Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas and linguistics

First off, Merry Christmas!! What a beautiful, warm day we had to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I hope you all had as lovely a day as we did.

Curly Fry does not speak very clearly. There are a lot of sounds he doesn't say yet--like t's, k's, f's, any consonant combinations, etc. There are some sounds he can say, but only does in certain words for whatever reason. For example, He can say Mommy, but he won't say "moo" like a cow. Whenever we see a cow he yells happily, "Bow!! Boooooo!!!" (cow, moo)

Last night I was trying to help him ask to be excused when he finished his dinner instead of just yelling. A language learning opportunity! I had him repeat after me:

me: May
Curly: AAA
me: I
Curly: I
me: please
Curly: eeeeee
me: be
Curly: eeeeee

I stopped and said, "No, you can do this! Say, 'boo'." So he said, "boo."
I then said, "Good, now say 'be.'" He said "eeeee."
I said, "No, say 'boo'", which he did and then 'be', which he again said incorrectly. I was persistent and kept repeating the two words to try and help him make the sound connection. After a short while, the the ever helpful Junior Mint, with a wicked look in his eye, began chanting loudly, "Boo-bee! boo-bee! boo-bee!!"

Woops. I did not even see that one coming. Curly Fry still can't say 'be' and 7 year old Junior Mint won't stop yelling, "Booby! Booby!" Not exactly the linguistics lesson I had in mind...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adoption on my mind and Curly Fry will be 2 this week!

The first time I held Curly Fry.
Mad Baby Curly Fry: 1 day old


Curly Fry smiling in his sleep: a few days old


Curly Fry and Junior Mint's 1st meeting!!!
Brothers. Kind of eery how alike they look, don't you think? (Before the curls came in, that is.)

Adoption has played a major role in my life. Obviously. It's on my mind tonight for a few reasons...1) I learned today that I had been misinformed and that our baby's (Squeaky Bean) adoption isn't final yet like we were told and won't be for at least 2 months. 2) There was a great adoption special from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/) on tv tonight and I wept for all the children in need of families and in joy for those families who have found each other through adoption. 3) Watching the tv special made me reflect on what our life would be like without our two adopted children and I felt extra grateful as they giggled and played together tonight. So, tonight I feel a little like sharing a small part of our adoption journey. Here goes.

After the death of our daughter nearly 6 years ago and the many (read 6) miscarriages we've experienced--one on the first anniversary of our daughter's death if you can appreciate the sad irony--we can see how plain a miracle it is that our only living biological child exists at all. And we are sensibly grateful for him. (I love you Junior Mint. What would we ever do without you?) If you are happy to be part of a big family like I am--one of six--you will understand my growing concern at our son's lone place in our family. I feel like a childhood without siblings is half-lived... at least I can't imagine it without a sense of deep loss. We wanted more children for ourselves--we felt our family was not complete as it was--and we wanted our son to have siblings.

After our 4th miscarriage, I brought up adoption as a valid choice for growing our family to my sweet husband. He took a little time to acclimate to the idea and sometime later, we began the tedious, heart-wrenching, frustrating, exciting, unpredictable, spirit-filled, prayerful, humbling, life-changing journey of adoption. If you are ever going to adopt, it is very helpful to relinquish the idea that you have any control of your life...having baby after baby die is helpful in this process, but is not the preferred route.

After one very sad false hope of adoption (which was like a miscarriage without the bleeding), and 2 years of hoping and praying and giving up and hoping again, we received word that we were chosen to adopt a baby boy who would be born in the Sacramento, California area any day. We were shocked and elated!! (And honestly, I was a little concerned it might not be the kid for us because I had always thought we'd get a black or biracial little girl and I couldn't see how this fit my preconceived notion.) It was a hellish month later that our sweet son was born. (I say month because the doctors let his poor birthmom go 3 weeks late.) I say hellish not because we felt conflicted or didn't want him. Of course we did! But I was riddled with fears that it wouldn't really work out. I was crying at unpredictable moments, prone to spastic elation, and carried around a new baby bottle my friend had given me like a security blanket, clinging to this symbol of hope that we would get this new baby. Basically, I was a wreck.

If you were unfortunate enough to be my friend at that time, you will remember that I stopped taking phone calls because every time the phone rang, my heart lept and then fell when it wasn't "the call." (Sorry, Emily.) And if you were an old childhood friend, you'll probably never realize how much your incomprehensible certainty that it would work out convinced me to be hopeful for days at a time when my own faith wasn't enough to go on. (Thanks, Lisa.)

When it finally was time--2 days after Christmas--and it really was "the call" despite my assurance to my mother-in-law that it certainly wasn't when she anxiously answered the phone, we bought tickets, packed up, drove to BWI and were in the air 3 hours later. (It helped being in Delaware and being able to leave Junior Mint with his beloved Grammie.) That night at about 1 a.m. we landed in Sacramento, picked up a rental car and drove to a complete stranger's house who was the mother-in-law of the sister of a friend I met twice at adoption activities in Utah. (Yeah, not exactly a direct connection.) This amazing, loving family started out as strangers and quickly felt like family to me--especially after my husband went home and I stayed with our new son to await approval to cross state borders and return home. (Thank you forever, Kelly family.)

The next morning--before 7 am, I think--we got a call from our social worker instructing us to head over to the hospital because our son's birthmother wanted to go home and we needed to be there with him. Now, don't judge this woman unkindly. She willingly went through a pregnancy whose fruits she would not keep and enjoy because although her child was unexpected, he was not unloved. He deserved a family and she would find him one. She prayerfully chose a family for him and to our eternal gratitude, it was ours. When she had done her part, she felt a deep need to move forward with her life. We met her and her mother, spent time with them talking about their interests and life stories. After our conversation, we went into the nursery and first clamped eyes on our little Curly Fry. I think I insisted that Hubba Hubba get to hold him first. He was a little beauty. After meeting his birthmom, I had high hopes that his hair would someday be curly and it has proven so. (One AWESOME advantage of adoption over biological reproduction is that you are not limited by your genes. I could never have produced a child with such prodigiously beautiful curls as our son has.)

Soon after we met Curly Fry, we returned to his birthmom and said goodbye as she prepared to leave the hospital. We made arrangements to come to dinner at their family home the next day and that was a wonderful experience where we got to meet all the biological relatives around and they got to meet us. I hope they felt comforted that this little boy was going to a home where he would be treasured and loved. We definitely felt grateful to meet this large, loving family and learn so many good things to teach our son about his biological heritage. Anyway, after the birthmom left, we got to spend the rest of the time with our baby in the hospital--about 2 days and 1 night as it turned out.

When I called my mom to tell her we were really there and he was really ours, she asked me how it felt. I think she expected a different answer than what I gave her. I said it felt warm and soft to hold him. I didn't have any lightning bolt experiences with this new son. But it felt right. It didn't take long at all to feel that he was ours and would be forever. And I hope and pray each day that we will live worthy of the blessing of eternity with our family.

As a side note--when we called and told Junior Mint that he had a brother, his first counsel was, "Don't let him catch on fire." Sage advice indeed. We have heeded it faithfully. (I think he was deeply affected by Jack Jack from The Incredibles.) And those two have been the sweetest pair of brothers ever since they first met--despite the 5 year age difference. I am so glad they have each other...and only 14 months later, a sister! But that is a story for another post...





Friday, December 19, 2008

Exorcism

I got a great tag from my awesome little sister. She's working on exorcising a few demons and I happily come to her aid here in this blog. Here's the link to her post where she tagged me and others. http://plainbellied.blogspot.com/search/label/Exorcising

For starters, a relevant story:
My oldest sister recently told me a story about a friend of hers who was acting a bit too much like her mother. This friend's husband went up to her, put his palm against her forehead and said, "Karen Sue Williams (I'm making that up--He said whatever her mom's name was), I exorcise you!!" His wife realized she was channeling her mom and got back to normal. I think we could all use that sometimes.

