23 December 2009

Merry Christmas

A blessed celebration of our Lord's holy nativity to you and all you love.

And He is coming again, you know. Keep your heads up.

03 December 2009


Well, America, as I'm sure you've surmised, the force of blog just hasn't been with us lately.

Please accept this TMBG ensemble as your something to do until the CSPP get jiggy with it once again. Don't watch all the videos at once. No, really.

29 November 2009

5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Happy New Year!

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, O Sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth's redemption that sets your people free!*

*LSB 515:4

24 November 2009

Humph day

The nursling is eight months old this week, which means in about eight months I could (DV) be pregnant again!

It's good to have a system.

The commissariat is growing less stubborn, perhaps.
Though it still enjoys a good spit.

22 November 2009

One, two, three, five

Wise reader Moore Mama observed that the paths of pregnancy following miscarriage are not clearly marked. And how.

Exhibit A: “How many children do you have?”

I list off our three children and say, “And another baby is due in May,” not, “We’re expecting our fourth child.” I haven’t corrected anyone for referring to this baby as our fourth child, though I never hear that without a moment of painful inner confusion. I just don’t like making people feel sad and awkward, especially since it’s not their fault that the numbers are all screwed up.

Truthfully, I don’t really know how to count, especially publicly, from here on out. Maybe this gets less weird over time, but maybe not (?). There will always be a gap, a silent skip, in the numbers. Since this baby will be but 26 months younger than his toddling brother, there’s not even a dramatic pause to mark the lost one. Miscarriage can be a silent sorrow, indeed.

For now, if I feel like it, I mention the lost one in my baby list. If I don’t, I don’t. But I always, always think of him when I name off my children.

‘Tis an unmarked path indeed. I’m grateful for the guard rails (and fellow travelers) that keep my wandering missteps from tumbling me over a cliff on the dark nights: Ultimately, it matters not how the world, or even I, number my children. No matter how I count them, they count for nothing, unless they’re numbered with the saints. Thank you, Jesus, for choosing, excruciatingly, to etch your love for my children on your very flesh, indelibly.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
( Isaiah 49:15-16)

19 November 2009

It's a tossup

as to whether I expend more effort undoing what they do, or doing what they undo.

Sure, it was a big rock, and a bit repetitious and discouraging and whatnot, but Sisyphus had only the one task. Mothers find multiple rockslides every time they turn around.

16 November 2009

Bulimics and hyperemetic pregnant women can’t both be wrong

Ice cream is the ideal food: Easy down . . . and . . . easy up.

Ew. Sorry.

I know way too many women, including myself in my last full-term pregnancy, who’ve been on anti-emetics—not for comfort or convenience, but because the safety of Mom and/or Baby was at stake. Which got me to wondering: Was it ever thus? What did they do before anti-emetics? Is there some great homeopathic remedy for the inaptly named “morning sickness” that we’ve lost over the years? Or have women undergone a serious devolution from our stronger foremothers?

We hear lots about the sobering infant and maternal mortality statistics of yesteryear, but those usually deal with childbirth and the first year of infancy. The only historical reference to morning sickness that comes to my mind is a brief mention in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The First Four Years. (NB: My mind is like a steel sieve nowadays, and I didn’t actually research this. Please feel hereby invited to do my homework for me.)

Did pregnant pilgrims and pioneers puke to the point of dangerous dehydration? And if so, how did they survive, to say nothing of carrying on with the myriad daily tasks that had to be done? (And I mean really had to be done, not geez-this-place-looks-like-a-wreck done.) Even when the nausea and vomiting knock me down hard, I can summon heat, light, and water with the minimal exertion of a finger. When I can’t make it into the kitchen, the people in the house who are inclined to eat can usually still find something edible in the pantry or freezer—and if not, Dad can make a quick grocery store run. There may be an overwhelming pile in the quadrant formerly known as the hamper, but I’m pretty sure that if I had to hie me down to the crick and scrub the duds on the rocks, the laundry would for real never get done.

Probably women have been cursed with hyperemesis gravidarum ever since being booted out of the Garden, and, like so much of mother-related history, the story hasn’t been told because the matrons of yore were too busy industriously living their lives to waste time blogging about it. :P

15 November 2009

I just gotta know

Help me out, America. Amazon's Kindle: Yeah? or Meh?

It's the "read to me" feature that's got me wondering. There are a lot of spaghetti sauce book fatalities in my kitchen; Kindle might save the day, there.

But then again, screens = phhlbbbt. kwim?

And then again further,
that inevitable coffee Kindle fatality would be baaaaaaaaaad.
These things aren't Cylon basestar cool,
whatever they might cost.

14 November 2009

Smell ya later

Big. Tired. Hibernating. Or perhaps brumating, considering.

Posting responsibilities have been indefinitely pushed off on my beautiful associates to whatever extent they feel like assuming them.

13 November 2009

True Marsh eyes

I mentioned awhile back how I feel about the girlie men of Hollywood. There are others who find the preponderance of girlie men to be problematic.

I've also mentioned, via my friend's post, how I feel about fish. Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you suitable evidence that the real danger of Hollywood's girlie men is that they are not men, but fish:

I shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton mad-house,
and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth.
We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and
dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean
and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones
we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.

The only notable difference: Mr. Pattinson is clearly wearing makeup. Beware, America. Beware.

HT on the Derbyshire bit: Mr. Jones.

12 November 2009

Estate planning

For all the contemporary angst about how terrible it is having to care for aging parents, I'm surprised more people don't see the wisdom in making some effort to allow the burden to be more widely shared. Someday Dad and I may well be old and decrepit. But the chances that our care will become the heavy task of one person are comparatively low. God willing, the responsibility will fall to at least five adult children rather than one or two.

If and when that time comes, I hope our children will say, "We didn't get diamond chip earrings and X-Boxes for Christmas when we were five years old, but we're sure glad to have each other now." This provision for them which God has graciously enabled us to make seems so much more beneficial. People and families last longer than childhoods. I'm not clear on why "family planning" focuses so much on the latter.

10 November 2009

Jury duty

My qualification questionnaire wants to know what my occupation is. I'm going with "Mother."

Apparently I could get myself exempted if I were "essential to the care of [an] aged or infirm person." Being essential to the care of a non-aged-or-infirm person who cannot feed, clean, or protect himself from his own suicidal impulses, to say nothing of his only slightly more competent siblings, doesn't count for anything. So I guess I'm going to have to make my case as "a person [for] whom jury service would constitute a severe hardship." My husband advises that I also attempt a preemptive strike by letting them know up front that I believe in jury nullification.

Maybe the politically incorrect demographic info I'm putting up here will be enough to get me out of it anyway.

08 November 2009

Fearfully and Wonderfully

God has presented us with the imponderable: a child who would not exist if his slightly older sibling had survived. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being pregnant again. Have we forgotten the little one we lost? Is this child, who occupies the space that would still have been his sibling’s, some sort of replacement? Any mother knows how foolish those questions are—and yet I inarticulately feared that carrying another child “too soon” would somehow lessen the worth of the one we lost. Alternately, I yearned to be pregnant again (by no means a usual state of mind for me), and then felt vaguely guilty for hoping to find healing through another pregnancy.

God in His mercy, in His time, has fearfully, wondrously consoled us with this gift. Even as we long to live in the presence of the Lord with all our children, we look forward, God willing, to the tender awe of holding a squalling new baby in our arms on this groaning old earth.

Amid our joy, my heart aches anew for those who have lost a child and whose wombs and arms are yet empty. May our Lord hear the cries of the brokenhearted and answer according to His infinite wisdom and compassion.

05 November 2009

And now I don't know what to name this post

You may recall that we're very particular about baby names in our house. It is a matter of theological and historical precision and, this time around, an all new level of marital animosity. But we've reached a peaceable agreement.

