee on the floor than most folks care for, which gets a girl down (and a dad ENRAGED) real quick like. By the end of the first morning, diapers are looking a lot better than any more of this, so you decide to table the housebreaking for a few more months. It may take several tries, accruing 6 months or more, before loathing of diapers surpasses loathing of toilet training.

But parents who use cloth diapers are used to close, personal interaction with pee &c. Their hands are dirty all the time, so they see that first toilet training attempt through rather than getting discouraged right away and calling it off. Then they get to be smug about how their kids toilet train earlier. Just a hypothesis. I'm interested to test it out--both of our girls toilet trained out of disposables earlier and easier than our older son, so Boy 2 will be a good test case. And, I know, the kid can feel he's wet, blah blah blah.

Bottom line: diapers are gross, no matter what kind you use. I can see being pregnant more times. I can see delivering more babies. I can see more years of nursing. But the thought of toilet training even one more kid makes me want to run straight out of town without bothering to pack a suitcase.

30 December 2008

Yeah, baby, YEAH!

The real reason I have to keep at this is my husband. The poor man's confidence in his own virility depends entirely upon my being pregnant. Every day I can get to the mailbox without waddling is a day he's convinced he's lost his mojo.

Male egos simply can't be flung down the stairs like a cat. Men are far too delicate; the slightest criticism or failing can leave them doubting and loathing themselves for years. Chain pregnancies are really a small price to pay for him to feel good about himself.

Magnificently Merry Music

My aunt was the guest organist at our church on Sunday, and I've still got this dancing joyfully 'round my head. Thought you might want it in yours too:

Not my actual aunt, and not the best recording, but you get the idea.

24 December 2008


Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
John Donne

Merry Christmas

A blessed celebration of our Lord's Nativity to you all.

23 December 2008


There's nothing like a rousing round of violent illness and a funeral (unrelated matters) to make me wonder what on earth I thought I had to complain about last week. :P

22 December 2008

Do I dare? and Do I dare?

On the one hand, it's the Singing Christmas Tree:

I do not think Pastor Bob's tuxedo will sing to me

On the other hand, free pizza.

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter; but human voices (in a TREE) wake us and we drown.

Then again . . . free pizza.

21 December 2008

Child development birds and theological stones

I like it when the pastors get riled up about infant communion. It shows their charming sense of self-importance. ;) All Concordian Sisters know full well that our infants have communed since their conception. Children need to be admitted to the Lord's Table as soon as they are weaned. So the question the pastors should really be answering for us is, when should we wean our children?

20 December 2008

Hiding in my room/Safe within etc?

Back to that Father Rick post from a while back. This was the thing that hit home hardest for me, even though it's a downer:
I have also been aware of my weakness in response to this new life. For weeks my sinful heart hardly dared to believe the news, but held itself in check and hid, for fear that I would have to mourn another loss, another death.
I'm always hesitant to announce we're pregnant (don't get excited, we aren't that I know of). I've never had a miscarriage, but I live my first trimesters in constant fear. I had a terrible scare with our first baby that I've never really gotten over. As excited as I always am and as much as I would love to tell all the world, I can't get past the awful prospect of having to un-tell everyone if the worst happened. So I keep it a secret.

Of course couples aren't under any obligation to tell people they're pregnant. But I detect some distrust in my own motivation for our usual course of action, not telling until we're out of the first trimester and forgoing the prayers our faithful friends would offer for us. As much as I love our yet unseen baby when we have one in the works, I'm too afraid of sharing any grief that might come my way. So I also hold my joy in check, and diminish it in the process. This vale of tears, it's lame.

19 December 2008

Improper proclamation

I get upset when I hear a pastor proclaim that Jesus died for you and I. So I appreciated this. Go ahead, email that link to your pastor (if he’s one of those). You can say that a crazy lady made you do it. Hypercorrection is no excuse for actual correctness.