My younger sister tagged me to write about ways I overcome feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing and then write some things I like about myself. A lot of my answers will probably start with a story to give it context. Anyway, here we go:

1. I've gone to big schools, but the high school I graduated from was tiny. There were about 42 people in my graduating class. Then I went to BYU...um...30,000 people or so bigger. I felt distinctly unimportant, untalented, and unattractive. I've always compared myself too much to others and this sent that bad habit into overdrive. For a short while, I seemed doomed to perpetual self-loathing. Then one day, I realized that if I could be as grateful for other people's blessings as I am for my own, I wouldn't be jealous. So I gave it a try. I would be walking around campus and see something I thought was great for another person and silently pray in thanks to God that he gave them that thing...like cool socks, or great clothes, or beautiful skin, or wonderful musical abilities, etc. (Obviously they were usually external things--I couldn't see their intelligence or compassion.)
I found as I prayed in gratitude for them, I would think of how those blessings could also be challenges. I would pray for the exceptionally pretty girl to be able to know when a guy liked her for who she was and that girls would be nice to her. (Let's face it, girls are notoriously hard on women prettier than they are and it's tough for the gorgeous ones to make friends. I've since been grateful to be of very average beauty because I have lots of great girlfriends!) I would pray that the person who was so tremendously musically gifted would be able to have the humility to recognize that God gave them that gift and not struggle with pride their whole life.
I learned as I prayed in gratitude for others' blessings and for their perceived trials, that I felt real love for these total strangers and didn't feel jealous of their gifts. I didn't feel diminished by their excellence anymore because I realized it didn't change my own abilities or appearance in reality. That's a really long answer, but it was really the most profoundly helpful step in accepting myself.

2. When my HubbaHubba left for his mission, I was a first class piner. I pined away for him in my heart in a way that to this day, he still doesn't really believe. I thought about him constantly, missed him always, took Spanish in the hopes he'd like me more when he got home, kept a special place for new letters in my bedroom... One day, on my long walk home, I realized that as great as he was, I'd better think about more than just him if I wanted to be an improved human being the next time I saw him. For my own growth, I figured the best thing to focus my thoughts on would be God. That was intimidating. I was walking a couple miles and couldn't just pull out my scriptures and read about him, so I decided to figure out things we had in common as a starting point...just like you do when you're making a new friend. You may be a little stumped. I was. What could I possibly have in common with God or Jesus Christ?
It was a beautiful fall day. There were gorgeous almost neon yellow leaves on the trees by the art museum. "Jesus made those," I thought. "He must love yellow leaves. I love yellow leaves." It was a start. I began to think of all the things that make me truly happy...like dancing, writing, music, art, nature... Jesus made all those things available to me. Why would he create something that he didn't love? Could he create something and not love it? I don't think so. Though the gap is infinitely wide between my Maker and myself, thinking of him as a friend and knowing I had some of the same joys he must have made me feel better--bigger inside myself.

3. I need exercise. It makes me feel like I have a chance of mastering myself. Being out alone (or with a good friend) running or walking makes me feel a little more eternal. That sounds weird. But what I mean is that we know we always existed--as matter before we were formed into spirit bodies and then into mortal ones. And we know we'll keep on existing forever. But sometimes when I'm home alone with the children for days on end, I get feeling like this life is all I've ever had or will have. I don't mean that to be ungrateful. If there were only one phase of life available to me, I think I'd pick this one, but it is so comforting to me to have times when I feel like just me--not anybody else's anything, except God's child. Within the protective knowledge that God is my father and he loves me, it's hard to get unduly worked up about unkind things other people may say or do.
Plus, when my body is stronger, in my whole soul I feel more powerful and brave and capable.

Now for the tricky part...what I love about me:
(Honestly, you have to imagine a very long pause here and a little discomfort in the chest region. This is harder for me than I'd like it to be and I don't want to sound braggy.)

1. I like my bright red hair. It took many years and lots of viewings of Anne of Green Gables, plus some famously pretty redheads to come to that, but I do. For fun, here's a list of lovely redheads: Anne, (obviously), Mary Jane (of Spiderman fame), Jean Grey (X-Men, of course), Jessica Rabbit (this one's ridiculous, I know, but before that stupid Roger Rabbit movie came out, I didn't know people could see redhead's as anything but freckley messes), the Little Mermaid (I had a whole collection of dolls), that one girl in JEM's band, Julianne Moore, and now Amy Adams.
Here is a short list of culturally known redheads who did not make my life easier as a child: Pippi Longstocking, Harriet from the tv show "Small Wonder", and little orphan Annie.

2. I really mean to do the right thing all the time and be as kind as I know how. I fail a lot, but I am always trying--especially in how I treat my husband and friends.

3. I like that my arms are pretty small like my mom's. Lucky genetics in that case, I think.

4. I always apologize and admit it when I realize I've been wrong or done something wrong. I think that's a good quality.
I usually think I'm right and that's okay with me, but I don't NEED to be right. I hate being wrong, but it's not because I look bad, but because I feel so terrible when I've made a mistake.

5. I like my writing style. I'm no genius, but I'm always conversational and I sound like myself.

So there you have it. PlainBellied might be the only one to finish this monster long post because she asked for it. I love her and that's okay with me. =) Thanks, Plainbellied. This was good for me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I KNEW it!!! Valentine's Day, baby

What is the US release date for the Twilight DVD?

"...At the moment, the date is Valentine's Day (Sat, Feb. 14th)...The price will be 19.99 unless you want the 2disc Special Edition, and that will be 22.99. The date may change, but they said it probably won't. If it does, it will be within two or so weeks of that date."

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_US_release_date_for_the_Twilight_DVD

Friday, December 12, 2008

the Chitlins...

2 recent thoughts from my only verbal child:

"He hit me on my body part!" ---I swear I taught him correct anatomical language...but then I told him not to say it ALL the time. I guess this is what we get.

"Maybe he thinks they're holes of grossness..." ---Junior Mint on why his younger brother wouldn't take the penne pasta I offered him.

As for the nonverbal children, at 14 months apart, they are becoming more like twins every day as the gap in their developmental levels closes. They are so fun and cute, but also manage to cause a lot of trouble for such little people.

They get into the bathroom and the older one turns on the water while the younger one rips up all the toilet paper. Or the older one opens the fridge and both babies take out everything they can reach before I get to them. Yesterday, I came into the room after maybe 3 minutes away and Sqeaky Bean was on the living room floor surrounded by litte gold foil wrapped butter pats, chewing on them willy nilly. (Courtesy of Curly Fry, of course. He is such a little helper and he adores his baby "Nena.")

What is it going to be like when they BOTH walk and climb? I'm toast, folks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

While I'm at it...

While I'm at it, I'll just add a small thought about the idea that gay marriage is a civil right.
70% of African Americans in California voted for Prop 8. Umm...I think if this were a civil rights issue, the black people would be the first ones to know about it.

Side note: Mormons make up less than 5% of the voting populace in California. Can you imagine the gay community attacking blacks?! How would that play out in the media?
Once again, Mormons are an easy target. Cheap shot.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We are all Mormons

I haven't yet written my planned Prop 8 post because it just seemed too big. I wrote down a list of points I wanted to cover one night and it was almost 2 pages long...so I'll just write little bits here and there. I think I felt a little complacent--kind of "over it" because it's not impacting my daily life--but clearly that will not be good enough. We don't move on from a battle that is in full swing. And clearly, the other side is swinging hard.

My friend Emily sent an email with an article that expresses a sentiment I've been waiting for from other conservative communities. Gay radicals like "Courage Campaign" have singled out Mormons for their hand in passing Prop 8 because Mormons are an historically VERY easy target. I mean, how many other religious groups have been exterminated from states and made legal to kill at will? 33% of Americans polled said they wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney just because he was Mormon, disregarding any other qualifications or political positions. So, here's a letter from a rabbi that I find pertinent and frankly, a little heartening. It's about time.

