Monday, July 28, 2014

Pro-life without exception

All faithful Catholics are supposed to be pro-life.  That is, we are supposed to follow the commandment "You shall not kill."  There are exceptions made for self-defense, including just war and the death penalty, but there is no exception whatsoever for killing the innocent.  It's very simple.  You just don't kill innocent people ever, for any reason.  Would you kill a single innocent person to save the lives of every single other person on earth?

I wouldn't, because that would be an evil thing to do.

Of course this sets Catholics up for a lot of conflict with the rest of the world.  Where abortion is concerned, our refusal to make exceptions maddens everyone else.  What if the life of the mother is in danger?  What if the baby wouldn't live anyway?  What if it's only one cell big?  What if its father was a rapist?

And we repeat, like a broken record, "No.  You must not kill the innocent for any reason whatsoever."

However, abortion isn't the only pro-life issue out there.

When innocent people are killed in the course of war, that is also a grave moral evil.  It's bad enough when a non-combatant stumbles into a battlefield and gets killed, completely unforeseeably.  That's a tragedy, and should make us rethink the supposed necessity of warfare, but it can't always be helped.  However, when it can be foreseen that civilians are going to be in a place, and someone makes the choice to attack that place anyway, that's something more than an accident.  It's a disregard for human life that is, to my mind, comparable to using a birth control method that you know to be abortifacient, or driving drunk.  You don't mean to kill someone, but you choose to leave yourself open to the possibility of killing them.

I've been calling out Israel a lot lately for doing this very thing.  If five civilians had died in their attacks, I would call it an accident.  When they have killed over a thousand people and eighty percent of them are non-combatants -- many of them children -- it would be ridiculous to call it an accident.  They have decided it is an acceptable level of collateral damage.  "Collateral damage," like "pregnancy termination," is a word that is used to paper over the fact that you are committing murder.  You have decided that your own goals, whatever they are, are worth more than another person's entire life.

None of this is intended to excuse Hamas.  Since its rockets have hardly managed to hit anything at all, they aren't murderers on the same scale, but it seems their intentions are the same.  I am not attempting to take sides in this dispute; it's enormously complex and at this point there is no solution that would come close to pleasing everyone.  I doubt there will be found any compromise that the sides will both accept.  I find this frustrating and depressing.  My point is simply that it doesn't matter whether your cause is right or wrong -- if you choose to target non-combatants, you are committing murder and should expect no support from civilized people.

The trouble is, they are receiving support from civilized people.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:

We have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.

Many people consider having to pay for someone's birth control is cooperation with evil.  I don't think so, because if we merely follow the law, we are not participating voluntarily; and paying an insurance premium is hardly direct either.  We don't approve in any way of their using it; we prefer they didn't and we may tell them so.  It just happens to be on the list of things their insurance will cover, and so they might -- without our knowledge and consent -- use it.

But you know what is cooperation with evil?  Defending and approving the actions of any country -- including our own -- when they target innocents.  Saying, "They have no choice" (We always have a choice.  Death before sin.) or "Well, perhaps that will make the population stop supporting the enemy"  (Targeting civilians in order to frighten them into acceding to our demands is called terrorism.).  Petitioning Congress, or supporting a certain candidate, because you know they will send money for Israel's weapons.  That is, in my opinion, no less "cafeteria Catholicism" and a violation of the fifth commandment than supporting politicians who favor and fund abortion.

So it just boggles my mind, boggles it all to pieces, that Catholics support this stuff.  Do you like Israel and consider it an ally?  Then you should all the more call them out when they do wrong, just as you should when your own country does it.  I have clearly stated many times that it was morally wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to blitz Dresden, to steal land from Native Americans, to drone civilian areas in the Middle East.  And so it says nothing about my support or disapproval of the nation of Israel that I also condemn its behavior.

(Though, for the record, one should be able to criticize the nation of Israel without being called anti-semitic.  Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews.)

