Adventures in Swearing Sewing

Well, I’ll be going to confession this weekend.

Yesterday I learned two important things about myself. First, I am not utterly hopeless and bereft when it comes to all household arts aside from cooking. Second, that creative bastion of colorful swear words that I gleefully collected in college was in fact not eradicated from my vocabulary. It was merely being stored away for a time of need, like when I spent half an hour trying to thread a needle, finally got it, and then promptly snagged the thread and pulled it back out.

Our dear neighbors across the street, to whom we’ve become quite attached, are moving back to their northern home next week. I don’t know what we’ll do without them. They’re both retired, and while their son is at school down the street they spend their days hanging out in the garage, playing cards with my kids and keeping an eye on my front door, out of which Liam occasionally likes to escape. His life has been saved several times by Uncle D, a cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, bicycle-fixing gem of a man who has become my husband’s go-to confidante and a stand-in uncle/grandpa for all three of my children. He has the patience of a saint, and when he doesn’t he just goes inside and closes the garage door. Aunt G taught Sienna to play Uno and Skip-Bo, and she offered to teach me to sew and let me borrow her sewing machine, which she’ll be leaving behind. In typical fashion, though, I waited until the last minute, and yesterday she was kind enough to give me an hour-long lesson even though they left for a wedding at 5 a.m. this morning.

I was really surprised to find that what makes sewing difficult is not the actual sewing. If you have a sewing machine, the actual sewing part is simple. A trained monkey could do it, and could probably stitch straighter lines than I can. What a trained monkey could most emphatically not do, however, is make sense of the heavily encrypted codes they sell at fabric stores under the dubious guise of “patterns”.

The internets and I spent well over two hours yesterday trying to crack the cipher. We watched video after annoyingly cheerful video, all promising to make pattern-reading “simple” and all failing miserably. I learned some valuable lessons, but not one internet video answered the burning question that drove me there in the first place: which way does the fabric go? Wrong side up or right side up? I got so frustrated that when the Ogre called to see how it was going I was basically incoherent. “It’s ridiculous going, that’s what! This stupid thing says the (expletive) thing should be color-coded and it is shaded but they have it all…all….like, folded, sort-of thing, so I can’t even tell which side to (expletive) fold over and cut the (expletive) out!”

Proper English was murdered during the pinning on of this pattern

Worried about my complete inability to form a coherent sentence, the Ogre came home for lunch and figured it out in ten minutes flat. (He claims this is due to his superior intellect, but I have it on good authority that he was forced into taking a home ec class in the sixth grade.) Once the pattern was finally cut out, Aunt G came over and showed me how to use the sewing machine, how to stitch seams, and how long of an edge to leave. I managed to get the basics done last night while the Ogre hovered around me taking pictures (“to document your descent into housewifery”), but unfortunately Aunt G neglected to show me how to finish an edge and do slipstitches and topstitches. I can’t really blame her, since Liam spent almost our entire sewing lesson unplugging the machine, unraveling spools of thread, and trying to eat the pin-covered pincushion. Her attention was necessarily divided.

Here’s a mercifully blurry photo, in case you (and by you I mean everyone who’s ever met me) also need photographic evidence that the apocalypse is nigh and hell has frozen over

So today it looks like I’ll be diving back into the wonderful world wide web to try and figure out how to finish this dress, while repeating mentally, I will not swear. I will not swear. I will not swear.

After that I’ll be dashing off groveling apologies to the neighborhood mothers for when my six-year-old inevitably decides to make my many lapses in linguistic judgment public fodder for the neighborhood children.

Maybe I should bake them cookies, too.

Get Off My Internets

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I’ve got to get something off my chest. I struggled for nearly two hours this morning to write a 700 word post that should have taken me 30 minutes to write, and wasn’t even very good, but every word was like pulling teeth. The Ogre read it, and mentioned that I need to get back to the way I used to write, at which point I totally effing exploded because I know I need to get back to the way I used to write, but I can’t figure out how.

We talked a little bit about the reasons why I can’t write like I used to, and what’s changed, and what we kept coming back to was the fact that I’m afraid. I’m afraid to say what I think, anymore. I’m afraid to write about anything, anymore — partly because I’m afraid to be wrong, but mostly because I’m afraid that I’ll make people mad. I’m completely stifled by my fear of other people’s expectations.

Originally, this post was going to be about how that’s all Ave Maria’s fault. (Spoiler alert: it’s still partially going to be about that. There’s a red X in the corner you can click on, now, if you’re already mentally drawing and quartering me.) But it’s not just Ave Maria. It’s everyone who freaked out when I said I agreed with Joseph Bottum, who personally called me to inform me that I’m unfaithful to the Magisterium, who gave me the social media version of the Inquisition. It’s everyone who gets mad every time I use a 4-letter word. But most of all, it’s my fault for listening, for letting it get to me, and for letting it shut me up.

This is my blog. This is the space where I have worked out questions, doubts, fears, and yes, even my very salvation, in fear and trembling, and in full view of the public. This is the space I used to retreat to when I needed to vent, or cry, or wrap my head around something. I miss being able to do that, and there’s no reason why I can’t start doing that again. This is my space, and I am hereby reclaiming it.

I refuse to be cowed by people who think I should be a positive mouthpiece for Ave Maria. I won’t be. Guess what? I don’t like living here. I even hate it a little bit. I despise the weather, I don’t like being an hour from civilization, and by and large, I don’t think everyone who lives here is very nice. Yes, there are very nice people who have been very kind to us, and whom I like a lot. But there are also quite a few very mean people whom I find it hard to even pray for, because they are loud, and they say bad things about my family in public and turn people against my husband and children and I don’t like that. And I don’t care who knows it, because if Ave Maria is so fragile that it depends on positive press from absolutely everyone at all times ever, then there are bigger problems here and they don’t begin and end with one measly blogger.

I refuse to be cowed by people who think I should be a shining example of Catholicism. I started this blog because I suck at Catholicism, but I love it and want to be a better Catholic. Guess what? Not much has changed, except that I might possibly be even worse at Catholicism now than I was five years ago. But I love it even more, despite being admonished publicly for being bad at it. I am bad at it! I’m terrible at it! That’s one of the premises of my blog! If you want to read a blog by a good Catholic, go read Jimmy Akin! He’s wonderful and brilliant and non-controversial and good! But this is my space, for Catholics who suck at it but keep trying anyway. Bye, Felicia.

I refuse to be cowed by people who can’t stand cussing. Seriously, if you hate cuss words, go away. I don’t cuss in every post, but I do cuss in some of them, and I don’t care if you think that’s unCatholic of me. (See the above point). The only person whose opinion I care about on this subject is my  mother’s, and it is only out of deference to her that I try to censor myself. I just don’t care what anyone else thinks.

I refuse to be cowed by Better Mothers (TM) who think I’m doing it wrong, and who like to tell me so. I love my kids and my husband, and while you might think it’s awful that I play Dungeons and Dragons instead of sewing clothes by candlelight, I think it’s awesome — and so do they. My actual family matters infinitely more than your opinions on how I’m screwing them up, so please go be better than me somewhere else.