WE ALL ARE MORMONS by Rabbi Shifren
http://www.lawatchdog.com/RabbiShifren-WeAreAllMormons112008.html
November 21, 2008

We are living in an era of insanity! Witness the latest attempt to remake the nature of our country, founded and established on certain principles that have been the envy of the entire world. The latest assault on our country and its values comes in the form of vicious and criminal violence against the Mormon church in Westwood, California.

Interesting how the selective self-righteous indignation on the part of the radical Gay activists is played out here: they bewail the blow to freedom and justice! But I thought we just had elections, where the majority of Californians expressed their views in a free and open manner. Are we not a nation of laws? Dare we relive the McCarthy era, where Americans were harassed and threatened with the loss of their jobs for believing in a certain way? If the Gay radicals should have their way, untold numbers of Americans would live under the threat of the Gay-Lesbian "thought police," where individuals that reject the Gay lifestyle would be sought out and have sanctions brought against them.

It's bad enough for those working in the entertainment industry here in Los Angeles, where a fog of political correctness and a bending over backwards to accommodate, even promote Gay lifestyle is in full gear. Let none dare say that this type of activity is anathema to our country, our morality, and the debauchery of our young people.

Let it be stated unequivocally: The radical Gay attack on the Mormons is the shot over the bow against the United States of America. There was a time when what a man did in his bedroom was sanctified between himself and God. Now we are being served an "in-your-face" smorgasbord of smut and licentiousness as being between people who only "want their civil rights."

Hogwash! We are dealing with the equivalent of a moral takeover of the country that has as its bedrock a belief in God and His promise for humanity. They don't want civil rights! What they desire is quasi Gay/Lesbian hegemony, where a huge "bookburning," reminiscent of the Nazis, will purge any remnants of the "Christian, White, mainstream America" that has given ALL AMERICANS the most profound scope of freedom, liberty, and justice that Mankind has yet to experience.

People have perhaps wondered: why the Mormons? Answer: they are a small, yet vocal Christian minority. They have been selected by the mobs as vulnerable, a group that might not have such massive support among America's Christians.

We who are friends of the Mormons, their patriotism, their family values, will not falter in our continued support of these dear Americans. Let us recall the Christian minister Niemoller, whose admonition during those dark years of Nazi Germany moved us to our core:

"When they came for the gypsies, I said nothing, because I wasn't a gypsy. When they came for the homosexuals, I said nothing, because I wasn't a homosexual. When they came for the Jews, I said nothing, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I said nothing, because I wasn't a Catholic......then they came for me, and there was no one left to defend me."

My fellow Americans, in the coming battle for the heart and soul of America and everything we cherish, may this call to arms be the mantra of every concerned patriot:

"WE ALL ARE MORMONS!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can there be too much Austen?

Do you ever find it to be the case that when you read a very stylized work of fiction, you find yourself so wrapped up in the language of it, it's difficult to speak like a normal person?
I do.

I have just finished reading Emma by Jane Austen. The impact of the language upon me was heightened because I had it in audio format as well from the library. So, while doing dishes, I would listen, and while sitting down to watch a show with the children, I would read.

Tangent:
When we lived in Wymount at BYU and got the Canadian channel, my husband could tell if I had been watching it always within minutes of coming home. I am absurdly open to suggestions of accent. Once, in high school, my sister and I were both being interviewed together for some kind of summer job. The lady interviewing us came from the deep South and had the fabulous accent to prove it. After we left her office, my sister accosted me, saying essentially, "What is wrong with you?! Were you trying to make fun of her or something?" Apparently, I had completely unconsciously taken up her accent as best I could and spoken with it for some length of the interview. In this one regard, I have sympathy for Madonna: If I moved to England, I would undoubtedly begin speaking in a presumably pretentious half-British, half-American way which would annoy everybody.

Thus it is, that all evening, I have had to refrain from the type of phraseology which would make me ridiculous. For example:

Do not you find it sometimes amusing to the point of hilarity the way in which young children do go on despite all forms of parental discouragement and professions of decorum?
Translation: Even when they're being totally disobedient, the kids are still pretty funny sometimes.

Can you yet conjecture so unlikely a scenario, so ill-conceived a notion as this tale of suspense and ardor, which still excites within one so complete a wish for successful and felicitous resolution for the heroine and her champion; at least so much as may be within their power to obtain?
Translation: Even though Twlight is complete fantasy, you just can't help but root for a happy ending, can you?

I guess you should all count yourselves fortunate that I haven't started on Dickens again, yet. His sentences are like a paragraph long. I wish I got paid by the word like he did.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Can you mix politics and cookies?

Did anybody else watch Dr. Phil today? Normally, I don't. I usually think he's a few shows away from becoming a Ph.D.'d Jerry Springer. But today he actually tried to have a very balanced discussion about gay marriage. I appreciated his effort. At the end, he asked each side if they thought there was a common ground they thought we could come together on to begin to heal the bitter feelings and words. Neither answer was satisfactory in my mind. So, here's what I would have said.

Yes, we are all children of God. I think that even when we disagree vehemently about something, we have within us the capacity to say, "I respect your point of view and can understand why you feel that way." And I think we can really mean it. It doesn't mean we won't battle long and hard for the thing in which we believe, but we can do it kindly. I know this is an issue that affects people in a very personal way, but it doesn't mean we have to make an ideological issue personal. No name-calling is ever necessary to make a point. We can say and act out the belief, "I respect you as much as myself. I mean you no ill will."

When we went to the D.C. Temple last Saturday for the sealing of my sister's adopted baby to her and her family, we knew there was a protest scheduled. I was honestly debating making cookies to take to the protestors. I didn't think I'd be able to make enough because the one in Manhattan had 5,000 people at it. But it rained all day in Virginia and Maryland, and when we arrived for the sealing, there were only 2 people in raincoats, holding signs.

I should've made the cookies. I was also worried they'd think it was some kind of evil trick and throw them at me or something, but maybe I was wrong. There has been ugliness on both sides of this issue--before, during, and after the vote. But I don't have to make my decisions based on those unfriendly acts. I should do what I think is right and kind and let the chips fall where they may. If I could do it over, here's what I would've done: I would've taken them cookies and said, "I'm really sorry our position on this issue has been hurtful to you. I know you're God's child just like I am and I'm sad for your pain and frustration. My view on this issue will not change, but I wish you no ill will. I made you cookies."

Maybe that's naive in the extreme. I can think of all kinds of possible ugly responses to that. But I can think of positive ones, too. As we left the Temple on Saturday, the rain had abated and 4 or 5 people were then protesting outside. One teenage girl with them smiled and waved as we drove by. And I smiled and waved back. Maybe she would've liked some cookies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My babies...














































Felled Trees and Gratitude




Several months ago the awesome Wayts family and Brother Shearman came and cut down and hauled away two big pine trees from our backyard that were killing the grass and taking up all our space. I still haven't thanked them properly. How do you thank Sister Wayts? She bakes, sews, cooks, does everything...better than I do. What can I do for her? Suggestions would be appreciated. Can you see how tiny Brother Wayts is next to the tree? And no damage done to person or property. Just amazing. I've gotta add props to my garbage lady who lent me a big truck free of charge so I could haul branches away. She even dropped it off and picked it up. Such a nice lady.






Friday, November 14, 2008

Beheaded and stupid

I have a more serious post in the works about why Proposition 8 is necessary, not because the Prophet said so, but because of the many devastating consequences we'll be faced with if it is not upheld. More later...

For now, here is a story my great friend told me when I visited her in Colorado last week. Her good friend (we'll call her Karen) has a 3 year old daughter who is in the midst of a roaring princess phase. So Karen, apparently concerned that her daughter may develop a helpless attitude with a desire to be rescued decided to spare her daughter a lifetime of disappointment. She told her that princess is not really much of a gig, because historically, they're usually beheaded.

I thought that was hilarious. But my own daughter is nowhere near princess-land yet.

Here's my confession. A couple years ago, I taught Junior Mint that girls who wear bikinis are stupid and do so because they're not smart enough to locate and put on all of their clothes. "You wouldn't want to go on a date with somebody who was too dumb to get dressed, would you?" I asked. Is that wrong?