This was good too, exemplifying the dilemma I face if someone kindly asks me whether I’d like to “go lay down and get some sleep.” While there’s nothing I’d like better than some sleep, I simply won’t be able to rest after hearing an innocent transitive verb abused so wantonly. People, this is not hard. I can sympathize with difficulties in the past tense, but even our dog has mastered the present tense, so I’m confident that (most) humans can too. (Tell her to “go lay down” and she’ll just look at you quizzically while I wince. Tell her to “go lie down,” and she does.)

Ok. I’m done. You may now resume your weekend activities, assuming that you don’t intend to engage in any grammatically risky behavior. Better safe than sorry, folks: don’t party unless you designate a grammarian.

Only if you ask the right way.

18 December 2008

That's a relief

For a while there I thought I had completely lost my sense of humor and my equilibrium (or what usually passes for such), that each of the boys was and always would be simul peccator et peccator, that nothing in the world was or ever would be right again…in short that all joy had been sucked out of every aspect of existence, forever.

Turns out I was just stupid-tired and mean-hungry. Huh.

Rebekah recently noted how “it's so great to be ruled by glands squirting chemicals into the bloodstream at random.” Less random, but also factors that we deny or forget to our peril (and the peril of those around us, as my husband likes to point out): the frustratingly predictable needs for regular and adequate rest and nutrition.

How humiliating, to realize that a too-short night is all it takes to send me down a grouchy warpath, that a too-small breakfast might mean mid-morning despair as my spirits track with the blood sugar crash.

Humiliating…Ah, but isn’t that the point, after all? Cranky, despairing self, you need look no farther today than the very first commandment. What, were you trying to make a go of it alone again? Forgetting that if it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to dust? Needed you yet another reminder that God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong, that His power is made perfect in weakness? Well. Consider yourself reminded.

Even more the wonder: One who needed not be bound by such fleshly concerns, chose, for your sake, to know the humiliation of hunger and weariness, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Is not your Lord able to sympathize with your weakness, having been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin? And is He not mighty to save, able to prove His promises true to you?

Oh foolish little self, cast your burden of weariness upon Him who cares for you, and let your hunger turn your thoughts to the only Bread that satisfies forever, for the life of the world.

There, now. Go have a snack if you need one; remember that you will get some rest (eventually); and surrender your weary vacillation between rage and despair to your tender Shepherd, who carries you close to his heart; who gently leads those that have young.

Behold, I have subdued this fierce and lawless female and it does my bidding

I mean, I know I'm a housewife? But being described as one kind of makes me feel like a gerbil.

At a loss for a word

Whaddaya call something (i.e. these latter snow-bound days) that’s predictably unpredictable, monotonously chaotic, and boringly busy?

And oh! The bickering! Last night was the kids’ Christmas program, and there was almost an all-out dromedary brawl in our section of the camel herd. (In BoyOne’s defense, those camel noses are eminently tweakable.)

Back to the blizzard of paper snowflake-making…

Tweak at your own risk.

17 December 2008

More Virgin Mary, less Virgin Islands

I just went into the kitchen to start making supper and turned on my only friend, the radio. I heard this and liked it. Then I realized that since the playroom is still a mess and Dad's already gone for the night, there's no point in rushing into the supper making so I might as well come tell you about it.

16 December 2008

Playing telephone

It’s true in all households, often especially so in parsonages: you never know what you’ll get when you answer the phone. The other day, what I got was a (sur)reality check, a somewhat amusing reminder of just how…different…our so-called lifestyle is. When I picked up, a pleasant young man asked whether I’d be willing to participate in a women’s health survey. Hey, I’m all for women’s health, and no one was screaming at the time, so I agreed.

By the time we were a few questions in, I think he and I both regretted that decision. Things might have gone better if the survey had been essay instead of short answer/multiple choice. There were some predictable problems, e.g. that when he asked me to rate my “impression” of how effective various birth control methods are at “preventing pregnancy,” there was no way to nuance the definition of when pregnancy begins.

