In honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and in honor of spring. And also, because once upon a time when I studied abroad in France, I was in the chorus of this play and have memories of trying to memorize this refrain on our walk to school.
I wanted to be a mother.
I wanted soft skin to nibble on,
warm, small bodies to wear in lovely maternal wraps,
eager, young hearts to teach to love the true, the good, the beautiful.
I just didn’t want to be so achingly tired.
I didn’t want my dreams to be dashed.
I didn’t want my body to be irrevocably altered.
I didn’t want my time to be reduced to nothing.
I thought of woman after woman
surrendering their bodies and lives,
doing these common acts of
carrying and waiting;
most now buried and turned to dust;
their stories forgotten though
they bore and bear history forward.
When I looked at that plastic stick,
it’s two lines rechristening me:
I didn’t realize what giving my body for
the tiniest of lives would mean.
That to be a mother is to ache, to be dashed, irrevocably altered, and reduced to nothing.
But then to be remade.
Until I unworthily waited for and carried the weight of life,
I couldn’t fathom that for a person to be a whole universe for a person is to defy time and space.
To grow great and magnificently spherical with a wild changeling;
with a momentary rosebud, tadpole, whirlwind, pugilist but always
person fated to be an
immortal horror or everlasting splendor
is the most unbearable and beautiful
I’m changing this posting series yet again because I obviously have issues finding my groove with it. Get ready for an exercise in (nearly) infinite scrolling.
Gifts from the Internet
…on motherhood. On being scared to have a family and to pursue your dreams.
- I had written this post before I read this, but it reaffirmed all I felt. Your words matter. People who speak of parenthood as an inconvenience and complain about their children are incredibly destructive to single men and women who would consider a vocation to marriage and parenthood, just as people who speak of their families with joy and whose homes are full of gloriously chaotic life bear the most beautiful witness to that vocation. I’m so thankful for the mothers and fathers who have unabashedly shown their love of being a parent:
These parents see their children as creative, exciting, unique human beings, and enjoy watching them grow in their own way, in their own time. When their children are young, they don’t worry about what others think, about whether their child is “advanced” or not, about whether they’ll be a straight-A student. They don’t try to cover up the imperfect moments, or wish their kids would finally be old enough for daycare, old enough to go to school, old enough to finally move out. On the flip side, they don’t “vent” about their children constantly in public forums, complaining about their problems and issues. They recognize the fact that—just as it isn’t appropriate to do that in regards to their husbands, or sisters, or parents-in-law—it’s not appropriate to do with their children, who are also people with feelings and dignity.
- Just the best article on why women will never truly be able to have it all:
Many of the women in my classes are particularly captivated by the idea that a major component of human happiness is the pursuit (if not the achievement) of moral and intellectual perfection…Like Aristotle, they are pursuing moral and intellectual virtues. And of course they are pushing themselves to reach concrete, worldly goals: to ace the MCATs, to write a really fine short story, to master ancient Greek, to play a Bach fugue with confidence and proficiency.
Yet…They sense that other activities and other modes of life offer a very different kind of good: Worship, poetic contemplation, and love are quintessential examples.
My students know that motherhood is more like these activities than it is like the pursuit of excellence. They sense that caring for others requires us to put aside (at least temporarily) the quest for achievement, not just to make time but to create space for a different mode of being. Worship and love: These require no particular talent or cultivation of the sort I have been describing. They are gifts of the self, not achievements of the self.
- Specifically on the tensions of motherhood and the artistic drive:
I don’t want to believe it — that parenting itself makes art hard, that you must always sacrifice one for the other, that there is something inherently selfish and greedy and darkly obsessive in the desire to care as much about the thing you are writing or making as you do about the other humans in your life. What parent would want to believe this?…
“but … Here’s the thing. Despite everything, I have to say that having the kids grew me up in a way nothing else could have. And basically, I needed ten years of mothering before I was like, Whoa, hey, this is what I’m meant to write. And now I’m working on a novel that I love and it feels like the kids gave me that by remaking me.”
This was a delicious week.
First off, we started with a bang with our annual spring dinner party (which in keeping with tradition was ridden by both allergies and April showers). I pretty much love seasonal parties as they give me an opportunity to tick off recipes from my pinterest boards. My contributions this year were:
- Nigella’s spring chicken. (I’d give it three stars.)
- Steamed spring veggies with herbed aioli. (four stars.)
- Strawberry and Cucumber salad with a minty-elderflower dressing Nigel Slater’s gem. Like pimms on a plate so more summery than springy but totally worth it. (five stars.)