I refuse to be cowed by people who think I should be more conservative, or more liberal. I am neither. I’m trying to figure out what is good and true in the constant muck of crap that we call the news these days, and if I offend you by having an opinion about immigrants or rape culture or guns that doesn’t line up with your opinion, I don’t care. Truly, I do not care if I offend you. If you have a critique of my thought process, or a rational opinion about where I’ve gone wrong, I do care, and I’d like to hear it. If you’re simply offended, GTFO. For real.

I refuse to be cowed by people who think I shouldn’t write something or other about my family, because what if they see it on the internet in twenty years and it causes them great internal anguish and destroys them forever, because the Internet is eternal? Oh man, I can’t tell you how much I do not care about this non-argument. If my child is destroyed in the future by discovering that I once wrote about them smearing their poop on my neighbor’s floor, then there are serious problems in our relationship that are so much bigger than a blog post. I do not make a habit of using my children as fodder for clicks, and that’s a good enough standard for me. If it’s not good enough for you, see ya.

I don’t care if you think my writing sucks, or that I should write about something else, or that I should stop writing forever and go live in a hole. I’ve actually tried that last one these last few months, and it doesn’t work for me. I end up feeling anxious and angry and yelling at my family for no reason because I miss writing and I need to write. And that’s not cool with me. I’m not going to let myself become an anxious, angry, neurotic housewife who let go of the one thing she did just for herself because she was afraid of what people might think. I don’t care, neighbors of Ave Maria, if you are appalled by me and embarrassed that I’m part of this town. I don’t care, Perfect Catholics of the Internet, if you are appalled by me and embarrassed that I am part of your Church. I don’t care, Perfect Mothers who Sew, if you are appalled by me and feel sorry for my children. I am who I am, and when I started this blog, I never pretended to be anything else.

I’m going back to that, because it’s the truth. I don’t have any wisdom to offer or lessons to teach, and I’m tired of trying to pretend I do. All I have is me, fumbling my way through life with the occasional hilarious result. Take it or leave it.

And now you’ll have to excuse me, because I’m going to go out in the front yard in my pajamas and do a little victory dance, and not care who sees me.

 

I Like My Domesticity Dystopian

I haven’t wanted to blog since my post on millennial moms made the rounds on facebook. I ended up getting tagged in the comment section of one and…wow. I really wish I hadn’t read those comments.

Here’s the thing, y’all. It’s not that easy to be as brutally honest about my life as I am. Truth be told, it’s not that hard either, since I have no filter and never consider the repercussions of my words until I have to eat them…but mostly it’s not hard because I trust people. I trust people — you people — to read what I’m saying instead of what you want to hear. I trust you  to read a story that’s an ode to my husband, about how wonderful he is and how much I love our relationship, and not freak out about how I can’t fix his shirt.

I am not ashamed to say that I love my life with my husband and kids, and I love it just the way it is — despite the fact that it doesn’t look “the way it should”. Maybe because of that, actually. We are who we are. I love him, he loves me, we love our kids, and we’re carving out our own little corner of domestic bliss in the 21st century. Sure, I joke a lot about how it’s dysfunctional (since our kids think that death and poop are equally joke-worthy), but I actually trust you to understand hyperbole, or when there is none, to accept the fact that although my life doesn’t look like yours, it’s still okay for me to love it and be happy. I trust you to read my blog the way you’d hear a conversation with a friend. Unless you’re a big jerk, you’re not going to say, “oh, cute story, but don’t you think you’d be happier and holier if you learned how to sew instead of wasting your time with all this new-fangled writing nonsense?”

Most of you are familiar with the book Little Women, yet I have trouble imagining you shaking your head over Jo March’s ink-stained fingers and advising her to swap out her pen for a needle and thread. And listen up, yo —  just because I’m writing on the internet doesn’t mean I’m not writing.

Sure, I say “yo”, but I also understand language and use it to construct arguments and convey truth. I do that because writing is necessary to my soul — and that’s not hyperbole. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade, filling up the margins of every notebook I’ve ever owned with poetry and prose, because for me, writing is a form of prayer. It’s the way I learn to know God, my husband, my children, the world, and myself. It’s the way I learn to love and serve. Writing is a vocation that is every bit as real and vital to me as my vocation as wife and mother. In fact, it’s so completely intertwined with my vocation as wife and mother that it would be wrong to give up writing so I can learn to sew.

We all have different talents. There was even a whole parable about that once. That’s not to say that it’s fine to hire out every household task so I can spend all day churning out reams of poetry — this isn’t Victorian England after all, and who has the money for that? I’ve learned to embrace many of the so-called “domestic arts” because they’re important for my family. Eating things that aren’t processed and flash-frozen, for instance. Overcoming my fear of numbers long enough to learn to wield a calculator. Cooking and budgeting were hard things for me to learn, but I learned them because they were important. Not just necessary, but important — to me, to my husband, to my kids. For our family, they were important.

Less important was learning to sew, the domestic art that is the cornerstone of this conversation. But “our view of the domestic arts has become strangely narrow”, and unnaturally limited to cooking and sewing. Here’s the thing: as Daniel points out, this sense of domesticity (sewing, baking, homemaking) is a fairly modern one — as is the fictitious idea that attaining mastery of these new domestic ideals is a moral obligation.

For many women, these particular domestic arts come easily. Other women have worked hard to master them, not just because they are skills that are valuable in and of themselves, but because they are valuable for these women and their families. They are creating one kind of domestic art, and it’s beautiful.

They don’t come easily to me, and I haven’t worked hard to master them. Sewing doesn’t have the same intrinsic value for my family and me as literature…or dungeons and dragons.

There are things that come easily to me. Reading stories aloud and doing all the voices, reciting poetry from memory, having dance parties, tickling my kids till they pee, creating elaborate evening prayers that last half an hour, singing each child their own lullaby…those are things I didn’t have to learn. Writing is not on that list. I’ve spent years learning to write, and I’m still learning. Writing is not something that one ever masters…probably kind of like sewing. They’re both art, after all.

It isn’t right to claim that because I write instead of sew, I consider sewing a frivolous pursuit. That’s actually a ludicrous statement to make, and one I took great pains to refute at length. But it is flat-out wrong to insist that my writing is frivolous, and that I would be better served learning to sew.

I wouldn’t be. Writing is my craft, my art, my path to the good, true, and beautiful. I may not sew my husband’s buttons back onto his shirt, but I write poems for him and about him. He loved me for that when he met me, and he loves me for that now. When I write about our marriage, our children, our own little dysfunctional corner of domestic bliss, I’m writing myself into a better way of loving, a better way of being. And for our family, that’s worth more than all the buttons in the world.

That’s okay. It’s okay for my family to be the way we are, and saying that doesn’t imply that homemakers who sew and craft aren’t as awesome as I am because they don’t know their way around iambic pentameter. The same way it doesn’t mean I’m less awesome than mothers who can turn a paper bag into a prom dress with only the power of their sewing machine, or mothers who can turn the liturgical calendar into  culinary artwork with only the power of their fists and some yeast. We’re all gifted in different ways, and that is really, truly, honestly okay. It’s more than okay. It’s beautiful…kind of like these patchwork twirly skirts that I could never make.