Another slightly less grave issue, but one that I also consider part and parcel of being a good Catholic, is immigration.  I find it odd to hear slogans like "How could there be too many children?  That would be like having too many flowers," and "We always have room for one more!" when it comes to having more babies of our own, but when it's someone else's children that are already born, some people are eager to slam the door.  I don't understand it.  Children are children; welcoming them and caring for them is what Catholics do.

Now the disaster of having so many come in all at once is difficult to deal with, and it'll take some doing to handle it.  But we're going to have to find a way.  Ask any Catholic what the sins that cry out to heaven are.  They'll tell you (if they've heard of this concept), "Sodomy, uh ... murder .... um ..... "  But somehow no one ever remembers that failing to care for foreigners, widows, and orphans is also on the list.  (So is failing to pay a just wage -- go figure.)  Why these sins, and not others?  Because these sins can't be avenged on this earth; they are committed against the weak and vulnerable who can't punish you.  Maybe that's why they seems so easy to do.  It's easy to scream at a busload of Hispanic children to go back where they came from.  They can't do anything to you.  That's why it's a cowardly and despicable thing to do.

It does seem that most Catholics understand this, because I haven't heard as much anti-immigration shrieking in my Catholic circles as I used to.  The bishops certainly are on my side with this.  My personal belief is that broader legal immigration will solve a heck of a lot of problems, including the oppression of farm workers, outsourcing of jobs overseas (you can't have free trade and a closed border and not have that happen), and perhaps even our slow economy.  People, after all, are what fuel the economy.  Let people come in with their whole families and they'll spend their money here instead of sending it home.  Anyway, as a libertarian, I can't see that government has a right to restrict who can apply for a job or rent an apartment here simply to protect current residents from competition.  The job of government is just to check everyone over and make sure they're not dangerous criminals.  If they're not, let 'em in, I say.  We could use more hard workers.  There's a good discussion of Catholic political teaching and immigration here -- the entire series is worth reading.

But even if you disagree with me on that, you should agree at least that people ought to be treated like people; that young children are, by definition, innocent and not to be mistreated; that we have a responsibility to the weakest in society; and so forth.  And so it seems clear enough to me that sending these kids right back to the violence and chaos they are escaping would be wrong.

Some people would say this whole post is proof that I am a liberal.  And you know what?  I don't care.  A faithful Catholic, if they really take the Church's teaching seriously, is not going to fit into a political party or an ideological camp.  We are no one's side, because no one is exactly on our side.

When it comes to how to vote or who to support, we are bound to feel conflicted and end up compromising one way or another in the hopes of getting at least something.  But on actual issues, don't be deceived: you can't slavishly stick to a party line and also cleave faithfully to the Church's teaching.  You're going to have to offend pretty much everyone once in awhile.  That's what abiding to an unshakeable moral code is all about.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The obligatory NFP post

So, it's NFP Awareness Week, apparently.  The internet is plastered with memes and posts and stuff.  My favorite response was Simcha Fisher's, which is that when you're using NFP, the one thing you'd like is to be a little less aware of it.  (She's also having a big giveaway on her blog to promote her book, so if you're interested in free stuff, you might want to mosey on down there.  I wasn't interested in any of the prizes, but if you use NFP you probably will be.)

Anyway, I can hardly be a Catholic blogger and not blog about NFP this week .... but the thing is, I appear to be the only married Catholic I know who doesn't use it!

Before you gasp with horror, let me point out that this doesn't mean I use birth control.  That's an odd sort of dichotomy.  I don't use birth control.  It's just that in five years of marriage, we've never had cause to use anything, so we haven't.  So our kids are "not exactly planned" -- we just kind of let it happen, and that's been fine so far.  Breastfeeding has worked well to space them out.