Other seriously delicious contributions were:
- Smoked salmon crisps
- Blackberry cheesecake galette
Then the torrential downpours called for more comforting fare so we got on a soup kick:
- My sister made this parmesan soup. It’s the kind of thing that demands to be made again and again even though it’s definitely not the stuff of whole 30.
- I upcycled the leftover aforementioned chicken into soup. Shredded the chicken, added stock, and cooked and added rice.
- We had a bunch of vegetables just languishing away so I made clear-the-fridge soup on a mostly monochromatic green theme. Sautéed, boiled, and simmered celery, asparagus, and potatoes and then added scallions and a ridiculous amount of parsley before throwing it all in vitamix and then finishing it all off with heavy cream. Like doing straight shots of vitamin k.
- On the same culinary color coordinating theme, I made a smoothie with these key players: almonds, flax seed, almond milk, yogurt, unsweetened shredded coconut, and a dash of almond and vanilla extracts.
Ever since one little boy succeeded splendidly at sleep training (in one night! You the real mvp, kid), the whole having free hours in the evening has me doing a happy dance come 7:30 every night. I’ve been celebrating with too much screen time:
- Poldark. I can’t resist it with its vibes of both Downton Abbey and North and South. I’m getting way too emotionally involved.
- Less than two episodes of Kimmy Schmidt. I’m just not as charmed this time around.
- Grantchester which takes the cake for me. It’s filling the gaping void in my life that’s been around ever since I finished Foyle’s War and Rosemary and Thyme.
- Stars Wars. I finally watched The Force Awakens so we decided to backtrack and start marathoning from the beginning. We just finished slugging through the first three episodes in all their cheesy glory.
Happy Feast of St. George! Some recommended reading for the occasion.
This post is part of my Hopes for Liturgical Living series in which I scheme and daydream about the way we’ll one day live out the liturgical seasons when our lives are slightly more together. As always, I admit that this is probably fanciful thinking. But it’s what I do best. And also, for the Bible tells me so.
I’m devoting this post primarily to ideas for keeping the celebration going for the full fifty day season of Easter but a few notes about Easter Sunday and the Octave:
After the long fast of Lent, I want to have the brightest of Bright Weeks. I want Easter to loom in my children’s imaginations as being as big of a deal as Christmas. Bigger actually. That’s something that I think is a baffling thing to modern, secular America. Easter has become a simple celebration of spring, rather than the most important moment of all history.
I want to spend Holy Week quietly(ish…cuz kidz) making and baking with my children so that they wake up on Easter morning to a house covered in flowers and ornaments and wreaths, to a decadent breakfast spread, and to grand Easter hymns playing. And to keep feasting like so for the whole of the Octave.
For the rest of the season, I’m dreaming of something along these lines:
I’m not planning three course meals every night (mayyybe on Sundays), but after meals like rice and beans or lentil soup for forty days, I want to make things that sing spring. I do want to have an actual food producing garden at some point, but while we don’t, hitting up the farmer’s market regularly during the Easter season might make a lovely way to talk about green things growing and all the associated themes of Resurrection.
I also like the idea of elevating daily staples during the season. Like really good tea and really good wine and really good salt. I can’t justify buying these things for daily use year round (unless I get budget shuffling and cutting in order), but I can make an exception during Easter.
We are thinking of homeschooling (at least while the kiddos are little) and one of the perks of it is all the freedom to devise your own schedule. Ideally, we’d take a eight day long break for the Octave and then maybe do half days of school for three or four days a week instead of five (and then adjust accordingly during ordinary time to make up.)
As far as housekeeping goes, we’ll have (hopefully) sufficiently devoted ourselves to deep cleaning and decluttering during Lent and will only do the necessary tasks like dishes, laundry, and tidying up.
One of the problems with ceasing the Easter festivities too soon is that churches and families tend to schedule Easter activities before Easter even begins. Easter egg hunts on Palm Sunday are particularly popular and weird, because when you observe all the days of the season, you have fifty of them to decorate eggs and hunt for them to your heart’s content.
Some other ideas:
I like the Advent idea of having a new or rewrapped book (Easter or spring related in this case) for the kids to open each Sunday. And of course we’ll keep the feasts that fall during the season. There are some really good ones (St. George, I’m looking at you). The Visitation would make for a good occasion for planting a Mary Garden. The first day of May, a good occasion for a Mayday celebration replete with a maypole and a May Crowning and all.