Clearly, it will need to be amended in the future. The context was this...we were watching the scene in Aladdin where the genie is showing off his powers and summons two skimpily dressed girls in bikini tops, wearing veils who dance suggestively and try to kiss Aladdin. I didn't want Junior Mint thinking that kind of behavior from a girl was acceptable or that Aladdin should want to kiss them just because they were available.

It reminds me of a parenting moment from "Everybody Loves Raymond." Those horrible parents had told Robert that whenever the ice cream man's bell rang, it meant he was out of ice cream...

Do you have any such parenting faux pas? Am I (and my friend's friend) in it alone with this? What did your parents tell you?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proposition 8

I watched The Return of the King last night instead of election coverage, because orcs eating people seemed cheerier to me than watching the Leftist media gloat. I will say, it's an exciting day for blacks in America and I hope Barack Obama's presidency will be the kind of change his followers hope for.

I was sent a disturbing email this morning about an anti-Mormon ad opposing Proposition 8 in California. Prop. 8 is a ballot measure in California, seeking to add wording to the state constitution clarifying that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. The battle has been heated, as you can imagine. If you want to watch "Mormon missionaries" ransacking the house of a lesbian couple and ripping up their marriage license, you can look it up the ad from 'Courage Campaign' on YouTube. I found it offensive in the extreme. It is always the case with liberal extremists that they say they want all views respected, when in reality, they have only respect for themselves. I can understand why people would oppose Proposition 8. But clearly, they do not extend the same courtesy as to why others might support it. The Church's response to this ad was characteristically classy.

Scott Trotter with the Church released this statement,
“The Church has joined a broad-based coalition in defense of traditional marriage. While we feel this is important to all of society, we have always emphasized that respect be given to those who feel differently on this issue. It is unfortunate that some who oppose this proposition have not given the Church this same courtesy.”

I remember when this was first a ballot measure in California several years ago while I was a student at BYU. I was surprised at how divided the campus--especially the professors--were on this issue. I remember one professor who I particularly admired being opposed to the Church's position mostly because of the extreme right groups it put us in camp with. Nobody likes to be thought of as intolerant. Heck, if the Church didn't have a position on gay marriage, I might not think it mattered. But I trust that the Prophet knows more. He is in the watch tower and it is his sacred responsibility to warn us when danger approaches, even if it doesn't look dangerous to us in the beginning. I think this issue and many others that members of the LDS faith may struggle with really boil down to whether or not you have a testimony of the divine call of the Prophet. If you don't believe he speaks for God, why would you care what he said? If he does, how can you possibly disregard it?

I'm including a link to a site supporting proposition 8. Read to the bottom and watch the video about how legalizing same-sex marriage has affected education in Massachusetts. It is disturbing, but not surprising.

http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/yes_on_prop_8.html

I sometimes hear people suggest that the Church has no business in politics...I find this idea offensive. God makes laws...not the prophet, not the Church. If the laws of man run contrary to scriptural teachings, it is our responsibility to seek to change those laws. Man does not legislate morality. God already did that. We're just trying to keep in line with what he already taught. It is absurd to me that anyone would willingly compartmentalize or segregate the parts of their life in which they're willing to hear God...
"He can tell me how to eat, but not how to act out my sexuality...Our entire criminal justice system is based on the Ten Commandments, but we have no right to legislate morality....I'm willing to do what is already easy for me, but if His prophet asks something I'm uncomfortable with, I think it's none of His business." ????

Where gay marriage is concerned, this is plainly true. There is no discrimination against gay couples on the books in California. All the same rights are extended to them. Their relationship is just not called "marriage." By seeking that final title, they're not seeking equality in legal rights; they're forcing everyone else to acknowledge that their lifestyle is equally acceptable. They're seeking moral validation.

The Bishop will never ask you how you voted on an issue in a Temple recommend interview, and certainly it would not be appropriate. But if you are a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have covenanted to follow God's prophet. And if the prophet says we should do something--like support Proposition 8--and we choose not to, we are ignoring our testimony and choosing to consider the Prophet simply an old man with some advice we are also free to ignore. Either God leads this Church through his prophet, or he doesn't.

You may struggle internally--I certainly have on this issue. You may not understand every bit of reasoning behind the Church's official position. But if the Church has an official position, you have a responsibility to make it your own. If you choose against the prophet, you've chosen the wrong side, folks. This is not blind obedience, it is conscientious faithfulness. Besides, if people like to think of us as sheep, at least we can take comfort in following the voice of our Shepherd.

I like an old quote from Elder Neal A Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It seems particularly pertinent here. "There didn't seem to be any problem with conformity the day the Red Sea parted."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Coverage has me seeing RED

The election coverage is only a few hours in and already I've had to restrain myself from throwing the remote control at the TV.

You know how sometimes you can't go to your kid's soccer game, so you might call your friend who's there and ask how they're doing? Your friend may give you a play-by-play..."We had the ball for a while, but #4 from the other team stole it and scored. Seth got a corner kick and missed, but over-all, we're playing a great game. The reffing is terrible..." You are calling to see if your team is winning, how your kid is playing. The other team is simply the opponent and that's the only reason they get mention--it's relevancy, not interest that brings them into the conversation. That is exactly how every bit of election coverage has been.

The newscasters are only talking about whether or not Obama will get a state or county. Even though McCain is leading in most areas so far--obviously it's ridiculously early on--he is only mentioned in how he pertains to Obama. In Indiana, for example, they showed how only 4 counties were Democratic in 2004 and already more counties than that are blue now. You really can't call it one way or the other yet, but even though McCain has a slight lead, the "news" people point out how it's already a victory there for Democrats because the numbers are so much better than the last presidential election. Either way, Obama wins by their reckoning. OK. That's fine. Way to be positive. ABOUT YOUR OWN TEAM. This isn't even about Obama for me. It is about the farce that is called journalism. If I were a person of colorful language, there would be obscenities inserted here.

It's not just the presidential election they're doing it with. CNN made a green screen virtual model of what the senate will look like if THEY get enough democrats in office. And it's not just general rhetoric. They were going through each contested race and saying, "See, if the Democrat wins, the square turns blue like this...and if this Democrat wins, that square turns blue, and if that Democrat wins, then this little squre turns blue." I am not exaggerating. They kept going until their computer froze. Apparently 60 is the magic filibuster-proof number. Fine. Could they just pretend they weren't rooting for a particular side? Just for the night? If not, then they should label their station blue and own their real position instead of allowing this badly disguised partisanship to be called unbiased.

I think this election will probably be closer than the Democrat Journalists think. Republicans aren't as enthusiastic a group as this invigorated Democratic party, but they still vote. Here's my little prediction. If Obama wins, we'll think, "Yeah. I kind of thought that would happen. OK. What now?" If McCain wins, there will be claims of voter fraud and shock at how different the poll numbers were from the actual voter turnout. (Oh, and it will apparently mean that lots of people who said they were voting for Obama, but didn't, are racist. Nice.) That's about how it played out when Bush won in 2004. Remember the stunned-into-shock media? Here's why: They're all Democrats and they don't know any people who vote Republican, so they don't think they're out there. Guess what? We are. And we'd like a little fairness in reporting, if you please. At least starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

pinafores?

I saw a show on TLC recently about this giant family of kids who were all homeschooled. Awesome! I love big families. I love homeschooling! Good for you, I say. But did the girls all have to wear matching pinafores circa 1890? I appreciate modesty as much as the next conservative person, but really, is that necessary? Keeping up a clothings style that is more than a century out of date is just strange. Maybe it's their way of promoting chastity. Also a great cause. But there are already so many goofy stereotypes about homeschoolers; I hate it when they're true...and on TV.

Why is it that nobody talks about all the cool homeschoolers? Did you know Will and Jada Smith homeschooled their kids until very recently when they founded their own charter school? If anyone is cool, it's gotta be the Smith family. Abigail Breslin, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jennifer Love Hewitt were all homeschooled. Lots of Olympic athletes are homeschooled. How else would they have the time to excel at such time-consuming passions?

