31 January 2012


 OK shapes for skirts:

Not OK shapes for skirts:

A skirt, like a woman, should be at least slightly longer than it's wide.

30 January 2012

Siege perilous

The bend of man's knee does not indicate that it is natural for him to stand or squat and unnatural for him to sit down. It indicates that it is natural for him to build a chair. A chair allows his God-given clothes to remain clean, gives rest to his tired feet, and raises him above the chairless beasts.

Man's industry is his creational gift and birthright. He is and must be the building creature, for the yield of his work requires an altar on which it may be offered to God. Paradise is a Garden but it is also the holy City, many houses of living stones. A city with no gardens is dead, but a garden is itself a city of vegetation; an untended garden is a wilderness. The new Jerusalem, that perfect bride, descends from heaven adorned, for adornment is a woman's skill and honor regardless of the perfection of beauty it ornaments. Let the one who has toiled finally rule unbesmirched and un-footsore from thrones of his own ingenuity, harvest, and crafting. No other creature can.

Take a load off. (Source)

29 January 2012


I hate missing church. It is a unique pang which strikes when the bell rings across the street and I'm still over here in my smelly pajamas wiping up whatever revolting muck is erupting out of some kid's body*. Somebody brings home a bulletin and I look at it and see the hymns and think, "You guys sang this without me?"

Nothing drives home the worth of the exhausting effort, the niggling anxieties, the unavoidable embarrassments, the absurd and bewildering expectations, like having them taken away.

*Today, so far, it is only complaints. I am suspicious and very crabby.

27 January 2012

How to eat a beast

If your husband kills a beast, or someone at your church gives you a part of one, you should eat it. Some beasts are described as tasting "gamey," an Old Icelandic term for "like socks." If you don't like the way socks taste, you can do these things to make your beast taste more "tasty" ("like those slabs of tissue you're used to").

Season it. A good spice attack covers over a multitude of socks. Ground beast responds well to a taco treatment. Ground beast can also be combined with ground pork and then sausaged by way of various ethnicities (Penzey's sausage mixes are a good idea source to get you started).

Soak it. Once I heard that you can soak beasts in milk to take out the gaminess, but I can't see wasting all that milk. I'd rather soak it in something I can turn into a sauce. A beast roast can be converted into a fine sauerbraten. You can also slice it and give it a good ginger, soy sauce, and sherry soak for a stir fry. If you're grilling, cut backstraps into steaks and marinate in lemon juice and worcestershire all day. You make the sauce while he grills (obviously this will be happening after the kids are in bed).

Soak it like crazy. My husband started corning and pastramizing beasts this winter and they are so good. You need some Morton's Tenderquick for a crazy soak.

Smoke it. More tenderquick and a smoker will get you a beast ham. They have shiny spots and everything. Smoke a roast, smoke sausage, smoke a drooled-on pillow. They'll all come out great.

Slow cook it. Italian. Korean. Stew. Time heals all toughness if you're stuck with some stringy old trophy buck somebody shot without thinking about what everything under that rack was going to taste like.

If you got sad about the poor moo-moos and cluck-clucks when you read one of those foodguilt books by a rich jerk who gets to eat and write all day, comfort yourself with some free beast whenever it comes your way.

25 January 2012


This is important. Please listen carefully: It is possible to give birth to a baby without health insurance coverage. Giving birth to a baby without coverage will not destroy you, your life, your financial future, or your credit rating.

It is even possible to give birth to a baby after having received a full schedule of prenatal care and in a hospital without being covered by health insurance. It is further possible to give birth to a baby after having received a full schedule of prenatal care and in a hospital without being covered by health insurance, but with the dubious aid of an obstetrician and several expensive nurses. It is EVEN FURTHER possible to give birth to a baby in a hospital without being covered by health insurance, but with the dubious aid of however many expensive people AND with the assistance of a well-paid anesthesiologist. 

