30 July 2010

What will the Amish think of next?

And when will the Lutherans learn?

29 July 2010

not cruel, only truthful

Dear self,

Look in the mirror before you go to church. This will not be an exercise in vanity, because you know very well you are minimally groomed and dressed solely on the basis of what is both clean and fits. But still, look. See whether there is so much glurk or oatmeal on your top as to require a change. Make sure you have your skirt on. Make sure your pajama pants aren't still on under it. Check for squash seeds in your hair.

Do this with the light on, so that you will be able to tell if something that shouldn't be showing through is. See to it that snaps and hooks are snapped and hooked. If you have chosen to accessorize with a zipper, remember that they are most flattering when zipped.

I'm sorry to insult your intelligence, self, but we both know you've earned it.

27 July 2010

The wife's part

Many's the time I've expended frank worry over the fact that I seem to have absolutely nothing to offer my earthly lord. Complicating this situation is the fact that he does everything, everything for me, and with a smile on his face. So this bit of old-timey Presbyterian wisdom from Home-Making by JR Miller caught my attention:

The true wife clings and leans, but she also helps and inspires. Her husband feels the mighty inspiration of her love in all his life. Toil is easier, burdens are lighter, and battles are less fierce, because of the face that waits in the quiet of the home, because of the heart that beats in loving sympathy whatever the experience, because of the voice that speaks its words of cheer and encouragement when the day’s work is done. No wife knows how much she can do to make her husband honored among men, and his life a power and success, by her loyal faithfulness, by the active inspiration of her own sweet life. Here are the true words from another pen:

“The woodman’s axe swings lighter, the heavy blows on the anvil have more music than fatigue in them, the farmer whistles cheerfully over his plough, the mechanic’s severest toil is lightened by a sweet refrain, when he knows that his fair young bride is in sympathy with him, and while watching his return is providing daintily for his pleasure and comfort, eager to give him loving welcome. To the artist at his easel come fairer visions to be transformed to the canvas because of the dear one presiding over his house. The author in his study finds the dullest subjects clothed in freshness and vigor because of the gentle critic to whom he can go for aid and encouragement. The lawyer prepares his case with better balanced energy, thinks more clearly, pleads his cause with more effective eloquence, inspired by the cheering words uttered as he goes to his labors by the young wife whose thoughts he is assured will follow his work with her judicious, tranquillizing sympathy. The physician in his daily rounds among the sick and suffering knows there is one, now all his own, praying for his success, and this knowledge so fills his being that his very presence by the sick bed has healing in it. The young pastor in his efforts to minister to the spiritual wants of his flock will speak peace to the troubled souls committed to his trust with far more zeal and tenderness for the love that will smile on him when he returns home.”

Is it true? I hope so. And I hope I will do a better job of it today and tomorrow and as long as we both shall live.

25 July 2010


I have a weird sense of humor. Sometimes I find it amusing to pretend that everything is OK and that I’m totally handling my life, as opposed to my life totally handling me. A neat by-product of this exercise in personal amusement is that a little charade every now again can actually make me feel surprisingly competent, maybe even temporarily sane (behold, the power of self-talk!).

I recently ran again across the term sprezzatura, which in its original sense (a la Castiglione) has fake-y connotations. But the definition suggested by the context had more to do with doing something difficult, doing it well, and making it look easy. Wiktionary calls sprezzatura “The art of doing a difficult task so gracefully, that it looks effortless.” You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Unto each woman are her own difficulties, and each difficulty presents the opportunity to respond with grace or to, well, throw a tantrum.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I muster the troops for church. The church behavior situation had reached a fairly manageable point. Then we moved. Then we had another baby. Since then, I’ve been referring to my church attendance as “worship wars,” “the Sunday circus,” etc. We’ve discussed this here before; you know how it is. As the action rages and ebbs, there are glimpses of victory, but the skirmishes continue.

