30 March 2012

Usage you can use: Voilà

Most everyone uses "voilà" [vwa la] at some point in her life. This is likely because voilà [vwa la] is a French word. We Americans like borrowing things from the French. They are just so fashionable.

Voilà [vwa la] has all the expected subtleties in its native form, but we barking Anglophones tend to use it to mean, "Ta da!" This is a fine usage, given that voilà [vwa la] could be translated to mean, "lookit!" or, "here it is!" So carry on, friends. Carry on.

But do not ever spell it "walla" or I will laugh at you.

28 March 2012

Gestating, please hold

Not so long ago, I had a Very Serious discussion with my husband about a Big Decision that our family needs to make. He was, as always, appropriately empathetic as well as cautiously solution-oriented. And like the rational person that he is, he tactfully (like the wise man that he is) suggested that perhaps the throes of early pregnancy, in the midst of household illness, were not the best time to finalize decisions like these.

Since there is, or at one time was, a rational bone (or at least some quasi-reasonable cartilage) somewhere in my body, I could see his point. Hormones, fatigue, nausea and emesis, sleepless nights with sick and cranky kids…

But, OK, so I’ll eventually have this baby and not be pregnant anymore. Why, I’ll be postpartum! Maybe that would be a good time to make big decisions! And then after I’m postpartum, I’ll be endlessly nursing and chasing, and in all likelihood, people will be sick again! And then….well, the whole thing might just start all over again!

Yeah, so, I guess I’m just kinda wondering when exactly I can expect to be right-minded enough to make a responsible, rational decision about anything more important than what’s for supper on a given day. And I’m coming yet again to the disturbing conclusion that this—whatever point on the continuum this happens to be at the time—is as good as it gets.

20 years, that is.

Plaid to the bone

The LL Bean catalog (aka Mom's Guide to Coveting) came today. I liked the cover redesign thingy they're doing for their 100th anniversary.

Here's a cover from 1956:

Here's how a photographer reproduced it:

Naturally I was just interested in the chick. Her body type seems to have gotten more realistic over the years, but she's not quite as buttoned as she used to be. :D

27 March 2012

Most Christianest headcovering ever

There was also a pair of R2D2 socks in the hand-me-down bag that brought me this treasure.

26 March 2012

Ten years

One of the hardest Sulvanisms for me to shake was the idea of spacing. It did not occur to me that I would be lighting each new pregnancy off the smolderings of the last. I was looking forward to the breaks that only seemed reasonable and necessary; I, like everyone else, had always lived break to break. Some months of not serving as host for another human life would keep me going. No weird clothes. No icky and embarrassing demands on my body for a while. Time for the baby to get bigger so it wouldn't be so rough adding another.

It didn't work out that way. Sometime in the last few days I lived the unknowable moment past which I have been pregnant, nursing, or both for ten years with no breaks in service. The part of me that finds this shocking has gotten smaller over those years, but she's still in here somewhere. While the lot of normally functioning woman is no longer unthinkable to me, it remains incredible and menacing and gargantuan. It is a tidal wave and I am a bicycle on the beach. To think of it makes me want to fall down on the floor and just lie there.

I'm good at faking my way through local life like a normal person; to do otherwise would make everyone miserable. But I always secretly feel like an alien around women with kids the age of my older kids, because I do not know any who are living the lot of normally functioning women like I am. They have moved on to basketball practice and bike rides. There are no maternity clothes boxed up in their closets, there is no nursing paraphernalia in their top drawers. Precedent indicates that the baby and preschool moms, my closer allies for now, will soon leave me to join the basketballers and bikers. But I'll probably still be here; pregnant, nursing, both.

I didn't get the memo. I'm the supermom nobody wants to be.

25 March 2012


Disclaimer 1: I don't want to come off all First Girl Ever To Learn [Greek] here, so let me say upfront that the basic fact I present below came to my attention via the very much English Concordia Commentary on Ecclesiastes, which I was reading for a thoroughly  non-erudite reason with which I will not bore you.

Disclaimer 2: I hesitate to address this as one who has graciously been spared the heartbreak of losing a baby without having seen his face. But experience is neither equalizer nor guarantor of consensus, and every woman who has carried a child or hoped to knows the dread of this shadow.

