29 June 2011

This is how we treat our friends?

Nothing about the contemporary wedding has ever made sense or appealed to me. I find its demands shallow and inconsiderate, its conventions frivolous and absurd*, and its caricaturing of certain divine mysteries nauseating. But what really stands out to me from all the madness is the gross insensitivity of putting a group of random, normal women on display for 45 minutes of gawking, especially if they're all expected to wear the same dress.

(I realize this is silly of me and virtually no contemporary women consider themselves the least bit un-gawkworthy in any state of dress or undress.)

You stay classy, America.

*Symptomatic of my non-decorative inclination, probably. I'm sure everybody else's wedding was beautiful.

One for the Boy Moms

At a recent gathering of homeschoolish types, I met this super nice woman who looked waaaaay too young to be there with her homeschooled children...and a couple of her grandchildren. (This is the stuff of which CSPP midnight moments are made.)

But I digress. Said matriarch is in the process of homeschooling the latter part of her ten children. And she laughingly admitted that, until she had her boys (#8 and #9), she thought her Boy Mom friends just didn’t quite have the parenting thing figured out (what with all that excess motion and commotion and all). :D

28 June 2011

It's that time again

Does anyone else deal with this? My hair starts falling out in fistfuls right about the time the baby gets serious about growing to Kraken-ish proportions. It's terrible. There's not enough Drano in all the world.

We're not going to lose the Enterprise! Not to the Borg! 
Not while I'm in command!

27 June 2011

Ex corde

I recently received as a gift a very old copy of H. J. Wotherspoon's Kyrie Eleison, A Manual of Private Prayers, copyright 1904. This is not a Lutheran prayerbook. I think Mr. Wotherspoon was Presbyterian? Yes, I think so. However, I have found his little book to be of great value as an annex to the beautiful, deeply Scriptural prayers found in Starck's prayer book, and in Loehe's

For instance, consider this, from Wotherspoon: 

Most merciful God, who hast wonderfully made the tie of parent and child in the likeness of Thine own Divine Fatherhood: I beseech Thee for help in regard to those whom Thou hast given me. Enable me so to be with them that it may be possible for them to obey Thy commandment, and to honour fatherhood in me. Give me a wise spirit of rule, and them a holy spirit of obedience. Make me just as well as kind, patient as well as strong. Teach me to understand them, that I may teach them, and to love them in Christ as well as with natural affection. 

Save me from dealing with them as if they were mine for pleasure. Save me from injustice to their ignorance, from cruelty to their weakness, from impatience with their faults. Save me from slothfulness to teach them, and from selfish unwillingness to correct their errors. Save me from growing worldly for them. I fear the temptation to seek their advantage as I would not have sought my own. Help me to trust Thee in what concerns them, as I have trusted Thee for myself. And may Thy Holy Spirit incline their hearts to good: to obey what is right, and to believe what is true, and to see what is excellent. For without Thee I can do nothing. 

O God, be merciful to me in them, and suffer not that my sins rise up to judge me, or my faults to rebuke me, in these the offspring of my body and my soul. For Thy pity which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For an ePub or Kindle-ready version of Kyrie Eleison, see here. 

26 June 2011

Ugly duck

I wish I weren't the only female who shows up at church (any church) with a procession of adequately fed and clothed kids instead of a carefully executed wardrobe, hair, nails, and makeup job.

Just look at the kids, OK?

22 June 2011


Ever since my kids have been old enough to go outside by themselves for even a minute, I’ve been seriously annoyed by door-hollering. Perhaps this happens at your house as well. First, you spend a seeming eternity assisting the the little dears out the door through a cacophony of endless mom-ming: “Mom! Mom, where’s my other shoe, Mom?” “Mom! I can’t find my hat! Mom! ” “Hey Mom, oops, the dog just got out, Mom!” (Really, how is it even possible for every sentence not only to begin, but also to end, with that blessed apellation? )

Then you shut the door behind them with a sigh of relief, and think that maybe you can have just a moment’s peace to finish the cup of tea that’s already been reheated three times, or maybe even to go to the bathroom! by yourself! just because! with no pounding on the door!

Not a chance.

Aaaaaand…three, two, one…the door shoots back open, a head pokes in, and the door-hollering begins: “Mom, have you seen my mud boots?” “Mom! I’m bleeding!” And then my personal favorite, which just goes on and on like this: “Mom! Moooooooom! MOM! Mooooooooooooooooom!” until I appear.

Here’s what irritated me the most about door hollering: Don’t these demanding little urchins realize that I have THINGS to do? Doesn’t it ever cross their minds that I might be upstairs, or across the house, or nursing a baby, or in the middle of lunch prep, or otherwise unavailable? Do they think that after I shove them out the door, I sit just inside, waiting to fulfill their next request? They think they can just take me for granted?!

Ahem. So I was remembering what I read long ago in some book or other (quite possibly Divorce Busting) about why divorce can be so devastating to children: because parents, yes, even imperfect and imperfectly matched parents, provide an “invisible structure” that children desperately need, though they’re not even conscious of its presence. Yank that foundation from beneath them, and they topple.