So: I can stumble into the narthex looking as dragged-out and desperate as I sometimes feel by that early juncture of a Sunday morn, or I can smile and ask that first-time mom, with genuine interest, how her baby is doing. Likewise, I can allow my frustration during the service to be broadcast loud in exasperated posture, or I can arrange the children and strategize the in-church guidance to be as minimally distracting as possible under the circumstances. (I know; sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control. Recently, I hauled out a two-year-old who was repeating, none too quietly all the way down the center aisle, “Don’t ‘pank me! Don’t ‘pank me!”)

When you hear a flawless performance, you know that it was preceded by hours of practice and thousands of wrong notes. When you behold the work of a Renaissance master, you know that beneath the familiar masterpiece are the scratches of a dozen sketches. When you encounter an elegant argument or a worthy poem, you know that for every extant line, at least twice as many were discarded.

As it is in the other arts, so it is in the art of childrearing. For every manner that’s remembered at Grandma’s house, for every instance of good behavior in the grocery store, even for every time that they remember to put their clothes in the hamper—in short for every occasion on which they fail to act like the fallen little creatures that they are—there’s a backstory of blood, sweat, and tears.

Taking large quantities* of young children to church by oneself is difficult. Everyone already knows that. What everyone doesn’t already know is that there’s also deep joy (sometimes immediate, sometimes eventual, sometimes ultimate) in taking large quantities of children to church. And of having large quantities of children, in general. There’s a masterpiece in the works—a majesty well-concealed in these small unruly people, who are after all no mere mortals. Right now the melody is marred by many a wrong note, and the portrait is lost in the scribbles. But one day—oh, one Day!—the glory of this humble and humbling endeavor will be revealed. And it will be dazzling.

*I know, I know—with only four, I’m an amateur. But I keenly feel what we often say hereabouts in bemused bewilderment: “There are just so many of them…”

23 July 2010

Old lady

While we're on the topic of numbers: I think there is a certain number of kids past which, regardless of one's chronological age, one is old. I think it's four.

A while ago I had occasion to interact with a lady who has one child, a two-year-old. She is radiant and beautiful and bouyant and charming and stylish. She is obviously younger than I am, even though I know technically she has two or three years on me. Why do five kids make me older than she is? I don't know, but they do.

The pressures on the young were ones under which I never bore up well, so it's just as well. It is much easier to be a slouchy mother of five than a young female with her necessarily included anxieties. My actual age is, comparatively, irrelevant. My age is "I have five kids."

22 July 2010

Exponential chaos

There’s nothing like adding a baby to make one wonder what on earth seemed so hard about life before another extremely needy human being was thrown into the mix.*

In my humble experience,** household chaos, or at least the potential thereof, increases exponentially rather than arithmetically with the birth of each child. (It seems to me that this is often particularly true with the birth of the second child.) Long ago, I hopefully postulated a more reasonable hypothesis, but experience has not borne it out. So the equation for potential household chaos upon adding a baby isn’t simply n+1 (where n=number of havocwreakers already in the household). Help me out, people—what’s the equation I’m looking for? (Those of you with multiples can tell us how it needs to be adjusted for that situation.)

I’m thinking about this because if I can describe the situation in a neat equation, then at least one thing around here will be neat . :P

*Counterpoint: there’s nothing like adding a baby to make one marvel at the wonders God works in each family member’s heart through that newest soul.

**I'm at a particularly crazy point right now. Check back later and I may think that there's an inverse exponential effect. Or at least a plateau at some point. Or something.

21 July 2010

So much depends upon

the baby taking a nap.

20 July 2010


(Again, no announcement from the house of the ravenous 6-month-old. What's really happening is I'm looking through things I plunked out while I was pregnant. :D)

One thing that sticks in my head from the P--------- Housewives was one of the writers talking about how in her later pregnancies she spent the last few months in a wheelchair due to some problem I can't remember (and can't look up because I'm too lazy to get out of my chair).


1. Rock out, sister. You're tough.

2. Folks in my extended circle would probably not take too kindly to this. I mean, haven't we proven our point by now? Isn't this getting a little out of hand?

