Saturday, June 20, 2015



Perhaps I should rename this "Saturday Seven," seeing as I can hardly do "Seven Quick Takes Friday" if Friday is my no-internet day.

I did try, yesterday.  I was going to stay off the computer altogether, but there was an important thing I really had to do.  So I did that and then I thought "while I'm here, I should try to shut down some tabs."  But you can't shut down tabs without reading them, can you?  So I read them, but there were some important links on there I had to follow, and now I have more tabs open than I did before.  C'est la internet.

Then I thought, the whole point is that I should be doing Other Things.  So I decided to make a chart for Marko that he's been begging for for days -- a chart showing the three periods of the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) and which dinosaurs, plants, theraspids, etc., were alive at which times.  I didn't get very far before needing Wikipedia.

Oh, Wikipedia, how I do love thee.  When Marko can read and navigate Wikipedia, I don't suppose he'll need me anymore.  Like his father, all he wants in life is to find out All The Things.  I was the same when I was a kid, but I had to read through the encyclopedia, wherein "see also" is a much bigger hassle.

Here's the chart:

Now I have been commissioned to draw one each of the Paleozoic and the Cenozoic.  Because my kid is a nerd.  (Squeeeee!) 


I am very happy to follow my kid's interest here -- I mean, unschooling is great and I'm learning as much as he is and this is what I've been dreaming of for years!

But .... it is hard to draw mastodons when you are holding a fussy baby.  Miriam is very unpredictable, as always.  One day she takes two two-hour naps, and the next day one half-hour nap.  I spend all of my time waiting for her to take a nap, and then trying to get the kids to be quiet while she takes it.  When she doesn't nap, she's horribly fussy.  Put her down and she screams, pick her up and she thrashes and grabs everything.  I can't read books because she tears the pages.  I can't eat because she dumps it in my lap.  So I put her down and she climbs on Marko's bedside table and then stands on top of it screaming to be helped down.

But when she has gotten a nap, she's sweetness and light -- and getting into trouble, OF COURSE.  She turns ten months today and has been walking pretty much everywhere she goes for about a week now.  Of course she walks like a drunken zombie, but she does it fast!


I have started using progesterone cream for luteal phase insufficiency.  If you don't know what that is, don't worry, it's not interesting.  If you are a woman and think you might have it -- or severe PMS or very heavy periods -- they tell me it really works.  And it's available without a prescription, which is important to me, because if I had to wait till I had time to see a doctor, it would probably be years.

Too soon to tell yet though.  All I know is it stinks to high heaven and is gloppier than sunscreen when it comes to rubbing it in.


I have had a marked improvement of overall health in the last month, though, and I'm sort of embarrassed to tell you why.  I have been run-down, exhausted, cranky, tired.  Just figured that's how it is when you've got three little kids and the baby doesn't sleep through the night.  But I haven't been taking vitamins, because I ran out and didn't think it was super important.

Finally decided to go to the health food store and buy some vitamins, and it is like night and day.  I feel like I'm alive again, for the first time in months.

Seriously, that was it?  Vitamin deficiency?  I feel very stupid for going months and months without thinking of that possibility.


The way I like to read is to find a single author I like and then read everything I can find that they wrote, all at once.  My current binge is Father Andrew Greeley.  I picked him because he's Catholic, but he's also liberal enough that I didn't think he'd make me run screaming.

So far, so good!  I really enjoy his writing.  It's very Catholic, but in a ... hm.... a very open-minded sort of way.  There's scads of romance in every book (which makes it a little awkward when you imagine it was written by a priest) but along with the romance is an emphasis that love is of God and brings us closer to God.

Almost all the characters in his books are Chicago Irish; there's a lot about the quirks of Irish people and Irish-American people.  Some of the books are mysteries, with his character Monsignor Blackwood Ryan as the detective (explicitly echoing Father Brown).  They're not bad.  But the really good ones are the other ones -- particularly a series I started about the O'Malley family.  The first book, A Midwinter's Tale, covers the Depression and World War II; the second, Younger than Springtime, covers a couple years after the war.  I love the hero, a methodical kid who wants to be an accountant but winds up having a much more adventurous life than he intended.

Downsides?  Greeley fairly drenches his work in benevolent sexism -- every single woman is amazingly gorgeous, intelligent, and wise.  The male characters struggle their whole lives to figure stuff out that the women apparently were born knowing.  When needed, the women suddenly reveal that they know martial arts.  They rarely have any faults.  There are worse kinds of sexism, but it's rather annoying -- the women don't seem like human beings at all!