This doesn't mean I'm opposed to NFP, because I'm not.  I can think of no end of very good reasons why people use it, like to recover after a c-section (a third of us get one, you know!) or to fix hormonal or emotional issues (if you have severe PPD, you might want to get that under control) or just because breastfeeding doesn't work to space their babies like it does for me.  I honestly believe that having a baby every year is very hard on your body, and that our bodies weren't meant to undergo that.  That's why breastfeeding works as birth control -- it's our bodies' natural way of making sure we don't get pregnant that often!  And if it doesn't work, either because we can't breastfeed or because we're one of those people (and it's hard to tell ahead of time!) whom breastfeeding doesn't work as birth control for, NFP can be a corrective.

At the same time, I don't buy a whole lot of the advertising.  Does NFP really reduce your risk of divorce?  Who knows!  The statistic you find of "only 2% of NFP-using couples get divorced!" isn't substantiated anywhere I can see.  And even if it is true, there's no control group of those of us who just have babies.  Maybe we're too buried under babies to even consider getting divorced!

For some couples, NFP helps their communication.  For others, it's just one more thing to fight over.  For some, it's a joyful honeymoon every month.  For others, it's a miserable slog.  I can really see why you would use it for a good reason.  I don't see at all why you would do it just for kicks, for all the "fringe benefits."  And for those who say "oh but you can use it to get pregnant too!" I would say, why go through all that trouble of charting and fussing around with the numbers when (if you are a normal couple of normal fertility) you will get pregnant sooner or later anyway?

The reason Catholics use NFP isn't because it's fun or wonderful or an enriching spiritual practice.  We use it because we can't use birth control, and in a world where kids aren't free labor, but rather an expense; and where almost all of our kids will make it to adulthood so we're not hedging our bets against infant mortality; and where we now realize that maternal mortality can be avoided in most cases -- well, sometimes it does make a lot of sense to avoid having kids for awhile.

I'm not tempted to use birth control.  The aesthetic does not appeal to me.  I don't want to take medications long-term, especially ones that will screw with my hormones.  I don't want to feel like I have to be medicated out of health to function normally.  Thinking about IUD's makes me want to pass out.  Condoms are just kinda squicky to me.  The only way that really makes sense to me to avoid having babies is to not have sex, either at all or periodically.  And luckily, lack of sex isn't deadly.  We all practice abstinence at least sometimes, for one reason or another, and though it's sometimes difficult, it's not the end of the world.

But I'm not going to hand down a lecture about how all babies should be wanted (in the sense of, one should always want a baby) because the fact is, I understand.  A family has no limit on the love it can provide, but it does have a limit on the beds it can squeeze in.  There is a limit on how much sleep deprivation you can undergo before you become a less patient mother.  There is a limit on how close together you can have babies and still breastfeed them all.  Sometimes to care adequately for the babies you have, you have to take a break from having more babies.  This doesn't mean you don't value life, it means you know how to be prudent too.  For everyone, this moment comes at a different time.  Some people bravely have babies in circumstances that look scary to others, and it turns out okay for them.  Others don't feel called to do this, and I'm hardly going to hand down my opinion when I haven't walked in their shoes.

I don't care if you use NFP or not, and I am not going to ask if you meant to have only two kids or if you've had ten miscarriages and desperately prayed for more living children.  I understand that I am not going to be able to tell by looking at your family how "open to life" you are.  I also understand that your blase "oh, we are so done" might possibly cover up a story you don't want to tell me -- like "my life is in danger if I get pregnant again" or "my husband and I are having severe marriage problems."  So you are not going to get any judgment from me.  Having ten kids is not proof of being a better Catholic.

And for those who use birth control, or believe in it -- all I can say is, the life we have works very well for us.  Yes, not using all the pills and gadgets the rest of the world uses does make life more difficult for Catholics.  I'd be lying if I pretended that weren't so.  Abstaining is more difficult than not abstaining, and having ten kids is more difficult than having two.