I know it's stupid to think people are all that interested in my life, but at the same time, I'm still feeling the pressure to represent. Every pregnancy has its thorn, and although His grace is sufficient, there isn't always much we can do to keep the poky things from showing through sometimes, laws of physics being what they are.

And then there's a part of me that wants to know what the heck I expect people to expect. Should the only person they know who has a somewhat unusual number of kids be someone whose pregnancies are pure radiance and bliss? Kind of false advertising, no? (And I say this even as someone who, on the grand scale of pregnancy, is definitely closer to the "not so bad" end.)

Well, anyway. Into every pregnancy a little pain must fall and there's not a thing to be done about it. But it does sadden me to know that some people--especially people I love and whose opinion I value--think I'm stupidly imposing needless hardship on myself, and that their judgment is based on their perception of the hardship (?!) rather than the blessing.

To whom it may concern: you can just smile and tell us how happy you are for us, since we clearly think it's worth it--which is not to say that when you visit you won't observe a voice raised, a carelessly spoken word, a dreary sigh, a narcoleptic episode, a wince or a limp. We're still broken sinners. If it bothers you that much, just stay away until we have a jolly fatling to show off. And, again, if you're really that worried about me
you can always buy me a present!! SO obvious.

19 July 2010


Why do people say "congratulations" when they find out you're pregnant? Is there anything more gift-y than a pregnancy? It is not earned or achieved. No one congratulates me for successfully metabolizing my lunch. I also never understood receiving congratulations when we got married. It took no discipline or effort (for me, anyway). Getting married felt like winning the lottery--for which it would also not make sense to be congratulated.

Confirmation congratulations? Congratulations for the accomplishments of one's parents?

Maybe I just don't know what "congratulations" means. (Mean?)

17 July 2010

Advice, worth precisely what you paid for it

The quotations from misguided people included in this post have never been uttered by any of our dear readers. I understand. I wish to post this anyway.

It has recently come to your attention that someone you know just lost her baby in miscarriage. You feel compelled to address the bereaved woman, but you don’t know what to say. You don’t know what to do. Here, dear folk, let me help you.

Let the only words you say from your heart be, “I am so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers.” Then stop talking and hand her a plate of your best cookies.

That’s it. Trust me on this. Miscarriage is a death so sudden, so emotionally blanking, so bloody and perplexingly painful, that there is almost never anything more to say of your own accord than, “you have lost someone you loved and you have suffered; for this, I am sad with you.”

Because, you see, the bereaved mother has a confusing and complicated back story about which you will likely never know. Her pastor might not have called her, let alone visited her. Her husband might not know what to do with her. Her parents might have blown her off. Her doctors might have lied to her. Her hospital might have stolen the baby’s body from her and sent her home to bleed out the rest. Her mind might be in prison. Her heart might be in shards. Her faith might be seriously strained. She might feel angry, desperate, and alone. She might think that God does not love her anymore, that maybe He never did, that maybe she isn’t part of the Elect after all. She might feel like a murderer. She might want to die. She might feel dead already.*

In such a circumstance, to such a person, it is never, ever appropriate to say, “God knows best, honey.” Or, “God has a way of working these things out.” Or, for the love of all things holy, “This was supposed to happen.” Think for a minute about what these lines communicate to a mother in mourning: God aborted your baby, honey, because there was something wrong with it. God didn’t want your child to live.

That’s not the intent of those lines, but intentions do not matter. Words matter. No, better keep quiet and let God reveal what He knows. You might coordinate dinner drops on her doorstep for the next couple of weeks, instead.

Likewise, it is not wise to say something along the lines of, “You poor dear. Lucky you’re so young! You’ll be able to have another.” This may be statistically factual, and she has likely already heard it from her heartless, secularist doctor. It is not comforting to hear it elsewhere. The dead child is an actual person, lost to his mother who wanted him very badly and misses him very much. You would not approach a newly widowed woman, her dead husband’s grave still round and bare, and say, “Lucky you! Now you can marry again!” Neither should a much beloved baby be so casually brushed away. No, better keep quiet and let God reveal what the future holds. You might write Words of promise on index cards and send them to her in the mail, instead.