Also, if I met the author in person, I would want to be wearing a burka.  Because, I swear, every one of his male narrators is so obsessed with looking at and fantasizing about women (respectfully, they always insist!) that I can't help but believe the author himself is the same way.

 But, with those caveats -- plus a warning to orthodox Catholics that Greeley isn't one, in a few particulars -- the books are enjoyable and definitely get me thinking about things like love, and God, and personal growth.


The other day, I was inside and the kids were outside, when suddenly I heard a lot of loud cheeping.  I figured the birds were up to something, no worries, but when the cheeping coincided with maniacal laughter from the kids, I figured I'd better check up on them.  Sure enough, Michael was holding a baby bird and zooming it around the yard.

I confiscated it, because Michael is not to be trusted with live animals AT ALL, and interrogated them about where they'd gotten in from.  Marko said it had just been sitting in the middle of the lawn.  I looked everywhere for a nest, because I know the right thing to do is to put the bird back.  (It's a myth that the parents will reject a baby bird that's been touched.)  But I couldn't find one.  I set it up in a stockpot with a cozy dishtowel and did some research.  Surely I could raise this bird to adulthood with worms and stuff, right?

Wrong, apparently.  It's actually illegal to raise wild birds.  Now I'm not one to be hung up on legality, but when I read about the complexity of what they need to eat and how they need to be reintroduced to life in the wild, I got a bit overwhelmed.  Then I read that it was supposed to be fed every hour.  I'm sorry, I already have a baby that needs to be fed about that often!  Plus two more that seem to eat almost constantly.  Forget about it.

So I kept it alive with moistened dog food, fended the kids away from it, and the next day we all took a nice drive to a wildlife rescue.  I was never so happy to be rid of a pet.  I felt a little sad that I've come to this -- me, the kid who always dreamed of finding a baby bird and raising it, just like they do in the books -- but I guess when you're all burned out on having children, you do what you must.  And this way I know the bird will be okay and not meet an early grave because of Michael's aggressive affection.


Lately I am really struggling to find the right balance between staying home and going out.  All this time I've thought it was the lack of a car that was keeping me at home, but even now that I have a car, I'd often rather stay in.  One day for grocery shopping, one day for the library, one day for a playdate .... that's a busy week there!

Partly it's just the difficulty of dragging my kids anywhere.  I tell Marko to go potty and he doesn't want to go until he finishes telling me everything he knows about pteranodons.  I tell Michael to go potty and he falls on the floor crying because he wanted to go first and Marko has already gone.  I rustle up four socks and two pairs of shoes.... and watch Marko fiddle around with them for what feels like hours, while I put on Michael's shoes myself, which is often a rodeo.  I shut the dog in the laundry room, put a diaper on Miriam, and we're off!  

No we're not.  Halfway to the car Michael realizes he does not have his dinosaur, Dilly the dilophosaurus.  So we go back into the house for Dilly.  Of course this is only his most treasured toy, why would he have the faintest idea where it is?  Eventually we find it, but now Marko needs his dinosaur, Tricey the triceratops, and it's nowhere to be found.  We check every room -- not there.  Check the front yard -- not there.  Troop through the laundry room and out into the back yard -- there he is!  But now the dog is out of the laundry room because Michael forgot to shut the door.  So we shut the door and head out again.

By this point everyone is hungry, but no way am I stopping to make them a snack, so I grab apples, buckle everyone in, and give them each an apple and their chosen dinosaur.  Car in gear, off we go.  A block from home (if I'm lucky) I realize I forgot my wallet.

Wherever we go, we always have a great time.  The kids are decently behaved in public places.  I often find myself thinking, "Why don't we do this more often?  This is wonderfully relaxing."  But then I get hungry.  And I think, if I'm hungry, surely they're hungry.  It's been hours.  We should go home.

So all the wailing, protesting, and hunts for dinosaurs happen again, in reverse.  I drag the kids away from whatever they were enjoying and muscle them into the car.  We head home, the baby falls asleep in her carseat, and I imagine how nice it will be to let her sleep in there while I get lunch for the boys.

But in reality, it's a great big NOPE, because as I approach the front door, lugging Miriam's heavy carseat and trying not to joggle her awake, the boys get in a massive pinching-and-biting fight over who gets to open the door.  Their screeches wake the baby.  We tumble inside, the house is a mess, no progress has been made (obviously) on the chores, the baby is fussy and hungry, the kids are quarrelsome and hungry, and I want to lie down in a dark room with earplugs in.  Seems it takes at least an hour to recover from the outing we had!

