Thursday, July 31, 2014

Something my friend said a while ago which pairs well with the post below:

"I was perfect before I had kids."

The big news is that Mary remained perfect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A few weeks before wee Scott was born, I was listening to a lot of Search the Scriptures with Dr. Jeannie Constantinou, in particular the talks on Deuteronomy. She tends to go off on tangents, which I sometimes like better than the actual Bible study part, because she gets all riled up and becomes more of the sassy Presvytera Jeannie than the professorial Dr. Constantinou. Anyway the last rant that I listened to lasted for a couple podcasts, and concerned the matter of ritual impurity, specifically that of women. She firmly stated that there is no such thing in Christianity. There are no unclean animals or people anymore. Menstruation and childbirth do not defile a woman and make her unfit to touch holy things. (You do not have to abstain from communion when you are menstruating!) She takes a look at the prayers for a woman returning to church after childbirth and while there is talk of cleansing and defilement in these prayers, they are clearly asking for God's grace in purifying the woman spiritually, not physically. What she said next struck me: The new mother needs to pray for spiritual cleansing because she's been away from church for a long time and probably has done some sinning.

I have thought about that a lot since Scott was born because HOO boy she was right. You might look at a new mother and think it's all rainbows and little baby kisses etc., and it is certainly very romantic much of the time, but it's also an emotionally tumultuous time, and there are a countless occasions for bitterness, anger, self-pity, remembrance of wrong, envy and pride. New parents can get very depressed and frustrated because while every minute is worth it, the "it" that every minute is worth is difficult.

The Mother of God is becoming my best friend in a new way. I really, really need her help, and she always comes through. When I returned to church I was struck by the familiar praise: "Without corruption/defilement you gave birth to God the Word." I never thought about that much before; I assumed that it simply referred to the biology-defying miracle of the Virgin birth. It does, but now I see how miraculous it truly is. The Theotokos did not merely bear Christ while remaining a maiden physically, which is amazing in its own right. More astonishingly, she became a mother without becoming a crazy bitch. She resisted all of those temptations to post-partum despair and bitterness and hoped in God, even though she knew this would happen:

We have this icon (one like it anyway) and I used to think it was maudlin, but now I find it very comforting. My heart is outside of my body now, squirming in a cradle over there, and anything could happen to it. ("Please God, don't let the eagles get him like they got Johnny G." -Anne Lamott) But it's all already happened to Mary, and she made it.

The thing that I hope you understand about the Mother of God is that she isn't a goddess. There would be no hope for me if she were. She was a woman, and because she gave herself completely to God, she fully realized her potential, and became exactly the person she was created to be. The thing you should always remember when you think about the Mother of God is If she can do it, I can too.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It has been a crazy pleasant summer here in Indiana. I've hardly broken a sweat. We've had only a couple of weeks of heat and humidity, but the rest of the summer has been all big fluffy clouds, awesome thunderstorms, and cool breezes.

We were taking the air this afternoon, which was exceedingly fine, and strolling around our usual haunt, the Small Liberal Arts College just blocks from our home when my throat clenched up a bit and I realized that we don't have very many strolls and hauntings left in that place. I've been buzzing around there since high school. I used to sing in the community choir and take cello lessons in the fine arts center, my brother graduated from there, and the library has been Matt's and my sanctuary whenever we've stayed with my parents. We walked home through the little playground across from our apartment, where I used to play with some friends I had when I was five or six.

We had just gotten back from the baby's checkup at the doctor's office where my mom took me when I was a baby. I showed Scott the wooden beads and big wooden play clock on the wall that I remember playing with from a very young age. The doctor is a different one than the guy we used to see, who was the backup for our midwife, who dug a piece of toothpick out of my foot when I was eight or so, and who is now our representative in the State House. But this doctor is an old family friend from church and homeschooling days. He had taped a calendar photo of Arches National Park on the ceiling above the examining table, and I pointed it out to Scott and told him that I had been camping there with the doctor himself. I used to think I was going to marry his son but I didn't (although we did go to prom together twice.) I still hang with his daughter and wife.

