Thursday, June 25, 2009

Common Ground?

I have frequently heard Obama supporters say that the president wants to find common ground with the pro-life community. My question is, is there any? At first I though so, but my beloved husband pointed out that he didn't think so. I said that the president could let abortion be legal, but not use taxpayer money. He oh so intelligently, replied that was compromise, not common ground.

I am convinced. This common ground argument is empty political posturing. Either you think that it's okay to kill a baby before it is born or not. It's a really black and white issue.


You think that a baby can be killed because a big person decided that they want to. You think that an unborn child is not a person. You may think that a child that has certain medical conditions do not have the same value as a healthy baby.


You know that life begins at conception. (If you don't know when life begins, shouldn't you err on the side of caution?) You think that the weak defend the strong. You don't think that people have the right to do things to the detriment (and death) of others.

What common ground do we have? Pro-abortion supporters feel that abortions should be "rare,"but they don't really try to talk mothers out of the abortion. No, they resist pre-natal ultrasound and parental notification. Pro-abortion supporters think people have a right to kill an unborn baby. Pro-life supporter believe it is wrong to kill any innocent person.

What common ground is there?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Paperwork

I spent today at doctors' offices getting all our medical forms renewed. This is the third time we've had to do it, which is ridiculous. I think the doctors are sick of us. The last 4 months of work were essentially wasted. On the other hand, my resolve has only been strengthened. Although I am frustrated with the whole process, I am very peaceful that we should be adopting Sweet Pea.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Abercrombie and Fitch is being sued in Great Britain for discriminating against a congenital amputee, claiming that she didn't meet the "Look" code. The college aged employee was hired and then told she would have to work in the stockroom until winter uniforms (that would cover the joint between her arm and prosthetic) were available.

This is at least the second time that the company ha been sued for discrimination. The first time, nine employees claimed there were forced to work in the stockroom because they did not meet the "Look" standards because they were of minority ethnicities.

Click here to read the full story.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where I Live

Dear Friends and Family,
Many of you have never been able to visit or haven't been here in a long time. I thought I'd let you see what the house is looking like these days. A few months after Sweet Pea was born, we had some MAJOR renovations done on the house. It was re-sided a lovely green. We got new windows, we had the driveway paved and a new front porch put in. At the moment we are have our half bath renovated as well. When we worked on the laundry room, we kind of ran out of steam and that bathroom was never completed. It's exciting to think that after so long it will be back in service. It should be done on Tuesday. I'll try to post pictures when it is.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Lot Crunchier Than I Used To Be

I thought that as I got older everyone got more conservative. And I have. Although I was always pretty conservative. That urge that many young adults get to reject everything they ever heard and see what they believe to be true did hit hit me as hard as others. I have definitely become more socially Conservative, more religious, less inclined to have government interference in my life and less inclined to pay for it in other people's.

On the other hand, I also do some things I always thought much more liberal, march to the beat of your own drummer, mamas would do. I homeschool-- given people on both ends of the social spectrum do this. I cloth diaper, co-slept, and carried the kids in a sling as infants. I am still nursing a nearly two year old. We drink organic milk-- those growth hormones scare me and have been linked to the early onset of puberty. We recycle, compost and use lots of reusable containers instead of single use packaging.

Do we have different motives for doing the same things? Or have some gone left and others gone right and then we all ended up circling around to meet each other? Food for thought. Granola, maybe?

I Dare You

Go ahead, leave a comment. I double dare you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My New Favorite Person

My new favorite person is Jack Y. Lin, the Immigration Field Office Director. We just got our I-171H. That is the permission to bring an orphan into the country. This is a biggie. Without it we couldn't bring Sweet Pea home. God is good!

Of course some of our paperwork has now expired. (this is like some sort of farce.) In the next two weeks we should have new police checks and be on our way. Again. I think. Please God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer is almost here

We are done with school in just a few days, and today was the last day of gymnastics. I feel oddly bereft. Already our schedule is packed:
two weeks of swim lessons
one week trip
catechism for Wonder boy and day camp for Jophus
Cub Scout day camp for WB
more swim lessons
(wow, look its August!)
family vacation
one week of nothing
gymnastics starts again
school starts again


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Isn't funny the things that you said that you'd never do, and then you end up up doing them? After Jophus was born, I was never having another child. I distinctly remember standing the the kitchen and saying "I'll never be one of those crazy people who homeschools their kids." Finally, I said that if a child can ask then they are too old to nurse. Err, umm. Yeah, about that.