I know this because I have personally myownself given birth to two babies--one living, one alive in Christ-- without the mantle of health insurance, in two different hospitals with two different sets of expensive staff-peoples. I am not impoverished or forced to wear a large "S" for stupid on my outer garments. We simply paid for the prenatal/birth-related services rendered over time, in increments we could afford. This paying was not embarrassing or shaming in any way. It's the way people have been paying for things for, like, ever. Health insurance is fine for what it is, but it is not Necessary. 

Behold a mystery: Birth cost us approximately the same out-of-pocket without health insurance coverage as it currently costs us with health insurance coverage. All in all, God provides. Be not afraid to carry out the fullness of your marital love. We brought nothing into the world; we can take nothing out of it; but we can bring forth children in the grace of our God without health insurance. Really.  

24 January 2012

Fight hideous poverty

A clenched fist may be able to retain whatever is in its grasp, but it can never receive anything more. So too a clenched heart, but worse: the damp darkness of the tight-clenched heart will begin to fester.

I am so glad that Gauntlets pointed out Rev. Scott Murray's Memorial Moment awhile back. Such a worthy addition to my inbox (when I, um, get to it. Sigh).

Here's part of what he wrote about marriage yesterday:

Yes, marriage is a messy business. It is fraught with difficulties, sick children, worry about money, dirty diapers, and frightful disagreements. But marriage enables us to get out of ourselves and seek meaning in the other.

….Marriage isn't for everyone, but everyone ought to be for marriage. There is no way to be in true relationship with another apart from the sacrifice of self. And the more we give of ourselves the more we will have of ourselves. The more we hold back of ourselves the less we will have. What a hideous poverty resides in the heart of those who will not give themselves for the other.

Here we find just a hint of what it means to be truly human in the world created by the God who molds man out of the dust of the earth. We are to find our ultimate meaning not in ourselves, but in the other. The relationship of man and woman points to the relationship of the Bridegroom, Christ, with His bride, the church. Man and woman were not created to be alone, but to be in union with one another and with their God.

23 January 2012

From Father Gunnulf

. . . a terrible temptation came over me. I thought about the way the Savior had hung nailed to the cross all those hours. But his disciples suffered inexpressible torments for many days . . . . Then it occurred to me that many of these people had suffered more than Christ himself.
I pondered this until I felt that my heart and mind would burst. But finally I received the light that I had prayed and begged for. And I realized that just as they had suffered, so should we all have the courage to suffer. Who would be so foolish not to accept pain and torment if this was the way to a faithful and steadfast bridegroom who waits with open arms, his breast bloody and burning with love.
The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter), Sigrid Undset

22 January 2012

Full disclosure

So on this here old blog pretty much all I do is talk about babies, but in real life I'm just a normal person who happens to have six kids. Whereas I am able to interact with real people without unnatural or excessive reference to this secret obsession of mine, and I virtually never engage in procreative stumping, I find it curious that women tend to explain their families to me. I would never ask anyone why she has the number of kids she does; it is none of my business. But they tell me out of nowhere. Strangers tell me, vague acquaintances tell me, old ladies tell me, the person stuffing my mouth with gauze tells me. They all have a reason. Some wanted more, some decided by not deciding. Some sang when they learned they were pregnant [again] and some cried. So many of them have had miscarriages they need to share with someone.

These stories are so personal. I don't know why they tell me. Maybe it's something all women tell each other and it only seems odd to me because I have no need of telling my story when my car is obviously jam-packed with it, or since I am not (that I know of) Done. Maybe the carful of story marks me as a likely sympathizer. Not one woman's story is simple, and it is clear that the writing of each was difficult and uncertain work. Every story has plotlines that got out of control or went unresolved or had to be stricken. I treasure them regardless of their content. I am glad and humbled that they have been told to me. They are serendipitous gifts; even the sad ones, even the scary ones.

