I am on a long-title kick here lately, huh?
A tale from the Spite-Your-Face-Via-Autorhinectomy Files: on Monday night I sat down to post as soon as I got everybody tucked in. An hour later I was ready to publish when Elwood came down, frustrated about a wet bed. I got irritated as we were talking and, in a fit of pique, closed the browser with my unsaved post inside.
I may look 35 but in some moments I am still stuck in junior high.
It was a post in part about glitter, because when my friend Kate advised me not to try the glitter stars craft from the Elizabeth Foss Advent unit we're both doing pieces of, I said, "Glitter? Glitter is evil. There will never be glitter in my home," and she said, "Oh, I just read a blog post about a woman who loves glitter." I asked her to send me the link, because personally I would rather have a rat in my house than a tub of glitter. A rat I could whack on the head with a mop and then he would be dead, but glitter is FOREVER. (In my defunct draft of this post I said I'd rather have a rat infested with bubonic-plague-bearing fleas than a tub of glitter, but now, temperate soul that I am, I have reconsidered. Fleas are hard to kill with a mop.) When I checked out the glitter post, I found an invitation to write a day-in-the-homeschooling-life post. And it had been a memorable homeschooling day, so I wrote. And then deleted. Ah, well.
I have been struggling lately, ladies -- I don't know how clearly it's been coming through, but I've been in a hard spot. The baby is on a perpetual seek-and-devour mission, someone is always breaking into our house and peeing on the bathroom floor (I assume it's an intruder because the boys aver that they are innocent), I am still dealing with discipline issues (theirs and mine) during homeschooling, and the laundry -- my God [prayer, not oath, though you might be hard-pressed to tell the difference], the laundry never ends. Perhaps this was part of my fit of pique.
Recently I have been thinking about going back to school to get a Ph.D., something I'd wondered about for years. A couple of weeks ago, I was excited to start. I was mapping out just when I'd put the kids in school and how I'd juggle the stages of the program to minimize time away while Pete is tiny. Last week the irony finally struck me: if the pursuit of a doctorate sounds like a pleasant and not overly stressful undertaking, perhaps the drudgery-to-fun ratio in my life is out of whack.
Lately the work of raising four children feels un.re.len.ting, my friends. I have been trying not to whine, trying to pair those socks for the glory of God instead of throwing up my hands in disgust and flopping on the couch to reread Northanger Abbey. And...some days are better than others. But on Sunday I picked up Real Learning, by Elizabeth Foss, and found some really helpful stuff.
On Monday I resolved to put some of it into action, including a walk along the nearby bike trail. We would appreciate nature. We would bring home snow-covered locust pods and clusters of fallen leaves, and sketch them at the dining room table with cups of hot cocoa at our elbows. We would have a total freakout meltdown involving three of the four children, two of them declaring they couldn't possibly move another picometer because they were dying, dying of exhaustion and cold. Okay, that last step wasn't part of my plan, but that's what happened. Coincidentally, or not, I was smack in the middle of the third joyful mystery when things fell apart.
At first I thought, "Excuse me, God? I was trying to pray. I thought you liked praying. How am I supposed to get three wailing children home from here?" And then I thought, "I hope I don't get stopped by the police again." (True story: last Saturday I was walking to meet some girlfriends for coffee with Pete in the stroller. I turned onto the bike trail and an unmarked police car pulled over and honked. A cop got out and said, "Ma'am, where are you going with that baby?" He was appalled that I had Pete (dressed in warm layers, not complaining in the least) out in the (not terribly) cold weather. "I'd strongly encourage you to reconsider your options," he said. Option A, I thought but did not say, is for you to stop yammering so that I can get us inside. I was filled with smug annoyance on Saturday, and it would have been humbling, to say the least, to run into the same guy two days later with my pink-cheeked anti-cherubs proclaiming their frostbitten misery to all and sundry.)
And then I thought, "This is so hard. You work and work and you do the best you can and it's still just HARD." But then-- a Lightbulb Moment. I had been thinking about the Nativity, about the Blessed Mother laboring to bring Jesus into the world. Whether or not the idea that Mary, as the New Eve, was spared pain in labor is correct (Arwen, am I right that there's room for multiple opinions on that one?), it seems certain to me that she worked hard to deliver her baby. My two home births involved very little pain, but let me tell you, they were hard slogging. I thought about Mary running a home in Nazareth, and I realized that she didn't have a laundry fairy either.
So this is my Advent resolution: as I remember how Mary labored to bring Christ into her family and into the world, I am going to offer up my own labors, in hopes that they too can bring Christ into my little corner of the world.
If you have not yet read A Mother's Rule of Life, do do do. (Da da da da. That's all I want to say to you.) (Hey, did you know Holly Pierlot has a blog, where she will answer your questions?) MROL talks about the problem of concupiscence, a problem I had not paid much attention to because I thought concupiscence was mostly about sex. I'm a happily married woman -- that's not much of an issue for me. But lying on the couch reading Northanger Abbey when the kids need dinner is also concupiscence. As is staying in bed for an extra half-hour because it's cold and the robe on the back of the bedroom door feels too far away. Concupiscence is a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason.
My plan: to labor gladly for my family, to subdue my lower appetite to my reason by the grace of God. And I have a rallying cry. Sing with me the opening to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water": dum dum dum / dum dum da-dum / [and here substitute the new lyrics:] "Fight against conCUpiscence."
If you'll excuse me, my air guitar needs tuning.