Friday, October 17, 2014

7qt: I give up


I have officially given up trying to teach Miriam to nap in her bed.

As this week began, I was really losing my mind.  My schedule was going like this: Baby gets fussy.  Nurse baby to sleep.  Hold for 10 minutes while kids destroy house and/or demand attention I can't give because it wakes her up.  Put down.  Madly try to get stuff done for 10 minutes.  Baby wakes up.  Nurse. Rock.  Baby goes to sleep.  Hold for half an hour while kids destroy house, bite each other in the face, and cry.  Put down.  Baby wakes up instantly.  Rock.  Baby falls back to sleep.  Hold for an hour while house goes into utter chaos and my whispered threats have no effect.  Every time I attempt to say anything to get the kids to not put knives into outlets, hug the Scratchy Cat, etc., Miriam starts to wake up.  Wait for her to go into "deep sleep."  Never happens.  Eventually give up and put her down.  Baby instantly wakes up.  Leave her in her bouncy chair while I attempt to get dressed, eat, drink, fill up the water filter, feed kids, hug kids, etc.  Baby quickly escalates from short squawks to real crying, which she never did before this week.  Shriek incomprehensible things at kids.  Cry.  Go back to trying to put baby to sleep .....

Most days she was getting at least some sleep in her bed.  Either a really good nap, right when I was on the verge of giving up, or at least 45 minutes.  So I told myself it was worth it, because maybe she was getting closer to figuring out the whole sleep-in-bed thing.  But it was really wearing.  I was ending most days in either a zombielike state, or in tears.  It. Was. Awful.  There was just this constant feeling that I wasn't giving ANY of my kids what they needed.  That's just the most heartbreaking feeling.  Michael, in particular, has been getting worse and worse with his bad behavior and generally blowing off whatever I say.  Which is natural, of course, because he knew I was stuck rocking the baby and wasn't likely to DO anything!

Sometimes I would put her in the wrap and go to the park with the kids, and then everyone was happy.  But then this week had a forecast for rain every single day and all the happy disappeared from my life.  Ugh.


So I asked Facebook, and Facebook replied with a multitude of answers, like "have you tried x?"  (Yes, of course I did!  I'm no spring chicken here, I know bad sleep like a brother by now.)  "Have you tried y?"  (I am never trying y, that is just cruel.)  "Have you tried z?"  (I absolutely would try z if I could get TEN FREAKING MINUTES of quiet to do it in!)  And the only thing that didn't get one of those three answers is this: "That may just be the way she is."

Of course I do not like that answer, but it's probably true.  Possibly if I had a solid week of quiet to teach her to nap, I'd have more success, using all the stuff that eventually got Marko to nap.  But I don't, and what I'm doing is not working, so I decided I was just going to have to stop trying.

Basically I've just made up my mind to prioritize the boys' behavior over Miriam's sleep, because Miriam will eventually stop needing naps, but if I let Michael get into his head that he can just ignore me, I don't know how I will fix that.  And if I sit around and let Michael smack Marko around, then Marko gets angry and resentful and when Marko is angry, the whole world is a less happy place.


What that means is just having her nap in the wrap.  Which I hate because, well, she is a LIGHT sleeper.  Being on me doesn't stop her from being a light sleeper.  She wakes up multiple times per nap; the only difference is I can bounce her back to sleep pretty easily.  So I can't just ignore that she's on me, I have to do certain chores (dishes and sweeping) and avoid others (picking up toys, putting laundry in the dryer, holding the other kids).  I am getting her used to sitting down, so I can sit at my desk and type (this blog post, for instance) without waking her.  And when she does wake up, I can take a break, bounce her back to sleep, and get back to it.  Most importantly, I can intervene when the kids are being too dangerous, destructive, and/or combative, which is vitally important.

AND, a couple of times I've been able to sneak her out of the wrap around the two-hour mark, and she stayed down for another 30-45 minutes!  Which means at last, time for me/other kids!

But in general, time for non-wrap-friendly chores has been Miriam's awake time.  You see, when she gets some really good sleep under her belt, she can be happy and awake for two hours or so!  Of course, she's cute and sweet at that time, and does want some attention, but she's able to be down for much of that and so I can hold Michael and do all those other chores that need doing.

The downside is that it's getting harder and harder to put Miriam to sleep any other way than the wrap.  Which means it's been taking me longer and longer to get her to bed.  Last night she went to sleep at last at 10 pm.  Tonight I'm going to try wearing her in the wrap from 7-9 pm or so and see if I can move her into her bed after that.  I am NOT wanting to mess up her good night's sleep -- she is sleeping in six-hour stretches and it is what keeps me from being a blubbering mess some of the time.


Have I told y'all she smiles now?  Very unpredictably, so no pictures yet, but she definitely is smiling.  She loves it when we interact with her.  However she hardly ever actually seems to make eye contact.  She's always staring over our heads or to the side.  I don't remember whether my other kids did that.  Is there something super interesting elsewhere?  Or is there something terribly wrong?  (Yep, three kids and I still worry all the time if things are terribly wrong.)

At any rate it's very cute.  I love this stage, except for the naplessness bit.


The boys are hilarious as ever.  A couple examples:

Me: Did you pee in your pants?
Michael: Um, yeah.
Me: Where?
Michael (as if talking to an idiot): In my PANTS!
Me: I mean, is there a puddle somewhere I should know about?
Michael: Yeah.  In my bed.

Marko, holding the little brush that came with the dustpan: I'm a soldier, and this is my hairbrush.  Do soldiers brush their hair?
Me: I'm sure they do.
Marko: And this can be my bathroom table.
Me: Do bathrooms have tables in them?
Marko: Soldiers' bathrooms do.  They are bigger than regular bathrooms.
(Marko does not know what soldiers do, but he's very interested in them.)