And then there are small things like setting up a projector outside for movie nights instead of staying indoors, squeezing in time for sleeping in and snuggling, for picnicking, for building tents made out of sheets in the living room in which to read or have tea parties.
Not everything has to be explicitly religious for it to create an atmosphere for Easter. I want to focus on emphasizing the difference in tone between Lent and Easter to gently but obviously underscore the change of the seasons.
In addition to saying regular rosaries and attending daily Mass and praying the divine office and having spiritual reading, I think Jennifer’s idea for the Via Lucis is so wonderful. I’d also like music to be a significant part of this, and, in fact, all seasons with seasonal chants and hymns. And we’ll be throwing in an alleluia wherever we can fit it (perhaps adding it to the goodnight blessing each child receives before bed) and squirting the kids with reckless abandon with holy water to remind them of their baptismal promises. Mostly kidding.
These are my ideas to make the season feel a little bit more like a foretaste of Heaven in our home. I linked to this article from Word on Fire a few weeks ago, but it captures exactly how I feel about celebrating the Easter season:
“So great is the mystery of the Resurrection that its commemoration demands more than twenty-four hours. Since we cannot put the breaks on the daily demands of our rotating world, the Church invites us to turn towards the mystery of the Resurrection and walk slowly in its light.”
•It’s been driving me crazy how much we’ve been eating out or ordering in lately as cooking is one of those fundamental activities that make me feel human. My list would be eggs, any type of starch or grain, onions, butter, and goat cheese. Which apparently is not unique since I think every ingredient showed up in the comments multiple times.
•Like my cloth diapering hesitations, shopping at the farmer’s market is something that imma shoulda, woulda, coulda about till I just jump right into it. This advice makes me a little less intimidated.
•Compound or flavored butter is something I’ve seen a zillion times on pinterest but merely passed over thinking that making it would be as unnecessary as making homemade puff pastry. But I actually took the time to read this and it wooed me with my love for upcycling kitchen scraps and for culinary conveniences:
“compound butters are a great way to use up smaller quantities of herbs, spices, the odd clove of garlic, the bottom of the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, or capers. They also freeze really well.”
You mean I can reduce waste, store this both easily and indefinitely, and majorly amp up my cooking game? Count me in.
•Archiving food history–a woman after my own heart.
•Steak with addicting chimichurri sauce, warm miso-jalapeno corn salad, and bread and tomato salad. All but the steak out of my tried and true fave. Plus homemade shandy (lager+ginger beer+fresh lemon juice).
•Gnocchi with peas, ham, chives, and a goat cheese/ricotta sauce. Originally inspired by this.
Happy feast of St. Drogo, patron saint of ugly people! (And coffee, cattle, broken bones, and insanity!) Things like this really are the icing on the cake of being Catholic.
They tell you it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. They tell you how mundane and unfulfilling it will be to be a mother at a tossed-away age of twenty-three.
But they fail to tell you about those wondrous, fleeting gifts you will be given:
How his earliest self will seem almost otherworldly as he moves in frail slow motion and stares with calm contemplative eyes.
How his newborn cries will sound like the bleating of a lamb and how his hair will remind you of a baby bird’s feathers.
How when you bring his tiny body up against you to burp, he’ll start suckling innocently and delightfully on your shoulder.
And for all the trials you are set to face, they tell you “this too shall pass”, but they don’t tell you how many things must pass before you understand that to be true.
The waves of tears and nightmares. The anxiety that pulls you in a hazy half-asleep panic to find him and touch him and make sure he is alive.
The excruciating cries in the early morning as air works through the tight maze of his intestines.
The frantic fearfulness you feel each night as you descend into a deep sleepless abyss.
The agony of latching him, tiny-mouthed and tired onto your raw, red breast.
They tell you that your life will never be the same again. That it’s monotonous and messy. They offer these words sympathetically as if you are willingly choosing a promethean fate.
And perhaps you are.
To have the ever-growing weight of another person attached to your chest and to clean his soiled self again and again as a consequence for bringing his eternal soul into the world might be appropriately likened to being chained to a cliff side and having a vulture come peck at your liver over and over again as a consequence for bringing Olympian fire into the world.
They tell you to pursue your dreams and live your life first. As though it will be extinguished rather than transfigured.
They are right, though, in implying that birth is a death.
At an hour unknown, a cleaving of bodies and the emergence of a little soul out of the dark into unbearable brightness.
A day that stands as a door to daily death for your once sleepy self. A day, a door to newborn, new-found life as someone’s, some whole person’s mother.