Invisible structure. Hmmm. So. I’m not a vending machine of immediate availabity, and we’re still working on door decorum, but as it turns out, I am here precisely so that I can be taken for granted.* Even when I match the volume of an urgent bug jar request with a cranky “WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP SHOUTING—YOUR SISTER IS NAPPING!”—the invisible structure is affirmed. They know that I’m here, and that eventually I will indeed provide them with an appropriate receptacle for their latest invertebrate acquisition, and so they can carry on with their business of going forth and adventuring about and growing up. (And I’m working on the cranky, too. ;P )

*Although a thoughtfully personalized Mother’s Day card a couple decades down the road sure wouldn’t hurt :D.

21 June 2011

Survival tactics

It’s travel season, and for those of us with many grubby sprogs and little grubby money, that means it’s time to go a’visitin’. I think our top vacation spots these days are Grandma’s house and your house. So look out, ‘cause here we come. ;)

We’ve been vacationing via a’visitin’ for a few years now, and have thus learned many, many interesting and useful things, each appropriate to our age and sex. Dad has learned a lot about garage organization and guns. Each child has learned a lot about dress-up or fishing ponds or sleeping bags. I, for my part, have learned perhaps the most important lesson of all: A home-bound woman’s kitchen is an extension of her; don’t touch it.

Hoo boy, this is a big deal lesson. But it is actually very difficult to enact it in real life. You know how it is: You are in a friend’s house and she is busting her tuckus trying to feed not only her own people, but yours. You stand by and watch for a time, but your conscience starts nagging you. Your friend sure is working hard, and there you stand, doing nothing. Soon, you are feeling guilty, and those guilty feelings start to out with nervous giggles and a few, “What can I do to help?” When your friend smiles at you and says that she’s got everything in hand, you try to believe her, but your guilt starts bordering on anguish. She’s working! She’s working so hard! For YOUR FAMILY! This is WRONG! You MUST WORK TOO! AAAAAAAAUGH!

And about then is when you grab a spoon and start stirring something or, even worse, a rag and start wiping down the refrigerator door. Step away from that rag, friend. It’s just not worth it.  

Nooooo, you're not.

When it comes to another home-bound woman’s kitchen, it is nearly always the best, most tactful policy to do nothing whatsoever in that kitchen. Speaking for myself, when I know people are coming to my house during meal time, I put a great deal of thought into planning exactly how, when, where, and what everyone will be eating, and then formulating a War Plan Red on how the food will be prepared. I typically expect that the visiting folk will be occupied with Other Things when it comes time to enact my plan, so I very seldom calculate in their participation. Hence, when someone, anyone, starts dancing around like gas on a skillet, wanting something to do, finding something for her to do is difficult. Trying to help someone “help me” usually pushes dinner back a good half hour, by which time everyone under the age of 10 is crying, and everyone else is standing in the kitchen door looking pathetic.

As I’ve become more competent in my kitchen, I’ve worked at including what women will be in my preparation plans, but this doesn’t always pan out. Even women who are very skilled in their own kitchens (and, likely, even more skilled than I am in mine) aren’t always able to assist in the creation of a meal around here. This is, I think, due to having what my own dear sister-in-law has referred to as a “one-butt kitchen.”  Funny how even a sprawling, state-of-the-art masterpiece-theatre kitchen usually only accommodates one home-bound butt.

Because, like I said, a home-bound woman’s kitchen is an extension of her. She knows it very, very well. A resident visitor doesn’t know it any better than she knows her friend’s unspoken thoughts. You might think you’re safe to put that spatula in the drawer full of spatulas, but what you don’t know is that spatula is only for hummus, and thus belongs in an entirely different drawer. Put it “away” and it will be lost for weeks.

Step away from that spatula, friend. No touchie the spatula. Trust me on this.

HOWEVER! Having been on both sides of those guilty feelings, I know that you absolutely must do something, or you’ll combust. Make that something one of three things:
1. Keep your friend company. If you’re not doing anything to get in her way, then it’s OK for you to be in the kitchen. Just relax over in the corner and talk to her. She likes you. And if you’re lucky, she might take pity on you and let you toss the salad or give the potatoes their spa bath.
2.  Play with the baby. Stress is a crying child in the midst of War Plan Red. Egad. When someone, anyone, everyone starts crying, deal with it. If you find the task hard because you’re too strange a stranger to whomever is crying, quietly find A Way. Be creative. Be brilliant. Be all that you can be. Your friend will love you for it all the more.
3. Find something else to do entirely. This is especially true if you are visiting a friend at the same time as someone in her family. Always, always defer the out-of-the-way corner (and always the stirring spoon) to your friend’s sister or her mother-in-law or her cousin. And it may also be necessary to bug off if the number of women who want to be in the kitchen is odd. It stinks, but it’s important to be cool with being the odd woman out. And if you’re bored as a result, find some kid who’s crying and play with him.
It is possible that after everything has been eaten and you’re sure the cooking phase is over, you might be able to help with the dishes. But even here, proceed with caution. Nothing is self-evident in the kitchen. And there is only one right way to load the dishwasher.