Marko, holding a business card to his ear:  Hello?  Daddy's name is John C----.  He is running for F---- R---- Town Council.*
Me: What are you doing?
Marko: Talking on my smartphone.

Marko: Jesus does not like to wear clothes.
Me: Why do you think that?
Marko: On the cross, he is only wearing a diaper.
Me: Some people took his clothes away.
Marko: But they gave them back.
Me: No, I don't think they ever did.
Marko, very upset:  No, they need to give them back!
Me: I think he got new ones after he rose from the dead.
Marko: Where did he get his new clothes?
Me: .....I really don't know.
(Later) Both boys, running around in the buff: I am Jesus Christ!  I am Jesus Christ!

 [*Yeah, I know y'all know who we are and where we live, but let's just pretend you don't, huh?  I don't want John's opponents/prospective voters googling him and landing HERE.]


How about that Synod?  I think the freakout over it is just ridiculous.  It's a synod, not a Council, and so even the final conclusion is likely to be a lot of fluff, much less the interim report, which is just "here's what we're talking about."

However, I didn't have a problem with anything said in the interim report either.  I mean, isn't it obvious that unmarried, irregular, and gay couples love each other too and therefore there is some good we can recognize in their relationships?  It doesn't mean it's all hunky-dory, it means we're not going to pretend that all non-marriage relationships are horrible dysfunctional miserable things.  So when people say "but you must be wrong, because these people love each other!" we can just answer, "Yeah, we knew that already, but that's not the point."

"How can we fix this stuff?" is a much more difficult ball of wax, and I don't really think they're going to come up with anything other than "let's be as merciful as we can."  If the relationship can be saved, let's make a smooth path toward fixing it -- getting that convalidation, church wedding, annulment ASAP.

If not -- like a second marriage where an annulment can't be granted, or a gay couple, what can you do?  Basically nothing.  We can't change church teaching to allow them (have no fear on that count; the Pope and bishops know it too) and we can't lie and tell them to carry on.  On the other hand, we can hope that, even if they aren't willing to follow Church teaching now, maybe they'll get there someday.  I seem to remember it took the guy in Brideshead Revisited quite awhile to come around.

Anyway, I'm curious to see what they actually come up with, but I can't really see that it'll make much difference.  The bishops (if past experience is any indicator) will go home and keep doing what they were doing before.  The liberal ones will go on saying "Sure, x is our official teaching, but God understands, so go ahead and keep doing y."  And the conservative ones will make statements to the media about the sinfulness of sinners and how much they wish the Pope would phrase things the way they would have.


I had a cool thought while watching Doctor Who the other day.  (On to season 4 and still enjoying it.)  The whole world has been taken over by a Big Bad Guy (this is no spoiler, obvs, because this happens ALL THE TIME!) and the Doctor's companion is traveling over all the world, telling people about him.  Here's what she says:

I travelled across the world. From the ruins of New York, to the fusion mills of China, right across the radiation pits of Europe. And everywhere I went I saw people just like you, living as slaves! But if Martha Jones became a legend then that's wrong, because my name isn't important. There's someone else. The man who sent me out there, the man who told me to walk the Earth. And his name is The Doctor. He has saved your lives so many times and you never even knew he was there. He never stops. He never stays. He never asks to be thanked. But I've seen him, I know him... I love him... And I know what he can do. 

Does that remind you of anybody?

Let's try another quote, this one from C. S. Lewis:

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening--in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.  

Kind of makes church a bit more exciting, eh?  Sometimes, looking at this mixed-up world and how much misery is in it, you can't quite believe that there is a good God behind it.  But I really do believe that God is not all-powerful in this world in the way we think.  He's handed over the power to us, and we lost it through sin, and as a result the world is ungoverned, or worse, governed by the devil.  God has managed to smuggle knowledge about Himself into the world, and He will rescue us out of it in the end, but in between times it really is occupied territory.  So no wonder it so often makes so little sense!

Finishing this hours after I started -- I'm happy to report that Miriam is actually napping in the bed and has been for half an hour now.  So perhaps wrap naps aren't going to ruin real naps forever.  I have hope.

How has your week been?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Science fiction glitches

I enjoy science fiction and fantasy.  Personally, I don't see a real difference between the two -- science fiction just has a fake "science" explanation for the magic.

Now, some science fiction is more science-y than others.  For instance, Firefly is very, very careful about not throwing around unrealistic things -- there are no explosion noises in space, the ships move with real zero-g physics, and the merchant ships have no laser guns because why would they?  (But I don't really believe that Reavers would ever be a thing.)  Meanwhile Doctor Who just throws around some techno-jargon about a "chameleon circuit" or a "sonic screwdriver" and we're just supposed to believe it.  When the Doctor needs to do something, it suddenly becomes scientifically possible.  John says that makes it fantasy.  I said, "No it's not, he just said the word 'DNA' so it's science fiction!"

Really, that's the only difference in my mind.  Because almost every science fiction story ever (Firefly being a notable exception) includes faster-than-light travel, even though it's well-known to be impossible to go faster than light.  I actually subdivide science fiction in my mind based on how they go faster than light -- is it with some magical warp drive, turn it on and the rules no longer apply to you?  Or is it some kind of wormhole idea -- more theoretically possible?  Lois McMaster Bujold has wormholes in her fiction, which results in a lot of fun possibilities (what would happen to a colony established by Earth if the wormhole that got you there spontaneously collapses?), but I just can't figure out how the people in her universe ever discovered them.  You see, to go through a wormhole, you need a ship equipped with Necklin rods (which have no purpose other than to take you through a wormhole) plus a pilot with a cybernetic implant which allows him to navigate the five-dimensional space in there.  Cool, no problem.  But which came first, discovering the wormholes, or inventing the Necklin rods?  Without the Necklin rods, how would you know the wormhole was there?  But why invent Necklin rods with no wormholes to go through?  And even if you had those two things, what happens when you stumble upon the wormhole, turn on your Necklin rods, and then get lost in five-dimensional space because the pilot doesn't have implants?