I ponder endlessly the sadness of my friends who have endured a miscarriage, particularly the sentiment expressed by my dear Reb. Mary:  "'Miscarry. Mis-carry. Like, “Whoops! I dropped the baby! Next time I’m carrying a baby I really should try to be more careful!'" Ah, friend. :'(

Ecclesiastes 6, Job 3, and Psalm 58 speak of a miscarried or stillborn child, but not in the way we speak of him. For where we call him "miscarried," which so many mothers I know cannot but understand to place the blame particularly with themselves, the Hebrews use the simple word nephel, "fallen."

No special term for it, and no fault beyond that which we all bear. Fallen like every last one of us.

22 March 2012

It's OK to make arbitrary rules

Actually, they’re not even arbitrary, if they serve to defend your sanity. What makes them seem arbitrary is how different they are for each mother, each household. And what’s important is not to let misplaced guilt (fed by your children) con you into breaking them (and perhaps breaking you in the process).

Here’s what I’m talking about: I once heard a mom say that she absolutely will not, never, no never, not under any circumstances, allow Play-Doh in her house. All Play-Dohing must take place outside (this in a climate that renders outdoor Play-Dohing impossible for about half the year).

This might have surprised or perhaps even appalled me back before I had kids, or back when I had just one or two. But I found myself nodding in respect as she mentioned her household nonnegotiable. For you see, while Play-Doh is legal in our house, glitter is not. Glitter glue, glitter paint—yes, yes, fine. Bring them on. We love them. Loose glitter—never, no never, not under any circumstances.

Let it be anathema!

When I first instituted the no-glitter rule, I had these ridiculous feelings of guilt. Maybe my children would be forever warped because I didn’t let them do projects with glitter! Maybe glitter crafts serve a deep psychological need, and my stubborn refusal to allow glitter-play will top the long list of mother-failings they someday discuss with their shrink! I almost caved a few times, but I’ve stood firm for a couple years now, and I am so glad. And so much saner for it.

There’s only so much (and for most of us, it’s really not much) in life that a mother can truly control. Craft materials are one of them. So if you find yourself gnashing your teeth for weeks over the insidious trail of glitter spread throughout the entire house by just one little project—do something about it. And harbor no regrets.  

Play-Doh. Glitter. Innocuous enough in themselves, but enough to drive otherwise reasonable (if I may be so bold) mothers to the brink. I’m sure I’ve got other “arbitrary” rules, but I’ve gotten so much better about not feeling guilty about them that I can’t even think of any offhand. I’d love to hear, though, whether anyone else has found peace of mind by banishing from their children’s lives certain substances or activities that are generally considered to be the stuff of which happy childhoods are made. :D

20 March 2012

Pipe dream

Forgive my organist obsession. Does any organist want to move here?

I have an idea. All the chicks who want to be pastors should become organists.

--It's harder. Seminary can be bluffed through to a large extent. Pastoral ministry including but not limited to the conduction of the Divine Service can be and is bluffed through all the time. An hour's worth of music at the ability level demanded by Lutheran liturgy and hymnody absolutely cannot be bluffed through. Instant respect!

--It's cheaper. I don't know how much organ lessons cost but I can't imagine coming out of them with an amount of debt comparable to four years at the seminary.

--It's more appreciated. Pastors can always find an elder to mumble through Matins and no one really cares. They're actually glad for the shorter service. But everyone notices and hates it when there's no accompaniment, even people who don't like singing*.

--It's an opportunity for leadership (ie inspiration, encouragement, and influence). Lots of pastors don't like choosing hymns every week and will let the organist take over the job. "The Church Sustainable" section of the hymnal will finally start getting used like it should.

--It's easier. No dealing with annoying people and their annoying problems all the time like pastors have to. Also no meetings except maybe with the pastor, which will be a great chance to throw zingers at him about how lousy his lousy non-women-ordaining denomination is.

And if it doesn't work out at church they can always play at ball games, since no one will let them pitch.


*Of which there are many. Eliminating all the music is one of my big plans to make church more seeker friendly. Much shorter services, no awkward expectations of non-singers or people who don't like Ben Folds concerts, and no more getting stuck listening to a bunch of freaking soloists or church bands who think they're super awesome and that there's nothing we'd rather be doing than listening to them howl all morning.