But I can speak to the joy that I had at 15 when I finally had a baby brother of my very own.  My parents were "too old" to start over, in the eyes of many, but all I can feel is gratitude that they were open to one more.  (Which turned into four more, lol.)  I can speak to the joy that Marko brings to our life every day, even though by every sensible measure we should never have conceived him -- we lived in a studio apartment at the time and neither of us was working!  Being part of a subculture where marriage comes first, then sex, then (inevitably) babies, means a lot of different things.  There's some dysfunction here and there, but I also hear a lot of envy from people outside it -- girls who wish they could have found a guy to date who respected them enough to wait for sex till after marriage, for instance.  Or women who want to have babies but their husbands refuse.  Or women whose husbands insist they stay on birth control but refuse to do any of the work.  Or women whose IUD or implant made them severely ill. 

I hear the stories on all sides; that's kind of how the internet is if you don't hide in your own subculture.  I hear women say they are pregnant for the fifth time in five years and they were using NFP but messed up some detail and now what are they going to do.  And a part of me says, "This is nuts, how can we be okay with this?"  But then I click to another forum where a woman says "I am pregnant again and so happy because I really wanted another, but my husband will leave me if I don't have an abortion."  And I think .... there's no solution here.  There's no solution anywhere.  Being a woman is hard.  Having babies is hard.  Our hearts are going to hurt, we're going to feel like we're not enough.

Really, I'm lucky, because I haven't had anything too terrible happen to me.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  But overall I think my life is about right.  I have beautiful babies -- I'm about to have another beautiful baby -- and as much as it terrifies me to think of the pain of labor and the sleepless nights and how much less I will have to give my other kids for awhile .... I know once I see that baby, I'll think it was worth it.

And at the same time, that doesn't mean at all I'm going to be in a rush for number four.  Maybe next time we'll wait longer.  We know how.  The choice is ours, and although there is no way to make that choice without a sacrifice somewhere, I do feel free in the knowledge that we have it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven quick takes


1

It bothers me that I haven't been writing any real posts in awhile.  I have a lot I want to write about: why I don't think "tough" sermons are so great, ways sexism hurts men, how favors among neighbors are the cure for commercialism, and why for me "buy nothing" is always the goal.  But when do I have time to write this stuff?  Apparently, at 3 a.m., because that's when the ideas come to me. 

Why am I awake then?  Can't blame Michael, he's been okay.  Nah, it's just third-trimester insomnia, which of course is one of the chief causes of third-trimester exhaustion, unproductiveness, and crabbiness.  Sigh. 

Last night was pretty good.  I went to bed at 10, was almost asleep at 10:15 when I heard a cry.  It was Marko, who was too hot.  I took his blanket off and went back to bed, but then I couldn't sleep till almost 11.  Then I slept solid for six good hours (hooray!) before Michael woke up at five.  It's always iffy to get him back to sleep at that point, so I just lay with him in his bed till almost seven.  But I didn't sleep very well, because I was crammed into a toddler bed and because Marko barged into our room at six demanding breakfast.  (John got up with him so at least I didn't have to move and risk waking Michael.)

So, yeah, that's what we call a good night.  I feel pretty alive today -- haven't yelled at the kids, did the dishes before breakfast, mowed the lawn before lunch, and am now sore enough that I'm questioning when and how I'm going to get the sweeping done.  But the floor is just unacceptable, so I'll have to find a way.

2

My latest pregnancy whine is my abs.  Like pretty much every woman with a couple kids, I have a mild diastasis of the rectus abdominus ... that is, my abs are a bit separated in the middle.  I tried very hard to fix this with exercise after Michael was born, but no one really knows what sort of exercise helps (not crunches, is all I know for sure) and the pressure of a big ol' baby in there is pushing them apart again.

This is bad for a lot of reasons, firstly that it hurts, secondly that it fails to stabilize my wobbly pelvis and back so that those issues flare up again, thirdly that it lets baby move too freely and puts me at risk for breech birth, and fourthly that it puts me at risk for a hernia.  Delightful.