Those Pathetic Millennial Moms

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A delightful comment on my post about sewing on buttons spawned a rather, uh, interesting facebook debate the other night. It began with an observation about this seeming trend for younger, millennial moms to act as though the domestic arts are an unattainable fantasy, yet at the same time unworthy of our brain power. Instead of attempting to learn them, we do things like blog about hiding in the bathroom and  checking facebook while our kids destroy the house around us.

But the way it comes across… to those of us who are more naturally gifted at the domestic arts, those who have taken the time to educate themselves on the skills that they lacked to help their day to day domestic lives run smoother, or those who had the benefit of someone teaching them when they were younger, those of us who can sew AND blog, it seems like you really are laughing at us and the importance we place on developing those skills. You take the time to educate yourself about the goings on of the world so that you can expound on it (and sometimes even get paid to do it) but you won’t Google “how to sew a button on” because why?”

In an attempt to answer the question fairly and with some detachment, instead of burning down my facebook page and retreating to Twitter forever, I spent most of yesterday thinking about what was asked.

Yes, the attitude described does exist to varying degrees among (particularly young) mothers. I’ve got some of it myself. But understanding it is a complicated thing, and requires looking at the evolution of motherhood in our culture.

Understanding the domestic arts as, well, art, has almost totally disappeared from our cultural landscape. Technology (and the corresponding rise in collective wealth that allows most of the US to own it) has rendered many time-honored skills — traditionally passed from mother to daughter — superfluous. Sewing is one of them. Hand-washing clothes and hanging them on a line to dry is another. Grinding our own wheat, making our own bread, making our own stock, making our own everything was largely shifted from the realm of the necessary to the realm of the optional by the late 50’s. Suddenly, skills that were highly prized and highly necessary for women to have — skills that required years of practice to master — could suddenly be accomplished in a factory in one-tenth the time and purchased at a store at absurdly low costs. What’s more, the culture hailed these advancements as superior to the work women used to spend hours doing. Wonderbread was eminently preferable to hand-ground, homemade wheat bread. Making your own food and sewing your own clothes were considered a sign of poverty, not a sign of accomplishment. As a direct result, the housewives of the 50’s and 60’s, by and large, did not pass these skills on to their daughters. They wanted them to have a better life, to reach the American Dream, to be the women who bought their bread and their clothes, the women advertisers insisted were the feminine ideal.

It’s no surprise that the sexual revolution followed swiftly on the heels of these massive changes in daily life. Women no longer needed to learn the domestic arts. They were liberated. With the advent of the contraception coinciding with this massive cultural shift, women had enormous amounts of time and freedom they didn’t have before — freedom to pursue whatever interests they had.

The daughters of the 50’s housewives made incredible strides to advance women’s access to higher education and professional opportunities. The work they did to promote the dignity of women and their inherent value to the professional and political spheres was extraordinary, and opened up a whole new world for the generations of both women and men that have followed. But like all good things, it came with a price.

That price was the cultural denigration of domesticity. Regardless of the personal mores of our individual families, the broader culture my generation was raised in place little, if any, value on stay-at-home mothers.

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The most familiar pop-culture image of a stay-at-home mom in the late 80’s and early 90’s was Peggy Bundy, who “refuses to cook or clean the house, and prefers looking for new clothes to washing them. She does not even consider getting a job and instead prefers to watch daytime talk shows all day while sitting on the beloved family couch and eating nothing but tons of Bonbons” (via wikia). I wasn’t allowed to watch Married…with Children, and I was raised by a loving, attentive mother who stayed home until I was in high school. But culture is pervasive. Kids learn it through osmosis, and unless you lock them in a fortress, they’re gonna pick up on it. “Stay-at-home-mom” had a negative connotation for me from the time I began hearing “mom” qualified as such. Women who wanted to be “just moms” were baffling to me — I literally couldn’t understand why anyone would voluntarily chose a life of snot-and-vomit-filled drudgery.

Yet like so many young millennial moms, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t always know it was a choice — often it seemed to me that I sort of fell into this life through cockupery and circumstance. But I didn’t actively choose to work, either, and I could have.

I’ve come to understand that the domestic arts really are an art, that it takes skill and virtue and mental acuity to be a good wife and mother. I’ve also come to understand that I’m woefully unprepared for this life that I once thought fit only for those women who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) make something of themselves.

Turns out, it’s a whole lot harder than anyone ever said.

A lot of young mothers are in this situation. They are overwhelmed by a life they couldn’t imagine, much less comprehend, before it hit them like a Mac truck. On top of which, they find themselves struggling to learn basic household skills that they weren’t taught because they have no cultural value (seriously, when was the last time anyone heard of a home ec class?), and facing an unprecedented amount of seemingly life-or-death parenting choices.

Should we learn how to sew or how to cook gluten-free? Should we unschool the kids or socialize them? Should we cosleep or Ferberize? And for the love, what the hell with vaccines?!

These are the questions we’re trying to answer while wiping a bottom, nursing a newborn, and fishing a cheerio out of a toddler’s nostril (and yes, we do all three at once in flagrant disregard for basic human hygiene, because the screaming). Oh, and don’t forget that we’re living in unprecedented isolation, in a time and place where we can’t even send our older children outside to play without getting arrested. Meanwhile, science keeps reminding us that we’d be so much happier if we’d just embrace daycare and go to work.

So yeah, sometimes we do hide in the bathroom and check facebook while our kids destroy the house. And sometimes we laugh about how terrible we are as wives. Because why?

Because we’re young mothers in the trenches, and we very often feel like we are drowning in plain sight. Because we find ourselves unequal to a vocation that is too vital to fail at, but too vast to succeed at.

Because if we don’t laugh, we will despair.

You mothers who entered into your marriage knowing how to sew, cook, and clean, who learned the virtues of patience and fortitude, who grew up being trained in the domestic arts — you are truly blessed. The vast majority of my blog has been a chronicle of the tension between realizing that my vocation is true and vital but having no idea where to start learning it, and feeling that I’m truly failing in the meantime. I’m not laughing at you, and there’s no need to prove to me that you are superior.

The truth is, motherhood in the 21st century is an unprecedented kind of hard , for all of us. All these technological advancements that make the life of the modern housewife easier also come with a price — they can make us all feel superfluous. For those of us who weren’t brought up cooking and sewing, modern conveniences make any attempt to learn those skills seem like an exercise in futility. Why learn to sew when the first few years will be filled with disproportional dresses that we don’t let our daughters wear because the seams look like they were stitched while we were schnockered? Why learn to cook when we’ll spend the first few years burning pasta and making garlic-coated steak bites of blasphemy? We know it’s worth it in the long-term, but the short term is a different story.

Trying to learn the domestic arts with a young family is like building an airplane while you’re learning to fly it. You’re pretty sure the whole thing is about to fall apart and come crashing down, but you can’t let it, because it’s holding aloft everything that matters.