19 March 2012

Having it all

There is a way to have it all, even for "you can't have it all"ers. That way is to marry late. I can name without much thought a number of smart girls who, not having been given a husband early, found ways to keep themselves busy and solvent and in the process made good names for themselves in their lines of work. Many of them are able to keep up that work after marriage since they established themselves in it beforehand. I wonder if they know how many of us are sitting in our houses feeling really jealous.

If they did, I think a lot of them would come and give us a hard kick.  Many of them sat in their houses at the end of countless workdays knowing every bit of that jealousy. Although I didn't have to live with it long, spouse anxiety is not a good feeling. Everybody wants that question answered. I'm not even going to talk about loneliness; the mention suffices. Though I may envy the lady who now has the husband and kids AND the name recognition and credentials and therefore public respect and earning potential I never will, I would not sacrifice one hour with the husband God gave me for any of that. It is better for me to tend his hearth than to be known and successful in the market. Our length of days together has also meant a family so big we can barely fit ourselves and our picnic into the car.

I like the idea of having it all. But I like my husband, like, so much more (and picnics too). So let's not be jealous, because they're really nice girls and they've earned what they have now. That's how their lives went and this is how my life went and haven't we all wasted enough of our lives wanting things that aren't ours? How much worse is it to mope about something we don't have that we know we don't really want?

". . . and last of all, behold! the mustard pot, which he had been sitting on without knowing it . . . ."

14 March 2012

Laetare. Mom's orders.

I, for all practical purposes, do not have a mother church. The church where I grew up is no longer a place where I can go on Easter to sing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" with each verse rising a half-step to a thundering, golden finale of impossible height. It breaks my heart, for there is a sense in which there is no church like one's home church. I want that glorious Easter back. It's not just that I personally can't get there. It doesn't exist.

That's not good, but it has helped me understand the obvious fact that part of growing up is being able to leave Mom. I have to be able to love someone else's pie if I'm ever going to be happy eating pie again. Is my stubborn insistence that only my mom can make a good pie worth never enjoying ANY pie? Of course I will always love my own dear Mom's own dear pie, but she would be the first to tell me I was an idiot to mope every time someone else's dear mom put a piece of pie in front of me. The truth is, lots of moms are really good at making pie. Mom would also be completely disgusted with me if I didn't know it was beyond rude to mope if someone is kind enough to make a pie and give me a piece, even if it's not the world's best pie.

So as I approach another Laetare feeling a bit orphanish, I am glad that the place that was my mother church was not really my mother. I haven't even had my real mother's pie yet. One parish is not the Church. One building is not Jerusalem. One hymn is not the Song. One pastor is not the Shepherd. Each little Easter, wherever I happen to be for it, brings me closer in every way to the big one. God grant me the grace to receive what I am given, however modest, with thanks and rejoicing.

13 March 2012

Everybody else, too

Once I was outside in the cold with two little people hurrying as well as I could toward our house, and I ran into a crazy person, Wanda. Wanda started talking, and she kept it up. She had so much to tell me! And after that, she had other things to tell me. Which reminded her of another thing she wanted to tell me!

I was cold. The babies were cold. Surely, Wanda was cold! But there were so many things to tell me.

As I pondered all this coldness and all these things which I was being told, a thought flashed in my mind: God made Wanda. He made her and he loves her. He loves it that she's crazy and has a million things to tell someone with two babies on the sidewalk on a cold day. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to hug Wanda because God made her and loves her. It was so great, and also so cold.

(Her name wasn't really Wanda, but I get distracted by quotation marks and asterisks and stuff.)

12 March 2012

Children: What is this quintessence of dust?

In this world, in this time, our philosophers suffer under the same siege of transcendental naval-gazing as Prince Hamlet. Man delights not them. Far better, they think, to leave the dog-eat-dog systems alone, and abolish Man. They teach: Soak up the sun while it shines, for it is going out. They warn: Do not, at any cost, bring another human into the world; there’s not near enough sunshine to go around as it is, and Man is nothing more than another selfish, consuming beast, who by chance developed a larger cerebrum than he did a thorax.