Every step I take in this town is executed with unthinking confidence, because I'm walking on personal and family history.  I was gazing at my baby today and realized that he was cradled in a rocker lent from my friend who's the doctor's daughter, wearing a hand-me-down onesie from a church friend, and wrapped in blankets made or given to us by still more friends from church.

I'm excited to move and optimistic that things will generally be good, but I get a little scared when I think about how that cradle full of blankets wouldn't be there without our friends. Heck, we wouldn't have any furniture either. I know we'll make friends, but there will be so many new things happening. New house, new city, new church, new circles of friends, grad school, new stages for the baby, new jobs, etc. Someone once told me that you should only allow yourself one huge life change per year. But you just can't plan that kind of thing. Love and babies can be surprising.

I'm rambling, I know, and mixing metaphors here and there. The baby was mega fussy after getting his DTaP shot today (that's what we instantly blamed anyway) and now I deserve to go drown in a beer and my exciting novel. ("Oh, my, GOD!" I said this morning after an eventful section in the book. "What's going on?" "I can't possibly explain it, it's too eventful.")

Saturday, July 26, 2014

blitzen und donner

I am STARVING but there aren't any snacks or prepared food to hand and the baby needs to be rocked to sleep, so I am drinking glorious milk in a bit of leftover coffee in order to stave off rapid ketosis. You see, as far as I understand it, it is not necessarily a sign of blissful first-world ignorance to describe yourself as STARVING when you are hungry, because you may very well be in ketosis, especially if you are breast-feeding and walking everywhere! I realize that this starvation is not unto death because I have a lot of food available to me as soon as I get up from this very pleasant little diversion of rocking my baby to sleep, drinking coffee milk, and blogging.

I went off cow's milk for many days, planning to go two weeks, in order to see if the wee bairn had a difficulty digesting it, but I couldn't make it the whole two weeks. I loaded up on dairy yesterday and while he's had a bit of gas, the evening was marred only by about an hour of fussing, rather than several hours of screaming, so I don't think the milk was the problem, or at least not the primary problem. I think he's just growing up, and it's hard (see the "Strawberry Fields" reference on my sidebar.) The evening colic jag is often referred to as "happy hour," and that's apt. Even grownups need a drink when the day is done, and if they don't drink, then they have some other sort of relaxation ritual. We've decided that we'd better start a bedtime routine for Scott in order to help him wrap his head around the idea of day and night. It's going to involve a bath, nursing, pajamas, and a beer. I think it might help us all transition to the new place. I'm a little worried about that; it's not like he will remember his first home when he's older, but I do sense that he's aware of when we're home and when we're not (possibly influenced by my own level of relaxation,) and it could be bad if he just doesn't feel at home in our new apartment for several days or more.

This morning Scott and I got up when Matt was getting ready for work, and we all enjoyed the ominous, quiet glow of a morning heavy with a storm. On the internet I was led to a cool website wherein you can listen to very fine ambient noise of many kinds. I liked the Himalayan Bowls, In Utero, and Beatae Memoriae. But then I saw a flash of lightning and realized that there was a real thunderstorm outside, and I'd do better to listen to that. It reminded me of a story my midwife told me about a yuppie couple who said they wanted to listen to thunder during their labor. When my midwife was driving to their birth, she was delighted to see that there was indeed a thunderstorm brewing, and when she got there she said "Well, you got your thunderstorm!" And they had no idea, because they had the windows and blinds closed and the air conditioner was going, while they listened to a recording of a thunderstorm. Har har!

Baby is asleep! Time to make my eggies and toasty, and then hurriedly accomplish the beginning parts of several tasks.

One thing I wanted to commit to print, though, before I really do starve unto death: I decided that I'm going to look for a nerd choir in the DC area which will let me in to sing medieval chant etc. Surely there is something like this in our nation's capitol. I don't know how I will find it but since my husband is going to attend The Catholic University of America, I hope something will show up. I really love singing chant in Latin and I can't do that in church, since I'm not Catholic and I don't have a time machine anyway. It will be good and fun in itself, and also a useful know-how for teaching Latin, which I hope to do again in the future, at least to filii mei  if not to others.