Anyway, two great things happened. First, you know that thing people say about how you should think of what terrible insults other kids will make out of your kid's name? Well, we've never bothered with that. Then I was interrogated by some of the school kids of my acquaintance about the impending baby. They wanted to know what the name would be, and I told them. And a kid instantly, inspiredly opened his blessed mouth, from which sprang the perfect insultification of our boy name. It was hilarious. It was exquisitely idiotic in true kid insult fashion. It was SO OBVIOUS. It was awesome. I'm going to congratulate his mother for having raised such a fine son the next time I see her.

Then we were talking with another couple, pregnant with their first baby. We asked them if they had names, and if they were sharing. They were. Their boy name was the same fairly obscure, popularly unpopular though not prohibitively weird name of our selection. We all stood around with our mouths open. I mean, for real? You're kidding, right? Seriously, we don't know one living human with this name, and if the name trend charts are to be believed, pretty much no one else does.

The duplication doesn't bother me; I think it's a good catholic name and that people should use good catholic names, and I hope it doesn't bother them too much. And the insult doesn't bother me either because I think my kid will be able to handle it. But it's been a funny couple of weeks on the name front.

04 November 2009

Just because it's so darn funny

Once upon a time I worked in an office. A weird office. A weird office in which all my co-workers were women who attended churches with "Lutheran" on the sign out front. The sign outside our office building also included the word "Lutheran."

Occasionally in this office (it was an inbound call center), we office workresses would find ourselves trying to explain to confused callers what all the different kinds of Lutherans were. Here are all the different kinds of Lutherans:

ELCA: ordains women
LCMS: us (indicating the employer, not necessarily the worker)
WELS: doesn't let women vote

There you have it, folks. American Lutheranism as Lutheran women see it.

03 November 2009

I beg to propose

If I have one kid who's great with vegetables, another who packs away cheese, another who subsists primarily on one gigantic infusion of biscuits and gravy once a week, and one who only eats meat, there's some case to be made for our family having a balanced diet, right?

02 November 2009

The Good

In which I try to explain why I feel like often when I speak honestly it's sad and angry, because on the whole I don't feel like a sad and angry person, and if you ran into me at church or on the sidewalk you wouldn't think I was either.

The trying and tiring and disheartening and isolating are easy to write about, because everyone has known them, and we long to be known as we endure them. There is no mystery in weariness, because everyone has cried out "Why?" and "How long?" We share our sadness so that we will not be sad alone.

But while happy families may be all alike, the Good is much harder to share. It is too easily caricatured into the insipid, too quickly candied by a sentimental recipient mind. Finding a word truer than an innocuous "wonderful" to express the mystery of our private joys is dangerous. The Good is too intimate to describe or share; even, sometimes, to think about. To touch it is to risk cheapening it, and to share it is to risk turning it into someone else's boredom.

The weight of a warm, confused baby when you lift her from her nap; the way a little boy trotting along clumpily in overalls supersaturates the heart; watching how a bowl of grapes (!) can make a little one the single happiest person on earth; the extemporaneous sacred yodeling of an aspiring hymnwriter; the incisive question unexpectedly sprouted from the hidden mind of one's own child; that hour when everyone is together and laughing and a mother knows she's the center of all these people by God's grace--that is already being shared with the only people who can truly delight in it, in the moment in which it is real and now. It's Better that way, if you ask me.

31 October 2009

Fancy a costume?

This had us ROFLOL. But then, we're us.

N.B. The under-10 set won't get the joke. Wait till they're passed out in a sugar coma before watching. :D

29 October 2009

More fun with the phone

I hate those phone calls. A hapless coed from my Jesuit alma mater was trying to squeeze me for cash. But before these people get to their real point, we have to suffer together through the scripted chat-em-up, wherein they pretend to care about my graduate school experience and my life thereafter. She really had an uphill battle last night, since even I had no interest whatsoever in discussing my graduate school experience or my life thereafter. (Yawn.)

Hapless Coed (HC): So, I see that we have your current employer listed as . . . Homemaker. Is that still correct?

Me: [Chuckling over her rather clumsy handling of the script, especially since she’d told me she was a communications major.] Yes, that’s me.

HC: OK . . . So, what all does that entail?

Me: [More interested in my book than in this little game, but still feeling conventionally polite enough to censor my kneejerk response, which involved detailed explanations of the bodily functions of small and unruly persons.] Oh, you know, all the stuff that makes a house a home.

HC: Hmm . . . OK . . . So would that be more like interior design, or are you involved in the actual construction of homes?

Me: [Laughing out loud now, as I realize that the poor dear really doesn’t know.] I’m a stay-at-home-mom.

HC: Oh! Riiiiight . . . I’ve got you now.

I don’t think she’s the only starry-eyed undergrad in that call center who’d need “homemaking” explained. I only wish I had realized sooner that Homemaker, or Minister of the Interior, or Humble Servant, or whatever you want to call it, can be a legitimate and full-time occupation. I could have used my dormitory days to far better effect.

After I disappointed the caller’s earnest desire to get that pledge card out to you right now, I hung up, and I thought—I’d rather be giving out kisses for sweet dreams than dreaming big in a lonely dorm room. That hapless coed is burdened with the need to write the story of her own life. Exhilarating? Maybe…but also weighty, with the feeling of fate hanging on every decision. And even terrifying, fraught with agony over whether the mishandling of a subplot might not destroy the entire tone and trajectory of the grand opus.

I do expend much prayer and effort, even agony, in the earnest desire that my children’s names appear, along with my own, in the Who’s Whose. But oh, how sweet the comfort in knowing that the trajectory of this Grand Opus will not be mishandled! The story has been written, the main plot played out. The Hero has overcome. The mighty task has been completed. In the subplots, we groan desperately for a more final catharsis, but we know, even as we yearn, that consummation is surely coming. The more I lose myself in the larger plot, the more I’m rescued from the quixotic quest to “find myself.” No matter what I do or don’t with my life, that Day draws closer, every day.

God knows I can’t be trusted to write my own story. Thankfully, all I’ve got to do is follow the script. And it helps if I play my part as though I mean it. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious rehearsing to do.

26 October 2009

Dream big

Every one of us has heard the line, “You be sure to enjoy that baby. Children grow up so fast . . .”

Why do people say this? I do not think it is because they are ill-intentioned; they almost always say it with a kind smile or a friendly pat. But, seriously, why do people say this? Do they remember regretfully the screaming matches they had with their five-year-olds, and hope to help us avoid a similar regret? Are they swollen with nostalgia for footie pajamas and sleep wrinkles? Are they disappointed in how their own children turned out, and wishing they could reclaim all that lost potential?

The world may never know. I think, more often than not, people simply default to that line for lack of anything else to say. Regardless of the motivation, I always want to respond by smiling politely and whispering, “No.”

No, I’m not going to be able to enjoy the baby, because, you see, she is a baby, and an inordinate amount of work. She has several horrible habits, which I would be only too happy to detail for you, should you have the time. Let’s just say, between the reckless pooping and her penchant for yelling at me every waking moment, she’s really difficult to enjoy. Thanks, anyway, for the good hearted advice, but I can’t live up to it.

Ah, the serenity!

Here’s the truth: I’m not blind. If I’m a wretch, why wouldn’t my kids be wretches? They fight, spill, poop, backtalk, fling, dirty, and whoop their way right out of my good sentiments hourly. I love them—viciously, rebelliously, committedly—and I love them because they are mine. But I love them in spite of the fact that, tragically, I can’t enjoy them most of the time.

There are, however, moments—and each second is a gift—when I like my children. It is in these moments that I like them very much: the boy may be working diligently on inventing a machine for knocking down a tower of blocks, and in his furrowed brow I will see the workings of a man; the girl may be concentrating hard on her homework, and in her soft eyes I will see the glimmer of womanhood. Sometimes, even the toddler and the baby will, in breathless flashes, offer glimpses of the adults they might someday become: the women waiting behind the impish chins.