I think the right balance is to go out 2-3 times a week, and to make most of those times brief, even if we are having fun, so that we don't overextend ourselves.  But even that much, no matter how the kids enjoy it, can get pretty exhausting!  You see why I'm such a hermit?

How's your week been?


Enbrethiliel said...


1. I love the calm, intelligent expressions on your dinosaurs' faces! Probably not very realistic, but hey, it's art! ;-)

2. Although I've had to stick to syllabi throughout my teaching career, I've also experienced letting a student's interest lead the way down an educational rabbit hole. And yes, it's wonderful! (And for not entirely disinterested reasons, I really hope I have a child who is interested in languages. But that's secondary to hoping I have a child at all. #wistfulsigh)

3. Yeah, I don't know what that is. And I'm too lazy to look up "luteal" at the moment. =P

4. I confess that I've been a bit of a snob about vitamin pills. Shouldn't we be getting our vitamins from live fruit and veg? Not that I remember to take much of those either, which kind of kills my nutritional purism. And I probably do suffer from vitamin deficiency, too. Which vitamins do you take?

5. Wait for it . . .

6. I wouldn't know what to do with a baby bird that fell out of its next. If it were the ubiquitous Philippine sparrow, I'm sure anyone I'd call would tell me just to let it die. =( If it were a more "exotic" bird, well, there are two universities within driving distance that have lots of trees. I suppose someone in the right department would know what to do.

7. That does sound exhausting! Good luck for the next outing! LOL!

Enbrethiliel said...


OH, MAN! I went a huge Father Greeley kick years ago!!! But when my family was getting ready to move to our new home early this year, I gave away my entire collection. I hadn't had the desire to reread any of them in years, and they just seemed like too much trouble to pack.

What I like most about his books is the mythology (I can't think of another word!) he has created for the Chicago Irish. All the "types" are there--and they are also wonderfully three-dimensional. They're probably really idealised, but I envy them for knowing who they are and how to live in community with each other . . . which is more than I can say for Manila Filipinos. =S And since the books are all connected, we get to see favourite characters make "guest appearances" and to see them grow old. Before he died, I had hoped that a Filipino character would gain entry into the clan; but unless I missed something, that never quite happened.

What I dislike most are his ideas of what the Church should be. I do disagree with him about many things, and when he reveals just how much he believes in them, that can make him hard for me to read. But I don't really mind him having an opinion . . . or even an agenda. =P It's when he totally freaks me out (I'm looking at you The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germaine!) that I come away feeling a bit hurt. As if I trusted him and he sucker punched me. But I also wonder if it is unfair of me to feel this way.

A close second to the above is is his portrayal of women. At first I thought I was just being a prude, but then I read someone's comment on Henry Miller, "Something about his writing made me feel bad about being a woman," and sadly realised I could say it about Father Greeley's writing as well. Or to be more specific, I'd come away from his books thinking, "Well, no one is lusting over me for being beautiful, wise, virtuous, determined, and strong, so I must be worthless as a woman." You're right that all his heroines are amazing to the point of straining disbelief (and do they all really have multiple men in love with them?!?!), but I also think that he sees them through "love goggles" of a sort--and we should treat him like a husband who thinks he is married to the most amazing woman in the world and will not let anyone tell him otherwise. We wouldn't argue with him, but we wouldn't let his word be the final one, either.

PS -- For a more human heroine whose flaws get to have big consequences, try Virgin and Martyr, one of his older novels. It's much heavier than the O'Malley and Nuala Anne books, though.

Sheila said...

I see you agree with me entirely on Father Greeley's books! I *love* his Chicago Irish. My husband's family are Chicago Irish, and though they're a bit more dysfunctional than the ones in the books, they are tight-knit and definitely do have a working culture. Even today they are in and out of each other's houses like they own them. The downside of this tightness is that it was very hard for my mother-in-law to break in, not because she's Hispanic, but because she *isn't Irish.* But they did get over it eventually.

And yes, benevolent sexism *sounds* nice until you realize that you will never be that kind of woman. So you wonder, how would a man like that react when I inevitably fall short of the ideal? I have a friend who used to be very much like this, and he ascribed to me all sorts of virtues I don't possess, simply because he thought it was good to ascribe them to women. I always wanted to ask, "Do you see ME at all?" I understand the intent is good, but it still isn't right. I suppose it's too much to expect a priest to understand women! (Which is the same thing I feel when Popes say rather disappointing things.)