So I asked my midwife yesterday what the cure is, and she said that she too has separated abs -- and it's been a decade since she's had any kids!  Ugh.  I always believed that having babies doesn't destroy a woman's body; it's what we were designed to do, and if we take care of ourselves we should stay healthy before, during, and after childbearing.  But when I look around, every mother I know has at least one major or minor complaint -- weak pelvic floor, mild incontinence, thyroid or other hormonal issues, and so forth.  What the heck are we doing wrong?

Anyway, the midwife did suggest binding my abdomen with a belly band or wrap of some kind, just to stabilize the poor weak stretched-out muscles so they don't get any worse.  So I'm trying to figure out what I might have around that would do the job without being unbearably hot.

3

In GOOD news, the garden is at its most wonderful.  I just picked the first big tomatoes.  The Cherokee Purples win the race against the Pineapple, which makes me happy since the Purples are my own starts and the Pineapples were purchased at the farmers' market.  But really they got ripe at almost the same time, despite the Purples looking much spindlier at first.  I'm also harvesting cucumbers, green beans, chard still, broccoli, cabbage, and herbs.  The sugar snap peas aren't even dead, but they've pretty much petered out -- I get maybe one pod a week.

My neighbor just gave me a massive zucchini and some yellow squash.  I know what to do with the zucchini (shred it and freeze it in two-cup portions for my zucchini bread) but the yellow squash, I'm not sure.  I'm not a summer squash fan really, but on the other hand, free food, amiright?  So this morning I sauteed one of them with onions, added some black beans and salsa and cilantro, and then scrambled a couple of eggs in there.  Pretty tasty!  Michael thought so too, but Marko didn't eat any.  Maybe I should try frying them next; Marko likes most breaded and fried stuff (well, who doesn't?).

4

My most exciting news, I'm not supposed to share, for reasons which regular readers will readily understand.  Let's just say, you remember how I have had a deep and abiding longing for pet birds?  Well, I got the kind of pet birds I wanted, three of them, 16 weeks old.  They live in a dwelling that John built (it's really very impressive, how can he be good at carpentry on top of everything else?) and happily roam around the yard eating bugs and seeds and stuff.  They don't come running when I feed them, and in fact show very little interest in their food, because they are getting so much in my 1/4 acre near-jungle of a backyard.  I suppose winter will be different, but so far I am happy to be saving feed!

From henceforth they are "parakeets" and we're all going to keep this hush-hush, right?

5

I have somehow let myself get drawn into a heck of a lot of debates on Patheos lately.  Simcha Fisher's blog, in particular, is a favorite of mine, but it turns out that thanks to her "Issues Guy" who haunts her blog and disagrees with everything she says, if I comment there at all, I wind up in a fight.  He called me a lying shrew because I said I originally intended to obey my husband and later decided not to.  And said that if my husband thinks he's happy, it's only because he's too beaten down by me.

That made me very upset for about 24 hours.  I have a pretty thick skin about internet criticism (or I wouldn't do this stuff!) but it does play on my interior doubts that I could possibly be a good wife while doing things so differently from the way I was raised with, or the way dictated by a lot of Catholics.

And then I remembered that I do, in fact, submit to my husband all the time.  He thinks we should buy a new car?  Well, he knows more about cars and our finances than I do, so ... yeah, I asked some questions and then said, "Go for it."  I didn't need to see the car first.  I trust him.  He doesn't want to go to this Mass, but this other Mass?  If it's important to him, I think he should make the call.

The difference is that I don't think I am obligated in conscience to obey him.  When I know in my heart of hearts that I'm right, I don't think I'm a sinner if I stick to my guns.  And likewise, my husband is aware that the Bible never gives him the right to order me around, and so he doesn't.  He submits to me all the time too.  We're happy with it.  We don't see marriage as a competition about who's the boss -- we see it as an opportunity to become holier by serving each other.