I have no idea how this homeschooling business will turn my kids out. I hope they'll be happy, clean in body and mind, civic-minded, service oriented, smart, capable, and fun. And yes, I hope they'll be cool. I can't help it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Poll

Writing that last post made me want to do another poll.

If you had to choose one of the Muppets to be President, who would it be?

1. Sam the Eagle
2. Kermit the Frog
3. Miss Piggy
4. Gonzo
5. Rolf
6. write-in muppet

poll

Hubba Hubba and I were talking about Skyping--talking for free online through a webcam and phone line--and he didn't think many people had webcam's. I told him I'd do a poll. So here's the question.

Do you have a webcam?

Also, have you heard of skyping?

Vices

Today was Fast Sunday in my branch. I was nearly to the podium on my way up to bear my testimony when I noticed two other women had stood up on either side of me near the front, but that I was first up because I was closest. Without even thinking, I raised both my hands in the air to celebrate my "victory". Does that mean I've overly competitive? People either thought it was funny or that I'm a jerk.

Last week, I was at a lunch with some very lovely ladies and we started talking about some interesting stuff...abortion, politics, etc. I automatically talked first nearly every time an issue came up. It's like I'm incapable of shutting up. Have you ever had that experience? I can't tell you how many times I've had fun at some social gathering and then come home and thought of all the dumb things I said or did. Then I want to become a hermit and never speak to people again. In this instance, I didn't say anything I thought was stupid or would've taken back if given the opportunity--I just talked too much and didn't listen enough. I think often of a line from Anne of Green Gables. I'll paraphrase: Anne is discussing the issue of her verbosity when she says that if people knew how much she wanted to say, but didn't, they'd give her a little more credit. I feel that way a lot. (This is why I love people who are big talkers; then I don't seem to bad by comparison and there's an even give and take in a conversation. =) )

I wonder what it would be like to be one of those people whose vices are hidden to the world... Mine are so painfully obvious.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In other news...

I think all of you have met Junior Mint. He's a delicious little boy and I love him. And he talks all the time. I have no idea where that quality came from. Out of so much talking, there are bound to be funny sayings.

Two things he said yesterday are as follows:

We were at the grocery store in the cereal aisle. Always hoping to be the one who chooses the cereal, Junior Mint said, "I want to buy Whities."
"What?!" we said.
He pointed at a box on a shelf and then I corrected him, "No, honey, those are Wheaties."
It did seem pretty funny to us, though, especially with a large African American pro basketball player across the front of the box. (Go Celtics!)

As we sat and ate dinner last night, Junior Mint said suddenly, "I'm isolated."
I looked at my husband. He looked at me. "No, you're not," he said.
Thoughts raced through my mind.... Did someone at soccer practice say something about his homeschooling? Does he spend too much time alone? He goes to church and plays soccer and plays with different friends in the afternoons. Does time spent with me count as isolation? Should we be doing more to cultivate outside friendships?
It was just a few seconds before I turned to Junior Mint and said, "What do you mean?"
His response?
"I'm freezing!!"

Hallelujah!!!

Guess what we got in the mail today??!!! (Imagine a very sing-songy voice because that's what you'd hear right now).

Curly Fry's Amended Birth Certificate!!!

For those of you unfamiliar with the bureaucratic beast that is adoption legal procedure, this means his adoption is now completely done. WOOHOOO!!! It has been legally finalized since January, but we couldn't do any taxes including him without an amended birth certificate. Typically, when an adoption is finalized, it takes just a few months to get an amended birth certificate (with our names on it). Curly Fry, however, was born in California and their Vital Records Office is open for calls all of 15 hours per week. They take 4 times longer than almost every other state to process any information, which is why it took so long.

An amended birth certificate gives us the legal right to apply for a social security number in his name. It's hard to imagine how important those 9 little digits are unless you don't have them. Now we can finally get the numbers the government both supplies us and then requires of us. Then we can amend our taxes so we can actually claim our adoption expenses and claim Curly Fry as a dependent!! Hurray for us!!!

We have always been so thrilled to have him, but it has been a bummer to not get the government kickback that a child brings or claim any of the thousands of dollars it took in legal and other fees to bring him to our family. Children are priceless; but they are also pricey.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Onion Education

The following article is from The Onion. It was linked on a homeschooler yahoo group and it cracked me up. Even if you're all pro-school, I think it's still funny. I loved school as a kid and didn't get burnt out until the very end of college, but I love the idea of homeschooling now...even if it's not all warm fuzzies with my 7 year old every day. What do you guys think?

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/6_year_old_stares_down_bottomless
CARPENTERSVILLE, IL—Local first-grader Connor Bolduc, 6, experienced the first inkling of a coming lifetime of existential dread Monday upon recognizing his cruel destiny to participate in compulsory education for the better part of the next two decades, sources reported.
"I don't want to go to school," Bolduc told his parents, the crushing reality of his situation having yet to fully dawn on his naïve consciousness. "I want to play outside with my friends."
While Bolduc stood waiting for the bus to pick him up on his first day of elementary school, his parents reportedly were able to "see the wheels turning in his little brain" as the child, for the first time in his life, began to understand how dire and hopeless his situation had actually become.
Basic math—which the child has blissfully yet to learn—clearly demonstrates that the number of years before he will be released from the horrifying prison of formal schooling, is more than twice the length of time he has yet existed. According to a conservative estimate of six hours of school five days a week for nine months of the year, Bolduc faces an estimated 14,400 hours trapped in an endless succession of nearly identical, suffocating classrooms.
This nightmarish but undeniably real scenario does not take into account additional time spent on homework, extracurricular responsibilities, or college, sources said.
"I can't wait until school is over," said the 3-foot-tall tragic figure, who would not have been able, if asked, to contemplate the amount of time between now and summer, let alone the years and years of tedium to follow.
The concept of wasting a majority of daylight hours sitting still in a classroom when he could be riding his bicycle, playing in his tree fort, or lying in the grass looking at bugs—especially considering that he had already wasted two years of his life attending preschool and kindergarten—seemed impossibly unfair to Bolduc. Moreover, sources said, he had no idea how much worse the inescapable truth will turn out to be.
Shortly after his mommy, homemaker Ellen Bolduc, 31, assured him that he would be able to resume playtime "when school lets out," Connor's innocent brain only then began to work out the implication of that sentence to its inevitable, soul-crushing conclusion.
When pressed for more detail on the exact timing of that event, Mrs. Bolduc would only reply "soon." At that point, the normally energetic child grew quiet before asking a follow-up question, "After [younger sister] Maddy's birthday?" thereby setting the stage for the first of thousands of rushing realizations he will be forced to come to grips with over the course of his subsequent existence.
Madison Ellen Bolduc was born on Sept. 28.
After learning that the first grade will continue for eight excruciating months beyond that date, it was only a matter of time before Bolduc inquired into what grade comes after first grade, and, when told, would probe further into how many grades he will have to complete before allowed to play with his friends.
The answer to that fatal question—12, a number too large for Bolduc to count on the fingers of both hands—will be enough to nearly shatter the boy's still-forming psyche, said child psychology expert Eli Wasserbaum.
"When you consider that it doesn't include another four years of secondary education, plus five more years of medical school, if he wants to follow his previously stated goal to grow up to be a doctor like his daddy, this will come as an interminably deep chasm of drudgery and imprisonment to [Connor]," said Wasserbaum. "It's difficult to know the effect on his psychological well-being when he grasps the full truth: that his education will be followed by approximately four decades of work, bills, and taxes, during which he will also rear his own children to face the same fate, all of which will, of course, be followed by a brief, almost inconsequential retirement, and his inevitable death."
"Even a 50-year-old adult would have trouble processing such a monstrous notion," Wasserbaum added. "Oh my God, I'm 50 years old."
The first of Bolduc's remaining 2,299 days of school will resume at 8 a.m. tomorrow. On the next 624 Sundays, he will also be forced to attend church.

I always think I'm right...

