30 September 2010

I blunder as I launder

Laundry ex opere operato is not a huge problem here. It doesn't bug me much and I don't often get egregiously behind.

But there's also something about laundry that makes me know I have not given myself over to it completely; namely, that the clothes don't get clean. Sure, there's some overloading of machines involved, and some inattention to major soilings whether at the "You cannot wear that one more day put it in your basket!!" stage or later on at the "It's all going in now and together and that's the end of it" moment of pragmatic triage. I superstitiously believe the washing machine will and must get things clean, though I know not how. If something comes out gummy or muddy, I throw it back into the dirty clothes heap like a madwoman. Dirty stuff goes in the laundry. Stuff that comes out of the laundry dirty goes in the laundry. Then at the end of the summer, I realize that my four year old no longer has a single clean shirt.

Even knowing this, I am lost. A sponsorless neophyte, I have amassed an arsenal of old timey powders and new fangled elixirs. They judge me from their shelves as I purposefully cram wadded boulders of clothing into the machine. But which of you am I supposed to be using right now? They never answer outright, but drip into my insecurity receptors cruel hisses like, All of us for different things, you imbecile! And why haven't you bought any Biz yet? Sssssssssssss!

My experimentation so far has yielded a few results. First, sunshine will take out yellow problems on the southern end of a baby garment but not the northern end (or much else. Sunshine gets way more credit than it deserves). Second, bleach expires. Third, the Shout stuff with the bristly applicator can buy some time for a garment nearing devotion to the ban on account of stank. Fourth, I cannot keep up with the nosebleeds around here and therefore all linens should be dark colors. Fifth, there is absolutely no telling which load had a fortifying scoop of Borax or Oxyclean or baking soda or chitin meal or nothing in it, because nothing works.

Somewhere deep in my brain is an inchoate vision. Through the fog, it looks something like another system, another rule, another basket . . . I can see humanoid forms tossing in their particularly troubled shirts . . . a larger humanoid picking up the basket and analyzing each piece, treating it with the tonic and therapy relevant to its ailment. Later, as she shakes out and folds each item, this large humanoid smiles, gratified at having achieved the level of huswifery which yields such a satisfyingly clean load of laundry; which saves disturbed clothes from ruination; at never having to say, "It's a perfectly fine shirt except for being completely disgusting." Yes, this would totally work, like all the systems and rules around here . . . .

But for now, my shoulders and front bear the marks of the baby of the house even before he begins the day's business, and the cuffs of Dad's tough guy pants are crusted as befits toughness, and my four year old wears at this and every moment a dirty shirt.

27 September 2010

Book, recommended: The Eternal Woman

I'm not actually reviewing this book because I have a problem with writing ridiculously long book reviews, and this one would end up being longer than almost anything I've ever written. All I'm going to say is that any Christian person would benefit from reading The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort.

The Church's view of women was one of many things the Reformation did not seek to change. The Lutheran Confessions didn't have to have an article on women's ordination (WT . . . heck?) or address complementarianism or give an encouraging shout out to all the pregnant ladies. There simply wasn't a question of such things. But now there are many questions of such things, with the unfortunate effect that it nearly always comes off as boorish to give the ladies a friendly reminder of their blessed place (see?). In the introduction to The Eternal Woman, Alice von Hildebrand writes, "there are questions raised only when a person has adopted a wrong metaphysical posture." Good posture takes off ten pounds, so this book is worth the investment right there. Head up and shoulders back, girls: the Church is the only place that has ever respected women.

Fair warning: Gertrud von le Fort was a Roman Catholic, and her thesis pivots on RC Marian dogma. Then again, followers of the Pope generally have a more reliable metaphysical posture than other folks, and if what's dogma to them is an open question to us maybe we'd do well to learn what a good question sounds like. Gertrud von Fort was also a German and an intellectual and writes like one of each with a side of having been born in 1876 when schools still educated, so add one of Amazon's prettiest thinking caps to the cart and qualify the order for free shipping.

(Thanks again to Monique, who sent me my copy. Also, someone once sent me a video of one of those skinny chick inspirational speakers who had a riff about building cathedrals, which I now cannot find. Anyway, that skinny chick sounded an awful lot like page 50.)