I feel genuinely blessed to be the recipient of sticky kisses and to hear the laughter of infants. But, at the end of the day, I like my children as people, not, implicitly, as children. And I dream of the day when I am surrounded by grown children, their legs stretched under my table, their voices deep and full. I fervently and readily pray God’s mercy upon me and my family, for my pain will be palpable should even one of my grown babies be missing from my table in my later days. I do not wish to imagine how awful it would be should one of them fail to appear at His. Come soon, Lord Jesus . . .

In the meantime, I struggle to put my trust in God's promises, and believe that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. They will never outgrow their Baptisms nor will they outgrow my prayers. And believing this, I am free to spend my days looking for and praising the adults I see emerging in my kids--because, yes, they do grow up so fast. Isn’t it great?

24 October 2009

The fluidity of sin

Sin takes the shape of its container.

We live easy lives of refrigerators, insulation, and plumbing. I didn't die of postpartum hemorrhaging, our son didn't die of pneumonia. This is a comfortable historical moment, and yet we're barely keeping it together. If kids don't have tuberculosis, sin invents something or other to render them inoperable (yes, yes, kids are overmedicated--but aren't we all afraid to say it in front of the parents whose kid can't function without his meds?). Medicine beat polio, and sin crippled us with panic attacks. Develop an economy that frees people from working like dogs, and soon they're slaves to sloth. Sin has programmed us to break down under afflictions great or small. Where it cannot brutally annihilate, it inexorably aggravates.

I'll take the petty complaints of my life any day over losing half my children before their first birthdays, and I know that my trials don't begin to compare to those of our brothers and sisters elsewhen and -where. But at the same time, rich Americans are sad people, like all of sin's victims. Every person staggers under her cross, whether that cross is a relentless series of negative pregnancy tests, or a relentless succession of kids, or a deliberate two with a house in the suburbs.

22 October 2009

Force times distance

Polite people ask, "Does she work outside the home?" as opposed to, "Does she work?" We all know in these enlightened, non-judgmental times that women who stay home work just as much as everyone else (wink, wink).

I recently heard my favorite pastor respond to this polite usage by saying, "You don't have to say that. Women who stay home don't work, they serve." Semantics, I know--and yes, Newton would describe what we do as work, and we've all got the sore feet or backs or round ligaments to prove it. But I appreciate it anyway. I'm not anybody's office slave, I don't answer to a board, and I don't agonize over whether I'm on the downsize list or if I should be asking for a raise to prove how valuable I know I am. The better I do at what I'm doing, the better my family is served. Some days that only means everybody eats food and wears weather-appropriate clothing, and some days I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I manage to pull off. And the other people who live here just keep loving me every day the same.

21 October 2009

Weight up

We all know motherhood is everyone's excuse for not fitting into her wedding dress, which is often true and a fine rationale as far as I'm concerned. But there are some for whom parturition and its environs have the opposite effect. After a few months of nursing the chub down, I haven't had trouble getting into any dress I've worn in the past 10+ years. Lest your VBA alarm begin sounding, let me assure you that this does not mean I look at all good. If a blushing maiden is a slender birch and a fruitful matron is a shapely linden, I'm Charlie Brown's Christmas tree once the baby hits about 6 months. Which, at 30, is just the look I was going for.

I think this skirt really helps.

The strange workings of this cellular mass I've been issued (heretofore, anyway--every time I'm pregnant I think, well, this is the time I'll chunk up, so watch this space) have brought to my attention a fertility issue that doesn't get as much press, because most health care providers spend their time lecturing us about how terribly terrible it is to be overweight. As someone who puts on a lot of weight during pregnancy, I'm quite familiar with this too. But having very low body fat can be an impediment to conception. I'm an idiot and know nothing about medicine, chiro, magnetism, Brewer's yeast, or your health care belief system of choice, but I've read that having one's convenient health proxy known as BMI in the 19 or lower range can put a girl in problem territory in terms of fertility.

The preachy hobbyhorse I'm getting at for CSPP types is this: a woman of childbearing age should think very carefully before she decides to train for the Iron Man. 12% body fat may be what we see on the cover of Shape, but that is not a good shape for a mother in her fertile years.

Being physically fit is not, for us, about looking great on the beach or running a marathon or holding our own on the tennis court or fitting into our wedding dresses or getting back to a certain weight. It is about maintaining the healthy body necessary for the nurturing of a new life--which is probably rounder and definitely softer than what we've been hypnotized into considering attractive.

Most moms can benefit from taking a walk when they get a chance. For some people that walk wisely replaces a listless hour on the couch, and for others it wisely replaces a sweaty, panting hour in the gym. It's either ignorant or disingenuous for those who don't need to take off a few pounds to say, "If I get pregnant while I train for my marathon, I'll just quit." Training itself may well put the body out of commission for pregnancy.

I feel pretty!

Physical fitness is a vain god of our time, and as grotesque a caricature of the ideal it imitates as any vain god. Resisting the temptation to fitness excess (whether through exercise or starvation) has direct and quantifiable consequences for the ongoing work of mothers.

19 October 2009

The problem with sewing machines

is that they're MACHINES.

No fate but what we make for ourselves.

18 October 2009


A properly executed headlock will appear, to the average pewsitter, like a loving maternal embrace.

From this headlock position, advanced practitioners may apply gentle pressure to an earlobe of the offending child, if an additional reminder is indicated.

Threats and ultimatums, when murmured with a pleasant expression, will likewise trouble no one but the youngster whose conscience is asking, nay, begging, to be troubled.

16 October 2009

Homeschooling, hooligan-style

Homeschooling is a novelty around here. I get the impression that some of the venerable ladies of the congregation suspect, based on their observations of churchyard goings-on, that “homeschooling” consists mainly of hooligans running about outside. One retired schoolteacher, whenever she sees us outdoors during “normal school hours,” makes a special point of asking whether “we” are having class outside today, when she can see for herself that what “we” are in fact doing is chasing each other and the dog around the yard with balls and sticks. (Um—Animal exercise physiology class?)

I have two reactions to this perception of our family’s Great Homeschooling Adventure:

1) How sad, that they should be so mistaken.
2) They’re so, so right. :P

14 October 2009

Random inflammatory thoughts on the perplexing prevalence of TMI

Rebekah’s last post reminded me of something I’ve had occasion to ponder:

Great icebreaker: Joking about being out of the baby business, two being enough birth control for me, etc.—the more vehement, the funnier.


Instant conversational freeze: Declaring, however gently (even nonverbally), an openness to an unknown, “unplanned” quantity of children.

I have a few quarter-baked thoughts on the topic of TMI. Just a couple of crackpot theories, people. Consider the source, remember your blood pressure, and try not to get unduly exercised. :)

1) Overmuch protesting? Most larger families I know are simply living their lives. They don’t feel compelled to issue public statements on private matters.

2) Less action, hence more talk. (<:-O!) 3) Oblique natural law? Perhaps there’s some instinctive connection here: once marital integrity has been breached,* once a wall of the temple has been compromised, sacred things become vulnerable, exposed, common. . .

*Just in case our standard disclaimer hasn’t been issued lately: Of course I’m not referring here to those who have grappled earnestly, and reached a place other than standard-issue CSPP. (Recall that your humble blogresses generally consider themselves to be temporarily avowed, and on good days at that.) I don’t think the folks who have sincerely struggled with their decision to avoid conception are the ones who think that oneself or one’s spouse should be discussed with vocabulary that could also refer to the family dog’s inability to have young. In fact, the people who so proudly announce not only their Doneness but the precise mechanisms thereof are probably not aware that they may be causing pain to people whose decisions are not so lightly made. (To say nothing of the even deeper pain that such hilarity may cause women who’d give anything to have just a few years of the fertility that is so wantonly destroyed.)

More good times:

standing around awkwardly pregnant while every other mom shares the approach she took to ending her fertility, and that approach's advantages, disadvantages, and hilarious moments.

Despite my fogginess over where I fit into this jocose exchange of shockingly personal information, it was quite informative. There are tricks out there I'd never heard of before our little chat. I also know now why I keep running into people who took an epidural for the first time on their last baby. Silly me.