And then there's the issue of where the wormholes are -- in orbit in the system, or stationary?  Because it's odd to say "the planet is five days' trip from the wormhole" when the planet, of course, is in motion.  Unless the wormhole is in synchronous orbit along with the Earth, or orbiting around the Earth, the amount of time it takes to get from one to another will be highly variable.  On the way to visit your grandma, it might take a week; on the way back, six months.

Timothy Zahn has a cool solution in his Quadrail series -- there is actually a train that goes faster than light through some kind of trans-dimensional tunnel.  You spend days traveling to the edge of your system to get to the station, but once you hop on the train you could be in the next system over in an hour or two.  But how they make this space-tunnel work is beyond me.

Another glitch is how easy it always is to get from orbit to the planet's surface and back.  People in sci-fi always seem to think nothing of it, but it takes a massive amount of fuel to boost your mass out of a planet's gravity.  For economic reasons, I can't imagine people would drop back down to the surface just to grab a screwdriver, but that's what they always seem to do!  (Arthur C. Clarke's Fountains of Paradise solves this problem with an elevator leading to an orbital space station.  If you could make a strong enough cable, this actually would work.)

A transporter, though, is not much of a solution at all.  Turning matter into energy and back again is a big deal.  The replicators in Star Trek are even worse.  Want a cup of coffee?  No problem -- the machine will turn energy into coffee-shaped matter for you in seconds!  But ... do you know how much energy that would take?  The exchange rate between matter and energy is literally astronomical -- it's the speed of light (a really big number) squared.  (Thanks, Einstein!)  So unless you have an actual sun blazing away in your engine room (and perhaps even if you do) it just is not practical to make all your food and dishes and clothes this way.

Then again, if you then use everyone's dirty clothes and dishes and poops in a fusion reactor, could you compensate for it that way?

Hmmm.  The idea has merit, if you don't mind your Earl Grey Tea, Hot being your own reconstituted urine.  But it still seems in the long run it would be more practical to wash your dishes, launder your uniforms, and use hydroponics to grow food.  Why would you transfer matter to energy and back again, except just to show off?

Many of the other things in science fiction are theoretically possible.  For instance, genetic engineering is in its infancy, so there's no way to be sure that we can't engineer pretty much anything we want.  On the other hand, it's quite possible that in 50 or 100 years, we'll laugh our heads off about "genetically engineered super-soldiers" the way we now do about "radioactive spiders."  That is, once we know more about the science behind it, we'll know that sort of thing isn't really possible.  Hopefully.  It would be pretty freaky if it were.

And then there's the "but why would you do that?" technology.  In the future, everything, everything is 3D.  Is it really convenient to have 3D pictures on your wall?  It seems 2D remains, not because 3D is hard to produce, but because it's just simpler a lot of the time.  Writing is 2D.  There is no advantage to a 3D computer console if you just want to read your space-mail.

Ah, but of course no one will read in the future -- everything will be audio, video, and 3D!  Nah, I don't think so.  We have technology now to turn the written word into audio for you, but no one uses it but blind people.  It's just so much slower and harder to process a lot of information when you have to fastforward instead of just scanning over the page to the part you want.  No way are we going to retire books and have shelves full of vid disks -- even if that weren't a really stupid way to store your digital files.  I refuse to believe in a culture that developed faster-than-light travel but can't store a video more compactly than a disk you can hold in your hand.

Then of course, consider this: how long does it take to write a chapter of a book on, say, physics?  And how long does it take to make an hourlong video giving the same information?  Sure, you could do a video of just a guy talking, but if you want diagrams, different actors, and so forth, the manpower needed is a bit much.  You've have to have people clearly preferring to learn by video over text for it to be economical -- and the reality is, a lot of people just prefer text.  I do.  Either way, I assume text, audio, and video will continue to exist side-by-side for years to come.

So, maybe stop dissing Doctor Who for having a TARDIS that's bigger on the inside and travels through time using mysterious energy.  All science fiction is just fantasy with technobabble added.  We suspend our disbelief to enjoy it -- that's sort of the point.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A word of warning

Lately I've been inundated in articles and blog posts about how wonderful it is to have a large family. Like this one, for instance: Why Have More Kids?  The thesis is always: just have kids!  Don't worry!  It'll be fine! 

It makes me feel strange.  I always intended to have that giant family and to be writing its-so-wonderful posts someday.  And you know, I still might have lots of kids yet .... but I don't think I would write articles like that.

What these articles come down to is advertising.  They try to make the life of a mother of a large family look great, so that people will choose that life.  But since they are advertising, they're necessarily biased.  They gloss over the tough parts.

And who wants to be the bad person who points that stuff out?  If I were to do so, wouldn't I just be a big complainer who hates my children and my vocation?  (Apparently yes, according to this article.)  But here I am, taking the plunge and talking about the tough parts, because someone's got to do it.  I think a high regard for my vocation implies I will want to warn away people who haven't got what it takes.  You know those military recruiters who will sign up anybody just for the numbers?  I don't want to be that.  I want people to sign up for the long haul that is parenthood with their eyes wide open, knowing (insofar as it is possible to know) that it will push them to their uttermost limits, and then some.  If you're scared away by the truth, maybe it's not for you, you know?

So here are a couple of the arguments I'd like to poke some holes in.

We have lots of kids because we love kids.
Well, I love ice cream, but I also know when to say when.  I read somewhere the line that one can have a high regard for apple trees and still not plant them one foot apart all over your yard.  If you love kids -- really love them for themselves -- you're going to consider what they need from you, and seriously ask the question about how you are going to provide all that.  People who love kids are probably going to have more of them than someone who doesn't care for them, but it's not a complete explanation for why you have fifteen of them.