But, in truth, any mother who has held in her arms the child of her husband knows far better. We know who Man is, and against all logic, in spite of his weakness, his helplessness, and his unending, squalling consumption, we love him. We want him. We move heaven and earth to bear him, feed and clothe him, and bring him the choicest of everything. We do all this instinctively, against the advice of those more learned than we. Why?

Because it was our marriages of love which made him. Children are love incarnate—the solid, eternal stuff of love. Much more than a feeling, love is born and suckles, learns to speak, and abides to bring joy and unending sunshine to her parents. Behold, children are a heritage of the Lord! Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

You love Man because you can’t help yourself. He is the image of the God of Love, and he is loveable. Your daughters and your sons, even with their cries, demands, diapers, and rebellion, are terribly, permanently loveable, and you, their Christian mothers, were given the Spirit of Love when you became one with Christ in your baptisms. It’s in your blood to love them. It’s what you were born to do.

But these basic, maternal instincts aren’t the half of it. This world has turned against itself, and Mankind is set on its own destruction. As ferociously as we love our children, we cannot elevate them in the eyes of the world to anything more than beasts, consumers, voters, or tax write-offs. But Christ is Man, and beloved of the Father. And it is Christ’s Manhood that elevates our precious children in the eyes of God. Man is loveable because Christ is Man. Life is good, because Christ lives. Love is possible, because Christ first loved us. And Eternity is in our grasp, because Christ has risen from the dead and is coming again, and in His Father’s house are many, many rooms. Room enough for every child ever born, and more.

Don’t let them confuse you, sisters. Mother on. 

11 March 2012


I hate it when writers write about writing. No one cares. Shut up and write. But I just have to say this one thing which may be of interest to maternal types now that I have become as qualified to do so as I ever will. (BTW--thanks for all your nicenesses and buyings and internetty goodwill. The truth is I am feeling deeply silly about all this but my husband believes strongly in monetizing hobbies.)

10 March 2012

Organists: the best people ever

Our church secretary called twelve organists last week. A church up the road from us has been without accompaniment for over a year. And I have to add fifteen years of not practicing to the greatest regrets of my life. I'm a dang idiot. Beloved church, I am sorry.

Organists and pianists of the world, I salute you and respect you and thank you, thank you, thank you. Every hour of your practice is paid back individually to each person who benefits from your one hour of playing each week. Blessed are we, because you worked hard. We're not worthy.

(And thanks also to the wife of the organist who sits without him, and the friends of the organist who sit with her kids.)

09 March 2012

For real.

We took our kids on an overnight to a little cabin by the woods and--I am not kidding or looking on the bright side or fake internet lifewashing--it was awesome. Everybody was good the whole time, even and most amazingly, me. Everybody had fun the whole time. It was like having six kids was the coolest thing ever.

I just wanted to tell you. For us, it has gotten easier. It has felt like such a long time getting here. Most of the time it is still hard and not awesome and it feels like someone is always in trouble and we're always yelling and we're always behind and I'm always disappointing everybody. But sometimes, it feels like we're getting there and we're making it and it's going to turn out OK. Ad astra per aspera, friends.

08 March 2012

"Thin and separate. There should be two."

One piece of advice I got from a seasoned mom when I was just starting out was that it wasn't worth the energy and grief to worry about how irreparably scraggly I looked all the time. Instead, she counseled, I should pick one small thing about my appearance that was always well controlled. Hers was her nails. Even when she had a toddler and infant twins, she worked hard to make that sure her nails were done to her liking all the time.

I am very low maintenance in terms of personal grooming, which you know if you've seen me, but this still struck me as good advice. Nails aren't a huge concern to me, but eyebrows are. Or, more accurately, eyebrow is. Maintaining my eyebrow (hereinafter  "eyebrows") is not just a matter of personal dignity, but public courtesy. I have pallid skin and dark hair which is committed to concentrating its growth efforts just behind my glasses. If there were an eyebrow subsidiary to Locks of Love, I'd be their star donor. To give my eyebrows free rein is simply antisocial. So whenever I've got a crew in the bath, I clean the bathroom and then get those caterpillars under control. Voila! I've taken time for my appearance like an actual woman and made the world a better place.

Find a thing, girls. If it can help even a trainwreck of feminine aspect like me, it will surely be of value to you.