Thanks for nothing

From The Lost Art of Self-Preservation (for Women):

What feminists do not acknowledge (but do know) about the work/motherhood dilemma is that it's not really much of a dilemma.  If you screw up at work, you will be fired.  To be fired from motherhood, you have to fail spectacularly and repeatedly, and this failure will have to be noticed and documented by teachers, social workers, police officers, and judges.  Therefore, work will always come first because the pushback for failure will be harder and more immediate from a boss.  To a child, "normal" will be what Mommy creates for her, even if that's neglect, abuse, chronic selfishness or the less malign flakiness.   

What irritates me most about these sorts of articles is the idea that women must jump on the 7-7 treadmill for the betterment of the child, for the fulfillment of the mother.  The majority of women out there working aren't doing so because they love it or because it's making their lives richer.  They're doing it because they need the money to pay for food and rent.  Their jobs aren't glamorous and never will be.  They're trapped because of the economy, because of divorce or single motherhood, or because of outstanding student loans.  And there is no "work/life" balance.  There is only work and then whatever you can get done after work - the same grind people had before the period of the mid-twentieth century American prosperity. 

Emphasis mine. Full post here.

19 January 2012

Cloudy with a 100% chance of meatballs somewhere they shouldn't be

Occasionally someone offers me an encouraging word about "seasons." I get the impression that this is Evangelicalspeak, although I don't know the origin. Apparently its essential meaning is, "Someday you'll be doing something else. This is OK for now."

Here's where I'm going to speak freely and if it's going to make you disgusted with my various personal failures and/or my failure to represent whatever cause you think I am or should be representing you may be excused . . . .

Our family doesn't have baby years and little kid years and school years and teen years. Or rather, we do, but they all occur at the same time instead of in the nice organized increments everyone else does their best to get them. Where I live, it's Pregnant/Baby season for a lot longer than most of these climatological well-wishers have ever had it. My older children travel through their lives while I tag along, dragging the two youngest as well as I can. Pregnant/Baby season is always working to trump everything else that is going on. I can bust my tail trying to beat it, but I don't always beat it, and sometimes I feel so bad for that droopy old tail I don't even try to bust it.

Blessed as Pregnant/Baby season is, I'm no more keen on it from a certain perspective than all the people who gave it up after two or three weather cycles. When one lives in a temperate zone the end is always in sight; the seasons are manageable and kind of charming. But this zone I'm in just isn't temperate. It's all monsoons here, and I've been cowering in my hut for a lot longer than a lovely Midwest fall.

A really, really, really long time to cast away stones.

17 January 2012

Kyrie, eleison

Touchstone calls it like it sees it in this month's issue. Please read what is available online, when you have the time. And this, by way of a teaser:

Christians are not the only ones in a position to understand what Augustine and Leo XIII and Paul VI understood—that marriage resides at the very foundation of culture. They are not the only ones who have reason to be concerned about the bastardization of the citizenry through same-sex marriage, or about the Kulturkampf that threatens to leave behind it a moral wasteland blanketed by impenetrable judicial thickets. They are not the only ones capable of standing for freedom. Christians may, however, be the only ones capable of standing against contraception, which is their particular duty.

Douglas Farrow, "Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage?," Touchstone Jan/Feb 2012

Why is it always the middle of the night when they start throwing up?

Seriously, is there some medical explanation for this? Inquiring minds want to know.

14 January 2012

Strong enough to be gentle

I attended Concordia-Seward while Pastor Greg Mech (now of Joplin, Mo.) was chaplain. Once in chapel he told the story of bringing home their second baby. The older child was very young and wanted to hold the baby. "He wasn't strong enough to be gentle," said the chaplain, so he took the older child in his lap first, then took the baby and held them both together.

Strong enough to be gentle, that is a rarity. The mother who snaps, the sister who snipes, the daughter who gripes, the yokefellow who knifes, the wife who torpedoes, the pot-shotter and the grenade-lobber and the bulldozer (I speak, I think it is obvious, of myself)--she is weak. She cannot control her anger, envy, cruelty, or malice.