11 October 2009

More pie, please

Sing it with me: Just another manic Sunday. . .

The question of properly dividing the pie of maternal attention and energies is a subject of some angst for me, particularly when I foolishly try to peer into my murky crystal ball. I have only a few children at the moment—I can only imagine the mathematical difficulties that arise when the clamoring hordes increase while the pie’s size remains constant.

I’m not sure whether it comforts or frustrates me to know that kids devise their own plans to avoid feeling neglected. ToddlerDude, like any 18-month-old worth his salt, has a couple favorite strategies for getting Mom all to himself: 1)Rise early and loudly, and 2)Schedule a fit of impressive dimensions for the sermon. Not particularly creative, but always effective.

Again we must turn for consolation to poetry. Original submissions encouraged. Submissions of actual pie also accepted.

09 October 2009

Word search

Shouldn’t there be a single word to express the phrase “pregnant woman”? I realize that pregnant is an adjective, but once we’ve established that a person is pregnant, isn’t woman kind of redundant?

06 October 2009

Prepositional objection

What is with the weirdly garbled prepositional and phrasal verbs in children's books? Don Freeman (Corduroy dude) is the worst offender I've noticed, but I'd say it's pretty common throughout kid lit. It sounds unnatural and serves no linguistic purpose. Its overuse renders it aesthetically impotent, and it teaches kids to write in a similarly affected voice. Drives me nuts.

Over she tabbed to Publish Post! Up, up, up she rose from her chair! Toward the freezer she lumbered, slowly, slowly. Out she took the ice cream and into her 25 week old wombling she shoveled it!

05 October 2009

Contemporary philosophers on cultural dress

I should have known Flight of the Conchords could handle the issue addressed a few posts south far better than I.

04 October 2009

Update on Motherhood Prayers

I am sorry to report that the CPH's new edition of Starck's Prayer Book does not include the Motherhood Prayers. This means that if they are still on your wish list, you'll need to get Emmanuel Press's edition of Starck, in which they are included. While I am grateful to Emmanuel for making the Motherhood Prayers available, the volume is bulky and unwieldy since the Motherhood Prayers are appended to the larger collection of Starck's prayers, and as I conceded before, some of the language is pretty outdated.

Whereas the Motherhood Prayers are bleeping fantastic, I encourage all interested parties to write to CPH as I have done and ask that Starck's Motherhood Prayers be considered for an updated, freestanding edition. In case I haven't sung their praises enough, one of the best things about the Motherhood Prayers is that they are truly devotional and do not degenerate into self-indulgent autobiography on the part of the writer as so many women's devotionals do, and as so many readers of women's devotionals are sick of (thank you, Kelly of the eponymous blog). And while they are thoroughly Lutheran in piety and theology, they are not so dogmatic as to exclude other Christian readers. I would give a copy of the Motherhood Prayers to a Roman Catholic, a mainline Protestant, or an Evangelical-type and expect her to find them thoroughly edifying, accessible, and ecumenical--it would not be in the least a sneaky maybe this will Lutheranize you! attempt. This is one of those rare resources that transcends denomination and serves the whole Church.

It would be great to have the Motherhood Prayers available in a small, gift-able volume requiring only one hand, such as that to which mothers often have access. CPH could also offer this blessed hypothetical volume in a package deal with the new Starck edition. It could be great, just great. Let CPH know, if you're in the mood.

03 October 2009

You can think about that until Saturday night

I've always got songs stuck in my head, but ever since Dr. Seuss became a big part of my life again, I find the same thing can happen with rhymes. I wake up in the middle of the night to my brain rumbling, . . . had to pick a peck of Snide/In a dark and gloomy Snide-field that was almost nine miles wide . . . . If I were ever called upon to perform extemporaneously in a talent show, I'd just get up and recite The Cat In the Hat without the merest pang of anxiety. One Fish Two Fish, though--tricky. Too episodic.

Why is it?

01 October 2009

Resources, haphazardly recommended

Thus far in my parenting career, I've come across a few schooly materials that stand out from the rest. You deserve to know about these materials, just because you're so you.

I don't have the wherewithal to offer up a gushy review of each, and I'm sorry about that. Suffice it to say, these puppies are pick of the litter. At least give them a run over at your library, if your library is cool enough to stock actual books on actual shelves. Some people's libraries are not so cool. I won't mention any names.

The ABC's and All Their Tricks by Margaret M. Bishop, for all those times you wish you knew whyfore W or whyfore J.

Geography Songs Kit
from Rainbow Resource Center, because singing "TURKMENISTAN! TAJIKISTAN! UZBEKISTAN!" is sure to make your kid a hit at birthday parties. No, really.

Family Math, by Jean Stenmark, et al. This thing is overflowing with really good ideas for turning everyday activities into math lessons. I'm a math dropout myself, and I really appreciate some hand holding when it comes to mathy topics. But I daresay even the math geniuses among us might enjoy shaking a few math things up a bit. Look, I'm just saying . . .

Handbook of Nature Study
, by Anna Botsford Comstock. Everything you never knew you wanted to know about just about everything in your backyard, the neighbor's backyard, and that guy's yard over there, with a few facts germane to the local byways thrown in for good measure. I don't know what I'd do without this lovely book, and I'm serious. It's great. A tiny, tad bit Darwinist in it's initial approach, but even Darwin can't make a mess of everything.

Finally, the eponymous Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children, because everyone deserves to know the best way to stalk a coon. This book is really fun, especially if you've a few cubs in your pack that need serious lostproofing.

I'll post more as I come across it. And if you have some treasured resource in your parenting coffers, please, please, please, please tellums all about it. Please. Thank you.

The best way to make sure something gets done

Tell the kids you're going to do it.

28 September 2009

From a 14th child

Tradition, thou art for suckling children,
Thou art the enlivening milk for babes;
But no meat for men is in thee.
Then --
But, alas, we all are babes.

Stephen Crane

Rhetorically weary pregnant lady considers simplifying

There are the days when the comments at the grocery store have me scrambling for something like, "Not Catholic. Or fundamentalist. Lutheran. But not the Lutherans who just did the whole gay thing. Traditional Lutherans. But I guess to be fair not all traditional Lutherans have a lot of kids because of some thing some pop-Calvinist said about subduing the earth or something like that. Or something."

And then there are the days when I just want to say, "We're Christian."

25 September 2009

Another story about Ping

A tidbit of news from China had me spitting vodka and Coke out my nose last night. Ladies, don't let what happened to Mrs. Zhou happen to you. :D

A modest proposal

Modest clothing covers both nakedness and the thought thereof. Immodest clothing draws attention to what is beneath it and calls nakedness to mind. And let me also say that less the notable exceptions of hard-won weight loss or true anorexia recovery, no one earns her body, and thus it is a very silly thing to show off.

Right up front I'll tell you I haven't kept all these rules. Metanoio. Further analysis below.


--Cleavage, except on busty society matrons at formal events. I'm pretty sure you have to be at least 60 to qualify for this.

--Clothing which appears to have been painted, pasted, or spackled onto the body or a part of the body, no matter how much skin is covered in fabric. It is very possible for a turtleneck, layered tops, or a floor length dress to be immodest, as my beautiful associate notes below.

--Tops cut so low that everybody gets an eyeful when you bend over

--Ill-fitting clothing resulting in gappage and overhang

--Exhibitionist undergarments (vanity or peekaboo straps)

--Clothing through which undergarments are visible

--Midriff exposure (unless you're dressed traditionally in India--yes, culture is also a part of this discussion. But let's stay focused.)

--Skirts or shorts shorter than low to mid-thigh (please note, a skirt's length is measured from the highest point of its slit, not its lowest point on the leg).

--Clothing which makes it obvious that the wearer is wearing a thong or is lacking one of the two standard female undergarments (sorry, hippies).

--Clothing with detailing which draws attention to the places where everyone already pays attention without the helpful direction of seams, sequins, or stripes.