And then I remembered that of course Issues Guy knows nothing about this, because he's never seen me, my husband, or our marriage in action.  Duh.  He's just talking based on what he thinks evil feminists are like.  So ..... can't let it get to me, you know?

6

34 weeks is supposed to be nesting time, right?  Well, for me it's procrastination time.  I think a part of my subconscious thinks that if I don't order the birth kit and gather labor supplies, I never have to go into labor.  Whereas even doing the slightest birth-related thing makes me think about being in labor, and I can't stand that thought.  I'm trying to pretend it's never going to happen to me.  The midwife says denial is okay; after all, it's not like it actually works!  Ready or not, I'm going to give birth one way or another.

That sucks.  The pendulum has swung back to "being pregnant isn't so bad" and I'm digging in my heels.  I have maybe a month left, but I want to get every week out of this pregnancy I can.  I am not going to be one of those women eating pineapple and going for long walks to force my body into labor -- I'm going to be drinking wine in the bathtub up to the very last minute to try to get those contractions to stop.  Because labor is scary and I remember it very well.  Also, I remember how little newborns sleep.

7

I did at least force myself to get the newborn clothes down from the attic.  I figured the kids would like to see just how tiny their new brother or sister is going to be.  They were very excited.  Really they are excited about every detail of babies right now -- though Michael is a little confused sometimes.  He says things like "the baby will drive the new car" or "I will bite the baby and the baby will cry and then I will hug the baby and kiss the baby and the baby will feel better!"  And I get a wee bit worried.

Anyway, after I did that I felt anxious because almost all the baby clothes are footie pajamas and on the one hand, it's going to be August, and on the other, I plan to be doing elimination communication from day one, and I can only imagine the trouble of snapping and unsnapping jammies every twenty minutes or so so that baby can use the potty.  So I took an old t-shirt of John's out of the rag box and made a baby nightgown, just by sewing up the sides and trimming down the sleeves.  I figure I can crank out a few more of those with no trouble, if I can summon the energy.  It's a sitting-down job, anyway.

Aaaaand .... I think that's it for the week.  Kinda late to link up to Conversion Diary, but I will.

Friday, July 4, 2014

7qt

1

Well, we're well into third trimester.  I'm reminded now that it isn't just first trimester that sucks.  It goes like this:

First trimester: Ugh, why did I have to get pregnant?
Second trimester: Hey, it's not so bad being pregnant.
Third trimester: I am so done being pregnant!

Funny how I started off with this terrified of having another baby, and now I'm like, bring on the baby!  Beats being pregnant!

I had a few days where I was having braxton-hicks contractions pretty much every time I stood up, despite all the magnesium I'm taking, on top of my pelvis getting totally screwed up all of a sudden.  I walked to the park on Tuesday and felt like I'd just finished a marathon .... that would be three blocks, at a snail's pace.  Of course the heat didn't help (it was 90) but my main thought was, "Oh woe, no more park till the baby is born!"  Because I was so afraid I'd put myself into labor just walking out there.

Well, for whatever reason that's all settled down (better hydration?  truly excessive amounts of magnesium lotion smeared on my belly?) and I don't think I'm going to give up the park just yet.  I'll play each week by ear.  Right now I'm almost 33 weeks.  I am thinking of it as "five weeks more" because Michael was born at 38 and Marko at almost 39, but of course it could well be another two months.  And you know, I'll survive if it is.  I'm not going to say no to more time with only two kids.

2

With discomfort, for me at least, comes massive amounts of whining.  It does make me feel better to complain -- the years that boarding school had me never complaining just led to me feeling miserable AND lonely -- and it wins me all kinds of sympathy from friends and family.  But on the other hand, I'm beginning to feel like the world's biggest whiner, and I am tired of it.  I feel like I'm bringing everyone down.  Everyone's happy to be sympathetic for a day or two, but if you whine every day for a month, they're going to get tired of it.  I especially feel bad for John, who is entitled every once in awhile to have a bad day himself and could perhaps use not to hear a list of complaints every single day.