But the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Cunning, tyranny, provocation, humiliation, and wounding are works of the weak flesh. The one who is able to be gentle, whose words turn away wrath rather than being drawn into it or inflaming it, is the one whom He hath made mighty, and stronger than the strong.

12 January 2012

Book, recommended: Weak and Loved

Once I met a girl on the internet named Emily, and I liked her. She was the kind of mom I wanted to be, which is to say, one with a good and thankful heart. That would have been enough, but it happened that she was also writing a book, so I couldn't not pester her because I think people who write books are just so cool. So I pestered her and that good heart of hers did its work: she let me read her book.

The story Emily tells is the one we're all afraid of: Mom meets girl, Mom loves girl, Mom finds out she might really lose girl, Mom lies awake at night listening for girl's breathing. But this mom's words and insights are smoothed and deepened by a grace you don't find in women's magazines and junk devotionals and pop-Christian bestsellers by pop-Christians. The grace is no accident or rhetorical device. It is real, because Emily is a person who understands grace. She does not seek to inspire with this book that would almost certainly be pigeonholed as "inspirational" by the book pigeonholers, whoever they are. She wants to tell the truth.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a "fighter" or a "survivor." There are only mortals, and an omnipotent God of love and wisdom on whose mercy they can throw themselves. The truth is that bad things happen to sweet little girls because sweet little girls are sinners. The truth is that mothers are forced to live with terrors not of their imagining, but of lethally diseased flesh. The truth is that young children have to learn about sickness and the shadow of death the hard way: at home, on the playground, in their bedrooms.

Emily, unlike any other Christian mom-author I've ever read, finds comfort in precise places: her daughter's baptism, her own baptism, the real promises of God rather than fake general ones people made up, salvation in Christ even if there is no happy ending in this life. There is no blather about God's perfect plan or the blessings of watching one's child suffer a life-threatening illness (?!). There is only the cross that breaks us, sick baby or not, and the cross that saves us, for we are all sick babies. I was really ready to read a book like that. Buy it or win it? False dichotomy.

11 January 2012

Fantasy Baby

I have often fantasized about what all this would be like with an imaginary baby, the one some other mom always has, the kind that sleeps and doesn't cry and knows how to nurse from minute one. I have had babies who possessed each of these attributes singly, but never all together.

It happened. I got my Fantasy Baby. Dad and I realized one day that we had a two-month-old and somehow were not miserable. Wonderful wonderful wonderful baby.

It took us six to get here and a few of them have been doozies. Postpartum was still double plus uncool because I am still double plus uncool. I don't know if the Fantasy Baby is a species or a fluke, so I don't know if there's any encouragement here for anyone else. I just wanted to tell you--I got her. I got my Fantasy Baby. I feel like our whole family got a huge pass on this one. I feel like I won the lottery.

10 January 2012

Verily, verily

Babies are a syntactically backwards race. They remember the last word of a familiar phrase or sentence and that word comes to function as a sort of synecdoche for the whole meaning. A small child's Lord's Prayer sounds like: "Father. Heaven. Name. Come. Done. Heaven. Bread." Etc. But a very small child's prayer is always, actually and effectively, "Amen."

08 January 2012

Why I don't give my baby a fake boob in public or anywhere else

Because I don't have any. If I had one, I wouldn't have anything to put in it. I don't buy formula (that's one of the primary aims of nursing) and I don't have a pump. I don't have a pump because they are expensive and I have so little occasion to use it (that's one of the primary aims of staying home).

I don't get why people think pumping means Mom will get a break. It actually means the opposite. It means she will spend time hooked up to a machine getting schlooped like old Bossy before the time when the baby will need milk in her absence, and possibly again for her own comfort while she is absent from the baby. It means someone else will have to give the milk to the baby from a fake boob (more work for another person, although I know some mothers-in-law are pushy about wanting to do this work). It is totally inefficient. Pumping also doesn't work for everyone in a purely technical sense--saying, "Why doesn't she pump?" makes nearly as many assumptions about how a person's body works as, "Why doesn't she breastfeed?"