The Woman may be eternal, but the book's only 108 pages.

24 September 2010


"If the sign of the woman is 'Be it done unto me', which means the readiness to conceive or, when expressed religiously, the will to be blessed, then there is always misery when the woman no longer wills to conceive, no longer desires to be blessed."

from The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort

23 September 2010

"An inordinate fondness for beetles"

As we all know, breast milk is a magical substance which can dissolve goiters, sharpen pencils, clean up oil spills, and grow absolutely anyone a head of curly blond hair. Today's news brought us more evidence of its unfathomable powers:

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday that it has issued a recall of approximately 5 million cans of certain Similac-brand powdered infant formula due to the possibility of the presence of a beetle . . . . The FDA said that this type of beetle, if ingested, could cause discomfort and irritate the gastrointestinal tract, causing the infant to lose appetite.

I have witnessed first hand evidence proving that a breastfed infant is perfectly capable of digesting a beetle with no discomfort, irritation, or loss of appetite whatever. So, mothers of the world, if you don't want your baby set back by such trifles as the intraintestinal beetle, breastfeed.

20 September 2010

Fountain of youth

I know 60 is the new 20 or something like that, but there's also a cultural inclination to start "feeling old" in one's fourth decade of life. I think this is when we're supposed to start worrying about wrinkles and gray hair and whatever other horrible things are out there in Oldlandia.

Well, I don't feel old. This here decade appears more than adequately longitudinous, and the one after that (DV) is . . . well, we just don't talk about that. Wrinkles and gray hairs are the least of my worries*. I feel young, young, young.

No wrinkles here!

*However, I spoke with a friend who, finding herself pregnant in the unspeakable decade, was unable to find suitable maternity clothes. Where, she wanted to know, were the maternity clothes for grandmas?

18 September 2010


Notice to area hunters: If you see what initially appears to be a doe wearing unusually plaid maternity clothes in the vicinity of your mineral traps, please do not shoot her. Just throw her a family-sized bag of potato chips and holler for her to head on home. If she does not bolt right away, it is because she is trying to force delicious saltiness into her mouth past the 13 pieces of gum already wadded in there. Maybe wave your arms around a little while singing some old Bryan Adams tunes, and you’ll frighten her off.

This shameful creature apologizes in advance for being so pesky, but she really can’t help herself.

Somebody save me.

15 September 2010

Me talk pretty one day, too

I’m not going to lie to you: this pregnancy has been my hardest yet. There were a couple of weeks in there where I wondered seriously if I might shrivel up and die.

But that’s all behind me now, thank God. New and different hardships lie on the horizon, and you know that I’m bursting with excitement to meet them. In the meantime, I’m really enjoying all the attention my (weirdly huge) bump is attracting.

Though this attention is not quite what you might think. While many people are being very kind to us about the existence of a new small person in our family, many people are also, like, “Five kids are so ‘yawn,’ dude. When you get to 19, give us a ring.” No, the attention I’m appreciating is far more favorable than the belly rubs and horror stories of bygone days, and far less jarring than the gawks and misguided criticisms of the birth control crowd. With this pregnancy, we’ve garnered the consideration of a generation of people for whom birth control consisted of something involving Epsom and somersaults—which is to say, a generation of people who birthed and raised lots of babies, and lived to tell about it.

And tell about it they do. Oh, girls, the stories we’ve started hearing! There’s the dear, sweet shut-in, a mother of eight, who told us a tale of raising her children alone during the work week while her husband traveled with the railroad. She recalls being terribly ill (and before the days of Zofran!), throwing up all day long, throwing up in the sink over her right arm while her left arm stirred the pot that bubbled with that night’s supper. Most amazingly, she recalled this and other stories with a giggle; her memories tickled her in the telling.

And there are the grown children from a family of nine who told us of the many unconventional meals they were served when they were young. Their father was a farmer, and poor; their mother made their home and their clothes. They couldn’t afford beef, so they ate the squirrels, opossums, and coons their father or brothers shot in the woods behind their house. (Coon was the finest, they claimed.) These grown children didn’t feed such critters to their own children, but neither did they snarl at the memory of having eaten such wild fare. Rather, they laughed and smiled warmly at one another and tumbled into their shared childhood all over again.