I have kids because I haven't deliberately chosen to prevent that.
No, you have kids because you're having sex, I assume.  Nothing wrong with having sex if you want kids, but don't pretend it's not a choice like any other choice.  God did not send a child winging down from heaven to join your family without you taking part in this decision.  And yeah, there are some cases when I would say you don't have the right to have sex, even if you're married, because of the negative consequences that will result.  So, use discernment.  Abstinence is always an option, if you don't believe in NFP or think it won't work for you.

God will always provide for your material needs.
If you live in America, the taxpayers will provide for your material needs.  I don't have a problem with that per se, but if you are on unemployment and food stamps and have a kickstarter to fund your family's heating bill and all of your friends and church acquaintances are pitching in to fix your car .... maybe getting pregnant right now isn't the smartest choice.  After all, the money that is providing for you is coming out of the budget of another family -- it's not hand-delivered by angels.  Even if it's money the donors don't need, they could be helping another family with it.  I'm not saying poor people should never have babies.  I'm saying, use discernment and don't assume because you're not starving to death, it means God is approving everything you do.  Anyway, that's a pretty insulting thing to think, if you consider the parents in third-world countries who love and trust God as much as you do, and wind up watching one of their children starve to death.

You always have enough love for another child.
Absolutely true.  You know what doesn't multiply?  Time, patience, lap space.  I really do love Miriam just like I love my other kids.  But the fact that she's here means that somebody's got to get the shaft.  Suddenly the toddler can't sit on your lap, the preschooler can't do any letter games, the homeschooler is being told "here's another workbook to review old stuff, because I can't teach you any new stuff."  Any catastrophe in the family is going to have effects like that, and kids do weather them, but it's different to choose to do this every year or every other year.  You've got to ask yourself if it's really to the kids' benefit to go through this.  When Marko was two, I had a strong sense that he was ready to be a big brother, and I was right -- he flourished with a little less attention.  Michael, though -- his behavior is shockingly bad lately, and it's been very hard to work on it because I am busy with the baby.  So perhaps my sense that he wasn't quite ready to be a big brother was right after all.

Just because you are exhausted is no reason not to have another.
I'd agree that being tired is just a normal symptom of parenthood.  But exhausted?  Exhausted means empty, completely drained.  An exhausted well isn't a well that needs coffee before it can give you water in the morning ... it's a well that has nothing left to give.  And exhaustion does happen to people.  Nuns, social workers, teachers, all have to be on their guard for burnout, take their yearly vacation and daily recreation, perhaps a sabbatical every ten years.  (Mother Teresa, who said "give until it hurts, and when it hurts, give more" gave her sisters an hour of silent prayer a day, plus recreation time outside of that.  She wasn't deceived about what human nature can and can't handle.)  Mothers are imagined to be these miraculous burnout-proof creatures, but we're not.  I've seen burnout.  It's when you wake up in the middle of the night to a baby's cry, and lie there for a moment wishing you would die so you wouldn't have to get up.  It's when your kid asks for a sandwich and you shriek "No!  You kids need to stop NEEDING stuff all the time!"  When you stare dumbly at a child deconstructing your house and can hardly make yourself care, let alone get up and stop him.  When dishes lie in the sink a week gathering mold because there was always, every moment, something urgent that had to be done.  Some women say it might be their thyroid.  I say it's just that you're not supposed to be able to get by on five hours of sleep indefinitely.  Something's got to give.  And yet they think "but being tired is no reason not to have another baby."

Let me sum up: if you are so tired that your husband, kids, and/or home are suffering, it is possible that you are just too tired.  When you are handling what you've got more-or-less okay, you'll probably start wanting another baby all on your own ... you won't need to be guilted into it.

The greatest gift you can give your kids is a sibling!
Sometimes this is true.  Certainly when I was fifteen and depressed and lonely, my little brother Joseph was the best thing anyone could have given me.  But even if a sibling is the greatest gift, it doesn't follow that it should be the only gift they ever get from you.  Kids don't have a lot of needs, but they do have some true needs.  You know better than anyone what your kids' needs are.  Just because someone told you a sibling is top of the list, doesn't mean that's true for your individual child. 

No one ever grows up to say they wished they'd had fewer siblings!
No, because that would be a horrible thing to say and people would hate you for it.  But there's no end of people who grow up to say "I wish I had had more of my parents' attention."  Maybe they were getting bullied by an older sibling and their mother was too busy with the baby to ever notice.  Maybe they went through a stage of depression as a teenager and their parents told them to suck it up because they needed help with the toddlers.  No one wishes those babies away, because if they are your siblings, you love them whether or not they caused you a lot of grief.  But that doesn't mean your parents' choice to have a large family was necessarily the best choice for you. 

No one ever regrets having had so many kids!
That's just a lie.  They do.  Usually they don't say so, but they think it.  It's a horrible thing to think "I wish I didn't have 12 kids," and of course any parent who thinks that then thinks of each one of the 12 and wouldn't wish away any individual child.  They just feel like the number of them is too many.  If only someone could swoop in and borrow a couple for a week or a month, and bring them back with all their behavior issues fixed!

There was a woman awhile back who posted her toddler on Craigslist.  She said she had other kids as well, her husband was deployed, this particular kid seemed very needy and she knew she wasn't being a very good mother to him.  She was hoping someone would adopt him and give him the love he needed.  Instead she got arrested, because you aren't allowed to give up your kids for adoption that way.  But I just felt for her.  Of course she didn't really want to be rid of him forever -- she wanted some help!  But when help is unavailable, the only thing her loving, motherly heart could think of was to find him a new mother that could give him what he needed.  I have felt that way myself, once or twice, and it's an awful awful way to feel.