Operator? Operator? Could you disconnect me, please?

And then there’s the fact that CSPP and run-of-the-mill questionnaires simply don’t compute. So that you can share in my bemused amusement, here’s a sample of how it went:

He: Have you ever been pregnant?

Me: Yes, three times.

He: How many of your pregnancies were planned?

Me: Planned? Uh…planned?

He: Yes, how many of your pregnancies were planned?

Me: Uh, I don’t know… Maybe…the first one…kind of?

He: Okaaaay…so, one. Are you currently trying to get pregnant?

Me: [Figuring that not trying not to get pregnant doesn’t exactly count] No.

He: What form of birth control are you using?

Me: None.

He: Okaaaayyyy . . .

And so it went, with me finally finding relief in the “does not apply” option for a number of the ickier questions regarding me and my “partner(s).”

Then this one threw me into such a mental maelstrom that I was pretty much useless thereafter:

He: Assuming that you are not trying to get pregnant right now, which of the following best describes what your reaction would be if you found out that you were pregnant: A) It would be the best thing that could happen to me right now; B) It would be a good thing for me right now; C) It would be neither a good thing nor a bad thing for me right now; D) It would be a very inconvenient thing for me right now; or E) It would be the worst thing that could happen to me right now.

Me: [my personal Pandora’s box of CSPP-related issues suddenly thrown open by that simple question, I am instantly overcome by voices and visions: my sorry self plastered to the bathroom floor through months of nausea and vomiting, while the other kids run amok and neglected…the inexpressible joyous delirium of a kicking, squalling, bloody newborn laid upon my chest…that vocational duty thing...the youngest now getting into everything all day, and still not sleeping all night…the peaceful contours of that same baby’s cheeks in the moonlight, as he curves perfectly into my side when he and I have both fallen asleep as he nurses…my total inadequacy at this whole mothering endeavor in general…the faces of all my children…the faces of all my children that yet may be…my skinny jeans…my intense desire to try to try to trust and follow my Lord...the cost of milk, and the alarming rate at which we consume it…eternity… … … … …] Uh….uh….uhhhhh….Could you repeat those options?

He: *Sigh.* Ok. Assuming that you are not...

We muddled through to the end, and by the time he asked the last question regarding the highest level of education I’d completed, he and I were both shocked to discover that I have two Masters degrees. He sounded as startled as I felt, actually saying, “Oh! Two Masters? Really?! I mean—that’s great. Yeah--great!” Because clearly, my answers made no sense. (Moral of the story: these days, they’ll give anyone a degree or two.)

Intrusive thoughts

Some people get diverticulitis, and some just get belly aches. The bellyachers are glad not to have diverticulitis, but it doesn't mean their bellies don't ache and that they don't take whatever steps are necessary to get through it.

Some moms get full-on postpartum depression, OCD, or panic disorder, and others will just know what I'm talking about when I mention that inward eye which is the horror of solitude, especially when there's a new baby in the house or at other times of hormonal upheaval in the perpetual parturition cycle (it's so great to be ruled by glands squirting chemicals into the bloodstream at random).

Strategies for victims of mental belly aches:

1. Stay away from problematic places or objects as much as possible, especially when you have the baby with you.

2. Ask someone to be with you during bad times. This is one of those things for which it's ok to ask your husband to get out of bed or stay awake with you. Even an older child can be the company you need, and they'll probably really like being up in the middle of the night with mom and the baby. During the day, phone a far-away friend to talk, ask a nearby friend to come over.

3. Have a book or other diversion that will hold your attention on hand so you don't end up with empty times. An idle mind is the devil's playground. Better to have the TV or radio on, even if your baby books say not to, than to listen to him.

4. Know your favorite mental candy and gobble up those sweet thoughts when the other ones come a-knocking. For example, think about what a terrific grandma you're going to be.

5. Defend your problem places with good images. Pick your nursery artwork (for whatever kind of "nursery" you have) for you, not your baby. He doesn't care anyway.

