27 July 2011

Crazy is the new black

I've been surprised several times recently to hear mothers of different types and situations lament, "Why isn't anyone else feeling like this? Why am I the only one?"

"Like this" of course means "completely bleeped-out insane." And, honey, let me tell you, you are not the only chic in this phase of life to feel like your thinking is as murky as yesterday's fry oil. You're crazy, I'm crazy, and that lady over there is crazy. We're all crazy. Really. We just gussy it up a bit in public and call it, "tired."

And now the baby is screaming again, so I've got to go. Just take heart, sister. You're are so not in this alone.

21 July 2011

The wrong sort

"The wrong sort believe that children are 'a distinct race.' They carefully 'make up' the tastes of these odd creatures--like an anthropologist observing the habits of a savage tribe--or even the tastes of a clearly defined age-group within a particular social class within the 'distinct race.' They dish up not what they like themselves but what that race is supposed to like."

C.S. Lewis, "On Juvenile Tastes"

Beauty is truth, truth beauty . . . and they never need to know.

20 July 2011

And you thought you were hardcore

Recently I wished to express my sympathy to a church lady who had been subjected to suffering at the hands of sinful men: her doctor hassled her so long about something at a morning appointment that she missed being able to get biscuits from Hardee's. (This lady emails a report to interested parties after each of her chemo treatments. The reports are always hilarious, and usually include what she ate on the way home. She would be the best blogger ever.) She affirmed that this treatment had been egregious and went on to tell me that although Hardee's has the best biscuits, "the lard--

[here I begin nodding like the know-it-all I am, expecting a comment on the inferiority of shortening or butter to lard]

"well, you sure can tell the difference between what you get at the store and home-rendered."



19 July 2011


I could list pages of statements that have offended me. But I'll spare us more of this exercise in uncharity, not least because what offended me was not actually any one statement. The true catalysts for my taking offense were my perception of the person who offered it, the inferences I made about her motive in speaking, the judgment I had made of her life and person, my reception of her words.

My being offended or not offended has everything to do with my relationship with the person speaking. Some of the most arguably offensive statements I've received are from a person at whom I cannot imagine being truly angry. To me, she can say no wrong, no matter how wrong are the things she says. I forgive her reflexively and painlessly, a favor she returns.

In conversation with the right person I have not only agreed with but proffered ridiculous theses, affirming the very ignorances, insensitivities, and idiocies I have scorned from the wrong people. I almost laughed out loud immediately after hearing my own voice tell someone dear to me that the care of a dog is in every way equivalent to the care of a child. Aside from the factual absurdity of this common assertion, which I have received many times with pure disgust, I HATE DOGS AND ALL WHO LOVE THEM. Except my friends with dogs. But I do hate your dogs.

So anyway, the lists of what to say and what not to say, even my own, are of limited usefulness. The true friend can say very little wrong. The acquaintance and stranger (which includes all imaginary internet people) risk a great deal in speaking. The ultimate determiner of offense is the hearer.

18 July 2011

Murthering hordes

I understand that it is currently accepted practice to prohibit children from pointing toy guns at each other. I'm a bad mother so that's not a rule in our house. I generally cite the impossibility of enforcement when other mothers inquire after our deviant practice, but I'm sure there are houses with less lazy mothers wherein the rule is strictly and effectively enforced (including by the prohibition of fake firearms altogether), just as there are houses with five children, a pregnant mother, AND dusted floorboards. Less lazy mothers, I congratulate you. You beat me again.

In keeping with my bad mothering, I was amused rather than horrified to observe that following their initiation to Harry Potter, our children were not content to curse each other with Expelliarmus and Impedimenta and Petrificus Totalis. Our house is unforgivable curse central. Need a door open? Why waste time with Alohomora when you could Avada Kedavra that thing? Cat on the couch, or baby got the Legos you left out? Crucio them both. So I guess all I can say is, if you don't want your kid fake killed by my kid, don't bring him over.

14 July 2011

Guess when I wrote this?

All mothers are familiar with the childhood phenomenon of fullness in terms of meatballs and green beans juxtaposed with emptiness in terms of brownies. Mothers experience a similar phenomenon with regard to sleep. We combat a period of difficult sleepiness at some time of the day: around 7:45 when there's a baby in the house whose day begins at 5:12; at 10:30 when the children can tolerate no more maternal housework and the mother can tolerate no more maternal childwork (neither having been accomplished in any creditable way); in the early afternoon when younger children nap; in the late afternoon when they're all back up and crabbier than when they went down; in the early evening when they still can't be put to bed. During pregnancy this urgent exhaustion may strike several times a day, or persist without any break at all.