Having another child makes you less selfish and more holy.
It might.  And yet my own experience is that there is a point beyond which the whole "challenges make you stronger" thing stops working.  Your psyche is so damaged it becomes hyper-protective of itself and refuses to give more.  You start turning to crutches like overeating or alcohol or even self-harm to make it through.  At that point you aren't really capable of generosity or empathy; your soul turns inward because it's hurting and exhausted.  You hear the baby crying and instead of thinking "an opportunity to be Christ for my sweet child!" you think, "I wish that horrible child would shut up."  Defensiveness becomes anger; you become a harsher person, quick to judge and to lash out.

How do I know all this?  This is what Regnum Christi did to me, trying to push me to a level of "selflessness" I was not ready for and didn't take on myself willingly.  And I've seen it happen to mothers as well.  Motherhood is one vocation that has an absolute need for a healthy psyche.  You need to give yourself on an emotional level so many times every day.  You can't do that if you're empty.

I know people mean well when they "advertise" motherhood this way.  They themselves are happy as mothers of large families (I assume), and they want to share that.  But in the end, this batch of mothers winds up being a high-pressure community where saying how tough it is really isn't allowed, because you're making motherhood look bad.  (Again, flashbacks to cult life, where your happy face is presumed to be an advertisement for Jesus and you are a horrible sinner if you aren't smiling.)  The result is a loud proclamation of how wonderful everything is on public blogs .... and tale after tale of misery in private groups.  I see that side of it too.  It's really shaken me, the stories that people will only tell where their friends can't read it.  No one wants to admit that they're not handling things as well as everyone else seems to be.

Let's just get it out here right now, then: Motherhood is a challenging, grueling, emotionally draining, beautiful vocation.  The more kids you have, the more true this is.  And there's a kind of generosity in seeing that you can only be a good mother to the number you have right now, as well as generosity in having more.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Two ways of looking at the world

It seems to me there are two possibilities.

In one worldview, there exist both physical and spiritual realities.  The earth, the planets, subatomic particles, and humans' bodies belong to the physical realm; and God, angels, grace, and humans' consciousness belong to the spiritual realm.  Moreover, these two realms affect one another -- things you do in the physical realm can have spiritual consequences, and spiritual realities are supposed to be able to affect the physical realm as well.

For instance, in baptism, pouring water has the supernatural effect of bestowing grace and making it possible for people to enter heaven.  Confessing sins has the effect of removing a spiritual, invisible thing called sin.  Your physical actions produce conditions called the state of grace and the state of sin, and these determine what happens to you after you die.

But because these things are spiritual, you can't detect them.  I can't feel the difference between being in a state of grace and being in a state of sin.  I should have the spiritual gift of faith, but I don't notice that it makes it any easier for me to believe anything.

God has total control over both the physical and spiritual world, and yet in the physical world, we find that he doesn't normally intervene.  Plenty of things one imagines God would want -- sick people to be healed, natural disasters to be averted, and so forth -- do not happen.  Almost everything that happens in the physical world can be explained through physical causes, and it is possible that some things that can't now be explained that way will be able to be explained later, when we know more about the world.  But in a few cases, we say that God is intervening directly in the physical world -- miracles -- and in this case, a spiritual reality has physical effects one can detect.  We know about spiritual realities because of the physical effects they have.  Although we are "hybrid" creatures, both spiritual and physical, we can only detect physical realities with any certainty, because the only way we have to learn about the world is through our senses.

It's kind of mindboggling going through the world and imagining that we only can detect a small percentage of what is -- that unbeknownst to us, we are surrounded by angels, that God's presence is everywhere, that everyone we speak to is in a spiritual state that we can't possibly know.

But if I blink, I can just as easily see the world differently.

I can see a completely natural world, in which everything that exists is part of the physical universe.  Those things that we don't have a natural explanation for are simply things we don't yet understand, and further study could figure those out too.

Miracles can be explained away.  Perhaps someone was mistaken.  Perhaps a spontaneous cure was a long shot, but theoretically possible and someone just got lucky.  And perhaps a person's strong belief enabled them to heal themselves -- the placebo effect can be quite powerful.  After all, there are some random inexplicable healings that can't be attributed to saints.  There are faith healers in a variety of religions who have some success.  Perhaps there is a natural explanation we don't yet know.

And as for people's religious impulses, the human mind is one of the most complex and mysterious things out there.  It contains religious impulses, altruistic impulses, violent impulses, sexual impulses, and so forth.  Religious people choose to call some of these good and some evil -- and it is true that some of them have positive effects and some negative ones.  That isn't necessarily proof that following some of these will send you to heaven and following others will send you to hell.  The human mind is weird enough that we seem to be capable of convincing ourselves of almost anything.  You can write off visions and revelations to the same source.

Here's the thing, though: I don't find this view of the world upsetting, or depressing, or any of the things it's supposed to be.  I think the world would still be beautiful.  Nature itself is an amazing, complex, beautiful thing, even without the supernatural.  True, a universe like this would not care about me in the slightest.  This as taken as a reason not to believe in it, but I think that's irrelevant -- we should believe in what's true, and not believe in what is false, even if the false point of view seems more attractive or comforting.

And Catholicism is actually not that comforting.  Being a good Catholic, as I mentioned before, is not going to give you wealth or comfort or even happiness in this life.  It's not going to guarantee that horrible tragedies won't happen to you.  Tragedies happen at roughly an equal rate to believers and non-believers.  In fact, as my mother used to say,

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella.
But mostly on the just because
The unjust stole the just's umbrella.

In other words, following a religion may prove disadvantageous in this life, because we have to follow an inconvenient moral code that the non-religious don't have to worry about.  The only rewards for following a religion are spiritual ones -- that is, they are undetectable until after you're dead.