I can’t sew, not even a button. But I did spend the first seven years of marriage learning to be a pretty awesome cook. Maybe in a few years I’ll feel up to the task of learning to sew — but maybe I won’t. Maybe Sienna will teach me to sew on a button the way I taught my mom to make stock, and we’ll re-learn the domestic arts together, across the generations.

I don’t think my lack of sewing prowess makes me pathetic. I’m a little afraid it does actually, but I can’t let that derail me from doing those things I can. I spend my days loving my family and trying to improve incrementally. I’m no angel of the hearth — I don’t have the education for that. I’m trying to create a family, a domestic life, from scratch. My kids will never learn to sew at my knee, but they’ll learn that any crap day can be saved by Vanilla Ice. They’ll learn to knead bread from me, and that reading a cookbook cover-to-cover is a legit form of entertainment, but they won’t learn to scrub baseboards or plant gardens. And yeah, they’ll learn from the Ogre how to sew on a button while I teach them how to strip screws. What can I say?

I’m working with what I have here, and trying to pick up more along the way. It’s not ideal, but it’s good.

And if that answer’s not good enough, nothing I can say will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Portrait of Domestic Bliss

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Remember that one time I tried to learn to sew? That dress is still sitting in a box in the closet, as half-finished as it was when I wrote that post.

Clothes are not really my area of expertise. I’ve only just begun learning how to wear them properly. Until last year, I owned a pair of cargo pants, which I wore — unironically. My favorite item of clothing as a teenager was a pair of JNCOs. My entire sense of fashion was set in stone by 1999, so learning how to dress like a grown-up (ish) took me a whole decade (and a half).

Consumed as I’ve been with rolling up and buckling my pants, the finer points of clothing maintenance have totally eluded me. Things like reading tags before throwing everything in the dryer on high, or spot-treating stains instead of hoping the washing machine will magic them away…these things are recent (shaky) additions to my domestic skill set. Ironing and sewing? Forget about it. A needle and thread inspires the same reaction in me as pyrotechnics would have inspired in a Neanderthal.

Usually, this just means that my husband has to wear slightly wrinkled shirts. But every once in a while, a button falls off a shirt. (Not mine, obviously. I don’t own shirts with buttons, which should be painfully obvious by now.) It’s always the worst kind of shirt — one of the expensive ones from Macy’s with the super-starched collars that stay stiff and alert-looking and that come out of the dryer with nary a wrinkle. The kind that are made by Santa’s elves especially for men whose wives are always on the naughty list. Unicorn shirts, basically.

One time a button fell off one of the Ogre’s shirts when we were staying with his mom and she offered to fix it, but I couldn’t even find the button. She grabbed the shirt, whipped out some kind of Mary Poppins bag, found a button that was exactly like all the other buttons on the shirt, and then just put the button on the shirt like a wizard or something. I guess she used a needle and thread, but it happened so fast I’m pretty sure she actually whispered “Reparo!” and then moved her hands around busily for a second. (Can’t breach the statute of secrecy, after all.)

Every time a button falls of a shirt in my house, it’s a catastrophe. Mostly because it’s usually my fault, like the shirt got caught on the bottom of the washing machine and instead of patiently untangling it, I just yanked. But even when it’s not my fault, the outcome is the same. The Ogre grimaces when I offer to safety pin it together if he wants to wear it again, I promise to find a tailor or a button-wizard, the shirt gets thrown in the “to be mended” pile, and there it stays. Right next to the box with the half-finished dress.

Luckily this doesn’t happen often. Unluckily, it happened four times in a row last week.

None of those were my immediate fault, either. The Ogre was just buttoning up his shirt and buttons kept falling off for no apparent reason. The last straw, though, was when one fell off his favorite shirt. He got a face on his face that I’ve never seen there before, and I hastily poured him a glass of wine.

Leaving the glass untouched, he walked to his computer with a purpose. He was there for a while. I kept popping my head in, and then walking casually around behind his chair as if I needed something back there, but every time he looked up he still had that face on his face. So finally I gave up and drank the glass of wine.

About 20 minutes later, I went to the bathroom to wash my face and found him sitting in a chair, with my forgotten sewing kit, sewing his button back on his shirt like it was no big deal.

I stood there for a second with my mouth hanging open, fascinated, then said, “hey, I could probably do that for you if you teach me. I could fix all your shirts!”

“No,” he replied quickly, without looking up. “But if you really wanna learn, you can google it.”

Seriously, I love my husband. He knows me so well.

 

 

 

photo credit: Noodles and Beef via photopin cc

Don’t Feed the Trolls, or Be One

wrong on the internet

Last week, I posted this hilarious article on my facebook page, a critical analysis of the deterioration of a comment thread for a rainbow cake tutorial posted on an Australian Radio Show’s website. What started as helpful tips and clarifications devolved into an outright combox culture war.

Getting a little worked-up here, folks. It’s rainbow cake. Can’t we just be happy that we’ve learned to freeze our numbers first?

Rainbow-Cake Recipe Inspires Comment Apocalypse

… “Facebook balls”?

Rainbow-Cake Recipe Inspires Comment Apocalypse

The infinite regress: It begins!

Rainbow-Cake Recipe Inspires Comment Apocalypse

Yes, lmaooooooo indeed, but you’re not really helping things, guys.

Rainbow-Cake Recipe Inspires Comment Apocalypse

Gavrilo Pincip: [shoots Archduke Ferdinand]

Archduke Ferdinand: [dies]

Jeanette Daniels Benziger: “I enjoy this motorcade and will recommend it to my niece.”

I’m sorry, Jeanette, but it’s far too late for this kind of sentiment.

(Read the rest here)

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. 500 comments later, a commenter actually blamed Obama for the entire thread

Honestly, this post had me in stitches because it was so funny, and so true. Anyone with an internet connection has a seen a comment thread self-destruct like this. I’ve had some doozies on my own blog, but I’ve always been glad that mine usually stay somewhat on topic.

That is, until the next day, when I posted a few controversial links on my facebook page. It was a Tuesday, or a Thursday or something, and I was bored. Apparently so was every else, because one of the comment threads became a tsunami of shark-jumping. After 253 comments containing ad homimen attacks, personal insults, random segueways into the culture wars, images of sewing patterns, and one epic breakdown by yours truly (that had almost nothing to do with the topics being discussed, so it fit in perfectly, really), Elisa won the internet by saying, “Yeah, but how long do I freeze the cake for?”

It was perfect comic timing, and like all the funniest jokes, it was true enough to snap everyone in the thread back to reality.

I was frustrated later that I had lost several hours to that thread, hours that I had planned to spend blogging and baking bread. But I don’t think I would have been as frustrated if an actual dialogue had happened. Instead, a bunch of people did exactly what I had done in the first place, and just started throwing opinions at each other with rapidly increasing vitriol until pretty much everyone left the thread angry, offended, mashed-up and hurt.

Facebook is basically a blank canvas. All social media is. It’s called media because like television, newspapers, and radio, it is a one of the main means of mass communication. It’s specifically social media, though, because it’s designed so that the users themselves are the ones who create and share content. There are endless studies about how social media is making us self-absorbed, envious, rude, and stupid. But it’s ludicrous to blame programs that merely provide forums for social interaction for the way that interaction takes place. Not everyone is using social media to go ballistic in cake-baking comment threads, and those who are can’t blame the medium for giving them the opportunity to show that they are self-absorbed, envious, rude, and stupid.