But then: they go to bed. And suddenly, the mother is awake! She feels great! She's like a normal person! She can do things again! So she does, far past the bedtime that should be her own, the bedtime that would keep tomorrow from feeling like miserable, somnambulant today. But she's not tired any more, and the bedtime of responsible mothers passes, and she enjoys hours of glorious free time instead of the 45 minutes she should have.

And then it's 5:12 again.

12 July 2011

Gift Guide: What to give the children of people you don't like

Sometimes one is called upon to give a gift to a child of jerks. The child cannot be punished for its heritage, at least by you, before it reaches the age of majority. However, the parents can be made to suffer while the child is still made happy and even favorably inclined toward you, creating potential for greater mischief on your part later on. Here are some items which will accomplish this task.

1. Toys That Make Noise. Many such toys do not even have an off switch; these are ideal.

2. Toys That Require Batteries, particularly batteries in odd sizes or great quantity. An advantage of this category is that it often overlaps naturally with Toys That Make Noise.

3. Junk Toys from Oriental Trading or the party favor aisle of any store. These are sure to break after you take your leave of the family (make sure you leave fairly quickly; better yet, mail a whole bunch of these gifts in an unpadded envelope), requiring the parents to deal with a heartbroken child.

4. Toys To Which The Parents Have Some Objection. Are they hippies? Look no further than plastic. Republicans? "Made in China." Democrats? Dolls for girls, guns for anyone. Paleocons or Quakers? Military paraphernalia. Greenies? Items failing to describe themselves as vegan, made from recycled materials, AND cruelty-free. Misanthropes? Anything from Disney.

5. Foods To Which The Parents Have Some Objection. Nearly all parents have a hangup in one or many of the following categories: sugar, artificial colors/flavors, preservatives, "inorganic," processed, meat, dairy, gluten, soy, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated oils, Nestle Carnation. If you're not sure, pay attention to foods you see around the house and then pick something you've never seen. (Note: foods to which the child is actually sensitive or allergic must be avoided. This category applies to parental neuroses only, not child medical conditions.)

6. Latex balloons. Many people are unaware that in addition to having very short lives (see Junk Toys), helium-filled latex balloons require parents to be constantly retrieving "dropped" balloons from ceilings (no healthy child will permit a balloon to be tied around his wrist, as this ruins the fun; similarly, lengthening the string or anchoring the balloon will not be tolerated by respectable children). Balloons can make loud, sudden noises which frighten children, mothers, and grandfathers. Upon producing this noise, the balloon is also instantly transformed into a choking hazard. This gift is particularly apt for an unfavored house with a cat, as cats enjoy chewing the vomit-inducing ribbons to which helium balloons are typically tied.

7. Craft Kits For Foreign Hobbies. There is nothing parents detest like being hassled by a kid to help him with a project with which the parents are unfamiliar, unskilled, and/or uninterested.

8. Creative Items Normally Banned By The Household. Some starter ideas are glitter, markers, paint, or Play-Doh.

9. Organisms

10. Age-Inappropriate Items; particularly makeup, cologne, and other vanity cultivators for little girls.

11. Items Requiring Further Work Or Investment such as an empty tackle box, inflatable toys with no pump, a Wii game to a house with no Wii, or tap shoes for a girl who isn't in dance.

12. White Or Light-Colored Clothing. A child can and often will seriously mar a piece of clothing after only one wearing, particularly if given in combination with certain FTWTPHSO. This will cause a considerable amount of work for the mother as she tries to salvage it, an effort which will almost certainly be to no avail. The child will insist on wearing this irreversibly soiled piece of clothing from beloved you indefinitely.

11 July 2011


I have a CSPP friend who, after 10+ years of marriage, has one adopted child and one child known only to God. Weird for us to be friends, right? Nope. It's easier for me to be friends with her than it is for me to be friends with someone who has 33 kids because she "wanted a big family," or will be Done when she gets to a certain number.