Wow! I got so many great comments from the last post, I feel famous. And I've gotta add, it is totally cool with me when we disagree completely...like my awesome sister and some outstanding friends. One thing I think is true about me is this: I always think I'm right. Honestly, I think most people do. But, I genuinely WANT to know if I'm wrong, and have no problem admitting it if I find it to be the case. So, show me where I'm wrong. Or tell me I'm right. That's fun, too.

I didn't start posting political to convert the world to my view--all 8 of you. I think by speaking or writing and I couldn't think through my ideas any further without actually putting them down. Thank you so much for thinking, too, and contributing. I love it. I'm excited about some of the posts to come...Plainbellied's sure to be well-educated opposing point of view and Charity's personal Alaska perspective. Be St. Helen's, Charity. Blow your top and let us all learn from the fall-out. =)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin, among other things...

I've been obsessed with politics of late...It seems like everything matters so much, I feel really divided in how to spend my energies...homeschooling, adoption advocacy, the near destruction of our traditional foods, (Thank you for that terrifying knowldge, 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'), physical fitness, yard work, parenting, missionary work, developing strong relationships with my family...It's amazing to me that God manages to care so much about each of us all the time. I feel like I have to choose what I can care about because I just can't handle it all at once. Anyway, politics is winning right now and I'm just attaching something I posted on some stranger's website. Here it is.

This Palin debate is driving me nuts. The feminists criticize her as inexperienced and say she should be with her family...like that's where they are...I'm a stay-at-home mom and even though Gov. Palin made a different choice, she shares my values. Should I not vote for her because people who despise everything I believe in think SHE should be at home with her kids so THEY can run the country?

The media is constantly talking down to her. Did you notice how the commentators kept pointing out how the speech-writers had changed the speech to suit her specifically, like every other politician in any party wasn't also following a script?! The media is also happy to promote completely false notions without any apparent sense of responsibility. News Week and The New York Times have had to retract statements they've made about her, to name just a couple.

Look. It can be one of two ways as I see it: 1) You're a real life feminist who believes that women should be able to choose what is best for them and their families without feeling a need to judge that decision by the varying standard of your own individual choices. {Why do working moms and SAHM's feel so threatened by each other, anyway?} 2) You're the kind of intellectual elitist feminist who believe a woman's personal choices are her own as long as they coincide exactly with your own world views--i.e. "You can choose to work, but choosing NOT to work is a slap in the face to all the women who came before you." Puh-lease.

If you're a real feminist, Sarah Palin's gender is entirely beside the point and her character and policy are center stage. NOBODY would call a liberal democratic woman candidate a "cheerleader", "good-looking", or "homecoming queen." Nancy Pelosi isn't an ugly lady, but I've never heard anyone demean her place in politics in any way by copping to her physical appearance. Can you imagine what the liberal press would do with that?!

In summary, kill the double standard. VP is a big job. So is being a teacher or working 3 jobs or anything else. One news guy got it right. (Yay PBS!) Every person who pursues politics at a national level is choosing their career or country over their family and they know it. I haven't heard anyone criticize Obama or his wife for the exact same decision.

I don't think we have a right to second guess Palin for choices we (as a culture, at least) applaud in other, more private sectors. It's especially odious that it's the elitist feminists criticizing a self-made career woman for doing exactly what they say everyone else should do. Maybe they just can't handle a strong woman who has the audacity to disagree with them. Then they can't play the gender card and intimidate any genuine opposition with "sexist" labels.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Orson Scott Card, My Hero

You may have read books by Orson Scott Card growing up. I did. I guess a lot of people think of them as 'boy' books. I love his science fiction, but I think it's his essays that mean the most to me. He has a wonderful book called, "A Storyteller in Zion" that is filled with his essays on all kinds of things. I have it if you have a yen to read it. He's also got a great website that is linked from his name on my site.

Today, I read some of his recent essays and decided to post the links here.

The first one is long, but it's worth it. It's about the striking similarities between communists and intellectual elitists in America.
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2008-08-10-1.html

The second one is also political, but talks about the "religion of environmentalism." I'd be interested to hear what you think when you read it. It definitely gave me pause. Secularism is certainly it's own religion, but I'd never thought of environmentalism as one of it's sects.
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2008-05-25-1.html

I have to say, I agree with everything he says...I pretty much always do. I don't know if that makes me a sheep or it just means I've found a much more articulate, better educated twin soul. When I read what he says, though, I find I want to be more articulate and better educated and braver for that matter, so Card's influence must be good for me, at least.

In one of my favorite books, 'The Blue Castle' by L. M. Montgomery, (who could not be less similar to Card), a mousy character realizes she hasn't got any enemies because she never has any strong opinions. Now, I obviously have lots of strong opinions, but I do fear being disliked or disapproved of by others too often. I'd like to fear that never. It's fine to disagree--you with me and me with you. I'd just like to think a little more about things that are worth enough thought for disagreement.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Song

Hi guys. This is a song I wrote in June of 2006 for Girls Camp. If it seems a bit churchy, that's why. All the other wards were singing songs like, "I Am a Child of God" and "Teach Me To Walk in the Light." I wanted to write my own. It seemed like a good goal and deadline to make for myself. The girls were troopers about it and practiced through all my strange edits. I totally wrecked a pair of shorts by accidentally setting the permanent marker on me that I was writing with because I couldn't find a pen. This one actually has a melody and everything, but I only know how to put the words here. Maybe I'll get a camcorder someday and perform for you like my rad friend, "Nerd-bucket." You should totally check out her last post from the link on the side. She is so cool.

Enough stalling.

A Witness for His Name

I read, I study and I pray
To know what the scriptures teach are true,
So I'll have the Spirit with me every day
To guide me in all that I must do.

Chorus:
So, like a city on a hill,
Like a candle's glowing flame,
The light of Christ will shine through me,
A witness for his name.

The power to lead is given me,
To lead to God's love or lead astray.
The light I've been given is not mine to keep;
I share it by how I live each day.

Chorus

I know my Savior died for me.
What greater comfort is there than this truth?
I know while I work through my Gethsemane,
The Atonement of Christ heals every wound.

Chorus

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eeeewww!!

Last night, I took some wash out of the washing machine and I saw something funny at the bottom of the barrel. I grabbed a tissue to get it out, because it looked sort of stringy, but I was pretty sure it wasn't thread. I was right. It was a cricket...well...part of a cricket. It had a head and the antennae--one, anyway--and a kind of stick-like stem sticking out the back of the head creating the "spine" of the little bugger. It looked clean, I guess...kind of shiny. Today, I found a wing and a leg in a new wash load. Eeeewww.

It's almost as gross as the time I found something pasty white and squashy in the wash while I was in California waiting for Curly Fry's adoption stuff to clear so I could bring him home. It turned out to be reconstituted umbilical cord, which had somehow gotten stuck to my bathrobe and washed. I could not eat round noodles for some time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Catching up and Mandatory Pre-school

I've wanted to blog loads in the last few weeks, but haven't. Here's the paraphrased version of stuff I would've said.

Bob Costas...Really?
His and Matt Lauer's commentary of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics was asinine. Honest-to-goodness, this is how the web dictionary defined that word.
"1. foolish, unintelligent, or silly; stupid: It is surprising that supposedly intelligent people can make such asinine statements."
Too true for Bob and Matt that day...Arrogance and ignorance are such an ugly combination.

The Olympics
Does anyone else want to cry while they watch all the time? Here's me: "Look. A group of starving, gangly women running as a pack." (The marathon). "Oh, jeez! Find me a tissue." True. Ever since I saw the Atlanta Olympics on TV as a high school student from my military base home in Germany, the nationalistic pride has gotten me every time. I really do love America and it leaks out my eyes during the Olympics. Plus I get no sleep. Curse this 12 hour time difference!!