The thing is, it’s not that easy. One of the reasons people act like total sociopaths in comment threads is because it doesn’t seem like you’re talking to a real person. Mentally, sure, we know there’s a person behind those words that keep appearing, but that’s not the same thing as looking that person in the eye. Face-to-face interaction is fundamentally different, because there are a thousand ways we communicate without words. A raised eyebrow, a wry smile, a wink, a nod, a tear even, and those are just the face alone. What about leaning back and folding your arms? Gesticulating wildly, wringing your hands, or touching the other person? How you touch, too…a touch on the shoulder to communicate empathy, a punch in the shoulder for mock disapproval, bracing someone’s shoulders with both hands to help them get a grip. Even a slap can have its place in human interaction, and can be something other than abusive.

But calling a faceless stranger a “bitch” or a “fag” can never be anything but abusive. You don’t have to see their face when you call someone that online. You don’t have to see the hurt, and we all know from experience that it’s really easy to cover up hurt by typing a biting retort. You can hurt back, and no one ever has to face the actual human being on the other end.

It doesn’t have to be like that. It’s true that social media cannot be the same thing as personal interaction, and will probably always be at least a little bit more vicious because of it. But at the same time, social media really is nothing but what we make of it.

I usually try to remember that there are people on the other end, people with their own struggles and their own pain. I find it much harder to bear that in mind when they do not seem inclined to do the same. Even then, there is often a commonality of communication that is missing…the person that seems not to care about the effect his or her words are having is usually just accustomed to pugnacious, boisterous arguments in which everyone understands that nothing is personal. But for the sake of others, that sort of thing cannot be taken for granted online. Social media will be contentious until every person using it can take into account that the person on the other end likely comes from a totally different background, where even just the words being used mean something different. Add into that all the unseen gestures, the missing facial expressions, and the human connection of eye contact, and it seems that social media requires totally different rules of engagement. Honesty and clarity are not enough to have a conversation with someone…you need to throw in a good dose of gentleness, extreme care in word choice, and charity that often seems beyond the bounds of necessity. You have to lower your own defenses and force yourself to consider the other person’s intentions.

But here’s another thing: none of that heroic effort will matter at all unless both parties (or all parties) are engaging in a conversation in good faith. The Ogre came up with a simple, effective litmus test for that: the two-comment limit. In any thread, on facebook, Twitter, or blogs, you allow yourself two comments. The first, to state your position as clearly as you can; the second, to clarify any misconceptions. That’s it.

If the conversation is going to be a fruitful one, questions from other people will follow that will make you think. You can answer, or ask a question of your own, and begin to actually communicate.

But if your two comments are followed by someone stating their own case and (either implicitly or explicitly) telling you why you’re wrong, the conversation isn’t a conversation at all.

It’s just people throwing opinions at each other, and it won’t end until it’s become a vitriolic battle to see who can shout the loudest, or insult the best. This is where that “like” function becomes so insidious…the “likes” that pile up are essentially the crowds egging you on, until social media becomes nothing more than a bloodthirsty spectator sport, the internet’s equivalent of the Coliseum.

Human beings have proven over and over that we have a taste for blood sports. The baser parts of our nature like to see someone else defeated, no matter the cost, if it means we come out on top. Social media by its very nature can be a great enabler of the human instinct for domination, since it is missing the crucial component of physical interaction. But it doesn’t have to be. In the end, what facebook and Twitter and comment sections the internet over look like is up to us. We literally create it, and we can create for ourselves a haven or a hell. But we each of us have to make the choice — first, to comment in good faith, and second, to refuse to engage with those who don’t. One bad troll can spoil the bunch. And after all, unless we unplug, we’re the ones who have to live in it.

 

photo credit: BenLucier via photopin cc

Living the Life You Have

In what will probably be news to no one, my Lenten lights-out-at-sunset fast was more or less a failure. I say “more or less” because I don’t actually consider it a flat-out failure. The whole point was to try and organize my life so that I would have some time for prayer and silence. When it became clear that turning the lights out at sunset was going to be impossible, I started saying the Daily Office instead. It’s perfect, really. Taking a bit of time three times a day fits into the rhythm of our days. Actually, it’s helped to shore up the rhythm of our days, giving them more stability and more peace.

I was so captivated by Jen’s idea of hard stops that I tried really hard to make the lights-out thing work. I wanted it to work. I wanted to go back to an earlier understanding of a day’s work, before electric lights and television screwed up our circadian rhythms. I wanted to live in a simpler way, where the day ended after dinner and there would be peace and rest and I would sew by candlelight while the Ogre took out his fiddle and danced a jig in the middle of our log cabin in the Big Woods.

But that’s not our life. It isn’t who we are. Maybe it would have been who we were, if we had lived in the 1800’s, but I doubt it. I can’t imagine the Ogre fiddling or dancing jigs no matter when he lived, and he has to work at night anyway, so he was almost never home after lights-out. As for me sewing, well, let’s not go back there.

For the first few weeks of Lent, I couldn’t figure out what prairie mothers did with their unruly, schedule-defying babies. Lincoln picked the beginning of Lent to stop sleeping after dinner, naturally. And while he was awake, he was still tired and fussy, and he wanted to be held and rocked for hours. But he won’t nurse or lay his head down unless I have both hands on him. If I try to hold a book with one hand, he turns over and hits the book and cries until I put it down. So I was spending hours each evening rocking the baby by candlelight, staring at the covers of all the books I was longing to read, trying to pray, trying not to drift of to sleep in fear of dropping the baby, trying to write blog posts in my head and commit them to memory, all the while growing increasingly frustrated with everything, but mostly Lincoln.

Finally one night, I gave up and put on a movie. Lincoln was asleep enough to move to his crib fifteen minutes in. I’m guessing that all the frustration and tension I felt as I rocked him endlessly with nothing to focus on but how much I wished he would just sleep already was palpable. Once my mind was engaged elsewhere, I relaxed, he relaxed, and he slept.

The thing about hard stops is that we all have them. They’ve changed dramatically in the last hundred years, but they’re still there. And they’re different for different people and in different stages of life. Right now, my hardest stop is called Lincoln. I can’t get the floor mopped and the bathroom cleaned in the amount of time I think it should take if he wakes up and wants to be fed, changed, held, or even just looked at. And while I probably could organize my day so that the housework was done and the kids had played outside and been bathed before dinner, that would leave me no time for writing. I don’t write well at night because I’m tired. The reality is, it’s more important for me to write in the afternoon while the kids are napping and then do the housework after dinner. It isn’t ideal and I wish there was a better solution, but for now, that’s the best way to organize my days.