I cannot relate to "wanting" having any meaningful bearing on one's life. My friend has what God gives her, and I have what he gives me, and we both deal with it as well as we can. Neither of us feel up to the tasks which have fallen to us. Both of us struggle to be content with the right thing and not want things God hasn't appointed for his people.

What we have in common is not personal effects, but divine cause. That's why we're friends. No "diaper of the day" reports necessary . . . although if the day comes for her, we will both surely rejoice.

08 July 2011

Girl-mom resource, recommended?

Babygirl recently passed the year mark and is toddling about, helping herself to all kinds of trouble. Having successfully gotten her thus far in life, I’m ready to move on to the next logical stage of girl-mothering: panic. How on earth will I find the girl any decent clothes to wear when she’s ten? (Or five, for that matter?!) And will we be able to amass enough camels for a proper dowry when the time for her arranged marriage rolls around? (Heads up, Gauntlets and Rebekah—speak up now about your preferred form of livestock, otherwise you know it’s gonna be goats ;) ) And in the meantime, there’s the problem expressed in this aphorism, which I shall phrase a bit more politely than the original: “If you’ve got a boy, you only have to worry about one boy. But if you’ve got a girl, you’ve got to worry about all the boys.”

It’s not that I take the matter of my daughter’s heart-soul-body purity more seriously than that of my sons…it’s just that the girl side of it somehow seems more fraught with complicating factors (body image, modesty, emotional drama, etc.). Besides, I know that Dad will be on call to handle many of her brothers’ questions as time goes on, whereas some of “the talks” with her will more naturally fall to me.

I’ve already been a bit taken aback by the good-natured joking—at church, no less—about how Babygirl’s purported future dating life will be foiled by her three older brothers. The first time this happened, I managed something like a weak “Hahaha…just fine with me if they scare off all the boys.” When it’s come up subsequently, though, I’ve done better, with a cheery, “Oh, we won’t have to worry about that, because our kids aren’t going to date. And when the time comes, we’re going to arrange their marriages.” The greatest part is, I’m just crazy enough that they can’t quite figure out how serious I am, even as they laugh along with me. So I’ve managed, for the moment at least, to good-humoredly put much of that silly “boyfriend” talk to rest.

Back to the subject at hand: I know I’m going to need some resources to help me through all this. You, dear readers and bloggers with older girls, will of course comprise part of my arsenal ;). Yesterday, I heard about a picture book and discussion guide that might be handy. We don’t buy into all the princess paraphernalia, but I don’t find this fairy-tale premise objectionable. So, I can’t formally recommend this resource because 1)I haven’t actually gotten my hands on it yet and 2)I’m still quite new at being a girl’s mom, but maybe one of y’all with more than a year’s worth of girl-momming will take a look and come back to let me know if it’s a thumbs-up.

04 July 2011

Mercy care of women for the non-deaconess, at-home deaconess, or deaconess who isn't too busy parsing

(It's OK, some of my best friends are deaconesses.)

At one of our stops in the seminary process, we had a baby. A lady from the church to which we had been cobbled at that time gave me a call when he was about a week old and asked if I were up for a visit. She came to the house, sat and talked to me for an hour, and left me with a plate of cookies and a cute burp cloth for the baby.

I haven't seen her since, and the baby peed on the plate of cookies while I gave him a bath on the counter (first boy--I had some things to learn). But that burpie I've still got, and it's one of my favorites. It was just a trifold cloth diaper onto which someone had sewn blue gingham edging. I always put it in my church bag because it looks distinctly unlike a grubby old kitchen towel I grabbed at the last minute, which is what the rest of my burpies look like.

All of which is a long way of saying that I thought it was really nice of that church to have done that for me (particularly since, as seminary hobos, we were just passing through). This relates to one of my troubles: a constant feeling that I'm not a very good church person because it's so hard for me to get out. No infirm or bereaved person wants a visit from a church lady who's dragging five kids with her. Add to that the fact that infirm and bereaved persons DO want visits from their pastor, and it's pretty rare for me to do much calling. The parental divisions and conquerings must be given over to Dad making calls.

But since Dad does get out to see them, it's easy for me to make deliveries. So here are a few little projects I've collected for the invisible at-home mom who wants to express some basic goodwill on behalf of the parish.