Back-to-School
I am overcome with a desire to buy new clothes every Fall. Such a beautiful school-start tradition. Maybe I can justify new clothes because I'm finally joining the local homeschool group and we'll have some monthly activities??? See, it's not even really for my kids. It's for me. I am not the mom who always wants to get stuff for my kids before myself... Is that evil? They are already so cute. And seriously, they have loads of clothes.
I thought I was finally over school-starting jitters. Last year was the first time since I was 6 that I didn't have some kind of back-to-school anxiety dream. "Finally!", I thought, "I am a grown-up." And then last week I dreamed that I was an 8th grader and I couldn't remember my locker combination and I missed my whole first class trying to figure it out. And if I went down the wrong hallway, the 7th graders would beat me up and vice versa.
Can I blame that on the fact that my husband teaches middle school? I don't think so.

Finally. Today's issue. Mandatory Pre-school.
I'm pasting an article about mandatory pre-school here. I homeschool, so obviously I have strong feelings on this and many other issues. I just thought this was informative and timely, so I'll pass it along sans any major ranting. (I already ranted a little about it on our local homeschooler yahoo group, so it's out of my system for the moment.)
It's from the Wall Street Journal online. Here's the link that goes with it:
http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121936615766562189-lMyQjAxMDI4MTI5MjMyNjI2Wj.html

Protect Our Kids from Preschool
By SHIKHA DALMIA and LISA SNELLAugust 22, 2008; Page A15
Barack Obama says he believes in universal preschool and if he's elected president he'll pump "billions of dollars into early childhood education." Universal preschool is now second only to universal health care on the liberal policy wish list. Democratic governors across the country -- including in Illinois, Arizona, Massachusetts and Virginia -- have made a major push to fund universal preschool in their states.
But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them? Not according to available evidence.
"Advocates and supporters of universal preschool often use existing research for purely political purposes," says James Heckman, a University of Chicago Noble laureate in economics whose work Mr. Obama and preschool activists routinely cite. "But the solid evidence for the effectiveness of early interventions is limited to those conducted on disadvantaged populations."
Mr. Obama asserted in the Las Vegas debate on Jan. 15 that every dollar spent on preschool will produce a 10-fold return by improving academic performance, which will supposedly lower juvenile delinquency and welfare use -- and raise wages and tax contributions. Such claims are wildly exaggerated at best.
In the last half-century, U.S. preschool attendance has gone up to nearly 70% from 16%. But fourth-grade reading, science, and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -- the nation's report card -- have remained virtually stagnant since the early 1970s.
Preschool activists at the Pew Charitable Trust and Pre-K Now -- two major organizations pushing universal preschool -- refuse to take this evidence seriously. The private preschool market, they insist, is just glorified day care. Not so with quality, government-funded preschools with credentialed teachers and standardized curriculum. But the results from Oklahoma and Georgia -- both of which implemented universal preschool a decade or more ago -- paint an equally dismal picture.
A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia's universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee's preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade.
What about Head Start, the 40-year-old, federal preschool program for low-income kids? Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly found that although Head Start kids post initial gains on IQ and other cognitive measures, in later years they become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids.
Why don't preschool gains stick? Possibly because the K-12 system is too dysfunctional to maintain them. More likely, because early education in general is not so crucial to the long-term intellectual growth of children. Finland offers strong evidence for this view. Its kids consistently outperform their global peers in reading, math and science on international assessments even though they don't begin formal education until they are 7. Subsidized preschool is available for parents who opt for it, but only when their kids turn 6.
If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children. A 2005 analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Likewise, Canada's C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after universal preschool.
The only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are very intense interventions targeted toward severely disadvantaged kids. A 1960s program in Ypsilanti, Mich., a 1970s program in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a 1980s program in Chicago, Ill., all report a net positive effect on adult crime, earnings, wealth and welfare dependence for participants. But the kids in the Michigan program had low IQs and all came from very poor families, often with parents who were drug addicts and neglectful.
Even so, the economic gains of these programs are grossly exaggerated. For instance, Prof. Heckman calculated that the Michigan program produced a 16-cent return on every dollar spent -- not even remotely close to the $10 return that Mr. Obama and his fellow advocates bandy about.
Our understanding of the effects of preschool is still very much in its infancy. But one inescapable conclusion from the existing research is that it is not for everyone. Kids with loving and attentive parents -- the vast majority -- might well be better off spending more time at home than away in their formative years. The last thing that public policy should do is spend vast new sums of taxpayer dollars to incentivize a premature separation between toddlers and parents.
Yet that is precisely what Mr. Obama would do. His "Zero-to-Five" plan would increase federal outlays for early education by $10 billion -- about 50% of total government spending on preschool -- and hand block grants to states to implement universal preschool. This will make the government the dominant source of funding in the early education marketplace, vastly outpacing private spending.
If Mr. Obama is serious about helping children, he should begin by fixing what is clearly broken: the K-12 system. The best way of doing that is by building on programs with a proven record of success. Many of these involve giving parents control over their own education dollars so that they have options other than dysfunctional public schools. The Obamas send their daughters to a private school whose annual fee in middle school runs around $20,000. Other parents deserve such choices too -- not promises of subsidized preschool that they may not want and that may be bad for their kids.
Ms. Dalmia is senior analyst and Ms. Snell is director of education policy at the Reason Foundation.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I Got Tagged

How To Play This Game of Tag:
Post these rules on your blog. List: 3 joys, 3 fears, 3 goals, 3 current obsessions/collections, 3 facts about yourself. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog!

3 Joys:
1. Writing
2. Dancing
3. Snuggling with my honey and our babies.

3 Fears:
1. That I will never be enough.
2. That my husband will get bored with me.
3. That I'll die in a car crash...it's not being dead that scares me, it's the pain of dying and of leaving my family without a wife and mother and sister.

3 Goals:
1. To write a hymn that the Church publishes and bless other people with my feeble talents.
2. To become a real runner again.
3. To write books---I've got several in my head.

3 Obsessions:
1. Reading--I totally read 'The Host' by Stephenie Meyer yesterday. All of it. My poor, poor family. And I get 'Breaking Dawn' tomorrow... Yaay, Shawna!
2. My husband. Does that count? I just love him so much. I'm always trying to think of ways to be better to him. He is so good to me. (See #1 above. He was happy for my day break and not even mad at all yesterday.)
3. Homeschooling. Unfortunately for my son, this obsession is sporadic. But it's in full swing right now and we're excited for our best year, yet.
Bonus: Clearing Clutter. I just read a book my sister recommended called 'Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui' by Karen Kingston and I feel so liberated every time another bag goes to GoodWill!

3 Facts about myself:
1. It totally bugs me when the edge of the toilet paper is jagged instead of straight along the perforated line.
2. I thought Labor Day was what it was called the day someone was born until I was like 9.
You know, your mom goes into labor and there you are! I was born on Labor Day. It made sense to me.
3. I've got all the mission letters between my husband and I in clear sheets in binders in chronological order, as well as the letters from just before and just after his mission before we got married. =) It's the only organized part of my house right now.

I tag: Shawna, Lori, Paisley Teardrops, Sarah, and Urban Tangerine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1st Song: Battle Scars

This isn't the first song I've ever written, but it's the first one I'm posting. I read once that the first 100 songs don't count, so I figure you can expect these first 100 to be stupid and I won't feel a need to explain, that I, too, think each song is largely lame, but in the interest of furthering my personal creativity, am putting it out there anyway. (Phew! Take a breath.) So, here it is, a little ditty I wrote in 2006 when I was pregnant yet again. Pretend it's a drinking song and you're all clanging rootbeer mugs together during the chorus. That's totally how I picture it.

BATTLE SCARS


When I came home from the maternity ward,
I thought I'd get a prize--some kind of award.
Instead, I got stretch marks and thighs that are jiggley,
A belly that's squishy and boobs much to big for me.
The body I see is not one that I recognize,
It's stretched out of shape and no part is its normal size.

Chorus:
Everyone says it and now I can see it's true,
"Motherhood's special--you'll see how it changes you."
It might've been helpful to know what the changes are
No hazing is like it, Check out my battle scars!
Battle scars, tummy scars, gray hairs and stretch marks...
If I were a soldier, they'd give me a Purple Heart!
Battle Scars!