I came across a boxed set of the Anne of Green Gables novels in our garage the other day and have been reading my favorites. Last night, I found myself thinking longingly of how wonderful it would have been to have been raising children at Ingleside in the early 1900’s. I mean, I could just send them to play in Rainbow Valley and not have to worry that they would get eaten by alligators or bit by snakes or hit by a car or kidnapped by child traffickers! I could hang out on the verandah and read or quilt or gossip with my neighbors while Susan took care of dinner! I could run out the door to go visit someone and know that my kids would be safe in the capable hands of our live-in cook/housekeeper! But most of all, it would be such an exquisite relief to raise children in a world where I could be reasonably sure that my neighbors were teaching their kids more or less the same things that I was teaching mine.  A world where I didn’t have to be constantly wary, constantly worried that at the age of seven, Sienna would be exposed to porn or attempts to sexualize her or even just a too-extensive rundown of the facts of life from another kid.  A world where those big moral dilemmas weren’t so pervasive, where I didn’t have to agonize about how to handle them while watching the years slip by and knowing that I’d have to figure it out soon. A world with an objective morality left in it.

It occurred to me this morning, though, that it’s worse than counter-productive to spend time longing for days gone by. It’s detrimental to the days that are here. Our world will never again be what it once was. There are real advantages to living in this time. Vaccines, antibiotics, dishwashers, washing machines, Doctor Who. There are also real disadvantages. We’ve traded the constant fear of physical death from any number of rampant diseases for the constant fear of spiritual death from any number of rampant socially-acceptable sins.

But the thing is, this is the time that I was meant to live in. For whatever reason, I had to be born in 1984 and raising children at the turn of the millenium. It isn’t like God is surprised at the state of the world right now. He knew it was coming, and he put me here because he thought I could handle it. Spending all my time lamenting the state of the world today doesn’t do anyone any good. This is my world, the only one I will ever know. The world of 1910 might seem idyllic from 2013, but I imagine that I’d find it somewhat less than perfect if I actually lived in it.

Neither will it do anyone any good to shut myself off from the world, to isolate my kids and try and form a little commune of The World As Calah Would Like It To Be. Trying to force my life to fit the pattern of the life of a homemaker in 1800 was a patent failure. The few rewards were grossly outnumbered by overwhelming frustration and defeat. I’d imagine it would be doubly disastrous to try and raise my kids in a make-believe world that denies the reality of the one that’s actually turning beneath my feet and beyond my doors. Is it a frightening world? Sure, parts of it are. But there’s still wonder in it, and magic and goodness. Shutting out all the bad parts of our world would shut out all the good parts, too. Better to just let the daylight shine on all of it and make sure I am there to hold hands, answer questions, and tell the hard truth when I have to.

 

I’d Rather Blog Than Be The Proverbs 31 Wife

Image via Broadsheet

Last time I attempted a haiku, a very nice person over on Twitter politely informed me that those were not haikus. I tried to defend myself after having my husband count the syllables, just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but the very nice person on Twitter said that the problem was that a linked poem like that is a renga. That rang a dim bell in the archived “Poetry” part of my brain, and I felt both sheepish and annoyed, because most bloggers on the internet probably don’t even know what a syllable is, much less how to count them and form syllabic poetry. Then I remembered that when I was in the throes of Junior Poet I actually started unconsciously speaking in iambic pentameter, and correcting someone on their poetic form would have been an act of mercy, not an act of superiority. So I forgave him. And, here, a proper haiku for you, Theodore Roosevelt, oh poetic master of Twitter:

Nasty colds, spring break

precious ASUS, neglected

I miss my blog peeps.

But for real. I miss blogging so much.

Here’s the thing: when I started this blog, it was because I had two kids and was eight months pregnant with a third, in a city where I had failed to make very many friends, and I had no life and was totally pathetic and miserable. I was turning to Twilight and Harry Potter for friendship substitutes. After my third reading of Twilight, which is a spectacularly awful series with characters who aren’t even particularly interesting or believable, I realized that I needed help. So I dove head-first into the internets and never looked back.

Now I have four kids, in a town where I have lots of friends and lots of commitments, and instead of being thrilled I am constantly wishing that everyone would go away so I could blog. I miss blogging every day. I miss reading everyone’s blogs. I miss Dwija and Jen and Melanie and Hallie and Kassie and Rebecca and Grace because I actually consider them good friends and feel bereft when my life gets in the way of reading about their lives. (Oh, and I’m not a total psycho who replaced fictional friendships with fictional characters with fictional friendships with real people; these are all people who are actually my friends, as internet-friends go. Like, would we recognize each other in a supermarket? Probably not. Do we exchange emails and comment on each others’ facebook lives? Totally. I’m not insane! Or, I dunno. Not delusional, anyway.)

Then there’s the fact that I’m completely ADD and having four kids and the requisite mountain of never-ending work that goes along with those kids renders me totally incapable of follow-through.

I was always totally incapable of follow-through, though, if we’re being honest. Now it’s just been multiplied exponentially. This morning I said to myself, “self, make breakfast, work out, put Lincoln down for a nap, clean up the breakfast dishes, and write a blog post. And do nothing else until those things are done.” In between all those things I managed to fold some laundry, run over to my neighbor’s house, download My Fitness Pal (quadruple ugh), change three diapers, google the weather, send a bunch of text messages, loudly lament the fact that I still haven’t had a solid two-hour block of time to sit down and write a post about the awesome Homerathon, and run out the door as my husband was leaving for work to snog him good right in the driveway.

Then there’s working out. Working out is cramping my freaking style. Don’t get me wrong, I really, truly love working out. I love the energy it gives me, the stress it releases, and the delicious endorphins. And my neighbor let me borrow this awesome set of DVD’s that have left me consistently sore for five solid weeks, which makes me so happy. I like being sore. It makes me feel less like a frumpy overweight housewyf. But since working out has moved up to Priority One in my daily schedule, it now occupies the morning nap time that used to be set aside for blogging. Not. Cool.

What is the point of this meandering post? I’m not sure. I just wanted to write something but I only have a 45 minute time window, so I didn’t want to start something I’d have to think about and polish and edit, because then I would just be frustrated and still post-less. Anyone have a nanny I can borrow for free? Because that would be excellent.

In Lenten news, the last two weeks have been a spectacular failure as far as the lights-out thing has gone. Various reasons abound for this, all boiling down to this one: there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and I am completely compulsive and unable to just stop working until I feel somewhat satisfied with the day’s work. This is a problem. My real, true goal this Lent was to concentrate on my prayer life. The lights-out thing was basically a means to that end. As the lights have stayed on, the time to pray has drifted further and further into the recesses of the night until it’s finally landed somewhere in the middle of my first REM cycle.

So I find myself here, three weeks from Easter, doing the same thing I do every Lent at about this time: redoubling my sacrifice. Recommitting myself to finishing Lent with a bang. Or at least not a whimper. Or at least not a pathetic whimper.

Guess what I did start reading again, though? The Bible. After I converted, I sort of abandoned the Bible for a while in my eagerness to soak up all the new shiny Catholic stuff. But I returned to it. I’ve learned two important things: first, the NAB really is an abysmal translation. Poets, these translators were not. It is clunky and kind of ugly. We need a new translation. I vote for Stanley Lombardo to do it, but more on that when I write that Homerathon post. Second: I am still not even close to being the Proverbs 31 wife. Not. Even. Close.