6. Pray without ceasing. Ex corde may not be the best for a mind fighting a hijacking. If the Psalms you have memorized aren't keeping you busy enough, pray through some you don't know as well to do double duty on both mental and spiritual fronts. Ask your husband or pastor to keep you stocked with good devotional reading, ie not the schloggy women's junk that publishers seem to think we dear little females love so much. TDP is too big for this job, sad to say. Find something you can manuever with one hand.

7. Don't be afraid to tell someone if you need to. They will not take your baby away from you. The person you trust to tell will help get you whatever help you need, formal or informal.

For what it's worth, this is something that has improved considerably for me over the course of a few babies. If you're just starting and terrified at the prospect of going through it again, there is hope (though no guarantee) for an easier go of it in the future. Again, this is advice is only for bellyachers.

15 December 2008

Every power as Thou shalt choose

Why does God give women brains? This question is asked with rhetorical snottiness by those women who avoid pregnancy and/or child rearing in favor of other pursuits, and dreary but genuine inquiry by the rest of us. I've been pondering it myself for a long time and here's what I've got: absolutely nothing new, but maybe you're bored today. Please keep in mind I'm not exactly a great thinker.

You are American, therefore you are a pragmatist (and, as we were reminded on a Groundhog Day of yore, a nominalist--but let's save that for another time). You value things for their practical application, including yourself. You look at your set of skills and consider them wasted if you don't use them "out there in the real world."

But what does Scripture say? "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made"--NOT fearfully and wonderfully useful. Your gifts are who God has made you, in addition to being tools he has given you to use. Their application not more valuable than the testimony your unique existence gives to his creative power. So first of all, you are smart, beautiful, gifted, virtuous, because you are a work of God, not because he needed a sculptor or an engineer or a blogger down there to straighten things out.

For Adam no suitable helper was found. A heifer wasn't good enough. The man needed someone corresponding to him. Philosophers have suggested that humans seem to uniquely possess such characteristics as questioning, laughing, believing, communicating through language, etc. What's good for the gander is a goose, ie someone who can fly, honk, float, and give him a gosling. So second, you match your husband, who is almost certainly human. Laugh with him, will ya?

Let's get messier, though. To a certain extent, people see through pragmatism's weaker arguments; for example, most women are willing to sacrifice their college bikini ratings to have children. But to completely give up the protections pragmatism offers our pride is difficult. If I'm this smart, don't I deserve an advanced degree? Or, more cunningly: Isn't it bad stewardship for me not to cultivate and make use of my talents? For the glory of God, of course?

Lest we forget, there is an office in the church which frees women to make full use of their extra-parturitional gifts and talents: virginity. But let's assume we're speaking of people who opted out of that. Are they being bad stewards by reading board books rather than starring in movies, issuing Band-Aids instead of performing surgery, negotiating Lego-sharing and not drafting contracts?

Well, you stewardship-mongering pragmatist, why did God give you a functional uterus if what he really wanted you to use was your impossibly extraordinary brain/talent/looks/whatever? It amazes me that after what my own personal goulash of organs, juices, and hair has been through in the past five years, it can still function nearly as well as it could before my first pregnancy (and the "nearly" is pretty artificial since it refers mostly to deliberate, exclusive exercise, for which I rarely have opportunity now). It would be bad stewardship of this protoplasmic marvel not to keep having kids, since God has equipped me so well for the task. After my last labor, I wonder if I'm not starting to acquire some actual skill when it comes to childbirth (don't worry, it still hurt something awful). Let liberals train for critical societal boons like marathons. I'm training for overpopulation, and I'm getting darn good at it.

As I heard in a stewardship sermon recently (not from my husband, btw, or any of the usual suspects), there's a fourth T beyond time, talent, and treasure: tissue. Work it, girls.