New baby. I write a note to the mom telling her congratulations and that she's in my prayers, and send along a cute burpie. There's really no wrong way to make one out of flannel or terry cloth, and the small cuts keep it economical. I keep hoping that the more of these I make the better chance I have of actually learning how to sew. It's nice having a stockpile of them for short-notice baby presents anyway.

New grandma. For the frequent- or primary-care grandma (a common creature in this workaday world), Pack-n-Play sheets are usually a good bet and take no more than a yard of fabric, a little bit of elastic, and not that much time to make from cottons, knits, or flannel (basic crib sheet strategy here). The only trick to this is that PnPs come in different sizes, but my genius friend Gauntlets shared with me a formula to make a sheet to fit any size sleeping baby receptacle:

Width of sheet = width of mattress + (3 x height of mattress) + 0.5
Length of sheet = length of mattress + (3 x height of mattress) + 0.5
Square (cut from corners) = height of mattress x 1.5

Sew your hems at 1/4" and your corners at 1/2"

Chemo patient. Commercial head wraps are pricey, but this here pattern is free, easy, and fast. You can get away with a little shorter piece of fabric if you divide the oblong piece into thirds and sew them together to make the complete long piece. You can also use the scrappies to make a matching fabric headband for the patient's sister, daughter, or friend (another idea stolen from commercial chemo head wraps).

For bereavement or other family emergencies, I send food if Dad and/or church ladies report to me that it's in order. Food is risky what with all the allergies and intolerances and diets and hangups, but I guess it's still the best bet for people with immediate trouble.

I'd be interested to hear about other simple, low cost projects along these lines. I can't knit or crochet, but better wives can so include those too. (I can keep up with this stuff fairly easily since Dad's parishes are smaller--at a larger church, a team of people would be in order.)

02 July 2011


It is often said that when a child is toilet trained earlier in its life rather than later, it is not in fact the child who is trained, but the parents.

This is entirely stupid, as I will now prove.

The first factor which must be understood is that toilet training a child is the absolute worst task in childrearing. The absolute worst. It awakens a previously unwrathful parent to her own shockingly vast capacity for unmitigated wrath. It is the task most likely to make an at-home mother long to pay some other person (perhaps the drunkard across the street or an arthritic labradoodle, any arthritic labradoodle) to take over the care of her child. It is the task most frequently begun and abandoned. It is the task most often left to fall entirely on the shoulders of mothers, as fathers simply cannot handle it.

The second factor that must be understood is that diapers are SO DISGUSTING. A child on a normal human diet excretes exactly the same thing that normal humans excrete. At some point, the horror of having her face inches from this disgustingness every day of her life outweighs a mother's doubt as to her child's readiness. She cannot continue to change diapers. The child--whether or not he can talk or has expressed interest or has attained the necessary age du jour--must be housebroken. (NB: this is why children of an at-home mother are usually toilet trained earlier in life than children whose care is divided among different persons over the course of a day. The sole caregiver wears out faster.)

So a young child becomes a candidate for toilet use. And the mother must run all day long. She must keep the child off furniture and carpets. She learns that she can no more make her child excrete than she can make him eat, sleep, or be quiet. She must clean unspeakable messes from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. If it becomes too much, she goes back to diapers until once again she is overtaken by that disgustingness. She tilts on the brink of madness for the duration of this period. Amen, amen, no one gets it.

However, many young children succeed. They are granted the excretory epiphany. They become users of toilets and wearers of underwear, and there is much rejoicing. But still the child is young. He cannot put on his trousers in the morning; neither can he rule them in the bathroom. He is too short to climb stairs, so also to scale toilets. He is too stupid to wash his hands in the kitchen: similarly the bathroom. Thus do parents (for the fathers have begun to return at this point) RUN RUN RUN to the bathroom when the child announces his need of it, and in so doing, appear to be slaves of an untrained child.

But only to those who do not realize that if a kid too young to dress and wash himself is able to discern and communicate his need for and carry out the act of eliminating in the toilet, wizardry must almost certainly be involved.

Only to those who have never changed a diaper, or have been so long from the task that its disgustingness has somehow been forgotten.

Only to those who know neither the expense of disposable diapers nor the labor of cloth diapers.

Only to those who are unaware that a dirty diaper must be changed as promptly as a young child's call for the bathroom must be attended.

Only to those who do not understand that the greatest hero on any day of human history is not the discoverer nor the inventor nor the orator, but the child who for the first time in his life refuses to befoul himself.