--Clothing with "cute" expressions like "Eye Candy," "You Wish," "Please Mentally Rape Me," etc.

Time for another episode of Good Idea, Bad Idea

--Unlined skirts or dresses without a slip

--Also, athletic events are not an excuse for cleavage or cling. You can wear a t-shirt. It will not kill you.

Inappropriate for church includes all of the above plus:

--Cleavage, ever. This includes bridal parties. I cannot believe this needs to be spelled out. A bride can still look absolutely beautiful in a wedding dress that shows she belongs to her husband alone rather than everyone. If you must cleave, save it for the reception. And then ask yourself, especially if you're the blushing bride, why must I cleave? Why do I want a whole bunch of people looking at my boobs?

--Clothing requiring specialty underclothing (halter, criss-cross, asymmetrical, or no straps or a low back: all these call attention to what's under your dress, since it obviously isn't standard). This excludes by definition spaghetti straps and strapless or backless tops/dresses. Save all these "cute" items for garden parties.

--Scoop necks, deep Vs, and loose collars of any kind. Kneeling, folks. Think about it.

--Skirts shorter than knee length. Bowing, ditto.

--Heels so high that you can't walk in them without wiggling

--Anything clingy or tight on any part of the body

--Also, dresses or tops with buttons must be checked for gapping. If two-sided tape can't take care of it, retire that piece or buy the next size up.

"Style" is one of the falsest aspirations of humanity. No female has a right to wear any particular article of clothing, even if she looks great in it, even if it's what everybody is wearing, even if it's so cute and she really really likes it. Also, for maternal types, they're not "my clothes" if they don't fit me. Get some that do for early pregnancy, postpartum transition, nursing, and whatever else throws off your measurements--that's what thrift stores are for. My wardrobe is a mile wide in sizes and an inch deep in any given size. Sigh.

Now, I realize that it is very difficult to buy clothes for your exceptionally unique body, for someone your age, etc. Girls, deal with it. There are certain styles which simply cannot be worn modestly on certain body types, and certain styles which are immodest, period. I'm sorry. Your body may also be proportioned such that you have to select certain styles of clothing to modestly fit your largest measurement rather than your smallest one. I'm sorry about that too. I don't like it either. I'm fully aware that it often doesn't look as good as we all want to look, and the misery of having a size that big in your closet.

The shame!

There is someone for whom every woman gets to look great and dress as strappily, clingily, or minimally as she wants, and that's her husband. Save it for him.

24 September 2009

Social Duds

Mostly speculative, assuredly crazy

Interesting discussion here.

A few months back, I was bulldogging an overfull cart through the grocery store when I walked by a middle-aged mother happily discussing the merits of some brand of something with her three older daughters. All four women were dressed in denim jumpers and loose T-shirts, and they wore their hair up in simple ponytails. The simplicity and uniformity of their clothes startled me (we don't get a lot of that around here), and as I looked them over the oldest daughter noticed me and gave me a warm smile.

I smiled back, of course, but as I lugged my stuff away I wondered, “Why do they do that? They’re communicating ‘weird’ by dressing that way.”

Then: “Oh. That’s why they do that.”

Then: “Ack! No! That’s why they do that!”

Then: “But I LIKE wearing jeans!”

That brief encounter with such unobtrusive modesty made a deep impression on me. Those women were different, and they wore their difference on their sleeves. Their clothes sent a clear message to any onlooker: We aren’t like you; we belong to someone else; we know something you don’t know.

Yet they were not snooty broads, those women. They didn’t seem to be conceited legalists. Their ponytails hinted that they weren’t members of some woman-hating cult. Their cartful of products boasted of normal tastes and a normal life (unlike my cartful of wheat flour and raw beans). They smiled at me kindly when I passed. They laughed easily. They were typically human, but they were modestly dressed and, therefore, set apart.

I have committed various crimes against modesty over the years. I confess I used to wear the girl uniform Father Curtis lambastes in his post. I still own a few tighty-Ts, given to me as gifts, which I have worn. I am heartily sorry and sincerely repent of my tighty-Ts, because I now see that wearing such clothes, clothes that invite the world to appraise my frame, is disrespectful to my confession, my marriage, my children, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and myself. I am a woman, and can hardly disguise it. I am not ashamed of being a woman; I look the way I was designed to look. But there are limits, and looking like a woman needn’t translate into everyone looking.

What is more, I am responsible for the dress of three little girls. The type of woman I am now heavily influences—if not directly predicts—the type of woman my daughters will become. What I wear and how I comport myself communicates consequentially, and my little ones are paying attention. Shape up, self. Lose your vanity and kick the world out of your closet.

The problem: there is precious little available to the sewing-impaired on humble incomes who wish to dress themselves and their daughters modestly. The blousiest blouse is too low cut, the highest turtle neck is corset tight, the loosest pants are much, much too “juicy” or “go team” or “take a good long stare.” Modesty is especially difficult to affect when nursing, for obvious and "I hope it's not so obvious" reasons.

Sure . . . I'll get right on that.

So . . . the most apparent answer: Maternity clothes from the 1980s. The second most apparent answer: Denim jumpers. Aaaaaa! :D

In reality, I’m not about to give up my beloved blue jeans and sweatshirts. Neither am I going to force my daughters into Mennonite garb* anytime soon. We’re weird enough already, and I’m not sure I’m as brave as those grocery store ladies who wore their confession (whatever it was) outright. Instead, I’ve started budgeting to buy my girls' church clothes from providers like Hanna Andersson and April Cornell, whose products are less influenced by Disney, and competitively priced on the sales racks. And I purchase our play clothes from uncool bargain bins at Goodwill. Overall, I’ve started thinking more carefully about what our clothing communicates to outsiders. Does that skirt scream “Everyone, lookit here”? Or does it confess that, finally, we belong to someone else, that we know something the world can’t understand? Our clothes are the first and, sometimes, the only thing people know about us. I think it’s worth considering what our clothes confess, and being sure that our clothes don’t betray us and our children to our enemies.

Goodbye tighty-T. Sure, I was saved by the efficacious blood of Christ while I wore you, but you didn't do me any favors. I’m sorry I ever knew you.

*Though, consider this: I grew up in capped Mennonite country. All the Mennonite girls and women wore tea-length, home-sewn dresses in calico fabrics. The married women wore their hair coiled in buns and covered in black caps. But knock on a Mennonite family’s door in the middle of the day, and you’d likely find the girls and women in jeans with their hair flying loose. Their “capped Mennonite” uniform was for social purposes only . . . which I think very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Breastfeeding myths and legends

I got a kick out of reading over at the Good Lutheran Moms Blog about the chapter of the Duggar book entitled something like "The Myth of Breastfeeding as Birth Control." Hear, hear, Michelle. I'm still trying to forgive the Kippleys for telling me that our kids would almost certainly be spaced 2.5+ years if I were a good enough mom, and I've got it much easier than Michelle does. I'd like to address it briefly along with a few more myths about breastfeeding.

1. The anovulation thing is way overblown by NFPers. As we've discussed before, it requires a very calculated approach to breastfeeding which can hardly be called natural for many people, and even then often doesn't "work" for a lot of women. Ecological breastfeeding is the coldest of comforts for someone with an early return of fertility, no matter how much she loves babies.

2. Breastfeeding, the magical weight loss cure. It's true for some people. Not everyone. It's annoying at best to a more traditionally built hard core nursing mom when some scrawny young thing beams knowingly to everyone who tells her that she doesn't look like a mother (horrors!), "I just breastfeed!" So do a lot of moms, get it? Wouldn't the imperfect among us be doing ourselves a favor to emphasize the fact that no naturally occurring function or appearance of our bodies is a personal accomplishment?