It kind of frightens me that there are such weighty consequences for something that's so dang hard to detect in the first place.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seven quick takes


 Miriam is six weeks old now!  On Monday she was nine and a half pounds.  I guess I don't need to worry that I'm starving her.  She was baptized last Sunday -- unfortunately I got no pictures because at our parish they have all the parents and godparents circle around the font and as a result no one can see anything or take any good pictures.  Oh well.  She looks identical to the other two and wore the same gown, so we can just make duplicates of those.  ;)


The past couple of days we've all been walking around the block every day, checking out the fall colors and picking up leaves.  In the spring and fall, I think the best way to enjoy the changes is to take the same walk every day.  Then you don't miss a thing.  The painted maples especially have to be seen every day, because every day they're a different kind of beautiful.

But I've been promising I'd take them down to the river soon, and so today I made up my mind to go ahead and do it.  The weather report was for clouds and rain, but it said the rain wouldn't start till three.  Well, go figure, as soon as we set out the sky cleared and it was beautifully sunny the whole time, with a cool breeze.  Perfect October weather.

Walks are great for Miriam, because she reliably sleeps in the wrap even on a bad nap day (which seems to be most days these days).  Now I can't transfer her into bed when we get home without waking her -- in fact, it usually wakes her if I so much as sit down -- but today we walked a good long time and she got a whole nap in.

Every time we go down there, I wonder why I don't do it more.  I live three blocks from a famously beautiful river.  Sure, the hill on the way back is steep, but the kids are able to walk it all themselves, albeit with a bit of whining, so at least I don't have to push a stroller.

It was lovely.  The sky was blue, with white puffy clouds.  The trees were just beginning to get a scattering of yellow leaves, with splashes of red where the Virginia creeper twines up the trunks.  The water was clear and placid, and on the surface a speckling of leaves drifted slowly down.  I could have just sat and looked at it all day.

For awhile we stayed at the dock and boat launch area, where I sat on a bench and knitted, Miriam kicked around on a blanket, and the boys threw leaves in the water.  Then Miriam was tired, so after a good nurse I put her in the wrap and we all went walking down the path.  It's a beautiful walking path along the river, lined with sycamore trees and these twisty ones that hang over the water.  At one point there's a dog park, which was why the kids wanted to go that way.  Even when there are no dogs, they like to run around and pretend to be dogs.  Marko ran over to me and insisted I help him unscrew the top of the fake fire hydrant.  I said it doesn't unscrew.  He said .... "Then how do the dogs pee in it?"  Sigh ... if only dogs were that tidy.

I was excited to find that the path has been extended since I last walked it to the end ... there's a tunnel under the train tracks and it now goes all the way to Skyline, where there are hiking trails.  I really wanted to keep walking, but it was getting close to lunchtime, Michael refuses to pee anywhere other than at home, and I figured we'd better get back before we hit against the limit of time we can be out without meltdowns and disaster.


As we walked, no fewer than three people told me, "You've got your hands full!"  I just smiled and said, "Sure do!"  I don't think it's just because I have (egads!) three kids now, because people said it when I had two.  I think it's just the accepted way to acknowledge the presence of someone who has babies or toddlers.  Especially people who have been through that stage know it's kind of exhausting.

Having your hands full is more about the ages of your kids rather than how many, I suspect.  At least that seems to make more difference in my own level of overwhelmedness.  Right now it's Michael who's the issue .... or at least, the combination of him plus a baby.  He's too young to listen and obey just from me sitting in a chair yelling at him -- he needs me to jump up and actually make him follow through.  And if I've got a baby I can't.  Whereas Marko is very easy to explain the situation to: "I am trying to put her down for a nap, so if you are very quiet, in half an hour I will be able to do something with you."  He even responds to the less than perfect parenting maneuver of "stop taking all the books off the shelves or you'll be going to your room as soon as I can put this baby down."  And really 90% of the time he actually does fine with just, "Don't make a mess or noise right now."


But as it is, I feel like all I do is hold the baby trying to get her to nap, and as a result ignore a lot of behavior I'd rather curtail, like taking all the books off the shelves, emptying the blanket cabinet all over everywhere, or playing with the canned food from the kitchen.  I know that if I tell them to stop, I have to follow up and actually make them stop, which usually involves getting up, which almost always wakes the baby.  And then if I finally do get her down, I am lucky to clean up the most obvious and irritating part of the mess before she wakes up again.  She is, like Michael, one of those babies who goes down nice and easy and then wakes up twenty minutes later, not really rested.  Marko did it too, but I would just rock him back to sleep right away and he'd sleep another hour or two.  Only first children get to have that kind of treatment!

So, yeah, I have my hands full.  I love each kid individually, but the combined mass of them is exhausting.


I finished the Vorkosigan Saga, which is a great tragedy.  Not the Saga--my finishing it.  Because when you finish something, there isn't any more.  And after that excellent series, I don't wanna read anything else.  There are no end of classics available online, but the thing about classics is they are a bit denser and harder to read than modern fiction, and I am too tired and distracted to focus on that kind of thing.  There are free copies of many books I would like to read online, but I am relatively certain they're pirated, so I'd better not.  I could go to the library--and I do intend to as soon as I get a chance, whenever that might be--but the trouble with dead-tree books (which I otherwise VASTLY prefer over digital) is they take a bit more effort to read while nursing than a laptop does.  I can turn pages with just one finger on the computer.  And anyway nothing other than the Vorkosigan Saga has those awesome characters and story arcs and mystery!  Sigh ... I went and got emotionally attached to the people in those books, and now I'm all lonely for them.

Can you think of anything to read that fits my criteria .... free, easy to read while nursing, light (both easy to read and not tragic), intriguing, preferably scifi or fantasy?  Recommend it please!