About that spectacular brain: wake up, self. What great improvements has the world missed out on in the past five years since it's been deprived of my public presence? To paraphrase a quotation shared by one of my beautiful associates: much of what I thought was my talent was just pride. Moreover, the sin-bleeped world I will always have with me, but I will not always have my children as such. We're getting to a simple answer you've heard before, but listen again: the only people to whom you are irreplaceable are the members of your family. You're your kids' only mom, even if you sing like Diana Damrau, shrink government like Margaret Thatcher, or criticize texts like Barbara Aland.

Other people can sing. Other people can shrink governments. Other people can tell Kurt he's full of crap. And they will. But no one else can be your kids' mom. Fulfilling the tasks associated with that office is something you can always do in good conscience--unlike those other things, which leave the nagging worry in the back of your mind about what in your kid's life you're missing while you're off doing them. No one can ever regret the unimpeachable good she has done her children by giving them life and serving them as only a mother can (although the devil and the world will surely impeach for all they're worth).

Even secular sociologists will tell you there is no better way for you to serve society (aka the world) than taking care of your own family. This is the most important task on anyone's stewardship list. If you're a gourmet chef cooking for your family every night--your family is exceedingly blessed. I wish my family got such great treatment. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. What is the world to you, anyway, with all its vaunted diners? We all want the best for our children--how foolish it would be to forget to give them the best of ourselves, whatever that might be.

Why did God give you a brain? Because He gives all people brains for His glory and the good of
His people, starting with the little ones asleep upstairs and the big one off at another blasted meeting. Go on, thank Him. And then figure out what you're going to feed everybody tomorrow.

12 December 2008

Advice to young women

Girls, marry a classicist. You will have a hilarious life.

Any time the news comes on, my husband starts muttering about the Gracchi. He tenderly likens me to cow-eyed Hera, and the bath water is wine-dark after the boys come out of it. You wouldn't believe how much the Iliad comes up in Bible class. He translates all medical terms in normal conversation to demonstrate how uncreative they are ("Her hip shattered when she fell because she's got holeybones.") If you ask him what something means, he says dismissively, "Exactly what it sounds like." He can identify any marble bust you happen upon in a book or movie. If you apologize for holding Gnostic notions, he'll say, "You're actually more of a neo-Platonist." If you tell him you're keeping the name Aurelia in your hopper for if you get to 11 or 12 kids and really go crazy, he'll say, "You can't name someone after her."

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Duh.

This is one advantage of the St Louis seminary. They've got that sweet deal with the Classics department at Wash U, so every year there are a few brainy dudes who dream in Greek riding their bikes back and forth. Pick one up! (Stick with the Lutheran ones, though. Anyone who's read Ovid is dangerous.)

Brek-ke-ke-kek ko-ax ko-ax

11 December 2008

What Hope! An Eden Prophesied.

I love Mary, in no small part because as the new Eve she enjoys even now the fulfillment of hope all women will one day receive. I also love her because as Mother of our Lord she teaches us—the daughters of Eve—what it means to be humble, what it means to trust, receive, and bear fruit in the Word of God. And I love her because she, or, rather, the thought of her, helps me through my pregnancies.*

In today’s Memorial Moment, Father Murray writes: “How impossible to conceive that the corpus of death becomes pristine through the incarnation of the Virgin. Humanity is made fully new in Mary by Mary's Son. In her womb humanity is re-created. So the angel says to Mary: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God"(Luke 1:31, 32, 35). The Garden of Eden is replanted when the divine messenger breathes upon her the message of the Life in his promise that the holy One to be born of her would be the Son of the Most High. Mary becomes the new Eve, and Christ the new Adam. Her womb is the ark of the Lord.”

Just as Christ’s death on the cross was so Once, so final, so redemptive that our death can be called but sleep in comparison, so, too, His birth—holy, perfect, final—redeems the births of His people. His birth gives mothers cause to forget their anguish in joy that a child has been born into the world. His birth alone does this, for without it there is only anguish—bad soil giving birth to the dead.