3. "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong." I've finally gained enough confidence in my own non-idiocy to say this is . . . let's see, how would pious Grandma have put it? Well, I guess I'll go with "for the birds." Incredibly stupid birds. Lobotomized, inbred, Epsilon Minus dodos. Some women have difficult pregnancies or deliveries, not because they're being pregnant or laboring wrong, but because it's just how their bodies (don't) work. And some women have difficulty breastfeeding, not because they're too stupid to understand the extremely simple latching directions or need even more ogling and manhandling by lactation consultants or really should join La Leche League if they're serious about this. For some reason, breastfeeding can be hard even when executed with the correct mechanics, and by hard I don't mean "Ding bust-it spit, this zipper won't zip!" I mean, "Has the old CIA waterboarding team heard about this?" So deal with it, lactation experts. Breastfeeding is just as screwed up as everything else on this screwed up planet. You, of all people, ought to know. Quit blaming mothers who already hate themselves for failing at something beyond their control, and please make the next edition of your propaganda rag how-to book more honest.

>>Then you and Osama were . . .

>>YES. YES. Say it. He vas my... BOYFRIEND.

23 September 2009

Tall dude who lives in my house

Parish life is, for me, much easier with kids. I always have something to talk about. How well I remember sitting awkwardly in the pew or the narthex or Bible class while my husband was on official field worker business during seminary--the boring wife to whom no one knew what to say. The solitary thing that got easier when our first baby was born was dealing with the church social requirements of vicarage (not least because I sometimes had an excuse to get out of them). Now I have an ever-increasing number of conversation pieces and reasons for being late, leaving early, saying no, or not knowing what's going on.

There is another advantage, too--I don't have to figure out what to call that one guy any more. I call him Dad, both directly and referentially. I know no one else from church will appropriate this familiarity for personal use. I won't be suspected of affecting formality in these highly informal parts by calling him Pastor. Everyone knows what I mean and it keeps us all very human in a place where it's important to be very human. And I'm partial to the paternal nuance. ;)

21 September 2009

Your joy to know

You know there’s been too much sadness in the family lately when the 5-year-old, praying for pregnant friends and relatives, feels compelled to add, “And please don’t let their baby die.”

This prayer, however matter-of-factly uttered, is heartwrenching. The lad is tough, but with a tender heart, and he has shed tears for babies loved and lost. Did we err in sharing grief with him?

No. We have shared not only our grief, but the reason for the hope that we have—the reason that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. This kid gets it. He knows the race isn’t over yet. He knows we’re waiting on That Glorious Day. We’re listening for the trumpet blast that heralds the One who brings an end to all strife and the beginning of life made new.

More: He’s five, and he knows that even a teeny, in-utero sibling or cousin or friend that he’s never seen is a person, created and loved by God, whose existence is cause for rejoicing and whose temporal loss is cause for sorrow.

When it comes to topics like death, the truism is true: each mother and father can best discern the information that’s appropriate for their children. (For instance: We’re not totally sure where the three-year-old is with all this. We haven’t talked quite as much with him about it, but neither have we hidden anything from him. Also: we don’t dwell extensively on the topic with our older son, but deal with it as it comes up.)

Sometimes, the suddenness of grief forces a parent’s hand. Misguided protective instincts might tempt us to wrap our children in cozy euphemisms, or else cut them out of the loop altogether. Let’s not be misled by a world that grieves without hope into thinking that we should “love” our children by insulating them from sadness. Let’s not make our children’s happiness into an idol that usurps the place intended for a more profound joy. True Love, after all, is stronger than death.

Let us suffer here with Jesus, and with patience bear our cross.
Joy will follow all our sadness; where He is, there is no loss.
Though today we sow no laughter, we shall reap celestial joy;
All discomforts that annoy shall give way to mirth here-after.
Jesus, here I share Your woe; help me there Your joy to know.

19 September 2009

My hobby

Being asked what my hobbies are is always unsettling--just more proof that I don't really exist. Things I do that other people might consider hobbies are what I consider necessary work for the operation of our house. We do not live from scratch to the extent that we do because I have too much time on my hands. Doing things on-site as I am able is a priority for our family, and the products are desirable for thrift and/or quality. Some of them I enjoy; others, not so much. This blog is my hobby, but there's no honor in that. :D

But there is one other thing I spend a lot of time doing: church stuff. Dad has me subcontracted for a women's Bible study, I'm involved in various modest musical endeavors, I'm inextricably entangled with the school, I'm elbow-deep in every project and event, I babysit to make it easier for other people to do church stuff, I put up signs around town, I have clean underpants on hand for when a kindergartener next door needs a pair (something that happens enough that it doesn't surprise me any more), not to mention that I'm the main supplier of children to the cradle roll. Many of these things cause our house to fall into greater chaos than usual, but it's cool. It's for church, and everyone in our family gets that. Church operations are a "hobby" for all of us.

This, I think, is what pastor's wives used to do. They weren't co-pastors. They did for their church families the kinds of things they did for their families at home. But since wives don't do what wives used to do any more, pastor's wives don't either. Instead of spending the week making pies for the auction (what am I, a scullery wench? and who makes pies any more?), they won't suffer anything beneath the dignity of leading exegesis sessions in the original languages or organizing spiritual retreats where everybody has to sing stupid songs and cry. They're just as busy and tired from working as everybody else, so they're not going to spend their spare moments doing grunt work at church any more than anyone else from church is. Furthermore, the few who are home and are called upon for such tasks are likely to feel taken for granted, since anyone else would be getting paid for their work, and it does intrude upon household operations.

Contemporary pastor's wife angst is cut from the same cloth as contemporary maternal angst. Maybe we don't all play the organ or teach Sunday School or do those things we all love pointing out that we don't do to prove that we're "not the typical pastor's wife," but sheesh, can we please put this boring whine away? I know it would make my husband's life a lot easier if I did play the organ, so that's nothing to be proud of. :P

But the argument I'm more interested in making is that the traditional pastor's wife, like the traditional mom, is primarily someone who is available. Someone who might be able to answer your question, or if she can't, can make sure it gets answered for you. Someone who has the keys and knows where things are. Someone who is there when there's cooking or cleaning or calling of plumbers to be done. Someone who is sensitive to and patient with a parish's quirks and needs. Someone who knows who needs help when, and who might be able to offer it. Someone who can quietly take care of the stuff that other people don't even realize needs to be done. Someone who considers her special gifts an offering to the church rather than something she has a right to pursue and showcase on her own terms for her own fulfillment. Someone whose work stretches the church budget rather than eating into it. Someone who doesn't growl about how she's not getting paid for this and if she were in some other church she'd have a desk and a paycheck (thank you, Commissioned Minister roster).

And all this disregards the fact that there's a rather huge Christian tradition out there that's been getting along just fine without clergy wives and their important, important "ministry" for centuries. Perspective, girls.

Anyway, that's my hobby. And I like it. I love church and I always have and I'm glad I can do things for church because I'm home. Thank you, God.

UPDATE: That should be "pastors' wives," not "pastor's wives" in the third paragraph. How embarrassing.

17 September 2009

Go for it!

Big thanks to My Own Brother-in-law for sending me this article:

No, you are probably not RISKING YOUR PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS HEALTH!!! by having more than 2 kids.

16 September 2009

Don't let anyone look down on you

because you love being a mom. Not every mom does. Many mothers labor primarily because they must, and honestly find little daily joy in it. They are making a long term investment, and they know it. They plug away.

But there are also women whose children are all their joy; to whom the four-toothed smiles and goofy games and wadded flowers are their days' sunshine. Blessed are you and your children. You are the kind of mom crusty rhinos like me wish we were. You are the kind of mom I wish my kids had. Thank you for the example you set in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Don't let it get you down when all the crusty rhinos start snorting and bellowing. We think you're great, and you help us remember what we're aiming at.

Teach me your ways.

15 September 2009

Old Possum on secular religionists

" . . . for the most part [the secular reformer] conceives of the evils of the world as something external to himself. They are thought of either as completely impersonal, so that there is nothing to alter but machinery; or if there is evil incarnate, it is always incarnate in the other people--a class, a race, the politicians, the bankers, the armament makers, and so forth--never in oneself."