Let’s just look at this for a second. First, I don’t even know what flax is or where to get wool, and my one sewing adventure was one of the most catastrophic attempts at domesticity in my married life. So much so that the dress I got 2/3 of the way through is packed away with pins still stuck through it, probably destined to rot for perpetuity. I do totally secure provisions from afar, but that’s because afar is the location of the nearest Trader Joe’s. Also, does Amazon count as “afar?” I definitely never ever rise while it’s still night, if I can help it. Mostly the Ogre takes the night shifts with the baby. I only get up when the kids are clambering all over me or when Lincoln’s diaper is on the verge of a meltdown. And my whole goal in life right now is to dim my lamp at night, not to keep it undimmed. As far as laughing at the days to come, well…let’s be serious for a minute. The days to come almost definitely contain an apocalypse of some sort. Whether it’s zombies, North Korea, or some mutation of the Spanish Flu, we’re all doomed, and I don’t think that’s terribly funny. It does, however, make for excellent fiction and television.

Seriously, who is this lady? Doesn’t she get tired? Is her secret that those fields she bought are full of coffee beans? Does she eat the beans right out of the ground? I bet you anything she’s either totally mastered NFP or is maybe not using licit methods of family planning, because ain’t no way this lady is having a baby every two years. Otherwise it would say, “she stops every hour and a half to nurse the suckling babe and change the toddler’s diapers, and in the first trimester and the third she only leaves the couch to vomit.” And it doesn’t say that.

I know I should aspire to be like this woman. I want to aspire to be like this woman, sort of. Except I read this and think, “she doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. When does she read to her kids? When does she go out with the girls and have martinis? For crap’s sake, when does she blog?” Which tells me that I am probably not as close to the path of virtue as I would like to be. And that I should definitely work on that whole prayer life thing. With the addendum of, “Dear God, please help me figure out how to manage my time so that I can be an ideal good good enough wife and still have time to blog.” What can I say? I aim high.

Last thing: there is a fascinating ongoing discussion in the combox of my NFP Sucks post that you guys should read. I keep planning on turning some of the comments and responses into a post, because they are amazing, but my children keep expecting to be fed and cleaned and played with. What is with that?

PS: Please forgive any and all typos, and the fact that if I spent 20 minutes tightening this post up it would probably be an actually good post whose title makes sense all the way through and not just at the end. I don’t even have time to read it over before I publish it, though. Leave all grammar corrections in the combox. Thanks guys!

 

7 Quick Takes Friday!

#7

Friday hath come at last. This is exactly how I feel about it, too. Too weary to be excited, but also too grateful that the Ogre will be around to let me sleep in tomorrow to stand upright today.

Sienna just informed me that I look like this bear, as well. “But fatter.” Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

I guess another package of Smarties won’t really make a difference, then.

Here are some things that have contributed to my current exhaustion. (I’m purposefully leaving out the words Tropical Storm Debby since you’re probably sick of hearing them. You’re welcome. But that is one of the things, just so we’re clear.)

 

#6

 

Alex Wong/Getty Images

That whole thing happened.

Justice Roberts summed up exactly how I feel about this decision:”It’s not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

There’s no question we need health care reform. We do. But this is a bad law, crafted hastily by people who wanted to take advantage of a political moment instead of taking the time to craft legislation that would truly help the American people. So basically it’s like every law that’s been passed lately, or at least in the past decade when partisan screeching has replaced actual political dialogue and debate.

I’m not a Constitutional scholar. I have no idea if it was constitutional or not. I trust the Supreme Court, though, more than I trust the other two branches, so I wasn’t disappointed in them yesterday. I was disappointed in all those throngs of people in the picture above, and the ones on facebook and on Hot Air and everywhere else, including me. Somehow we’ve created a country in which the actual merits of laws can’t be debated, by either side, without someone yelling “you’re a liberal and you just want to kill babies!” or “you’re a conservative and you just want all the poor people to starve and die off!” That exhausts me. It exhausts me that some otherwise intelligent people wouldn’t even consider the idea that the law might actually be constitutional…they just knew it couldn’t be, because it was liberal legislation.

This is why I don’t blog about politics. I sincerely enjoy discussing politics, especially with our best friends in the world who live in Northern California, work in the Silicon Valley techie world, and are as liberal as the day is long, because they’re rational people who discuss things without assuming that 1) we’re conservative because we’re stupid and religious because we’re stupider or 2) they’re going to convince us that we’re wrong and they’re right. Actual discussions, where people clarify their positions and come to understand and…dare I say it?…respect the other person’s point of view are awesome. Unfortunately, they rarely happens in the internet. If ever. Honestly, I’m starting to doubt that they happen much in real life anymore either. And that makes me sad, and it makes me tired.

 

#5

Why, Calah, you might be saying, isn’t that that half-finished dress you started a month ago?

Why yes. Yes it is.

In the month that has elapsed between my first introduction to sewing and today, the dress has sat on our dining room table, along with the sewing machine and the instructions and the books the Ogre bought me and my shiny new sewing kit. All of it in the same position it was in when I hit “publish” on that post.

I have studiously avoided the dining/sitting room for the past thirty days. (An impressive feat since you have to walk through it to get into the rest of the house.) We’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner at the breakfast table. We’ve had guests over, and they’ve eaten at the breakfast table. I haven’t curled up into my comfortable reading chair and read a single page. I’ve read on the couch instead, or standing up in the kitchen. I haven’t swept the sitting room. I haven’t dusted it. I haven’t even ventured in there to open the blinds on sunny days.

The sitting room has become no-man’s land. The dress sits on the table, mocking me with it’s unfinished-ness, and I remain safely in my trench(es) in the rest of the house. We are at a stalemate.

But the situation must be resolved, and it must be resolved this weekend, because my parents are coming to visit next week and I’d like to be able to use my dining room table. I refuse to just put everything away to deal with later, because the dress will haunt my subconscious. But even if the dress wins the battle, it’s not going to be alive to enjoy its victory for long. I must either complete the dress or admit defeat and tear it to satisfying shreds.  As soon as I gather my courage and go over the top, that is.

I think I need a nap first, though.

 

#4

Then there’s this:

Sick, angry baby

Charlotte is still sick, though she seems to be improving. Her fever is gone, her cough is better, and she looks and smells much better.

Fortunately for us, Liam woke up from his nap today with a 101 degree fever. Yay.

Let me say that again: Yay.

See, not only do I have to deal with two sick, incredibly whiny toddlers, but I also have to deal with this:

The world’s most active child, whose only goal in life is to play outside forever, and who has been stuck inside on account of her sick siblings with the only exception being yesterday’s swelteringly brief trip to the park.

As you can see, she’s angry. And unhappy. And stir-crazy and whiny.

 

#3

Bebe Lincoln is getting in on the make-Mama-miserable action, too. Just this week he and the hormones that sustain his growth have given me wretched sciatic nerve pain (the first time I’ve had that pregnancy symptom! Something new every time! It’s like a grab-bag of fun!) and a zit the size of freaking Jupiter on my neck.