And my family received a gift in the hearing.

On Sunday mornings, as my belly grows almost before my eyes and I manage the pew-pent energies of my other four children, the older ladies of my husband’s congregation watch with sympathetic smiles. Then, after the Benediction, they quietly approach to offer me their histories, those most beautifully adorned crutches of support. The tales these dear ladies tell differ sharply from the “they grow up so fast” platitudes that I’ve heretofore wondered about. These tales are an unselfish giving of hope, for these elderly mothers of many know very well that I am suffering now only to receive later a joy similar to that which they have received.

I accept their stories gladly, hungrily, not so much for the commiseration, but for the laughter that comes with the telling. That laughter is the final piece of punctuation on lives filled with the giving of life, and it buoys me up. I leave such conversations feeling soothed and better able to stand above the melee that is my sinful flesh to laugh even now at the cross I am, by the grace of God, bearing.

Sisters have walked this path before. I can walk it behind them. Thanks be to Christ for working in us the strength to love our neighbors as ourselves. I hope that one day I may share a scrap of laughter with one of your daughters, dear reader, and that you may do the same for one of mine.

CORRECTION: My husband read through this and informed me that I got a fact wrong. The family that ate varmint contains 15 grown children, not nine. Sorry about that, folks. You'd think I'd be able to remember something as remarkable as 15 kids, but it's easy to get tripped up in my own brain.

14 September 2010

Shows what you know

Thought it was TV, did ya? Thought it was school that ruined families? Thought it was living far from grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins? Thought it was chicken nuggets and polyester clothes made in China? Thought it was Sunday morning youth soccer? Thought it was birth control and no-fault divorce and Anabaptist praise songs?

You're wrong! It's houses! Quick, save your family! Move out of your house before it's too late! (Becoming a band of troubadours is, I believe, optional.)

O foolish Robinsons, who hath bewitched you?

13 September 2010

In a perfect world

I wish my washing machine looked more like a robot.

10 September 2010

We're fine, thanks

We here at CSPP love everybody, especially you, and that's why this post and its comments have gone away. A good tree bears good fruit and this just wasn't bearing anything good. I am sorry.

Anonyfolk of the world, my other concern regarding anonymity besides the one I attempted to explain is that if things go south I have no way of tracking you down and trying to make things right. To everyone who got snagged in this sordid web of comments, again, I am sorry.

Inquiries, concerns, complaints, and jokes may be directed to the CSPP inbox. Sigh.

09 September 2010


Well, blog, I took three ticks off two kids this morning and there's no one here to appreciate it but you.

03 September 2010

The best defense is a good offense

From this article in Touchstone: ". . . immerse your child in the worship of the Church and every other activity that can shape his imagination as Christian because he acts it out. The greatest prophylactic against cultural infection is not a shield but his love for something better and greater and more heroic."

Attempting to isolate our children from every evil influence leads eventually--or quickly--to panic. If they don't go to school, there are "school kids" at Sunday school and VBS. If we forbid Judy Blume we're left to figure out what to do with Ramona (and what about all that "obey" business in These Happy Golden Years?) We can choose our children's friends, or choose that they not have any, but we can't choose their cousins.

We can't just tell them, "That's trash. We don't read those books. Cartoons are for the masses. Parades are for Americans. The kid across the street is vulgar. Pudding cups are poison. Tryphosa dresses like a trollop, and does not nature itself teach us that Aristarchus needs a haircut?" I mean, sure, we tell them those things. But that's just to impress ourselves. Those statements provide children no nourishment. It is far more important to actively cultivate in them virtuous habits, good tastes, and noble interests.

A child who is fed primarily on contrarianism will become either rebellious or a hollow parody devoid of character. I'm inclined to think the latter is worse--the child who rebels to break out of an artificially insular world at least shows initiative and concern for substance. Isolationism is a losing battle anyway: even if they never leave our houses, children are born full of the world, naturally embracing trinkets and SnakPaks and jingles and sulking.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, and that is what they need know on earth. Those who know and love and hunger for what is true are much harder to deceive. If our kids can't eat pudding cups--and they certainly can't--they are left ravenous and resentful if we stop at denying them. They must be given something much better. It will take a lot longer to make.

02 September 2010

More for the CSPP playlist