Oh, one more P.S., it's nice to listen to the Complete Holy Rosary. Lots of repetition of course.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Get depressed, Crawfordsville! We're shipping out three weeks from today. Matt is only working this weekend and the next, and the rest of our time is spent reading, doing stuff with and to and for the baby, walking, doing our usual thang. We're also, of course, leisurely sorting through our stuff and deciding what stays here in Indiana, what gets pitched or passed on, and what we will pack into a very small trailer and a Toyota Corolla and take with us to DC.

How many more times will we have to do this sorting and paring and parting before we only have what we want and need? It's taken me five years to throw out photos of an ex-boyfriend. I didn't need or want those pictures in the slightest but somehow they've stuck to me through four or five moves, because I just couldn't bring myself to go through the mess. I don't know if it was laziness, indecision, or fear of the memories (nothing scary, just embarrassing!) that prevented me from doing it before, but I just tossed them, and it wasn't that bad. Now the old diaries, those are a tough call. There's a lot of stuff in there that makes me blush but there are also some observations and attitudes of personal archaeological significance, as well as notes for essays. I think I will be able to stomach the embarrassing stuff in the future, but in the mean time, I'd better put some kind of curse on the diaries.

I guess if we were more organized, we wouldn't have to do all this sorting all the time. Organization means you sort things as they come to you and they STAY sorted. We could just pick up the folders called Old W-2s that we might need some day, Paper icons that we can't throw away and Embarrassing old stuff and off we'd be. Maybe now that we are moving into a tiny apartment with a baby, we should start doing that kind of thing.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brief Educational Prospectus for Wee Scott Maximos

Now we have an actual kid, not a potential one. But since he doesn't even know how to put his hand in his mouth, piano lessons and Homer seem just as distant as they did before he was born. Still, this is what I think I'd like to teach him.

The Big Three
If he leaves my tutelage familiar with Shakespeare, Homer, and the Bible, I will give thanks to God and sit back and have a drink. It seems to me that those three bodies of work are the foundation of Western humanity, and provide a reference point for most of the thinking that people have done since then, but also that if you grew up on a deserted island with only those books (+ Euclid and some other people to talk to and love, and someone to administer the sacraments to you on occasion?) you could lead a completely full and happy human life. In fact, your life would probably be fuller, happier, and more human than the lives of most people who were not on that island. (Speaking of islands and imaginary restrictions on book availability, Jean-Jacques wants Robinson Crusoe to be Emile's first book. It's a charming idea; so charming that it just might work...)

The question is how to promote a love of these works in a child, since we swear that we are not going to be his teachers in his adolescence. First of all, I think that children are capable of understanding more than we commonly allow. Matt led some pretty normal nine through eleven year old kids in a truncated (but not abridged) production of Julius Caesar, and I think they nailed it. They didn't understand it all of course, but they got a lot of it, and they've stored those lines away for later when they will need them. So with that in mind, I would read excerpts from those books with Scott, and have him memorize bits, and talk about them. We could always have something brewing from those three books, and let him read according to his taste in the rest of his time. One always hopes the child's taste will be good, but if not, he's getting some good stuff with his parents.

I worked with very low-ability (?) second graders on math homework last year, and I am just baffled as to why they don't know any math facts. That's their one job. That's all they have to learn in math, pretty much. Bubby is going to hammer those math facts. I also think you have to do some imaginative stuff with math but hammering the math facts is important if you're going to have any fun with the imaginative stuff. Euclid is the other desert-island-biggie; once again, I think you can introduce this at a younger age than most people imagine. I don't see any reason why we couldn't start dipping the child's toes into the Elements around age ten, and slowly work through at least books I-V by the time he is thirteen. That's when I'm probably going to sit back and have that drink, so I hope he knows some Euclid by then

It'd be great if we had a French nanny or one of us were fluent in a modern language, but we're both dabbling dunces and we can't speak any language but English. Phooey. I sometimes think we could learn a language together as a family-- Matt is going to take German to fulfill a requirement in his program. Maybe Scott and I can Duolingo along. All we know for sure is that we'd like to teach him Latin from about ages 7-12. Once again we are into exposing him to the real thing here. Luckily we both know Latin well enough to be able to teach him from original works without having him depend on a textbook too much. (We like to have a textbook on hand under the table, but to have the student go pretty much bookless.)