My neck. It’s not even in a normal place like my face, it’s on my neck. It looks like I have the bubonic plague. Seriously, if this was 1348, I’d be quarantined. Because of a zit.

Exhausted, I tell you.

 

#2

There are some silver (or, er, bright orange) linings to these clouds, though, and they’re not even all that hard to spot.

First, I’m profoundly grateful that the children are sick now, instead of next week, when my parents are coming to visit and have rented a beach house on Marco Island for us to stay in.

Second, a beach house! On an island!

Sigh. It’s like a real vacation, and it’s only an hour away. There are serious advantages to living here, even though there are also tropical storms and too many rainy days.

 

#1

Also, Whole Foods has consistently had Rainier cherries on sale since the season began a few weeks ago. Rainier cherries are my favorite of all favorite fruits ever. I love them so much that I dream about them in the spring, fall and winter. Rainier cherries make the sweltering heat of June and July bearable. They make the summer heat worth surviving. They are miraculous, and during the summer when I was pregnant with Liam I spent nearly $100 dollars on them because Whole Foods never had them on sale and they’re painfully, grotesquely expensive. (Whole Foods is the only grocery store I’ve found that carries them, but they’re expensive everywhere.)

Last silver lining? The existence of Cracked.com. Anytime I’m tempted to run screaming to my closet with my hands over my ears and lock myself in for the rest of the day…well, sometimes I actually just go ahead and do that. But other times I pull up cracked.com and remember that pregnancy maybe be horrific sometimes, but it’s also pretty hilarious. (Please don’t go to cracked.com if you’re easily offended or sensitive to bad language. You will never forgive me.)

Bonus silver lining! Just as I had spent four chaotic, interrupted hours trying to get this post up while baking and administering ibuprofen and changing diapers and breaking up fights and had finally despaired of finishing it at all, my lovely, incomparably wonderful neighbor offered to take Sienna to the waterpark along with her own kids. She knew I’d been stuck with sick kids for days and figured I’d be at the end of my rope. Sometimes the kindness and generosity of my neighbors is just…amazing. I would never consider offering to take someone else’s kid on an outing, since I’m usually too busy dreading how difficult it’s going to be with my own three. But around here, people just act like it’s no big deal. And because they’re likely less melodramatic than I am, it’s probably not a big deal for them…but it’s huge to be on the receiving end of it. That literally just turned my entire day around. I need to make that woman some cookies. (Yes, in my psyche, gratitude = cookies. I think that’s the way it should be, actually.)

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone! Go and see Jen for more quick takes!

7 Quick Takes Friday!

Thank you all so much for your prayers. Liam’s surgery went very well, he is home and fairly cranky but otherwise fine. I only cried for fifteen minutes, and managed to pull it together enough to read ten whole pages of the book I brought with me. It was disjointed reading, though, because every time a door opened I looked up frantically.

The plight of a mother.

#7
The Hospital
Isn’t it pretty? And yet, like everything in Vegas, it looks like a casino
where Liam’s surgery was (and also where I had Charlotte) is a Catholic hospital. I find this hospital immeasurably comforting. The chain of hospitals has three different campuses. This one is the Siena campus, and outside there is a beautiful bronze statue of St. Catherine of Siena. The other two campuses are St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. Inside the hospital, right across from the same-day surgery waiting room, is a large mural of all three saints. 
I stared at the mural for a while when Liam was in surgery. St. Catherine of Siena is already a special saint for our family, as she is Sienna’s patron saint, and St. Rose of Lima is the saint I got for the year from Jen’s handy Saint’s-Name Generator. So I wondered if maybe the universe was conspiring in some weird way and telling me that these three saints would be important to our family. Like, maybe we should name our next son (if we have one) Martin? 
Then I re-thought that, and I’m glad I did so. There are other ways to venerate a saint.
#6
I Really Thought

that Liam was going to be born on the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14. And because I had discovered this saint about a month before my due date and immediately felt drawn to him, I was bound and determined to insist that we name Liam Maximilian if he happened to be born on that day.

But he was born on August 11, which is probably good because the Ogre balked at Maximilian and doing battle in the immediate post-partum period would not have been fun.

#5
Speaking of August 11

here’s a cool story.

When I was an undergrad, I spent a semester in Rome. I was not Catholic at that point, and I was sadly derisive of the Catholic faith. When we were in Assisi all of my friends went to see the incorrupt body of St. Clare and kindly extended me an invitation. I refused, and then went on and on and on about how weird and creepy that whole “incorrupt” thing was. And then I made fun of St. Clare.

Since converting I’ve always felt really guilty about that, so we decided early on in my pregnancy with Liam that if he were a girl, we would name him Alice Clare. I was a little sad that we couldn’t do that because I felt that I should somehow make a place for St. Clare in this particular child’s life. But I wasn’t about to name my boy Clare.

Lo and behold, little Liam Xavier Bede arrived ahead of schedule, right on the feast day of St. Clare! How cool is that?

#4
Yesterday

My little brother and his adorable girlfriend

my idiot brother had to have surgery, too.

Why, you ask? Well, because he stepped on a sewing needle and then broke it off while trying to dig it out of his foot, of course!

It was all the way down next to the bone, was horribly infected, and they had to do big-time surgery. In fact, if they hadn’t done surgery that day, his foot would have become gangrenous and he would have lost his whole leg.

I may be exaggerating just a little. But they really did have to do surgery, and it really was super infected. And afterward he talked to me while on painkillers, and I laughed.

#3
Speaking of Surgery

in exactly one week I have to have a tooth pulled. Unfortunately it’s a tooth that’s had a root canal done on it in the past, and I also have to have a bone graft done in anticipation of having a replacement tooth put in, which means that they’re going to put me to sleep.

This is kind of a shame, because I like laughing gas. But I’m glad I’m going to be asleep for it because according to my dentist, teeth that have been root canaled (is that a word?) tend to break and shatter, and then the dentist has to fish them out piece by piece.

Ugh. I’ll take the dreamless sleep with a side of possible death, thanks.

#2
I Just Read a Statistic

that said the risk of death under anesthesia is about the same as the risk you take when riding in a car.

This would be comforting to me if I lived in, say, Podunk, Vermont. But here in Las Vegas, when people aren’t gambling or watching women dance naked they’re running red lights as a form of entertainment. Lest you think I jest, one police officer I spoke with said that he has seen more traffic fatalities in his three years here than he did in the thirteen years he spent as a cop in Washington, D.C.

Now I feel like next Friday will be less a routine tooth extraction and more a game of Russian Roulette. Good thing I rock at roulette.

22. 22, black. Who was that guy?
(My eternal love will go to the person who can name that movie reference.)

#1
When I Was Searching for Cartoons on Statistics

I came across a really funny one that I wanted to put here, but permission is required for use.
So here’s a link. It made me giggle.

And since I can’t leave you with only six pictures, here’s a good one!


The time Charlotte found the cornstarch I had not-so-cleverly hidden in the front row of the bottom, unlocked cabinet.

Yum.

Go see Jen for more quick takes! Have a great week, everyone!

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