The number of stars in my eyes about breastfeeding is zero. I have had a plain rotten time of it. I do it because it is free and healthier for the baby and me. My commitment to it is strong, but purely utilitarian. I am sorry if this makes me a monster or something, but not sorry enough to feel even remotely like a monster.

Despite and because of this monstrous utilitarianism, I despise pumping. I have had to do it, what with the plain rotten times. While I prefer a little space when I nurse, I would prefer to be on another planet to pump. A pump makes me feel like some sort of inferior biological cog in a dystopian future; like my brain wasn't good enough to be connected to the Central Thought Reservoir so the alienbots settled for my lacto-glands instead. Nursing is meh. Pumping is mortifying. I could never pump without asking myself, “Is this really worth it?” When it was the only way the baby could get milk, it was worth it. If it was so I could leave the baby for a length of time so great that the baby would need a fake boob . . . not worth it. If someone walks in on a mom nursing, there's a very good chance he'll just think she's holding a sleeping baby, and she will almost certainly let him keep thinking that. If he walked in on her pumping, they would both die of embarrassment.

This means that occasionally I have to risk it. If the baby and I go somewhere, I can feed her before we leave and hope she doesn't want to nurse before we're home again. But it's complicated, because nursing doesn't always happen just because the baby is hungry. While we're out, I may need to find some way to keep her occupied and quiet because babies are squirmy and noisy. Nursing is the least obtrusive way for me to do this. It is immediate and quiet and still. I do not have to get up and walk out or shake a jingly toy or whisper-read a book. She is used to it and it is how she is most comfortable. Unfortunately, it is also nursing, which some people find inherently obtrusive. The best part is that you don't know who the obtruded upon people are until someone else tells you what the obtruded upon person said in some other time and place about how gross nursing is. 

Why don't you just carry one of these around?

While we're on this exciting topic, the obtrusion problem is why the nursing cover is mostly a ruse. Those who wish to be covered are usually able to nurse in such a way as to not need a cover. Those who don't care that much may use a cover unsatisfactorily to the critics. The real trouble is that using a cover tips people off to what is going on, such that those who find nursing inherently obtrusive will feel obtruded upon even if they see no skin at all. They don't really want you covered. They don't want you nursing; at least, not where it might cause them to think about it in some non-abstract way, and especially if the baby is of a certain age (ie older than two days).

So, ye obtruded upon, sorry. Sorry these aren't good enough reasons for you. Sorry I don't carry a fake boob around because I know looking at fake boobs stuffed into babies' mouths doesn't gross you out at all. Try not to think about the fact that you don't know if it's nice, clean formula or gross boob milk that the baby is slurping out of the fake boob because that might gross you out if it were gross boob milk. May all the boobs in your life be fake.

05 January 2012

Old Possum explains it all

"People can be persuaded to desire almost anything, for a time, if they are constantly told that it is something to which they are entitled and which is unjustly withheld from them."

T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture, "Notes towards the Definition of Culture"

04 January 2012

Be it resolved

As a farmer's daughter living in a farming community for whom farming is a very big deal, I want to point out that the "using birth control is like farming" metaphor just doesn't work. 

While there is not a tidy bijection between women's bodies and Mother Earth, real flesh-and-blood farmers "husband" the earth. Yeah, they, um, farm it, i.e. push it toward production. Even the hippies with their green manure and their heirloom inheritances and their Native American rhetoric. Because, look: farmers want their soil to generate an abundance, year after year after year. They tend the soil, they care for the soil, they even love the soil, but they do not wander about at the edge of their fields wringing their hands, wondering if maybe this year they ought to let the weeds take over. And they do not ever think that maybe it's time to sow salt in their fields, rendering them infertile, because they have more crops than they can handle. (HAHAHAHA! That one is my favorite. Like any farmer anywhere wouldn't know what to do with a surplus of crops.)