Because here’s the deal: death, all death, under any circumstance, is tragic. It is always bad. It is never OK. In every instance, a person, a human being, a miraculous conglomeration of flesh and soul has ceased to live and begun to decay. A body whose nature it is to endure has failed to endure. Death is unnatural. It should not be, yet the earth groans under the burden of a swollen belly stuffed full of our beloveds who shall breathe no more, who perhaps never breathed at all.

The miscarriage happened, any miscarriage, because the baby was conceived in sin and thus he died. All babies are fully human, even when sick, even when the victims of fatal genetic errors. Don't be misled: the death of an unborn child is no different than your death will someday be, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There aren’t any good intentions or well-meaning words that can make this less true, less horrible, less inevitable. There is only Christ. There is only His Sacrament. There is only His Church.

So do not unintentionally abuse the bereaved with the awkward phrases of this dying world. Allow Christ to comfort her, and submit to Him to serve your sister in pain. Pray for her without ceasing. Feed her your best foods. Be sincerely patient. Remind her gently and lovingly that Christ died once and for all for her and for her precious baby, that He rose the first fruits of all the living, that He is coming again in glory with all authority in heaven and earth in his hands. Though the people laugh and scoff, Christ has said that our dead are but sleeping. One short sleep past and we shall wake eternally, all of the Elect, together in perfect love, perfectly comforted, and mothers shall receive into their arms all of their children, never to be parted from them again.

Tell her this, friends, because this is really all you know on earth, and all she needs to know.

*Of course, this is not the universal experience of all women who suffer miscarriage. Some are richly comforted by pastors and families. Some are allowed to bury their babies. Some are able to move on quickly. Some don’t mourn until decades after their losses. However, my observations and experience have taught me that the majority of women suffer crises of faith and family in the midst of mourning a miscarriage, crises exacerbated by our sick, death-loving culture. Whatever her reaction to her own loss, each mourner should be treated carefully, out of love for Christ.

15 July 2010

Still Life with Weirdness

14 July 2010

The eloquent in the room

Well, I know we were all excited to be a part of the events of yesterday afternoon, but here at CSPP we have trouble focusing when people are torturing pronouns. Does Our Beloved Synod really objectify subjects like the masses? Are we among the ignorami who can't figure out how to use intensives and reflexives? Strunk have mercy!

It would be uncharitable to cite specific examples. But the problem was not endemic. There was one tense syntactic moment which ended in a flawless pronominal usage beautiful as a perfect dismount from the uneven bars. And who stuck this grammatical landing? None other than the Reverend President-for-two-more-months Gerald Kieschnick. Unfortunately this thrilling moment is not included in the available archived video and I wasn't transcribing--it was during the practice balloting for VPs in succession--but the man nailed it.

There have been a lot of cringe-making moments at the 2010 convention, but this wasn't one of them. Thanks, Father Jerry, for speaking well. It means so much to us.

12 July 2010

Of the election of Synodical Presidents

By the election of Synodical Presidents we mean this truth, that all those who by the grace of history alone, for inertia's sake, through the means of majority vote, are lionized, vilified, or ignored here in time, that all these have already from who knows when been endowed by Corporate Synod with inflated importance, excessive compensation, captive audiences, and preservation in bureaucracy, and for this same reason, namely, by history alone, for inertia's sake, and by way of majority vote. That this is the doctrine of Corporate Synod is evident from a bunch of mumbo jumbo no one in her right mind would dig through for direct citations, even for a joke.

08 July 2010

Mom is not smart

I'm not the only person who does this, right? Realizes that the thing I've been watching the kids do for hours is something I totally don't want them doing?

