Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Raspberry Awards And the Raspberry goes to ...
Virginians may enjoy reading this little recap of local officials' shenanigans. Even if you're not from VA, you may find some amusing.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I'm a bit slow getting back into the swing of things after Christmas. We arrived home yesterday from my parents' and now I have mounds of laundry to do and piles of presents to find places for. The holiday was enjoyable for the most part; marred only by a few members of my extended family getting a stomach bug. Thankfully, hubby and I and the girls were spared. There are few things I hate more than throwing up. It did put a bit of a damper on festivities. My sister-in-law from Brazil was particularly upset, as she had never thrown up before in her life. Apparently they don't have that sort of thing in Brazil (?).

Sophie was really into the Santa and presents thing this year. I tried to get her mostly semi-educational toys that will hopefully keep her busy for a long time. Kate was just interested in the wrapping paper.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Design That's Anti-Faith

In a WaPo op-ed, Eugene Robinson offers some good insights on the intelligent design v. evolution controversy. He proposes that intelligent design, in addition to not being a science, seeks to take away faith. If you can prove God exists, then you have no need of faith.

One of the best definitions of Christian faith is attributed to St. Paul, who called it "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." At every Mass, Roman Catholics around the world "proclaim the mystery of faith." There is no need to have faith in something that can be touched, measured, quantified, predicted; no need for faith in something that can be seen if only we build a big enough telescope or a sensitive enough electron microscope.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Church on Christmas Sunday

I hear that a number of churches - mostly large, evangelical types - are not holding any services on Christmas Sunday, the main reason given that families can spend time together. So, using that logic, why should there be any church meetings on any other Sunday of the year? After all, family time is important all year round.

I find this decision sad (fortunately my church is still meeting). If there were ever a day were one ought to make a little effort to get dressed and go worship the Lord in a formal-church-sort-of-way, then Christmas would be it! Basically, I guess people just don't want to tear themselves away from the presents for any amount of time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Media Bias Is Real

Thanks to Bookworm for this UCLA article on a study concluding that the media does indeed lean to the left.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ratings Climb

You gotta love this headline from the Washington Post, “Bush’s Support Jumps After a Long Decline”. I find it a little pathetic that they felt the need to remind us for the umpteenth time of the “long decline.” But I suppose conservatives should be grateful that there was even a major headline on the topic.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Afghan killed for teaching girls

I hardly know what to say. Liberal Hollywood spends much energy and some money protesting many things which are not half so terrible as this. Where's the outrage? Is it just too far away for us to care about? Read the small article.

Reaction to Iraq Election

The election in Iraq went well.  There was little violence and voter turnout.  I noticed the morning news shows didn’t seem to mention this major positive news event, although they had plenty of pessimism to spread around before the election.  So I turned to the Washington Post to see what they had to say, if anything.  There is a large headline on the subject, but not surprisingly, they managed to put the most negative spin on the good news that they could.

For President Bush, the strong turnout for Iraq's election yesterday may represent the best day since the fall of Baghdad 32 months ago because all major factions participated in the political process, according to U.S. and Middle East analysts. But the sobering reality, they added, is that the vote by itself did not resolve Iraq's lingering political disputes.

Really?  What a shocker.  We vote here all the time, and yet we still have “lingering” political disputes.  

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Lately I have been frequently asked by friends, acquaintances, and her pediatrician if I am sending my three year old to preschool.  The answer is no, since I am a stay-at-home mom, and have an education degree.  I feel as though I can provide her with all of the academic preparation she needs for school.  I’m a little biased, as my mother only sent one of us ten kids to preschool, and we all did well in school.  But when people start asking, I start to wonder if I am making the right choice.  The implication is often there (particularly from the pediatrician), that her social skills will be lacking if I don’t.  Many of my friends who also stay home send their kids to preschool.  I am making an effort to have her play with other kids, so that she doesn’t have social problems.  Will that be enough?  This “mommy peer pressure” is quite insidious in this area, as well as in many others.  I find myself replying half-truthfully that I may send her in a year or two, especially since she is an October baby, and can’t start school in Virginia until she is almost six.  But really, I just don’t care for the idea of sending a two or three year old to preschool.  They ought to be learning at home in a loving, safe, familiar environment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bells are ringing in my ears.