Please, everyone in the world, please, please, please stop using farming as The Thing that Proves whatever it is you want to prove. Farming doesn't work that way. No, it really doesn't. Leave the fields to the farmers and the women to their husbands. Life and the creation of life isn't easy poetry; it can't be neatly bent to this or that idea of what's right. The poetry is simply correct. It is up to us not to use it, but to become it. 

03 January 2012

Because toe jam is not, in any country, considered a delicacy

I have been, quite possibly on more than one occasion (a-hem), guilty of speaking too hastily into a situation that I understand imperfectly. The foot-in-mouth aftertaste is not one that I particularly savor, especially when compounded by the concern that my ill-considered words may have inadvertently added to another’s misery.

Tasty in infancy, but rarely thereafter.

You, dear readers, are doubtless always more circumspect with your words. So you will nod with immediate, sage recognition when I record, for posterity, this thing that is always and forever, without exception, The Wrong Thing to say. I sadly suspect that perhaps some of you, like me, have been on the receiving end of variations on this theme.

Woman A: Congratulations! How are you feeling?

Woman B: Well, you know, pretty bad. Can’t keep anything down, to the point that I might have to go on anti-emetics again; and I’ve got to be careful about dehydration.

Woman A: Oh, I always feel really sick when I’m pregnant too. [Wait for it…..wait for it….] But I just really hate throwing up, so I always manage not to get to the point of actually puking.

Woman B: Smiles weakly and creeps off to sip some Gatorade, hoping against hope that it stays down this time.

What you all immediately see here, of course, is that Woman A, however inadvertently, is implying one or both of the following:

1) Woman B doesn’t really hate throwing up. Hey, maybe she thinks it’s kind of fun!
2) Woman B is weak-minded or weak-willed; if only she were tougher she could control her bile rather than vice versa.

Now, it may well be that God gifted me with morning sickness to save me from the worse offense of being Woman A. Back when I got pregnant with BabyOne, morning sickness wasn’t even on my radar. I had at that time just a couple friends who’d been pregnant, and they lived far away. If ever I thought of morning sickness, it had a vague and Victorian association in my mind, like something associated with hand-on-forehead fainting spells and remedied with smelling salts. Certainly it was not something that would ever happen to me. I was Healthy and Strong!

Then, WHAM! I woke up puking one morning, and didn’t stop, round the clock, for months. I tried every weird remedy suggested by anyone and her mother’s third cousin, to no avail. By week 17 of that first pregnancy I was five pounds under my prepregnancy weight. So much for tough. And I’ve learned my lesson: unless you know what it is to be always scoping out the nearest restrooms and receptacles on the occasions when you must venture away from your own dear porcelain fixture; unless you know what it is to carry a bag in your pocket so that you don’t disgrace yourself by throwing up on a totally inappropriate surface if no toilet, garbage can, or bush is handy enough; the only words you should venture to offer to an emetic woman are those of deep sympathy.

Now. Lest we sometime hyper-emetics start feeling a sick (haha) sort of reverse pride in our barf badges, and be tempted to look with scorn upon those whose “only” complaint is nausea: I have also had a pregnancy in which the vomiting was miserable and bothersome, but not excessive or health-threatening. Yet nausea there was a-plenty—and at times it flattened me as effectively as the constant vomiting had. This too, I would not have comprehended, had I not experienced it. I would have been another version of Woman A, chirping, “Oh, I always feel sick too. But life must go on! I’m too busy just to lie uselessly on the floor wishing for death!”

Which brings me to my next point: Hey, people, rejoice with me! I’m puking again! And, you know, I have a ray of hope to offer those of you who may fear, after several rough pregnancies, that ‘twill ever be thus: this is the least sick I’ve been in a (Lord willing) viable pregnancy. I’m miserable, but in many important respects functional. Not that the household and the homeschooling and the whatnots haven’t suffered—but I do not take for granted this ability to remain mostly upright at least for the children’s waking hours. And I earnestly wish for those of you who through wretched experience fear the first months of pregnancy more than L&D, that you may also one day enjoy such reprieve!