By all means! Take the kitchen stools outside and turn them into cauldrons for mud-based potions! Of course I'd like a taste every three minutes!

07 July 2010

Rush out now in a buying frenzy

About six months ago I came into an absolutely indispensible household item: a seven-year-old. You must get one.

05 July 2010

I'm not the world's most feminine mom, but I know what I am, I'm a mom, I'm a mom

The Christian-women-with-their-heads-on-straight contingency strikes me as a nice bunch of Ladies. This is why I don't feel like I'm in it.

I don't feel like a Lady. I feel like a peasant. Ladies live in manors, and I'm just not running a tea-and-crumpets operation here. More like,
we're out of napkins; wipe it on your sock. Most days I hope to pass for "windblown" rather than "unwashed." If there's a Ladylike way to dig up turnips or deal with an abominable diaper, I haven't found it. There's nothing like childbirth (not to mention the bloated and undignified months on either side) to take the Lady out of any girl. And I know they're terribly unfeminine, but there's no way I'm giving up my YHS Marching Foxes sweatshirt and thrift store Silvertabs.

In the new creation, Ladies will sit on tuffets eating curds and whey while I teach hymns to spiders. All the talk about skirts and speaking in gentle voices and just what exactly it means to sell purple cloth exhausts me, and makes me wonder how much of this is really about where everyone is from (I'm guessing around 90%). Graceful movement; are you kidding me? After what just blasted out of that kid?

Ladies, like Attachment Parents, are people with a certain set of gifts. Just as
I wish my kids had Attachment Parents, I wish my husband were married to a Lady. But he's got something more like a chick, or a female earthling, or just a plain old wife (emphasis on the plain). I have no desire to give offense, but I'm also not going to pare myself down to the ideal Lady idealized by the most idealistical idealist. For one thing, no one has answered my lipstick question yet, and there are countless other similarly unclear matters. I'm confident that if the one dude whose opinion matters to me determines that my personal femininity needs some helpful guidance, he'll provide it. You'll note I haven't had a haircut in ten years even though I'd look much better with one. ;)

But not only have the Ladies given an important voice to women who don't want to be men, most of them also seem nice enough to realize that there are more alternatives to Lady than Tramp. I'm glad they're out there. Nice work, girls. Here, give me your cameras and get together over there for a picture. You all look lovely.

02 July 2010

Spreading the love

I'm just going to take a minute here and give a shout out to my best friend Mott Media, LLC. Thank you, Mott Media, LLC, for supplying our children with copies of books my grandfather remembers using back in his one-room country schoolhouse days. Thank you very much, Mott Media, LLC, for providing our children with books that actually teach them how to read, write, and 'rithmetic, with such minimal input from me.

I feel like I could hug you, Mott Media, LLC, mostly because you wouldn't hug me back. No, you'd slap my wrist with a ruler and tell me to get back to work. I respect that about you, Mott Media, LLC, and I respect your products.

And, just so we're clear, America, I'm being completely serious with you. Go have yourself a gander, ASAP.

All I really need to know about toddlers, I learned from my kindergartener.

Our church has a little summer preschooly program that gets the four-year-old out of the house for a morning every now and again—a really great arrangement for everyone. In his absence, the 6-year-old pays a lot more attention to the 2-year-old, and observing BigBoy’s attempts to organize ToddlerDude has provided a good refresher in Life With a Toddler 101.

For instance:

1)If you talk to a toddler like he’s an actual human being (without the condescending and simpering), he’s more likely to respond as such. (This can also result in some really hilarious, sanity -saving moments when an earnest member of the two-set, playing it cool, attempts to answer in kind.)

2)The toddler dude may not totally get what’s going on, but his comprehension far exceeds his verbal expression. If you do your best to involve him in whatever you’re doing, he’ll be awfully happy to be a part of it, and he just might surprise you by rising to the occasion. Toddlers are people too, after all. Volatile people, to be sure—but then which of us doesn’t throw a tantrum at least every now and again?

Yeah. Sometimes I feel like that too.