Of course, there are circumstances wherein you absolutely must help in the kitchen, but I think those are few and far between. Then again, I only know what I know. So, you know. Good luck, friends, and happy visitin’. :)

16 June 2011

Don't let the experts confuse you

A baby is not a thing that will someday be a man. He is a man who just happens to be a baby.

Understanding this difference in perspective changes everything.

10 June 2011

The noisy, nasty nuisance grew

If I run into a wasp in my clean laundry, and perhaps sort of disable it before running away and slamming the linen closet door behind me, how long before it dies and we can have towels again?

Extra credit: how many more wasp incidents before I give up on the clothesline?

09 June 2011

Thou shalt not, and why wouldst thou anyway?

A lady of my acquaintance once told me that any time she started thinking she'd be happier with someone else's husband, she just reminded herself that he (whoever the "he" may have been at her moment of temptation) left his dirty socks all over the place.

08 June 2011

One more thing inspired by SFC

I'm absolutely certain that if the ACT had been scored with a sex-based rubric comparable to our military's physical fitness requirements I'd have had a much higher number to brag about . . . or be too embarrassed to mention. "I did awesome on the girl ACT!"

I seriously don't know how anyone can publicize these things, much less actually use them, with a straight face.

Army Physical Fitness Standards (Too lazy to link to other branches, but rest assured that no equal opportunities require equal performance.)

07 June 2011

Annie get your gun if you want to stand a chance

I must apologize upfront for the questionable neighborhood in which I was able to locate this clip. Never thought you'd see this title here, did you? :D It's OK for general consumption, though.

All I remember about the movie 3000 Miles to Graceland was loathing it, except the following scene. It is the only realistic onscreen portrayal of a woman undertaking to physically assault a man I have ever seen. I found it completely surprising, having been trained by TV and movies to expect Courtney Cox to wallop Kevin Costner into a pile of goo. News flash, females: you can't beat up a dude--even one who hasn't taken Tae Kwan Do like you have, even one who's smaller than you--and neither can Jennifer Garner.

(And once you get that gun, you'd better learn how to load and shoot it. Also not movie-like. And if he's got a gun too, she who hesitates is dead.)

04 June 2011

For the times they didn't really change that much at all

Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James and an accomplished author in her own right, whispers this bit of sanity to those who would hear:

"A word more on the subject of home life, as one in which the interests of the whole sex are most closely involved. It is clear that those interests are manifold, highly important to the welfare of the race, unceasing in their recurrence, urgent and imperative in their nature, requiring for their successful development such devotion of time, labor, strength, thought, feeling, that they must necessarily leave but little leisure to the person who faithfully discharges them. The comfort, health, peace, temper, recreation, general welfare, intellectual, moral, and religious training of a family make up, indeed, a charge of the very highest dignity, and one which must tax to the utmost every faculty of the individual to whom it is entrusted. The commander of a regiment at the head of his men, the member of Congress in his seat, the judge on his bench, scarcely holds a position so important, so truly honorable, as that of the intelligent, devoted, faithful American wife and mother, wisely governing her household. And what are the interests of the merchant, the manufacturer, the banker, the broker, the speculator, the selfish politician, when compared with those confided to the Christian wife and mother? They are too often simply contemptible--a wretched, feverish, maddening struggle to pile up lucre, which is any thing but clean. Where is the superior merit of such a life, that we should hanker after it, when placed beside that of the loving, unselfish, Christian wife and mother--the wife, standing at her husband's side, to cheer, to aid, to strengthen, to console, to counsel, amidst the trials of life; the mother, patiently, painfully, and prayerfully cultivating every higher faculty of her children for worthy action through time and eternity?"

While Miss Cooper's handling of the subject hits rather bluntly upon our modern sensibilities, her essay, Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America, is worth a perusal. Find it here.

03 June 2011

In which I do not ask but intend to pay fair and square

The space shuttle program is ending, and it would be ridiculous to imagine this will mean a lower Space Tax for all of us who have no interest in shoving our thumbs into space and wiggling them around. How shall the government reallocate our money previously committed to space shuttles? I propose that it procure for us a second moon. Moons are nice. Many other planets have more than one moon. I, even though I have no interest in wiggling my thumb around in space, would like another. I think everyone would. It would be a gesture of goodwill toward all earthlings, way better than the Olympics.

The potential flaw in this plan is its tidal and perhaps orbital implications. I'm confident government astrologers, who will soon be free of responsibilities relating to space shuttles, will be able to figure this out for us. Who's with me?


02 June 2011

Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels

A lot of doxological verses sound sort of the same, but not this one.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Oh, to breathe the Spirit's grace!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Oh, to see the Father's face!
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Oh, to feel the Son's embrace!

Hasten the day.