Wow, does this sound familiar or what? And a valuable warning for those of us for whom any attack is fine as long as it's prefaced with "Well of course I'm the biggest sinner there is, but . . . ".

"The term "social justice"is in danger of losing its rational content--which would be replaced by a powerful emotional charge."

Prophetic indeed. At least he's been spared the pain of witnessing the abuse done to "sustainability" and "organic."

T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture

14 September 2009

Pressing on

Reb. Mary is a runner. I am not. I am just someone who had enough fat-aphobia to try to act like a runner, every day if I possibly could. I couldn't hold my own in even a 5K where there were real runners, but I could still get myself red and sweaty and more in control of the horrific possibility of my dress size going up.

Exercise has never felt good to me. I don't get second winds, or that endorphin rush they talk about. And when I imagine what my life would look like on a rainy day digital treadmill readout, I get sad. I see this looooooooooooooooooong course marked out in the red dots, and I'm so much closer to the beginning than the end (DV), and I'm already dripping sweat and dying to quit.

I imagine 15 years (!!) from now when I will maybe, finally be crumpled in the grass, sticky forearms on my sticky knees, too tired for a drink, feeling how hot my face is blazing, wishing for a breeze, waiting for the strength to get to the shower and stand in the icy water and wash it all away. Only thinking, "It's over. It's over."

I know all lives are hard and every time of life is hard. But this feels like that heavy part where I haven't even reached the middle, and all I can think about is being done.

12 September 2009

Pregnancy: a subsidiary of Kraft Foods

Jet-puffed body, brain by Velveeta.

Your humble blogress, 22 weeks gestation

11 September 2009

Hey, this is hard!

Having one baby, or a baby and a toddler, or a baby and a toddler and a preschooler, is not a sufficient gauge* of whether one "can do this." Those years are wretched. They are not representative of the familial experience. I remember reading once in some Dobson book on parenting that the hypothetical mother whose personal well-being worried him most was the one home with two or three kids below preschool age. Quitting at that point is like calling your mom to pick you up from boot camp or giving up on getting in shape because your first time out you get a stitch in your side. You've just got to get past it, when there's the most work to do and no one to help.

*in most cases, in most cases, in most cases.

10 September 2009

Hard to believe: more complaining at CSPP

Whenever you read one of those inspirational bio-shorts about some wonderful woman of yore who had fourteen children and kept a well-ordered house and was her husband's dearest treasure, they all end roughly the same way: she never complained, but labored tirelessly at her work as ordained and blessed by God.

Really? She never complained? Ever? To whom did she never complain? To a person who, 200 years later, pieced together the sketchiest of 70 word biographical sketches from a book about the subject's famous husband?

There are also the sainted mothers in living memory who never complained. If I may say so, this is a rather silly assessment for a child to make. The main people in front of whom I strive not to complain are--can you guess? My dear children. Come to think of it, I can't remember my mother ever complaining. I can remember a few impressive outbursts at extremely trying familial moments over the course of my childhood, but I would not classify them as complaining. More like us rotten kids hearing what we deserved to hear for once (and that was my perspective then).

I marvel that I remember so few of these explosions, considering the amount of time she spent taking care of my three closely spaced siblings and me. But now that I'm an adult, she's been more forthcoming with her feelings on child care, and I don't feel quite so alone. :D I still consider her one of the least grousy people I know. (In case anyone is wondering, the persons to whom a mother is likely to complain are her sisters and friends who are also mothers, her own mother, and her husband. And, obviously, her blog.)

And what's complaining anyway? Is it complaining if a third spectacular excretory event in a day makes a mom want to cry, and the kids can tell? Is it complaining if it becomes observable that a 10th week of nausea is starting to get a pregnant lady down? Is it complaining to say that childbirth really, really hurts? Are the facts of a mother's life complaints in themselves, such that they should never be stated?

I'm a complainer, there's no doubt about that. But I don't think that if a pregnant mother or a mother of young children or a mother with little household help answers honestly when someone asks how how she's doing she should be painted as a bitter, closet feminist complainer. If you ask me what I did today, the facts are that I got hugs and kisses and sang songs, but also that my hands got really, disgustingly dirty and more than a few times I was discomfited by the thought that I've got an unpleasant day coming up a few months from now. It's just true. A mother's whole life is true, not just the romantic parts.

09 September 2009

A brief reading for your day

I'm a sucker for anyone who quotes Lewis' trilogy. This brief piece is worth the couple minutes it'll take you to read it. Teaser:

Our work is undergirded by a builder whose plans we don't yet see. Nonetheless, we are called to build carefully and to labor well, not always knowing how God will use the work. It is reminiscent of the line in C.S. Lewis's Perelandra: "One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications."(1)

HT: My own mother, who is doubtless still waiting to see how on earth her labors in raising me will turn out :P

08 September 2009

Boy, do I know the feeling

Maintaining a properly eschatological perspective is crucial for surviving in the CSPP trenches. When I’m too nearsighted to lift my eyes beyond the childbearing years, I can really empathize with the girl in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”:

She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.

05 September 2009

Yes, I do sometimes feel a bit outnumbered, thank you for asking

(If you’re too sophisticated for bathroom humor, don’t bother reading on)

I don’t have to get out the CSPP trading cards to know that a 4-to-1 boy/girl ratio (counting Dad and me) is not even close to the big time in boy numbers (think Preus…). But I’m here, and so are they, and—some days, it just seems like there are so many of them.

Scene: Nature’s call interrupts a family walk around the periphery of the local golf course. Dad directs the boy to the most appropriate venue, given the available options.

Boy, returning to path: Why are there so many bathrooms on the golf course?

Mom, muttering darkly: Some people call them trees.

Dad, gleefully: My son, you’re catching on: the world is our bathroom!*

Boy, musing contentedly as he gets back on his bike: I’ve never peed on the golf course before.

This episode occurred shortly after a family vacation during which the three-year-old, to amuse himself along the drive, composed a song. It was a real epic, celebrating the struggles and triumphs of the trip. The refrain: “And I peeeeeeeed on the plaaaaaants in the woooooods.”

Sorry. I just had to share. It's been like that lately.

*I should perhaps note that Dad is normally what I would consider to be a fairly civilized specimen of the male of the species (or should I say, the male species).

03 September 2009

Barefoot and pregnant: be careful

I knew this would happen.

I do a lot of canning. I don't know if it saves any money when you factor in the peripheral expenses (jars, lids, garden costs, and ingredients I have to purchase), but it makes me feel like I'm helping.

Canning is hot work and all husbands like a barefoot wife in the kitchen, so I've been going about it for three summers without benefit of shoes. And it wasn't even the canning that got me in the end, but it could just as easily have been.

On the day in question I received one (1) phone call. I answered the phone and the person on the other end said, "Peanut butter rolls." Then he hung up. This was the only adult to whom I spoke that day.

Now, some people might find this insulting. Especially pregnant people who had spent the morning loading the dehydrator with a million bananas acquired free the day before and the afternoon canning jelly in a very zone 6 kitchen in August while still looking forward to making the buns for supper. But the caller had the callee's own gluttony going for him. So she counted not the heat and the fatigue and the completely unseasonable and arguably terse request, finished her jelly, and moved on to the unscheduled rolls. She even altered her course mid-prep when the Dad/Baby Caucus decided they'd rather have caramel than peanut butter.

Everything was going fine until it was time to turn the rolls out onto the plate. Then the uncoordinated barefoot pregnant lady in the kitchen spilled boiling caramel on her foot. Her bare foot.

It was sad.

What's a girl to do? Cooking barefoot just isn't safe, especially when the project involves lots of hot liquid transfers. But being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen is a confessional statement not to be cast off in the face of mere personal injury. Fear of blistered feet didn't get anyone onto the sanctoral calendar.

Then I remembered another project I'm supposed to have in the works: Dad's boot scent pads. He told me it would be cheaper for me to make them but I see now that they are quite inexpensive, and considering how much it's going to cost to get my sewing machine fixed so I can do this project (elastic, you know), maybe we'll have another talk about it.