So I'm trying to strike a balance.  Now that my back is better, my uterus has calmed down, and the kids had a good day today, I don't even feel the need to whine.  But I still reserve the right to whine as necessary.  If I never complain, I just end up crabby and no one knows why because I didn't tell them any of the reasons.

3

Marko seems to have hit his stride as a four-year-old.  Instead of the constant battles of the will we had when he was three, and for a month or two after, he's turned to constant questions.  Some of those questions are obviously just to make sure I am paying attention to him ("What are you doing, Mama?  Are you washing dishes?  Did you wash that dish already?  Are you going to wash that dish next?") but others are rather genius ("Why is the sun hot?  How does matter turn into energy?  What's gravity?  Are spiders mammals?").  And I just can't help trying to answer them all, even though I know there is no end to all of them, because I like to help him learn.

And because if I say "I'm so tired of all your incessant questions!" he'll only answer, "Why are you tired of questions?  What does incessant mean?"  He will repeat the same question over and over till he gets an answer.  I try to fight it sometimes, if only to prove to him I don't have to answer, but really, it's a losing battle.

In Chesterton's words, he will ask all the questions there are, and some there aren't.

He's finally interested in getting older and learning new things, instead of melting down crying at the thought of someday being older than he is.  (It helped that I told him that even if his hair turns brown when he gets older, like Daddy's did, he can always dye it back to blond if he wants to.  For some reason this was very important to him.)  He says he's going to have a real tractor when he grows up, as well as a house and twin boys who own remote control cars and are going to share with him.

And he's stopped insisting he can't read and never wants to learn, and now tells me that he can so read.  Which he pretty much can, if by "read" you mean flip through the book and tell you what's going on on every page, as well as recite the words, often enough.  Michael loves getting "read" to, and Marko enjoys going through a book even when I'm not willing to read to him.  (Either one of them would have me read to them all day, given the choice.)  Marko is also interested in the idea that letters make sounds, and he can spend fifteen minutes asking, "What sound does T make?  What sound does P make?  What sound does L make?  What word does TPLWR spell?"  (Then he'll answer himself, "It spells Constantinople.")  He doesn't recognize the shapes of all his letters, but he knows some, and we have fun with letter magnets and letter puzzle pieces, building words.  I'm following his interest with this -- he's only four and there's no rush, but if he wants to learn about letters, I'll set aside what I'm doing and do letters with him.

(Which goes to show that unschooling, even though it's child-led, is hardly free of the parent's influence.  When I say no to playing cars and yes to playing letters, I am sending a message about what things are important enough to get Mama's attention.)

He still can't write at all or draw very well at all, but this may be partly my fault .... I don't often let them color because it takes only seconds of my inattention for them to write on the walls.  I really should try to give him more chances, though.  I've noticed boys often have poor hand-eye coordination early on and thus terrible handwriting in first and second grade, and I wonder if it's because they don't spend as much time on drawing and other fine-motor activities.

But he's gradually getting more capable in other things.  He buckles his own seatbelt, and often will dress himself (though he'd still prefer I do it).  He can make his own (messy) peanut butter sandwich and give half to Michael.  He likes to help me with stuff, though he can be bad at following directions and end up being more of a hindrance sometimes.

4

Michael .... sigh.  The two words I can think of to describe him are "irrepressible" and "sleepless."  Yeah, he's still not regularly sleeping through the night, or even very often at all.  Sometimes he wakes up around when I get into bed, and I bring him into his bed in our room, where he might sleep great till morning.  But in Marko's room, he never sleeps as well.  He wakes up and squawks a little -- enough to wake me up and get me halfway out my bedroom door before I realize he's just making noise in his sleep -- every hour or two, before waking up for real between twelve and three and needing to be brought into our room.  I really want him to sleep in his own room all night, but I think I've missed the best window to do it ... now I am too tired to make the investment, and I'd sooner just bring him in our room to sleep.