Soldiers may go to war and get wounded in battle.
Their service, it matters, so we give them a medal.
I honor those brave souls who selflessly do their part,
But sometimes I think we forget how our heroes start.
There are so many women I know who are just like me,
Quietly giving their lives for their families.


Chorus: Repeats


Okay, so the second verse totally bugs me. It should be a funny one about how your house falls apart when you have kids and how I once asked my husband if he had to go "potty." I haven't written that verse, yet, though and I wanted to get this up. So, there you have it.

FYI: Code Names

So, it took forever, but the chitlins codenames are listed below their pictures here. My cute honey's nickname is Hubba Hubba. =)



Junior Mint: He picked it himself. He also took this picture of himself. Curly Fry: Blissfully enjoying the last home game after it rained. Puddles galore! Squeaky Bean: She's just so happy here. You can almost see her dimples.
(She's squeaking right now.)







Sunday, July 13, 2008

Girlfriends

I have been upset for months that I couldn't attend my dear friend's wedding in Colorado. I figured, we're still paying for the last two kids--adoption isn't insured, you know--and I couldn't see how we could do it. But I checked airline prices in a meager hope that there would be something reasonable...and I found a really good deal. And even better, my husband was insistent that I go to show my love to my precious friend. He couldn't have been more supportive.

So, I called my friend to tell her and started trying to work out the logistics. Everything seemed to be falling into place nicely. But yesterday, I couldn't quite bring myself to actually put in my credit card number and do it. I am the biggest chicken sometimes. I just got all anxious. I don't know if it's because in college, I was reading the paper during Phsyics of Acoustics and saw that a good friend of mine had been killed in a car wreck over the weekend or what. (That was horrible). But whenever I go further than 3 hours from home, I think I'm going to die. A little weird, huh?

Today, I decided not to be chicken and just do it. The flights weren't quite as cheap, but pretty close. On my mom's advice, I decided to call my friend and ask if she'd rather have me at her wedding or some later time when we could spend more time together and I could bring the baby. She's been there for every big event in my life--and so many little ones. I wanted to be there for her wedding, but if she'd rather have me another time when things weren't so crazy and I could stay a little longer, I'd be happy to do that. So, I called her, and would you believe it? She picked later so we could be together more and she could meet my new baby.

This friend is 30, but in the last year, was diagnosed with two different kinds of breast cancer and will be having a very major surgery in the fall. I'm going out then. I just keep thinking, "I LOVE my girlfriends." Besides my sister, who are my girlfriends too since they're all so awesome, this particular friend has known me the longest--since I was 15. I moved around a bit as a kid, so I don't have friends from elementary school like some people do, but I have met such outstanding women in the last several years. In all likelihood, you are one of those women.

You've helped me through miscarriages and bad haircuts, (Melissa--remember the bandana stage?); through the death of our baby girl and my preceding hospitalization, through moves, parenting dilemmas, deep-seated insecurities, the unpredictable journey of adoption--twice!--, through fits of self-righteousness, and plain old stupidity. I just want to say to you all, I LOVE YOU. I don't mean that generally, either, like "I just love everyone here today..." I love you specifically and chances are pretty good that I pray for you personally all the time, even if I haven't seen you for years. I don't know how people can get by without girlfriends. I know I can't. Thank you for all your kindness and patience and forgiveness and rad senses of humor. I feel so humbled and thankful when I think of you and your place in my life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dragon Lady

Have you ever turned into Dragon Lady out of nowhere? Here's me a couple months ago:

Sitting happily next to Hubba Hubba on the couch watching some goofy football game. (Happily was for sitting next to my honey, not watching football). Suddenly, the camera goes straight to cheerleader cleavage and focuses in. Then the whole line of them.

Me: Those girls are prostitutes and they're kidding themselves if they think any differently!!!
HH: Huh?
Me: Yeah! They're exploiting their sexuality and getting paid for it. They're hookers whether they know it or not!!
HH: What?
Me: Here we are minding our own business, watching some football game--good clean fun--when out of nowhere come the hoochies in mini-skirts and bras! Honestly, they know married men watch these shows! They are prostitutes!!
HH: (still stunned) Where did that come from?

Okay. If you're a cheerleader or know any very lovely and moral cheerleaders, I don't need a letter. I know I over-reacted. But like I told Hubba Hubba, I just get so angry sometimes about how satan attacks my family. It feels like there's a sniper taking shots in my window whenever we're trying to do something that is totally okay and he fires these temptation missiles right at us--mostly directed towards the men. Elder Groberg gave a talk one time and told about how satan knows he can't do anything to lessen the power of God, so he works to weaken the bearers of the Priesthood, so they are unworthy to use that power. It's a war, folks. Battle gear on.

2 Main Reasons

There were two main motivating factors for me starting this blog and doing it the way I will.



1) The commencement address Elder Ballard gave at BYU Hawaii earlier this year. Read your Ensign this month for a recap. Here's the link. http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=72443645a2cba110VgnVCM100000176f620a____



2) I read Karalenn's blog and thought it was so great how she was painting and putting her pictures up. Karalenn, you've been my secret hero ever since you made a giant paper mache tree in your living room to "spruce" up the drab Wymount apartments. (Okay. I don't remember you using the pun, but the tree was awesome!) I don't paint, but I write a lot more than most people know. So, I'll be putting some songs and stories and essays on my blog. You inspired me! Plus, you fringed your daughter's football uniform and you made her baptismal dress. "And the Coolest Mom Award goes to..."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Nice Family






Here are some pictures of the family--some at the Jersey Shore, some at home. Can you see the sand crab in the top? Isn't the headband my sister made for baby girl SWEEEEET?!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Code Names

I guess we're going to use code names. Our buds know who we all are, but in case anyone else in the world happens by here eventually, they won't be able to hunt me down for any of my crazy rants. Plus, it let's me pretend we are spies. So Charlie's Angels...



I'll just stick with the one that is my blog title--Sumgreater. Though in elementary and middle school, I always wished someone would take to calling me Copperhead or Sunshine. Obviously, I was sorting out my self-image then, too. I just knew I didn't want to be called "Harriet" from Small Wonder, "Pippi," or "Cabbage Patch Doll" anymore. Honestly, that last name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue now, does it?


My hot honey is going to be Hubba Hubba for obvious reasons. Perhaps you folks could tell me what you think of our other potential names.


For our oldest boy, I'm thinking Junior Mint, Home Slice or Small Fry.



For the little curly-haired guy, maybe Curly Fry or Sugar Baby--he LOVES sweets.


For baby girl, I like either Peabody, Tater Tot or Squeaky Bean. Honestly, she is so tiny and squeaky! She even cries like a girl! I didn't expect a difference.


So, do you have any suggestions? What do you guys like? I guess I'd better send you my blog link so you can tell me. If I'd had this set up better last week, I would've polled about whether or not to cut my hair. Too late now. I've got a rad little angled bob. =) Yaaay Summer!!!

Me

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sum-grater sounds like cheese grater

I am nearly 30. That is totally cool with me. I figure that you're taken a lot more seriously once you hit 30. Mostly, I want to take myself more seriously. Maybe if I don't wear pig-tails so often...

I am doing what I always planned on--being a wife and mother to a nice little family. I just didn't know I'd find my identity being sucked into those two awesome titles. Wife. Mom. It's nobody else's fault but my own. When somebody asks what I do, I just don't say, "college student", since I graduated (Go BYU COUGARS!). I don't say, "I do sound engineering," because I don't. I don't say, "I'm in guitar ensemble," because I'm not anymore. I don't say, "I really love writing song lyrics" because then they might ask to see some and it's been a while.

What I do say is that I'm a stay-at-home mom and sometimes I add that I'm homeschooling our that oldest son. But still, who does that make me?

As great as it is to be a wife and mom, I need a reminder that I am also more. And who I am is what I'm trying to sort out here. I am greater than the sum of my parts...I hope.

Finally, sum-grater sounds a lot like cheese-grater, and I find the connection strangely cheering.