What’s up with all the Salvation Army bell-ringers out in force so early in the season?  I don’t want to sound like a Grinch, as I really do love Christmas, and believe in giving to charity.  However, I have bell-ringing fatigue.  Immediately after Thanksgiving, the ringers are out in front of about every major store you go to.  I think it’s overkill.  If only they would wait until one week before Christmas.  Surely everyone goes shopping at least once during that last week, so the S.A. shouldn’t lose much by waiting.  Actually, I bet they would get increased revenue, as it would seem a lot more special to donate then.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The last time I vacuumed, I accidentally sucked up Mrs. Potato Head’s tongue.  My three year old witnessed this, and seemed a bit taken aback, but not too upset.  I made a big deal out of how she needed to pick up her toys in the future.  We are working on this skill, but she will only occasionally join in when I sing the “cleanup” song.  Well, today I was vacuuming the family room, when all of sudden she ran in and scurried around picking up toys.  She demonstrated speed and urgency like I had never seen before!  I am so pleased.  And one of these days when I’m feeling kind, I will take apart the carpet attachment and try to extract Mrs. Potato Head’s tongue.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes For 2005

Some of these quotes are rather amazing. I especially like "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for . . ." -- Howard Dean.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Post-election Surprise

To my surprise, there is an article in the WaPost detailing Governor-Elect Kaine's plan to have universal preschool in Virginia by the time his four year term is up. This should not be a surprise. Back before the election, I spent a lot of time and thought on my vote. Not content just to listen to the TV commercials, I researched each candidate carefully, or so I thought. But somehow, I missed this little bit of massive spending for which Kaine is already working on the plans. I'm somewhat aggravated by this. Why is it so hard to get the facts ahead of time? I doubt he deliberately concealed this plan - after all, it is bound to be popular with many people - it's my fault for not picking up on it, I guess. However, something this significant should have been discussed more openly. I didn't vote for Kaine anyway, so it's not like this changes anything, but it does illustrate problems with voter information. If someone like me, who actually went out of her way to study the candidates' platforms, feels a bit broadsided, where does that leave so many other citizens?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Inalienable Right to a Remote

I can hardly believe it. Only yesterday my husband and I were discussing whether we should get a new TV or not, since we had to get a converter box just to hook up our DVD player. We decided not to bother for now. No, we're not living under the poverty line. We just don't care that much about having the latest technology. Well, guess what? Congress is coming to our rescue! It has just passed a measure that will provide us with money to make our set digitally capable. What kind of insane society do we live in? Check out George Will's op-ed - it's a good read.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Mommy Brain by Katherine Ellison

How Motherhood Makes us Smarter

I usually save my book posts for my reading blog, but since this one relates to my blog title, I thought I would post on it here also.  The main premise of the book is summarized in the subtitle, obviously.  I always assumed that motherhood was a learning experience, and thus would make you smarter, even if not in a PhD sort of way, but apparently a lot of women feel that being a mom is a mental liability.  Ellison is not a scientist, but presents much interesting research from real scientists to refute this misconception.  One bit I liked,
Women . . .  gather more data from their environment and construct more intricate relationships between the information.  By contrast, men tend to compartmentalize – to get rid of ancillary data and focus only on what they regard as important.  Mark George, the Medical University of Southern Carolina brain-scanner, suspects that, in practical terms, the difference may help account for how a guy can stay glued to the television through the ninth inning while his progeny are loudly murdering each other in the next room. (p. 75)
However, there is a lot more to this book than sometimes obvious observations about motherhood.  The author is a journalist, and writes from the point of view of a very career-oriented working mother.  This is not really a book designed for the stay-at-home mom, or even the lower-income working mom.  The book is jammed packed with mothers who have prestigious careers as editors, professors, scientists, etc.  
. . . Mayer, the Colorado Permanente doctor, who fits parenting in between working forty hours a week away from home and ten to twenty hours more in her home office. (p. 72)
Fits parenting in?  Those poor children.  
There are a few token references to grocery store clerks, but that’s it.  Only one stay-at-home mom that I can recall.  Ellison clearly cannot identify with this rather large group of American women.  She calls the working versus stay-at-home debate “passé”.  To those women who have not decided yet what to do, it is hardly passé.
However, most annoying, was that halfway through the book, her focus switched from brain research to the socialist propaganda that the government needs to provide top-notch child care for everyone, along with much longer maternity leaves.  Basically, we should be like the liberal Shangri-La, Sweden.  She also threw in a bit of environmentalism, and anti-Republican political commentary.  Off-topic!
So I can give you two reasons to read this book.  One, if you want to learn a smattering of science about what happens to your brain when you become a mother, read the first half.  Two, if you have a serious career, you can read this book to reassure yourself that having kids will not ruin your career, and can even help you a little (there is little discussion on how this affects the children).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Iraqi Police Targeted

