Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy 5th anniversary, T!

And a wonderful five years it has been. Here's to holy matrimony! Here's to a holy death! Here's to life!

If I did love you more
my heart would break
or else my body
on a cross.

Happy birthday, Miriam!

Beautiful one, our first and beloved daughter. May God's grace fill your heart in abundance all the days of your life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Proud to be (1/4) German!

This is one of the most pro-child TV spots I've ever seen. And it's German!

Things on my mind

Beloved Richard John Neuhaus at First Things has a sobering review of some new scholarship on the Third Reich. This paragraph, on the culpability of the German people during the Shoah, particularly hit home. Chilling, indeed.

"During the Third Reich, ordinary Germans “had many more things on their minds.” That’s a chilling phrase. We might easily say, and many do all too easily say, that during the era of slavery or during current horrors such as the genocide in Sudan or the daily killing of thousands of unborn children in the abortuaries around the country, most ordinary Americans “had many more things on their minds.” That’s a moralistic cheap shot. The truth is that we all have many more things on our minds, and necessarily so. Such as families, jobs, dealing with sickness, and warding off despair. Not to mention, for many, the distinctly unnecessary hours every day spent surfing and chatting on the blogosphere."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Mommy Wars

A singleton friend of mine from DC just asked for my thoughts on the disunity ("bad blood") between stay-at-home moms (SHM) and working moms (WM). Since my writing time is strictly limited by the fact that, at the moment, I am SHM (will that change at all when I become a part-time WM?), I'll just share my response with y'all.

First, it's hard to quantify such a thing as "bad blood." I would say there's certainly tension, and where it shows up for me is... The Park. I'm usually at the park on weekday mornings with my girls, other little humanoids, and nannies. Endless streams of nannies. Life in the affluent suburbs is very 19th-century in that way.

But once in a while we go on a Saturday, when the park is filled with parents spending Quality Time with the same children I have seen all week with Nanny Jane. Then the tensions flare: "So, what do you do?" "I stay at home with the kids." "Oh." I can interpret the "Oh" either charitably or irritably, but in the end it always says, "Not much to talk about. "

There are circumstances when the mom must work, and here I see only sympathy from stay-at-home moms (SHM). The mother who must work is living our worst fear: that we won't be able to afford daily life with our own family.

Of course, when I hear a working mom (WM) regretfully informing me that she can't afford to stay home, when I just saw her park her BMW SUV... well, then my sympathy is strained. We make huge financial sacrifices in order to keep me at home--sometimes this is frustrating, sometimes is is a source of sinful pride, but in the end the sacrifice is made joyfully and with gratitude that God has given us fleshly hearts in place of stony hearts. There are a lot of stony hearts at The Park. (Lord, give me a heart of flesh!)

I think women in particular tend to live a sort of bi-polar existence, feeling intense superiority and intense inferiority at the same time. The SHM feels intensely superior that she has made the sacrifice to stay home; she feels inferior that she isn't "contributing" or can't show any awards, good grades, or financial pluses. And she often doesn't get to shower or get a haircut in a timely manner. Devastating at The Park.

The WM feels superior that she does contribute to society and her family's wealth; she feels inferior that she's not the one raising her kids on a day-to-day basis. My very presencea t the park passes a judgment on her: I believe it is worth living on financial pins and needles and giving up my career to be with my children. What does my lifestyle say about hers? And Americans hate even implicit judgment. (As my friend pointed out, add homeschooling to the mix and the tensions and polarity increase astronomically.)

Those are some observations. Clarity of thought is very difficult in these matters: our deepest convictions, prejudices, and all our burdens and gifts from our own childhoods come to the fore. Bad blood and polarization in the "mommy wars" arise, of course, only because of our dear old friend: original sin. We place ourselves on the defensive instead of listening to criticisms or the wounds of the "other side." All the mommies at The Park must find a way to desire true self-knowledge: why am I making the choices I make? From where do my resentments come? How can I be a better mother and--dare I say it--die more to myself so my children may truly live?

Monday, June 23, 2008


The Scientist Dad has returned from the isles of the Virgin (St.Thomas, USVI) after six long days of pirating, looting, and listening to such presentations as "The Effects of Spousal Deprivation on the Dorsal Rafia in Voles and Meadow Mice." Wow.

It is wonderful to have him home. And wonderful that the baby chose last night to sleep for seven hours. And wonderful that coffee is cheap and plentiful in the USA.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Three things

Richard John Neuhaus has a lovely tribute to Tim Russert up on the First Things page. It includes a hilariously scathing analysis of the NY Times's recent front-page article on the lessons of same-sex marriage. But I particularly liked the concluding touch to the Russert memorial:

"John Meacham writes that Russert believed that there are three really big things: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two surpass human understanding, so in our humbled state we should make the most of the third."

Perhaps there are bigger things to be inserted between God and human folly? I'm trying to think... Creation? No, for it was subject to human folly. Angelic powers? No, for they envy us our imago Dei. And is laughter greater still than any of these? Perhaps so.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Non Nappa

Miriam has stopped napping. For the last two days. Is this the End of All Things? No, forsooth! It is the beginning of "Quiet Time."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Edwina Froehlich, RIP

Edwina Froehlich, La Leche League pioneer, is dead at 93. While my grandmothers endured heavily medicated births and were told that under no circumstance should they breastfeed their children, I have been otherwise blessed largely because of this woman's bravery and conviction. May angels welcome her on the far side.

Friday, June 13, 2008

survivor guilt

A friend recently mused over the idea of a sort of spiritual survivor guilt. The phenomenon was first named to refer to the similar symptoms exhibited by survivors of the Shoah. Questions such as, "Why me?" "Why was I chosen?" "Why did I survive?" haunt the individual and often bring about depression.