But if he's on the mattress next to our bed, where is the baby going to sleep?  I was going to set up the crib there!  I don't like actually having a baby in bed with me all night; I can't get comfortable.  And I would hate to train my baby to be unable to sleep alone simply because I had nowhere else to put them!

Also this waking at 4:30 a.m. and not going back to sleep thing has to stop.  He doesn't always do it, but when he does, he and I are both miserable all day.  He spends the whole day collapsing into tears over being offered the wrong food, having Marko make a face at him, or being told no for any reason.  And I spend the day shrieking "WHY must you be so crabby?  Why can't you ever be happy?"  Which led to poor Michael staggering after me sobbing "I will be happy, I will be happy!"  Ugh, stab to the heart.  Not my proudest mother moment there.

5

I won't turn the wheels on your loom, Mama!  That is, not until your back is turned!

But the irrepressible side is really a delight, even though it's trouble of its own.  Most of the time, he's SO happy.  Big beaming smiles, hysterical laughter over the tiniest things.  He's also so affectionate -- loves hugs, and will come up behind me to give me one.  If he sees a booboo on me anymore -- or even a zit -- he has to kiss it.  He hugs his stuffed animals and carries them around.  If someone is sad, he has to do something about it.  This morning he insisted I nurse the crying baby in his book, so it would feel better.  And I did, because who can say no to that face?

His "crazy face"

Of course his irrepressible temperament and general lack of anxiety means that he isn't half as good a listener as Marko was at the same age.  (I supposed we could also put it down to the fact that I pay him less attention and he gets away with a lot Marko never did.)  If I said "No, dangerous," to Marko, he nodded solemnly and avoided the thing ever after.  If I say it to Michael, he gets a twinkle in his eye and sees how close he can get to it before I stop him.  All of our really solid rules -- no opening the front yard gate, hold hands in the parking lot -- he accepts, but I can't just make up new ones and expect him to follow them until I've enforced them quite a few times.

Some days it seems like he's almost done nursing -- other days I cut him off long before he's done because he will never be done, and it gets uncomfortable after awhile.  When I do he whimpers, "I will be still!  I will be still!"  That's because I cut him off if he's too fidgety ... but some days it's not the fidgets, it's nursing at all that's the problem.  And, well, he's two.  I don't feel guilty in the least about setting limits.

Overall they are getting along pretty well.  No biting each other.  They do get in this one argument over and over again -- who is going to hold the baby first when it's born.  Poor baby.

6

So, considering how terrible I am at keeping up with this blog, I decided to start another to neglect as well.  It's just for my spinning/dyeing/weaving stuff, because it felt like it would clutter up this blog, and that way I can share it on Ravelry without having to share this blog.  It's The Spindle Is Mightier Than the Sword.  You can see some of my projects on there and pour out effusive praise, if you feel so inclined.  Nothing has yet turned out the way I wanted, but it's still all fun and I love the colors I've been working with.  If I ever get around to posting what I'm working on now, you can see even cooler colors.  I just love color.

7

Hobby Lobby .... I'm tired of hearing about it.  It's really not such a landmark decision as far as I can figure; it's ringed about with exceptions so that it really won't apply to anything but this one case.  That should be a relief to some and a disappointment to others.  Me, I'm still annoyed that my husband's employer got to deny me coverage for a homebirth and a Rhogam shot, because it chose my insurance plan (obviously, since it purchased the plan) and made up its mind ahead of time about what it thought I needed and deserved.  Some reproductive freedom that is.

It's not surprising -- you make someone pay for something, you give them the power over that thing.  Government money means government power; corporation money means corporation power.  More and more I think paying cash would work better, but now it's illegal not to pay extortion money to an insurance company every month, so there isn't really any choice anymore in that direction.

More takes at Conversion Diary.  How was your week?

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