But in Mary, from whom Christ received His flesh, we see the new land in which the Garden of Eden was replanted. God made flesh created for Himself a perfect soil in which to grow. As daughters of the promise, we, too, are recreated as clean soil. We bear fruit; our fruit is good. Our pain is to a purpose. Because of His birth women are saved, not condemned, by childbirth for His good birth makes the dirt of our wombs—be they prolific or barren by the standards of death—fruitful, living, good. Unlike Mary, our offspring will achieve by themselves no deliverance upon the earth; but through her Son, by His blood and according to His will, they do not fall. Christ began His good work in the womb of the Virgin, a womb made holy by His presence there, a mother made perfect by her Son. He is coming to complete this good work in us. No one can take away our joy.

Come Jesus, come Messiah, Lord, Lost Paradise restore; Lead past the angel’s flaming sword— Come, open heaven’s door.

And thank God for it. Without this news, thoughts about my impending (DV) “birth experience” leave me a dysfunctional mess. Better for those around me if I think on Christ and His Mother, and leave the future to itself. :P

*No saint invoking around these parts, though we do hang their pretty pictures on our walls.

10 December 2008


May I have a turn, please?

Hoping to alleviate BoyTwo's allergy symptoms, my husband, my father-in-law, and a kind friend just installed a laminate floor in the boys' room.

As the Designated Baby Nurser/Toddler Lassoer/Grub Rustler, my actual participation in the project consisted of (drumroll, please): exclaiming with delight over the finished product. (Truly, they did a superb job.)

So, am I

A) Happy to leave the noisy, dusty, complicated mess to the menfolk


B) Sad because I didn't get to use power tools or learn a new life skill

I haven't quite decided yet, but I'm actually leaning toward Option A. Go figure.

09 December 2008

Reb. Mary's news sends me into a dither

I hate knowing that someone is in labor. I am a mess until I get the baby report. I keep checking the clock, my stomach is all twisty, I'll even start sweating or breathing shallowly or crying if I think about it too much. I have to force myself not to call the grandma every fifteen minutes to find out if it's over. All I can think is, someone is suffering terribly right now. How can I go about my normal life knowing that something awful is happening? I could never be a doula. I'd spend the whole time hysterical and begging God for mercy. I can't think about my daughters giving birth some day because of the psychosomatic risks. They are five and two, so now is probably a good time to start panicking about it. Must keep typing.

Once I got word of a very bad labor experience which of course got me upset, and I mentioned it to a friend who had never given birth. This person suspected the traumatized mother to be someone on whom I wished some adversity and asked if I were really just sad or if there were some schadenfreude involved. I had to calm myself down by reminding myself that the experience of labor changes one's perception of it drastically. Labor is not a this stinks bad day or a gol-durnit clogged toilet. There is truly not a person in the world on whom I would wish a "bad" labor. They are all bad. It is far too terrible to wish it any worse, and I speak as someone who has never had a complicated delivery. I wish no one had to go through it, especially my favorite person, me.

The scary thing is that I want to say no one deserves to go through childbirth. The truth, ye who think of sin but lightly, is that childbirth is exactly what we deserve.

Anyway. The worse the labor, the worse the fear of going through it again. And that's a fear that just doesn't need to get any worse.

08 December 2008

More Advent-appropriate reading

From Wendell Berry's "The Slip"

Nothing, having arrived, will stay.
The earth, even, is like a flower, so soon
passeth it away. And yet this nothing
is the seed of all—the clear eye
of Heaven, where all the worlds appear.
Where the imperfect has departed, the perfect
begins its struggle to return. The good gift
begins again its descent. The maker moves
in the unmade, stirring the water until
it clouds, dark beneath the surface,
stirring and darkening the soul until pain
perceives new possibility. There is nothing
to do but learn and wait, return to work
on what remains. Seed will sprout in the scar.
Though death is in the healing, it will heal.