We both love Greek, and Matt is definitely good enough to teach classical Greek, but I don't know if it makes sense to try to cram in both classical languages before high school. We want to teach Scott a few really important things really well, and let him have lots of free time. Still, I'd like for him to know at least how to read and pronounce Greek. It's nice to be able to read the inscriptions on icons, and to sing along in Greek churches. If we go to a Greek church with a Greek school, I'd totally sign him up for that. I'm also down to learn and teach him lots of hymns in Greek.

We're not going to cram it down his throat. We will keep the feasts and the fasts as prettily as we can, read Scripture and sing hymns and pray, but I'm not going to do much in the way of Religious Instruction. I think he'll get what he needs from church and from living in a Christian home. Mommy paints icons and Daddy reads theology so that will make some kind of impression. I like what St. John Chrysostom says-- children should be taught to always have three things on their lips: Thank God, God willing, and Glory to God. I'm working on that myself, so that perhaps Young Bubs will pick it up as well.

Other stuff
Piano lessons. Singing at church. Being a Nature Boy- learning the names of plants, animals, and stars. Taking a class in martial arts or ballet or whatever his thing is. Doing good works and helping people. This stuff does not worry me. What worries me is that he's going to absorb more lessons from watching me fumble around in the world than from any sermons I might give him.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First things first.

Here is something that I keep wanting to say on Facebook in re: extremely immoderate debates about the Hobby Lobby brouhaha, but I'm not sure it would be helpful. So I will say it here where only a bunch of my cronies who agree with me will read it. Great.

Do you people (not you people, the other people not reading this) not understand that Christians are opposed to abortion primarily because we believe it to be murder? MURDER. Sexual ethics come into it for most of us, in at least a secondary way, but the main problem is that we believe it to be the destruction of a human life, a soul that's just been united with a body, and either is or has the potential to become a person.  That's it. That's the reason.

Why wouldn't you want to respect that belief? Don't you agree that Murder Is Bad, especially murder of an innocent? You do not agree that abortion is murder because you do not agree that an embryo/fetus is a human life, and you do not like the consequences of calling it murder, but can you see why we would be upset about it? If you can't hold the idea that somebody thinks abortion is murder in your head for more than a second before rejecting it and moving onto women's rights, then I think Western civilization is over.

Murder is pretty much the worst thing you can do. If there is any question in your mind whether you are murdering someone or not, would you not want to err on the side of not murdering someone?

This has been my question pretty much since sixth grade or whenever I learned about abortion. It is a very simplistic and probably childish one, but I don't see how you can get around it without absolutely proving that an embryo/fetus is not a human life. That is not a provable thing one way or the other (although in the case of a viable fetus it seems so obvious to me,) but I think that you don't have to be a Christian to give the potential victim the benefit of the doubt. You can talk all you want about the sex stuff and the social consequences of "stigmatizing" abortion as murder, but you have to do it in the shadow of death, or the truth is totally not in you. That is why I appreciate, in a murky perverse way, people like Naomi Wolf, because at least she admits that abortion is murder, and even child sacrifice. She continues to support it, but at least she is barefaced in her wickedness and does not hide it behind the mask of humanitarianism.


I could write a very long post about breastfeeding and changing diapers today, but I probably won't, because I have other plans like walking Barnacle Boy down to the Farmers' Market to buy some more ravishingly sexy tomatoes, mailing all the thank you cards (no more extremely generous favors, please! I'm running out of cards!), going to the library, having a friend visit and maybe visiting a friend, and probably doing some breastfeeding and some diaper changing. My main question is how to get poop off of cloth diapers without getting it onto everything else.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Haven't been blogging because baby. I have plenty of sitting around and thinking time, and I'm feeling verbal and spry enough in my brains, but it's hard to type with toes. Even holding the baby takes fingers. Thought I could get away with sitting with baby in Moby but now he's crying, never mind, goodbye.