The reason I have to have something to read is because my imagination gets bored if I don't.  I need something to think about while I'm doing dishes or nursing at 3 a.m., and there is nothing in my life that is all that interesting right now.  So at present I am working on my next novel.  Of course it's not at all a good time for that, because I have so little free time, but at least I can brainstorm for it.  I know it's working, because I dreamed about it the other night.  I like having interesting dreams based on what I've read, written, or watched lately.

There's also Dr. Who, of course.  I watched the famous Weeping Angel episode (Blink) last night, while John was on a panel for the Chamber of Commerce.  (I think I got the better end of that deal, don't you?)  One of those really fascinating episodes that leaves you puzzling over it after, trying to figure out how all the tiimelines fit together.

And then I dreamed about that last night.  I dreamed I was in a support group for the Doctor's ex-companions.  Half the attendees had babies.  One was telling about how much she missed time travel, and broke down sobbing .... which was super awkward for the Doctor, who was there.  Maybe even more awkward for the current companion, who was also there.


Girls' clothes.  I planned to dress Miriam in the same stuff the other two wore, because I don't see any reason why girls can't wear clothes with puppies and baseballs on them, but of course all the relatives have pitched in and Miriam has a respectable quantity of real girls' clothes.  Mostly very cute stuff; people know I don't like pink so there's a lot of teal, purple, yellow, and so forth. 

But there's a problem.  Boys' clothes are so easy to match -- the pants are almost always neutral so you can put any shirt with any pants.  Girls' clothes?  Ha!  She owns three pairs of newborn pants and they are all purple.  So I can't just throw the boys' old shirts with them -- I have to actually match stuff.  This gets even hairier when considering her brown-and-green socks and blue-and-green diaper cover that I knit for her .... they just don't match well with girls' clothes!  I have also discovered that I don't like pants on babies anyway, because it's a pain in the tookus to take them off and put them back on, 20 times a day, to change diapers.  I think I will keep her in dresses all the time, with her long socks on under.  But none of her dresses have long sleeves.  So far I'm just putting her in the sweater Tiffany made her every single cold day, but I'm thinking I'm going to sew her a couple of long-sleeved dresses.  Can't be that hard, can it?

I'm beginning to think our forebears had it right when they dressed both boys and girls in long white nightgowns.  One color, one size.  Hem them up when the baby starts to walk.  Put them in pants when they're done with potty training.  Clever.

How's your week been?

Friday, September 26, 2014

7qt - a month and change


It's been a really exhausting week.  Seems like every other day, or sometimes (ugh) even multiple days in a row, Miriam forgets everything she knew about naps and won't go down for more than 20 minutes or so.  I troubleshoot: maybe I didn't rock her for long enough?  Maybe she needs a blanket?  Maybe I should keep her awake longer before letting her fall asleep?  Did she burp before she went down?  Etc.  But it's rather difficult to figure out when I'm in so little control of everything.  One day I snuck out of bed while she was still sleeping to take care of the boys when they got up in the morning, and she woke up right away -- is that what threw her off the rest of the day?  Or is it that Marko and Michael got in a fight and started screeching at just exactly the wrong moment?  Who the heck knows.


I do know, though, that everything that makes my day good or bad hinges on Miriam's naps.  If she takes them, everything is wonderful.  I do my chores, I pay attention to the boys, I do a spot of knitting or reading, I make dinner, I tidy up by evening.  All is peaceful.  If not, I spend my whole day nursing her, holding her because she's too crabby to spend any awake-and-happy time on the floor or in her bouncer, holding her as she sleeps lightly with the hope that it will transition to deep sleep eventually (which it never does), breaking up fights with one hand -- fights that of course broke out just as she was dozing off in my arms.  The kids act up because they know I'm going to ignore a lot of stuff because I don't want to get up and disturb the baby.  And, of course, because they want attention.  They make tremendous messes, which I trip over while heading to the bedroom to put the baby down.  Dishes pile in the sink.  The mess makes me angry, and then I yell at the kids for some little thing, and then they act twice as bad because now they're mad at me.

I just really, really, desperately NEED some time when no one is touching me.  And these kids .... they do not always deliver.  Michael is probably the worst, because he is too young to obey without me physically making him half the time, and too enormous to be easy to manage.  Even with both hands, picking him up when he doesn't want to be up is quite a challenge.  Dragging him off his brother with one arm is a sub-optimal situation, to say the least.  It makes him angry, it makes me angry.


But on the bright side, both boys have just been in fabulous moods since Sunday.  I don't know what happened.  On Saturday they were whining all day long ... on Sunday they played independently and without fighting most of the day!  I guess they finally both got good nights' sleeps and neither one had a cold for the first time in forever.  I had forgotten just how destructive these two kids can be when they put their heads together and don't get derailed with squabbling.  They are having a wonderful time and being so creative, but it's so hard for me not to screech when I turn around and all the laundry is being used as a snowstorm, or the couch cushions are a giant sandwich.  Right now they are playing librarian, aka taking all the books off the bookshelf and stacking them up.


Check out those thigh-high baby socks above.  I totally made those.  Yeah, ridiculously proud of myself.  I thought socks were going to be difficult, but this tutorial helped a lot and I didn't find them hard at all.  The yarn is handspun Rambouillet wool (nice and soft) dyed with coffee, black walnuts, and green food coloring, mixed with a bit of natural brown llama.  Really it was leftovers from the sock yarn that I put so much work into before Miriam was born, but I added some white wool to make sure I would get enough for socks.  And then I ended up with about twice what I needed, so now I'm making a hat to match.

Good golly, look at this cheesy grin:


Marko usually isn't that interested in Miriam, but this one time he came over and started being all sweet to her.  Made me so happy to see.


I found a site that has all the Vorkosigan Saga books -- right here.  Opinions vary on the correct order to read them.  I started with Shards of Honor this go-around, and am up to Diplomatic Immunity -- aka, almost finished with them all.  That will be a sad day.  I'm trying to make them last.