Pax vobiscum

One of those silly, jumbly kid memories I have is thinking that the Communion hosts were called "peace." I arrived at this conclusion by conflating the two facts available to me, as kids will to make sense of things that haven't been explained to them: that they were "pieces" of bread, and that the pastor held one up and said, "The Peace of the Lord be with you always" right before everyone went up to get one. I couldn't have been more than four when I thought this, since we moved from the church in which I remember thinking it after that.

How precious a misperception. Even now, when I see a host, the word that reflexively comes to my mind is "peace." I hope many other English-speaking children are confused into the same clarity.

06 December 2008

The risk(s) of birth

Until my eye, by divine coincidence, fell upon this poem today, I had forgotten that Madeline L’Engle also wrote poetry (I always associate her with the marvelous Wrinkle in Time trilogy). Yesterday and today, between long-distance updates on a very extended labor, I spent quite a bit of time contemplating the risks of birth for mother and child. (I’M AN AUNT!!! I’M AN AUNT!!! I’M AN AUNT!!! HOORAY!!! Er. Sorry ’bout the shouting. Just a wee bit excited--and relieved!--here. I would also like to add, for the record, that my SIL is Awesome :D)

So. Leafing through an Advent program this morning, I happened across L’Engle’s “The Risk of Birth”:

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn
Love still takes the risk of birth.

Kinda makes the people who so virtuously decline to bring children into this world on the basis of its awfulness seem kinda…stingy, does it not?

Love still takes the risk of birth.

Time to sign off; all this long-distance laboring is quite exhausting, I find.

05 December 2008


Once my husband told me that men would always be superior to women because of non-bipedal micturation or distractability by shiny objects or something like that. He is right that men will always be superior to women, but the actual reason is that women have to wear pantyhose.

First of all, they're called pantyhose. This is offensive in the extreme.

Have you seen them? What would possess any person to try to put their legs in them? As if the lower extremities of half the human race are bulk sausage.

What short of childbirth surpasses the humiliation of manuevering oneself into a pair? The humiliation is then magnified by the numerous children looking on and offering criticisms of both process and physique.

Buy the cheap ones and they're full of runs after one wearing. Buy the expensive ones and you bought the expensive ones, which still get runs.

I spend my whole Sunday morning dodging the kids. My two year old follows me around manhandling my weird feeling unskin. The baby cries as I dance about the kitchen, knife in hand, so he can't reach me to shimmy up my pantyhoed legs while I slice potatoes. I spend the sermon watching everyone's feet lest a prickly Velcro shoe fastener grab on and leave me looking like That Mom for the rest of the day.

Control tops.

Why not pants? Well . . . [she admits it grudgingly] men like dresses. Husbands want wives to wear dresses, and pastors think women should wear dresses to church. Some will come right out and say it, but most suspect they will be perceived as vaguely jerky so they drop hints and hope we'll notice. They think this is clever. In fact it is not clever because women communicate this way most of the time. Moreover, we do think it's vaguely jerky*. But Victor Hugo helpfully explains, "One of the magnanimities of woman is to yield." So in addition to all the other bad choices to which this magnanimity leads us (such as setting precedents for labor intensive Sunday meals), we who would otherwise never consider forfeiting our immeasurably more practical pants assume dresses, and therefore pantyhose, and therefore inferiority yet another day.
Because of the angels

(Pastors also want hats to come back, but seriously, dudes. Seriously.)

*Pam probably doesn't; however, she is a Nice Person and Good Wife.

UPDATE: Link corrected via elimination. It's in Les Miserables. Wasn't that a handy way to get to your inbox, though?

HEE haw

Why are very young children expected to know what noises animals make? If I have a kid who only knows four words, why would I want any of them to be moo or oink?

04 December 2008

True friendship

You know you're really friends with someone when you can tell their kids to shape up. I'm sure all those little Gauntlets hate me. :D And if I ever get to spend any more time in the physical presence of Reb. Mary's crew, well, they'll hate me too.