All of my children were breastfed, but Pookie has embraced the experience. "Experts" recommend that you don't introduce a bottle for the first few weeks, if you are nursing in order to establish a good nursing relationship. Well, I was so focused on that, I kind of forgot to introduce a bottle, so Pookie never took one. Ever. Not even once.

Now she will tap me on the chest and say "I nur! I want nur!" I know its time to start weaning her. In theory, we will be going to Russia sometime in the next few months. I'd like to be weaned by then. The thing is we don't really want to stop. I don't know what God has in store for us in regards to the size of our family. We may never haven another infant. Even if we do have more children after Sweet Pea, we may decide to adopt again. I like being able to nourish and comfort our baby. I like having a tiny to hold and love.

This may be the first of our "lasts." The last baby to nurse. The last child to use the crib or use that baby blanket. Is it the last child we will see learn to talk? It is so hard to admit that one stage of my parenthood may be ending.

Friday, June 5, 2009

iPhones Have Consequences

iPhones Have Consequences

by Sally Thomas

Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (November 2008).

In a Doonesbury cartoon of recent vintage, Zipper, nephew to the 1960s slacker Zonker Harris, sits in a college class, his laptop open before him, giving every impression of industrious note-taking: Tap tap tappity tap tap. "Dude," a classmate instant-messages him. "The professor's calling on you."

While Zipper, stalling for time, asks to hear the question again, the classmate googles the answer and zaps it to him. To the professor's obvious surprise, he rattles off, correctly, the names of the four greenhouse gases. "Dude," the classmate messages him, "you owe me." But Zipper's thoughts are elsewhere: "I'll never get through my email at this rate." Tap tap tappity tap tap.

The project of Emory professor Mark Bauerlein's new book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30, is to confront and dismantle the claim that digital technology is producing a higher-powered, better-informed, all-around smarter new generation than, say, the .01 percent of the Facebook population born in the 1960s.

Bauerlein recognizes that we live in a world where anyone with online access can read the Bill of Rights, dissect a virtual frog, take an online math quiz, tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art, watch a 1959 film of the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Franz Schubert's Erlking, and read Plato's Crito, any time of the day or night, for free.

But he also asks why, with all these advantages, so many young Americans sound like the high-school student who called a talk-radio show to complain about "all the boring stuff the teachers assign," like "that book about the guy. [Pause] You know, that guy who was great." "You mean The Great Gatsby?" asked the host. "Yeah," said the caller. "Who wants to read about him?" The cultural candy shop is open as it's never been open before, but evidence suggests that the kids aren't buying.

Bauerlein offers exhaustive statistics that point to steep drop-offs in reading habits and general knowledge over the last twenty-five years. In the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old demographic, for example, literary reader rates have declined by 17 percentage points since 1982. This, says Bauerlein, "isn't just a youth trend. It's an upheaval. The slide equals a 28 percent rate of decline, which cannot be interpreted as a temporary shift or as a typical drift in the ebb and flow of the leisure habits of youth. If all adults in the United States followed the same pattern, literary culture would collapse."

It would be easier to dismiss Bauerlein's claims as mere reactionary hysteria if the collapse were not already so evident. He quotes interviewees, from the "Jaywalking" segment of The Tonight Show, who don't know where the pope lives ("England?") or the tenure of a Supreme Court justice ("I'm guessing four years?"), or the title of any classic work of literature.

Their ignorance would seem outrageous if it didn't sound just like the kind of thing my college-professor husband has been reading in student papers, hearing in conversations with students, and seeing in course evaluations for years. This is a 100-level course, and we shouldn't be expected to do such complex reading, griped an entire chorus of students from a world-religions 101 course, for which the core text was a trade paperback that myhusband's father, a college dropout, had once been assigned in a Sunday School class. In another religion class, a student paper referred repeatedly to something called the momentous island, a phrase that mystified my husband until he realized that what the writer meant was that infamous school-prayer compromise, the moment of silence.

At the prep school I attended, "where girls prepare to be tomorrow's leaders today" and where every middle-school student now receives a school-issue laptop computer, ninth-graders no longer read The Once and Future King, because it's "too long." My eighth-grade English teacher, a patrician Southern lady of pronounced opinions, used to say, "My dears, you are not stupid. You are merely ignorant. And do you know why you are ignorant?" No, we really didn't, but we were going to hear it anyway: "You are ignorant because you watch the idiot machine."