She and I, as well as our husbands and other family members, are converts to the Catholic Church. While not one of us would count our salvation assured ("With fear and trembling I work out my salvation..."), we all count the gift of faith in Christ and his Church the greatest blessing a human being can know.

We also survey our families and friends and see the lack of that faith. All the seven deadly sins run up and down the family tree and in and out of the neighborhood homes: adultery, addictions of all sorts, rebellion against and rejection of the Church, insults to the Eucharist. All evil and all destroyers.

Now, the sin is not the sinner. The sinner can be forgiven, while the sin cannot. The sinner can be saved; the sin can never become good or vice become virtue. So, it is the sinners we weep for. We see a father or mother, brothers, sisters, dear friends all suffering immensely--and often unconsciously--because for some reason the human face of God is not their chosen desire. It is their hidden longing, but it remains hidden. Why? Why do Todd and I have the beauty of the sacraments, the passion of the Cross, the glory of the resurrection so insistently present to us? Why are our loved ones so, well, miserably uninterested? Spiritual survivor guilt.

I guess my thought is this: If we're experiencing this guilt to the point of depression, we're not really survivors yet. The experience of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit must give us--in addition to gratitude and longing for that gift in others--a deep trust in God's mercy, his desire that "all may be saved," and the mysterious rest in his plan and timing. I do fear for those in my life who have rejected him, seemingly so thoroughly. I do not fear that God has given up on them. I trust that, even in the moment of death, he will do everything perfectly and in his power to reach them. And if they still reject him ... somehow the saints will still be perfectly happy in heaven.

Spiritual survivor guilt. Interesting concept--I think its primary value is its emphasis on the fact that we are survivors. We have been saved, rescued, from the only thing worth fearing. May it bring him glory and us the conviction of our utter unworthiness!

Why is there sin and evil in the first place? The best discourse on that question is in David B. Hart's Doors of the Sea. Here is the climatic conclusion (though you really must read the entire, short book!):

“Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away and he that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Glories of domesticity

For all you domestics, mothers, and/or wives out there, this little essay from Starry Sky Ranch is simply lovely. And very philosophical: what really matters.

The acropolis this ain't.

It's been a little crazy in the Philosophical Household. The demands of an almost-3-year-old and a 7-week-old are varied, constant, and often unforeseeable.

I've felt quite contemplative amidst the strom und drang, however. The heart has its recesses that toilet training knows not (there's a little warped, Pascal reference for you!). Still, the daily routine has not left time for blogging, writing, or otherwise communicating the peace of the heart.

While the philosophical discourse is lacking, cuteness is not. Here's the latest.

Child (C): Mummy, mummy!

Mummy (M): Yes, dear?

C: My doll-house broked!

M: (observing doll-house in two pieces with various items scattered about the floor) I can't fix it right now, child. I'm feeding the baby. Can you pick it up?

C: (begins to rebuild house and replace items with alacrity, raising mother's suspicions that this is, in fact, a planned disaster) I will build my house on rock! I will build my house on rock! Not on sand, Mummy! I will build my house on rock!

Biblical Quiz of the Day: To what parable is child referring?

In case you conclude that I'm raising a genius/saint, here is yesterday's installment of "Relativists I Have Known."

C: Mummy, I am verwy chilly. I need something to put on.

M: Darling, it is 105* Farenheit.

C: No, for me it is chilly.

M: Okay, what do you want to put on?

C: My tutu.

(speechless mother gives her tutu; child takes off all other pieces of clothing)

C: Now I am warm!!! I am not chilly!

As you can see, the philosophical discourse is limited to absurdism. But it is a verwy happy absurdist you read here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Catholics for Obama?

While I don't want to get too deeply into the current election issues here, I am always a proponent of clear thinking. That is precisely what Kathryn Jean Lopez pursues in this little essay, which asks if Catholics can in good conscience vote for anyone. Even if you are already clear in your mind on who your vote, it is good to be able to articulate your reasons to others.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

pondering weighty matters

Post-partum is a time to ponder weighty matters. Such as my waistline. And bustline. Ack. Or perhaps I should avoid these ponderments.

In any case, June Cleaver After a Six-Pack has also been pondering weight and weight loss. And it seems she pondered herself into a violent stomach virus. Ugly but effective. And hilarious.

Thanks to Danielle Bean again!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bare, ruined choirs

I am an Anglophile. Not that I love British accents, Simon Cowell's style, and horrendous PBS reproductions of Jane Austen films (although each tweaks my fancy in its own little way). But I loved (and love) the early history, as told by Winston Churchill--the ruins of Stonehenge, the ballads of the White Horse and Arthur, Chaucer's bawdy bands traipsing noisily but sincerely toward Canterbury, Augustine. And, oh!, the poetry and prose of the twentieth-century Anglo-Catholics: Eliot, Waugh, Chesterton, Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien... And beyond the literary and philosophic life, there is simply the physical attraction of the oldishness of the hills, valleys, lakes, and towns of England, Wales, and Scotland. I suppose I love Catholic England.

So, most welcome to my heart is this article from National Catholic Register on a group of Catholics and Anglicans doing penance for the horror of the Reformation/Rebellion in England. When I visited the "bare, ruined choirs" of the great cathedrals and monasteries of that country, I remember wishing someone could spend until the end of time praying there and regretting our brothers' violences against Christ, his mother, and his faithful. It seems others share my wish.

dependence, part II

Things that get you through the day.

1. Baby sleeps for four-and-a-half hours straight. Then three more. Then two.

2. Three-year-old doesn't fuss when Cinderella is over and mummy says, "No, we can't watch it again tonight."

3. Coffee.

4. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The one thing necessary.

Take that Socrates!