It just doesn't work for all of us.

06 March 2012

She speaks as one with authority

The fabled Mrs. Preus is blogging for the Brothers of John the Steadfast, and it is now officially OK to put older kids on "don't let anybody drown" duty. YAY.

Book, recommended: the one I just wrote

Well, girls, I've been holding out on you. I've been writing a book and I didn't tell you about it. Now it's done. If you want to read it, buy it or buy it or buy it with promotion code SPACIOUS305 today and tomorrow or borrow it through the Kindle lending library. My reading committee said it was good but I stacked it with yes-men. Here is the promotional website, where you, your comments, your blog readers, and your Facebook friends who are not even remotely CSPP are welcome and will not get freaked out or ticked off. Alright, alright, Facebook too. Blech.

Just So You Know: This is not an advocacy book. It is about breastfeeding, not for or against breastfeeding. As indicated above, it makes absolutely no mention of or allusion to perpetual parturition. It deals only incidentally with Concordianism. This book cannot be used as a "witnessing tool" for any cause whatsoever. I must apologize in advance for titling it Boob Hell. But some of you already totally get it, see?

Actually, it's not about breastfeeding. It is about me, because I am my favorite topic, and I am selling it because I want some ice cream money. Or maybe I could get a bubble tea. I've always wanted one of those.

Jack Gilbert did my author pic. He has skills.

05 March 2012

No you can't have a cookie, MOUSE, it's Lent

If you give a mom a Laura Numeroff book, she'll probably throw up. While she's barking at Kid 1 to get a towel, Kid 5 will pollute his britches. She'll holler at Kids 2 and 3 to bring the wipes, wherever they are, NOT the ones from the diaper bag. When Kid 1 comes back with the towel, she'll yell, "Obviously I can't take that right now! Go find me a diaper!" Kid 4 or 1 will show up with the wipes and a diaper and the mom will clean up the disgusting things that happened. The phone will ring before she's washed her hands. It's the church secretary, who needs the week's services emailed to her again. The mom will sit down at her computer to send the secretary the services and see that she has a message from Grandma asking what shoe size Kid 4 is in right now. She'll get up to look at Kid 4's shoes and realize they must be way too big, or maybe way too small. The mom will go to look for a ruler and a clean piece of paper and then remember she never wiped down the phone and BLAST IT she typed on her computer with poo-hands too. She'll go into the kitchen looking for the Lysol. When Kid 4 hears the kitchen door open he'll start whining about lunchtime. The mom will notice she's hungry. She'll close the kitchen door and eat two bananas and a roll from three nights ago before it gets any worse while Kids 4 and 5 howl from the dining room. The howling will remind the mom that she forgot to turn on the monitor when she put the baby down. She'll go up to check on the baby, who is awake but not howling. She'll bring the baby downstairs and sit down to feed her. Kids 4 and 5 will pile onto the couch and demand that she read them books. When the baby finishes, the mom will stand up and the baby will glurk all over the place. And chances are, if the baby glurks all over the place, the mom will probably wipe it up with whatever this piece of junk under my foot is--oh, a Laura Numeroff book.

02 March 2012


A story about how rich horses are born, from which I'm sure all of us will enjoy proving our opposite knowledges and truths about birth and its management. Happy Friday! :)

01 March 2012

Fakest thou until makest thou

Every time we add a new one, I am afflicted for a while with a subliminal panic. It's the same feeling I remember from stepping up to speak in front of a big room jammed with people, or being handed a test on which the only English words are "translate" and "parse." If it could talk, it would say, "Oh no. I can't do this! HELP HELP HELP!"

How many babies do we have now? How can I possibly keep track of them all? HELP HELP HELP!

But the task is at hand. Start the speech; I know what I have to say. Answer the easiest question; then do the one before and the one after. Settle this one down, pull that one up, ask the next to bring me the book, start reading like nothing has changed. They'll never know. Ignore the panic as well as I can, and before long my part will be just like last time when the room was small and nearly empty, or when the questions were about the alphabet. But--if I nail it--there will be more laughter and clapping, and more satisfaction in a hard-earned good performance.

(And as we all know, the only way to nail it is to crash 9000 times during practice. :P )