This was thirty years ago, when there was only one idiot machine. Television, vehicle of Masterpiece Theatre and Match Game '74, has now been joined by a whole Information Superhighway, with a seemingly infinite number of exits to places that might be, but too often are not, Project Gutenberg's collection of electronic texts. Rather than connecting the new generation with the thought and achievements of previous generations, the Web, says Bauerlein, "encourages more horizontal modeling, more raillery and mimicry of people the same age. . . . It provides new and enhanced ways for adolescents to do what they've always done in a prosperous time: talk to, act like, think like, compete against, and play with one another," nowadays in a hermetically sealed, youth-culture cyber-bubble.

To get an account on Facebook—as, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that both my teenage daughter and I have done—is to enter a world in which people spend hours not only chatting but pretending to be werewolves who deliver bowls of pain to each other, or pretending to be pioneers on the Oregon trail who eat each other, or pretending to be superheroes who make each other levitate.

In such pursuits can an entire afternoon evaporate while the sentences sit undiagrammed, the history chapter unread, the magazine article unwritten. The Crito is out there, too, among the werewolves and the cannibals, but Socrates sits in his prison in vain: The youth of Athens are busy finding out what breakfast food is preferred by boy bands such as the Jonas Brothers.

The real outcome of Internet technology, argues Bauerlein, is not that it makes high culture readily available but that it usurps high culture's place altogether. As one college student says, half-apologetically, "My dad is still into the whole book thing. He has not realized that the Internet kind of took the place of that." An Apple Store window display features a row of gleaming laptop computers and a sign proclaiming, "The Only Books You'll Ever Need." Not, as Bauerlein points out, "The Only Computers." Not "The Best Computers." In the digital age, the Apples have trumped the oranges and rendered them obsolete, and already Johnny can't remember what an orange tastes like.

While apologists for digital technology in the classroom trumpet computer smarts as an entirely new form of intelligence, an "e-literacy revolution," Bauerlein offers page after page of studies that suggest e-literacy is merely newspeak for illiteracy. If students visiting interactive sites and playing video games develop, as the claim goes, "the kinds of higher-order thinking and decision-making skills employers seek today," these skills come at the cost of time spent reading, digesting, and retaining hard knowledge. In fact, says Bauerlein, the average person's "screen reading, surfing, and searching habits . . . mark an obdurate resistance to certain lower-order and higher-order thinking skills [including] the capacity to read carefully and to cogitate analytically."

Contrary to claims that computer use enhances functional literacy, Bauerlein cites research suggesting that screen time actually inhibits language acquisition by limiting exposure to complex or unfamiliar words. Even "software god" Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, dismisses the world of blogs and gaming as "encapsulated entertainment"—adding, "If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I'm competing with spending their time on this kind of crap." So much for "digital intelligence," says Bauerlein, if even technophiles recognize time spent at this generation's idiot machines as largely wasted time.

But are the machines themselves the villains in this story? Could technology, on its own, spawn an entire mindless culture of flirting, gossiping, photo-uploading, and virtual navel-gazing—all in service of flipping off the phonies out there who don't get that every passing emotion experienced by Tarquin D. Pebbleface and set down in textspeak is, like, "wry and hilarious," dude? If, as Bauerlein claims, "the genuine significance of the Web to a seventeen-year-old mind" is "not the universe of knowledge brought to their fingertips, but an instrument of non-stop peer contact"—well, how did we get here?

The answer lies in the same dismal territory already traversed by Diana West in her recent book The Death of the Grownup: the wholesale abdication of adults, not only parents but teachers, in favor of adolescent self-government—a culture that nurtures its present at the expense of its past.

At its heart, Bauerlein's book is not about machines at all but about what he calls "The Betrayal of the Mentors." Simply put, the educational and cultural establishments have sold out tradition and authority in favor of "collaborative-learning" models and objectives like "working with every young person's sense of self." The average teenager, not surprisingly, views himself not as a student in need of enlightenment but as a kind of automatic savant.

"It is the nature of adolescents," says Bauerlein, "to believe that authentic reality begins with themselves, and that what long preceded them is irrelevant." But when the larger culture collaborates in this belief, the outcomes are, if not actually disastrous, at least depressing. Bauerlein notes that in a Time magazine cover story reporting on the "Twixter generation"— the demographic of twenty-two to thirty year-olds—"not one of the Twixter or youth observers mentions an idea that stirs them, a book that influenced them, a class that inspired them, or a mentor who guides them. Nobody ties maturity to formal or informal learning, reading or studying, novels or ideas or paintings or histories or syllogisms. For all the talk about life concerns and finding a calling, none of them regard history, literature, art, civics, philosophy, or politics a helpful undertaking."

