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.