You can't go trusting Greeley just because he's a Catholic priest. That was my reason for the warning. He writes good Catholic literature the way, say, Oscar Wilde does. But somehow the knowledge that he is a priest makes you expect more, and feel betrayed when he does it wrong. (I wonder if his answer would be what I said above -- "do you see ME at all?" Yes, I do tend to idealize priests!)

The vitamins I'm taking are just multivitamins, but they claim to be made from whole food extracts, so that makes me feel like I'm just eating my daily vegetables. Which I admit I have not been doing. I was too busy and exhausted to cook "real" food, so my favorite food lately has been buttered toast. Hardly a nutritional powerhouse there! I *think* I've been anemic, but who knows, I could have been deficient in half a dozen things for all I know!

Enbrethiliel said...


You're the only other Father Greeley reader I've ever met, so I've never been able to ask other women what they think of him. But I recall him doing an analysis of his own readership and learning that the women outnumbered the men. Have you met any others? I've always assumed it was my living in the Philippines that made him an obscure writer. Well, that and having discovered him in the early 2000s, after most of his really shocking books had been published. As much as I prefer his later stuff, they do give me the sense that he had started to write out of habit and to please his existing fan base (not that there's anything wrong with that!) rather than to get his most passionate messages out there.

While we agree on most points, I'd have to hold back on calling Father Greeley benevolently sexist. And ironically, it's because I think he could flip the "Don't you see me at all?" question back at us. "Don't you see yourself at all?" Unless a woman is a complete ogress, I think she will have more male admirers than she thinks--and that it will be for qualities that she either: a) hardly knows she possesses; or b) doesn't think are as half as important as other qualities she has. (I first noticed this in his novels, but real life seems to have borne it out. At least among the women I've met, complimenting them on what they perceive as secondary qualities is almost as bad an an insult! =P Though there may be a general sense in which it bruises anyone's ego to learn that what you think is best about yourself doesn't carry the same weight with others.) Basically, I think what he, as a man, admires in women is true (if also idealised in the portrayal), but that it's not always what women would want men to admire.

Sheila said...

I've never met a Greeley reader either! I just stumbled upon him in the library, and was like, "A Catholic priest who writes mysteries and romances? Why have I not heard of him?"

I think you're right, he's absolutely sincere in really admiring women for what he thinks women are like. I call him a benevolent sexist because benevolent sexism is just thinking women are better than men, which he clearly seems to do. This can be problematic when men then have higher standards for women than they do for men -- assuming that when women can't turn their bad husbands into good husbands, for instance, that it's their own fault. I don't think Fr. Greeley would do that, though; he seems to empathize with women in that very situation.

Getting complimented for the wrong things can be pretty bad, if you work and work on your brains and wind up getting complimented on your boobs. Greeley's women always seem to like that, but I wouldn't.

Enbrethiliel said...


On women being able "to turn" men: Father Greeley is on the record for saying that people whose response to the sex abuse crisis was to say that priests should be allowed to marry, were being insulting to women!

I don't know if I'm just making much over a casually chosen word, but the idea of "getting complimented for the wrong things" is getting me thinking. When is a compliment wrong? I think admiration is admiration, and all compliments start out equal, although they might not be equally received by the person they were intended for. The issue here, it seems to me, is that we can't change what others value. No more than they can change what we value! Saying, "Well, this is what I think you should like me for," seems like something that would just get us all going in circles.

Sheila said...

I agree with Fr. Greeley there entirely! I have always felt that saying "priests should be allowed to marry so they can have a legitimate outlet for sexual desire" was implying that that's all women are. To me the question was more, "Can a priest possibly give a family what it needs without depriving his parish of what it needs?" Because any woman a priest married would have her own needs -- she is not just there to fulfill some need of the priest! (Also, men who abuse children aren't doing it because what they really want is to get to sleep with a woman. Priests who want that sleep with their housekeepers or something. :P )

I don't have the *right* to insist people give me the right compliments, but if someone is perpetually complimenting my body instead of my brain, I might distance myself. What people compliment and value about you is what they draw out of you. Just as in the discussion of how our choices change who we are, so do the people we hang out with.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila, I had to smile when I saw you switched from taking about "the wrong compliments" to taking about "the right compliments". That's the same issue! LOL! When is a compliment right or wrong? It seems to me that there are only "'compliments I like" and "compliments I don't like." When we couple it with your insight that what other people admire in us can change us, then there's also an element of willfulness in choosing which compliments we accept. But this is very subjective. Are there standards by which compliments can be judged, so that we accept even what we might not like at the moment, because we recognise it as good and our judgment as in need of correction? And vice versa for what we might dislike.