Anyway, it seems to me that these scent pads could easily be adapted to ensure both foot safety and essential barefootism in the kitchen. Simply slide a protective layer under the pad, adjust to a comfortable tension, and the top of your foot will be covered while the bottom remains bare as Bilbo's (and probably as crusty after a few years). Obviously asbestos is the ideal option (that's why they call it asBESTos), but with all these dang hippies taking over the government and outlawing my favorite deadly household products that actually WORK, we'll just have to improvise with what we can find around the house. Probably a disposable diaper full of cutaneously toxic chemicals would do pretty well. Sizes NB-2 should cover most sizes of feminine feet.

Mockup with immediately available materials: conventional rubber band and size 4 cutaneously toxic disposable diaper. The rubber band is too loose and the diaper is too big. Even the cat disrespects it. Please follow above directions for a more reliable model.

Girls, you know we want you barefoot, pregnant, and sweating to death in the kitchen. But please, be careful.

02 September 2009

Toilet training

her wry face blooms red
lo! roots! Dark and thick--
the corner; forbidden soil.

01 September 2009

The show must go on

Twas a great day on Planet Homeschool. We spent much of the morning as world-class cricketologists: We read about crickets. We caught crickets. We made an ecosystem for our crickets. After lunch, we pulled off an astonishingly quiet Quiet Time. But all through the day, even as we marched down the markerboard with minimal meltdowns, I had a nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. . . something important.

I shook off that feeling as best I could, reminding myself to focus on what we were doing rather than on what we weren’t. And I thought: Hey, I can do this. Hey, I’m doing this! The afternoon drew to a close in triumph* with the reading of the last Sidewalk Sentence, and we began eagerly to anticipate Dad’s appearance. Suddenly, the nebulous forgetfulness that had been bothering me all day came sharply into focus in a single, urgent word: Supper!

Right. I’m supposed to feed them all, too. Every day. Several times, every day. Sigh.

Everyone got fed, and everyone was happy, especially when I pulled out the leftover cookies for dessert. But I’m at least one ball short of an amateur juggling act, ya know? :P

I know I'm not supposed to try this at home,
but where the heck else am I supposed to try it?

*Lest you be conjuring up some ridiculously idealistic picture of our day in your head, let it be known that “triumph” can be defined as follows: BoyOne hopping back and forth over his Sidewalk Sentences, insisting that he can read them just fine upside down (he can); BoyTwo dancing about in rage because BoyThree interfered with his dirt pile; BoyThree, moving on with complete unconcern for the maelstrom in his wake, dumping an entire bucket of water onto himself; the dog all the while trying really hard to get someone to throw her ball.


I'm always mad at the kids for failing to care that they've done something really rotten and generated all kinds of unnecessary work and/or sadness. I tell them why whatever they did was rotten, I tell them how unhappy it made the victim, I administer their punishment, they cry and then ask what's for supper and does Dad get to stay home tonight and how do I like this picture? They're sociopaths. I want to shake them and do it all over again until they seem appropriately penitent.

But if they felt as remorseful as I think they should feel over all the crimes they commit in a day, they'd be depressed all the time. Perhaps this is some kind of built-in coping mechanism so that humans can remember their childhoods fondly. And really, it isn't just a feature of childhood. Although we occasionally feel genuine sorrow over pain we've caused, it's pretty common for our primary cause for remorse to be getting caught or having lowered others' opinion of us, no matter how old we are.

30 August 2009

The cumulative burgeoning of un-ignorant bliss

When we first started down Pill-is-Evil Avenue, and then again when that road unexpectedly routed us down CSPP Way, I’d have bouts of nostalgia for the blissful ignorance of my former pill-popping self. Life with a few carefully planned children seemed a lot more manageable, to say nothing of more, well, fun, than a future filled with a potentially terrifying number of children, like an infinite nightmarish procession of those Russian nesting dolls.

Aieeeee.....Am I twitching?!?

That ignorance was of course only blissful in selfish, self-pitying restrospect. I’m getting braver. (Some days.) The longer I walk, trudge, skip, stumble, dance, and just plain doggedly follow this road, the more I begin to understand a few basic things. Like: A carefully planned future is a big, dangerous joke. Also: There’s really no such thing as a “manageable” number of children. Whether she holds one or two or ten children, a mother’s hands are full.

A.W. Tozer on that blissful ignorance thing: “For myself, I long ago decided that I would rather know the truth than be happy in ignorance. If I cannot have both truth and happiness, give me truth. We’ll have a long time to be happy in heaven” (Man: The Dwelling Place of God).

Turns out that truth and happiness aren’t conflicting absolutes, after all. Not even (at least not always) in this present vale of tears.

For those who are interested in furthering their Protestant studies :D, I would also recommend Tozer’s The Pursuit of God as an excellent devotional resource.

29 August 2009

A little project for you

There’s an old entertainment center in the parsonage basement. Could someone please come over and do something like this with it for us? Payment will be rendered in ornamental gourds (the boys’ section of the garden has outdone itself).

27 August 2009

Book, recommended, and let's charitably blame the editor for the title

Someone personally recommended to me the book Passionate Housewives Desperate For God, so I picked it up. I'd heard of it before, but to be honest I make every effort to avoid contemporary "Christian Living" books so I hadn't pursued this one either. The genre is nearly always facile, too long on annoying words (such as--sorry--"passionate"), and too Protestant for my hostile tastes (Reb. Mary patiently keeps me from dissipating into the Concordian ether).

The whole Christian anti-feminist movement in particular is also something I've generally filed under Um . . . not my style. I am not above rubies. I'm barely above the stuff in the S trap. My personal opinion is that if Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 were ever tragically lost, Proverbs 31 would make a fine substitute for half of us. Wow, I so cannot remember the last time I delivered a sash to the merchant. This lady is like my mother-in-law (whom I love and admire and whose company I enjoy): so far out of my league that we're not even in competition.

The reason the anti-feminists generally don't resonate with me--besides the weird womb obsession--is that I agree with them too much. There is no chance that I'm going to get a job and sign the kids up for daycare. I don't even want to, secretly or otherwise. I completely agree that feminism is philosophically void (as demonstrated by its numerous contradictory incarnations) and personally and societally toxic. So I don't need someone to convince me of this. And since I agree with the major premise, I get snotty about the minor ones. For example, am I supposed to touch up my lipstick before my husband gets home, or never succumb to such damning vanities? What can I say, I'm a jerk.

But the value of the anti-feminist genre is that a lot of people really have not heard what it has to say. And for people like that, Passionate Housewives is a good book. It is not at all heavy handed on more peripheral and touchy issues like homeschooling or quiverfilling, which to us are a big deal but to those outside the vortex are insane, entry-prohibitive dealbreakers. The authors gracefully demonstrate the practical implications of their theology in their bios and as a result don't need to browbeat about such things to make the urgent, foundational argument: know who you are and the work God has given you to do. It is blessed work. The world's dummy is as vain and deceptive as anything the world has ever had to offer.

So if your personal library is lacking a foundation book for both your own reference and as a loaner for confused members of normal society who show up on your doorstep, this is a good one to have (although I might mention to borrowers that I am of the pious opinion that interior decorating is not central to wifely/maternal vocation). Theologically speaking, this book won't direct your basic street Lutheran to the Blessed Sacrament, but it also doesn't ask her to write in the margin how God is speaking to her personally today. Blech, that felt like a hairball coming out.

The most useful thing to me in PHes was the chapter on personal piety. If you can't find a big chunk in your day for prayer and devotion, take little chunks as you can. The competition between sleep and hygiene is bad enough; throw piety into the mix and you're bound for rage or despair depending on your personality. Don't decide to pray two Psalms in 20 minutes, because too often you will not be able to. Decide to pray two Psalms all day long--which is probably better anyway.

The book I'm still looking for is, I'm here, at home, kids in with and under me, marinating in my convictions: now what? But actually, that Book is already written too, and the more time I spend in it, the better off we all are.