I love Bujold's characters.  She explained in an essay of hers that her secret to making good plots in character-driven action novels is to ask the question, "What is the worst thing I can possibly do to this character?"  And then she does it.  That explains why these books wring me out so much.  I was reduced to tears by something truly awful that happens in Memory.

I have mixed feelings about this approach -- I don't actually like crying over books.  But on the other hand, it's facing those "worst things" that makes her characters grow, and makes me care so dang much about them.

As for moral issues, I'm very pleased with the way she and her characters wrestle with bioethical dilemmas and the way she always comes down solidly on the side of "treat people like people."  It's too easy to turn people into commodities in a world where you can design your own clone, but the "good guys" always seem to come down on the right side of things ... even when those decisions cost them.  I don't like books that preach at me, or characters that are always perfect, but I don't like having my heroes do things I find morally despicable with no repentance either.  And she seems to play it just right.

Anyway I definitely recommend these books, either in print or digital.  Since the digital versions were released with the author and publisher's permission, I don't feel bad just downloading them all.  (And I could never afford to buy all of them in print -- there are a lot of them!)

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

7qt: three weeks old


I have to say this now, since I worried so much before:

This totally doesn't suck.

Miriam?  She actually sleeps!  Like, for long stretches!  And now I can put her down!  She does have to be held for a good 20 minutes after she's shut her eyes to make it work, but the bright side is she doesn't care much what I'm doing for that time period.  I can walk around.  The boys can screech.  Unlike either of them, she's not particular.

I don't actually let her sleep on the couch; that would be unsafe

So, just by rearranging chore time and rest time, I can fit in all the really essential chores during her nap, and then do all my internet goofing around and other fun stuff while I'm holding and nursing her.  The only thing that's tough is getting the house tidy in the evening, because if I have it perfect by, say, 5:30, it doesn't matter because from 5:30 to 6 the boys will trash the whole place.  Miriam gets a bit demanding at that time of day, but it's frustrating for me because I like a clean house when John gets home.

Miriam's bedtime still floats around a bit, between 7 and 9 pm, but I do somehow manage to get all three kids to bed without any major crises on those nights John is out, which is really amazing to me.  It was much harder with Michael, because Marko's bedtime was so involved and Michael just couldn't be put down.  I remember one time I finally got Marko to bed at 11 pm and then just had to go to bed with my jeans on because if I put Michael down for a second to change, he would scream and wake Marko.  It was the worst.  I am so relieved things are going better this time.


If I had to pick, I'd say she's more like Marko, except she eats great.  Not constantly like Michael -- but she doesn't resist it either.  She latched on maybe ten minutes after birth, and after a day or so of working on her shallow latch, she figured it out and I have had no pain.  I've had plenty of milk, but I've been careful about having her finish one side before switching, so I don't have an oversupply either.

They are still pretty ambivalent about her in real life

But she's like Marko in her easygoingness .... which is funny because he's not easygoing now, but as a baby he really was.  Long naps, efficient nursing, no spitting up, not fussy, loved being in his bouncy chair.  And Miriam's the same.  She doesn't even cry -- more gives a short squawk and then waits for us to pick her up.


Speaking of nursing, I was terrified Michael was going to take to tandem nursing by demanding to nurse every time Miriam did.  And so I've been really careful about setting limits, saying no sometimes, and really only saying yes when I actually wanted to nurse him for one reason or another.  As a result, he's been nursing once a day, tops, and gone many days without it.  I think we may be close to weaning .... I'm not sure, because I have the feeling that if I just let him nurse whenever he wanted he'd soon be nursing constantly.  Who knows.  But for now he doesn't really cry over being told no, and I'm happy about that.


The awful moments are when I'm rocking Miriam, she's almost asleep, and then Marko and Michael both grab the same toy and start shrieking.  That doesn't even necessarily wake her, but then I have to leap up and rush over to split them up and that wakes her.  Drives me nuts.  But that doesn't happen all that often, because with her taking actual naps, I have plenty of time to spent with each kid and that really cuts down on the rivalry.  People say "it's okay that babies need to be held 24/7, because you can just put them in a wrap and do what you normally would!"  Well, the one thing you can't do while holding a baby is give exclusive lap time to your other kids.  They don't feel it counts.  And then they sit on the baby.  So no.  "Down naps" for the baby are just essential and I am very happy she takes them.  I also find that my mood on any given day goes up and down with how much Miriam has been out of my arms.  I feel so much more human if I'm not holding her all the time.


However, you know what makes long nursing and holding sessions more fun?  Good reading material.  I was feeling rather frustrated with it all, and then I found that Lois McMaster Bujold released the digital text of her Vorkosigan Saga for free!  It's not all available online in one place, but so far I've found sources for all the books I've searched for.  I really enjoy her work.

If the big kids are elsewhere -- for instance, when John works late and I've put them to bed -- then I can nurse while watching Dr. Who, which is even better.  (Not far in, so don't spoil it for me, please.)  I love the cheesiness, but I kind of hate the constant switcheroo of characters and actors.  I get very attached to people.  So far I seem to be annoying all the "real" Whovians by liking all the wrong people.  Oh well.


Another thing that's hard to do while holding a baby is knit, so I thought it would be ages before I could do any.  But nope, I managed to finish a diaper cover and now I'm working on some baby leggings.

But as anything much more complicated than that is beyond me, it's a good thing that Tiffany knitted this sweater and hat for Miriam.  Aren't they the cutest?


It can be hard to interact with a newborn.  They don't exactly make eye contact, because their eyes get crossed, and they don't smile, and they don't play with you.  But I just love holding Miriam, looking into her little face, and watching her flail around.  She seems so alert and aware already, and she makes so many faces.

Yeah, this is actually pretty cool.

Linked up at Conversion Diary.
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