3)A toddler’s frustrations and heartbreaks are as real to him as they seem ridiculous to you. To a certain extent, those moments in which his world falls apart deserve to be taken seriously. (This goes along with him being an actual, albeit short and hilarious, person.) Then again, sometimes the best thing you can do for him is to laugh at him, until he laughs along. People who take themselves too seriously don’t often turn out well.

4)Sometimes, you need to remember that the two-year-old is still…two. Thirtysome months ago, give or take, he was an eight-pound mass of squalling flesh, propelled into an unknown world with nothing going for him but a suckling reflex. Even if you’re able to co-opt him into creating an elaborate duplo tower, his attention span will waver, particularly if he’s frustrated beyond his developmental abilities, and in the end he probably won’t be able to resist destroying it in a fit of utter glee. And what did you expect, after all? He’s only two, and if you don’t think he’ll act his age, you’re the one who’ll end up in tears.

01 July 2010

Timeline, Baby 5

Day 1: Mother feels galaxy-sized relief that her warfare is accomplished. That one, anyway.

Day 2: Mother is worried that Baby does not nurse well. Mother, still cautiously rational, tells herself he will figure it out soon.

Day 5: Mother completely loses it when Father thoughtfully removes Baby from Mother's sleeping area and she awakens to the sound of no breathing. Mother realizes that five babies have not earned her a pass on postpartum insanity.

Day 7: Mother is convinced sleepy Baby with poor nursing skills will die soon. Mother in following days and weeks crashes repeatedly, dramatically, humiliatingly.

Day 13: Mother rallies for Baby's sponsor enrollment in church (baptism having been performed in an emergency capacity under unsettling circumstances of birth). Mother does virtually nothing for celebration following, leaving all work to guests. Mother bids guests goodbye as soon as Baby falls asleep and goes to sleep herself. Mother wonders why it took her five babies to realize this is the only way to do it.

Day 19: Mother rejoices foggily in 2nd birthday of previous Baby, and meditates on the mystery that sleepy current Baby leaves her just as tired as the regular kind.

Day 24: Father has learned to send Mother to bed any time she starts acting that way. This makes incredible improvements in Mother's outlook on life.

1 Month: Mother manages to do a few things with older kids. Mother is very, very proud of herself.

Also 1 Month: Evidence suggests older children are largely oblivious to Mom being a wreck, even to the point of completely (and charmingly) misinterpreting major symptoms.

1.5 Months: Evidence suggests Mother's ability to simulate if not truly experience a sense of humor is returning in modest quantity.

2 Months: Evidence suggests Baby is quite large. Mother calms down about that at least.

Also 2 Months: Mother's heart sinks further, remembering that this is when you start acting like life is normal again even though it totally isn't. Mother develops elaborate sleep fantasies and wonders if this is perverse.

3 Months: Mother's heart is divided between hating still being fat and just not even giving the tiniest rip. She finds a pair of green sweat pants just like her beloved blue ones on clearance and buys them.

3.5 Months: Mother ponders story from Grandma: I think it was when the boys were about three months old, I woke up one morning and thought, "I think I felt like crap before, because I don't feel like it now." Mother realizes she is a pathetic wimp because it doesn't take twins to make her feel like crap for three months, and all she thinks about during that time is how she feels like crap.

4 Months: Mother resigns herself to having one of those babies who just isn't going to sleep all night, and tries to take comfort in the fact that every waking episode doesn't last for an hour+ now.

Also 4 Months: Mother puzzles over why other new mothers seem to pull it together SO much faster than she does. Formula seems to be a factor, but does not explain all cases.

5 Months: Mother smolders in the dark night considering a nursing personality Dr. Sears neglected to describe in his helpful list: MEAN.

6 Months: Mother realizes the huge amount of work she has been knocking off lately is due to Baby's growing solid enough to become a plaything for other children. She drinks a stiff martini to celebrate and goes to bed happy. Baby awakens and demands her attention before she has time to fall asleep.