Please consider yourselves not just authorized, but encouraged and implored to straighten out my children when they are acting rotten. It helps my credibility so much.

03 December 2008

With bridal care yourselves prepare

We don't keep the Advent fast as scrupulously as the Lent fast. There are all those social obligations making it difficult. But I love the Advent fast because it brings back all those dear memories of crash dieting and binge exercising that went on in the months and weeks before our wedding (sorry, Billy Blanks, but there's a new man in my life). And then there was that morning I rose with the sun to spend hours of alternating stricken paralysis and frantic ablution alone in my parents' bathroom, the day I told myself I'd try the cake a year from now . . . :D

Good times, that juxtaposition of truest joy and pure terror. Eyes on the skies, guys!

02 December 2008

Don’t kill the messenger

Household phenomenon #217: The Antigone Ploy a.k.a. She'll Never Bury My Sibling

The toddler stomps into kitchen where I stand (so call it?) at the sink, my hands immersed in lemony suds.

“MAMA! Wead. Book.”

“Not now, dear.”

The toddler walks back to the play room for a bit, then returns to grab my pants leg with authority and again make known her request.

“MAMA! Wead. Book. Now.”

“Go away, darling, I’m busy.”

The toddler again walks back to the play room and is gone a bit longer this time. When she returns, she pushes so that she now stands between my legs and the sink counter. I have little choice; it’s either fall on top of her (a bit front heavy, are we?) or stop working. Assured of my attention, she endures the suds dripping on her head long enough to furrow up her brow, put on her most ferocious pucker, and demand, “MAMA! WEAD. BOOK. NOW!”

“What’s gotten into you, you little ape?” I ask. Then I see them: the Big Sister and Brother peeking out the play room door. Sister holds a much beloved picture book in her hand. Brother’s eyes have a certain devious shine.

There’s only one thing to do. I waddle myself over to the play room door, wafting lemony freshness all the way.

“You want a book?” I ask.

“Yes, Mama.” They say.

“Why did you send your sister to ask for it?”

“Because she’s so cute!”

“Did you tell her to yank on my pants?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Did you tell her to shove me away from the sink?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“ . . . how nice.”

Whereupon I shut the door and walk (if I may be so bold to assume) away.

01 December 2008

Blessed be the name of the Lord

I like to think that we who scrutinize our own procreative faithfulness carefully are sensitive to the fact that only God can give life. Simply counting children is not a valid assessment of a couple's procreative ethic. There are such tragic realities as infertility and other impediments to the blessing of children, and only the crassest of critics would make assumptions as to why a husband and wife have the family they do based solely on visible information.

This illustrates how insensitive, offensive, and hurtful it is when our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in our own confession, are so quick to criticize a parish with a modest, steady, or declining membership. What does someone outside a parish family know of that family's internal life? It is just as foolish, uncharitable, and potentially cruel to judge a congregation by its communicant count as it would be foolish, uncharitable, and cruel to tell a random childless couple that they should repent of their refusal of God's gifts. Must every family be huge? Plainly God does not give a plenitude of children to every couple. It is presumptuous and abusive to demand of either a husband and his wife or a pastor and his parish a fruitfulness which a man's will is powerless to generate.

Like many childless couples who are misled by conventional wisdom to pursue children through questionable or immoral reproductive technologies, some parishes seek to grow through ill-informed or even theologically dangerous practices. Many couples come out of years of fertility treatments with crushed spirits, wasted bodies, and empty bank accounts, childless nonetheless. So do many parishes sell their catholic birthright for a mess of zeitgeist pottage with no change in numbers to show for it. Their time cannot be reclaimed, and the damage must be corrected through great effort for those willing to bear the cost of repentance. They languish alone, stories untold on convention screens or in official publications.

God grant us all to trust, be content, and offer him thanks whether he gives in staggering abundance or withholds his hand, and to think and speak of all other families in charity.