From the professor of Renaissance literature who declares, "Look, I don't care if everybody stops reading literature," to the urban teenage artist proclaiming that he's not trying to be "Picasso or Rembrandt or whoever else, you know," the leap is short and damningly direct. If even the grownups believe that what they know is not worth knowing, then the grownups—"teachers, professors, writers, journalists, intellectuals, editors, librarians, and curators"—are more than complicit in the creation of an exclusive teenage universe where the news is always "Me and How I Feel Now." The technology, it would seem, merely facilitates the assumption that this is all the news that's fit to print.

Ideas have consequences and, according to Bauerlein, the consequence of this particular idea will be the coming of age of successive generations who know less and less about the ideas that gave us Western civilization, and who therefore have less and less investment in its continuation. "Knowledge," writes Bauerlein, "supplies a motivation that ordinary ambitions don't."

The kind of knowledge of which he speaks isn't the sort that makes a person rich, beautiful, or popular. "It merely," he writes, "provides a civic good." In other words, learning a little, a person might come not only to regard himself as a member of society but to regard that society as something worth preserving.

Sally Thomas is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pretty Pookie

Pookie is 22 months old now, but is still quite small so at first she looks younger. If you really look at her you can tell she's older because her proportions are that of a toddler and not an infant. I was pretty worried for a while because for most of the winter she didn't really gain any weight, but in the past few months she has gained a few pounds. It is something of a shock to go from these giant boys who are usually at the top of the growth charts to this tiny petite princess.

Pookie understands most of what people say to her, and I'm excited that she she is starting to follow basic instructions like "go put that on the shelf." She is also starting to speak in multiple word sentences-- as long as no one else is around. She reminds me of that Michigan J. Frog from Bugs Bunny. This guy finds him and the frog starts to sing and dance. Every time the guy tries to show someone, the frog goes limp and mute. That's my girl! One of the few places that is different is at the gymnastics studio, where she has the coaches trained to give her stamps and sticker after classes. Yesterday that girl ended up with three stickers and a stamp.

She has no fear at all on a playground, which scares me to death. She will climb up ladders and nets and go on the big slides all by herself. When we go to the park I almost need another parents. One to run with her and one to help the boys, otherwise if I turn my back for a second, then she is doing some thing insane.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Food Journal

Today was an encouraging day. I did not follow my plan as much as I would have liked, but I did do better than I week.

Breakfast- skim milk, 2 frozen waffles topped with applesauce

mid morning- I was unusually hungry. Had a bowl of veggie soup

lunch- chicken pot pie (homemade, not frozen A much better choice. Whatever you do never eat the chicken pot pie from KFC. It had like a half a day's calories in it.)

snack- 3 dove chocolates, bowl of watermelon, and diet coke

dinner- chicken sandwich, watermelon, veggie soup

dessert- sauteed banana with 100 cal. Reese's sticks. (I know. that's why I said it was better, but not as good as I'd like.

Usually things start to hit the skids about 1:00 pm and they didn't today, so I'm pretty happy. It's been pretty hard so far trying to convince myself that I'm not really hungry, but tired, sad, frustrated, whatever. Here's to more success tomorrow.

A Day at the Farm

Homeschoolers are frequently criticized for not "socializing" their children. Some people seem to think that if a child is not sent to school, then obviously he is kept them locked in a dark room and never allowed speak to another child. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kids in our homeschool group play sports, are in plays and band, scouting, and rollerskating.

One of the things we do every year with our homeschool group is visit the "Real Life Farm." I love the farm. The kids get to do so many fun activities that they would normally not get to do. When we arrived all the kids we able to play on the playground until it was their turn to ride a pony. There was even a miniature horse for the toddlers. Pookie, of course, was not interested in getting anywhere near the horses. Wonder Boy and Jophus both took a turn, though.

After that it was our turn in the barn. There were goats, rabbits , and kittens to pet. Farmer Don introduced to children to different kinds of goats and each child was able to bottle feed a kid (baby goat, not another student).Then buckets of feed were set our and the children were able to hand the goats and sheep. They could even climb in to the pens. The final activity in the barn was to milk a cow.

When the kids (children, not baby goats) were finished we had a lunch break and more play time. Our final activity for the day was a hay ride. The whole day was a great time for parents and children to learn, play, deepen friendships, and make new ones. It was great!