Sheila said...

Well, yeah, obviously. You should give it some thought. I was getting compliments about being a calm, mellow sort of person when I got out of boarding school and was quite puzzled for awhile. That wasn't how I saw myself at all. But I gave it some thought, and realized that I'd changed a lot and perhaps it wasn't a bad thing.

But if I had a friend who, every single time I saw them, kept going on about my blond hair, telling me that they were so happy to have a friend who was blond, that it was the main thing they liked about me .... I'd think it was weird. I wouldn't like it. I'd think that they didn't really know the real me or care about me, because all they wanted was a blonde friend. That's how I feel when Fr. Greeley just cannot stop describing his female characters' hot bodies, to the neglect of their personalities. It's as if he's saying "the real point of these characters is hotness." Now his salvation is that he *does* give his female characters personalities eventually -- and I've read male authors who don't. I drop books like that. I don't like reading a book where people like me are reduced to the role of furniture.

Perhaps on some level it's because, if that's the standard for judging women, I don't rank very high and there's nothing I can do about that. But also, looks don't last; all of us are going to get old and wrinkly. Intelligence lasts longer, and kindness is forever.

Enbrethiliel said...


In fairness to your hypothetical blonde-hair-loving (former?) friend, I think that even someone who gave you the "right" compliments with the same frequency and persistence would creep you out as well!

As I've said, it has been a while since I last read one of his novels, but I think it's reasonable to say that Father Greeley does think the real point of his women characters is their hotness! =P Or if a less vulgar term will help me make the point less off-putting, their beauty. And I think he, being a man, ties beauty to personality in a way women have trouble understanding because we just don't think that way about others. Which is not to say that all his heroines and their friends are Perfect 10s. I can think of a few characters whose partners get some help from love goggles! =P

In a Father Greeley novel, if you are a woman who is halfway attractive, has a pleasant personality, and (okay, here's the kicker) can snag a good man to be the father of her children, then you get to be a channel of grace just by existing. (Did you read his novel about Lisa, the singer and actress?) I can see why this may seem sexist, but I would side with Father on its being a special grace given to women. That is, it's not less; it's more. It doesn't mean we can't also be active agents and doesn't diminish our contribution when we do act. It adds to it.

And don't say that the above description of a Father Greeley heroine doesn't apply to you, because you're closer to the mark than I am!!! Halfway attractive? Heck, even LTG once complimented you on your appearance, though I'm sure I was the only one who understood what he was saying that day! (I'm the LTG whisperer!) A pleasing personality? You clearly value kindness and empathy, and you do seem fun to be around. (Well, not when you're sharing the depressing faith posts, but I think you knew that. =P) Snagged a good man? I read your Father's Day post on Facebook: you're covered!

Sheila said...

Haha, well, how very complimentary of you. I do love compliments, in general. The only time I ever *mind* compliments is when they're wildly inaccurate -- it makes me feel the person doesn't actually like me, but a projection of themselves that they're putting on me. It feels weird.

But I admit I do actually conflate goodness and beauty. As a kid I hated old and overweight people and gravitated only to the gorgeous, which caused my mother no end of embarrassment. As an adult the best I've been able to do is make it flow the other way -- I now think all my friends are gorgeous, even though I didn't pick them for their looks. I try to show that idea in my writing by pointing out a characters "odd" features -- their squinty eyebrows, their bony elbows, whatever -- while also suggesting that they're nice to look at. It's a tough balance, but I don't want to be one of those authors (like Fr. Greeley is!) who only writes about gorgeous people. That's too much like American television, where gorgeous people are given frumpy outfits and we are expected to believe they are homely.

As for being a conduit of grace -- I dare say everyone should do that! I really enjoy Charles O'Malley (aka Chuckie Ducky) and the way he somehow stumbles into helping out everyone he knows. I haven't read the one with Lisa; what book is that?

Enbrethiliel said...


I was just as bad--if not worse--as a child! I wanted only the pretty girls in school to be my friends . . . which was especially hypocritical, given that I had disfiguring scars from surgery and wasn't within bombing distance of pretty. Sigh!

When I think about how I've changed since then, I don't think I grew out of preferring "good looking" people as much as I've learned to think a much greater variety of faces look good.

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