As so many Iraqi police have been killed by terrorists, I find it interesting that Iraqis are still willing to join such a targeted group. Just today, there were 43 deaths at a Baghdad police academy at the hands of two suicide bombers. To me, this indicates how seriously Iraqis take their freedom, and how badly they want their country to move forward toward a democracy of some sort. If they were all as angry at America as the MSM would have us believe, I don't think there would be so many police recruits. Essentially, to join the Iraqi police force is to cooperate with the U.S. Despite the very real danger of death, many have joined anyway. I'd be interested in actual recruitment numbers, if anyone has them.

Monday, December 05, 2005


We have our first snow of the season.  So far there’s about three inches on the ground, with a few more in the forecast.  As usual, my fellow Virginians are all in a tizzy about it. To listen to the news, you’d think this is the first time that winter has ever come.  It’s embarrassing how quickly everything shuts down.  Schools let out before snow started sticking to the roads.  True, we don’t have the snowplow equipment to keep our roads clear that northern states do, but still . . . .

Sophie and I went out and made a snowman.  This was the first year that she really got into the whole thing.  I thought her stamina was pretty good for a three year old.  Even after she fell down the steps and landed on her face on the asphalt, she wouldn’t go in.  After an hour, I finally forced her inside, since I knew Kate would be waking up from her nap. So it was a milestone day for me as a mother – I have a child old enough to enjoy playing in the snow.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gender Bias in Education

Michael Gurian writes an excellent article on the problem of boys and men in education today. This is no secret to anyone that has taught school in recent years, but to others who only heard about how girls are shortchanged and underchallenged, this may be news.

Basically, boys are doing poorly in school, starting in elementary school and continuing into college. Standardized test scores show it. Report cards show it. The lack of college-educated men in the dating pool shows it. Ask any teacher, and she'll tell you. When award assemblies come around, we teachers would have a hard time trying to make sure that some boys got academic awards.

In a short article, Gurian does a great job of outlining many of the causes of this gender gap: teaching styles, lack of emphasis on education in the home, fatherless boys, and more. I encourage you to read the whole article.

Some may say that it can't be that bad - after all, look at the gender make-up of the Supreme Court, and other institutions of power. I say that that is still the result of the past - those are all older men, educated years ago. But ask any twenty-something college educated woman how hard it is to find someone on her intellectual level to date or marry. For this generation, and future ones, it is a big problem that needs to be addressed.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

No strings attached

Unlike many women my age, I had extensive experience caring for children long before I had my own two little ones. As the oldest of ten, I had plenty of opportunity to learn. So sometimes I find myself referring to "how it was done back in the day," even though I am really not that old. But somewhere between helping with my siblings in the 80s and having my own in the early 2000s, things have changed. Now we care about child safety! Those crazy parents of yesteryear had no common sense! Didn't they know about all of the dangers out there? Didn't they love their children? There are many examples of this, but for now I will focus on one of my pet peeves: strings.

Back when my mother was raising us, there were some simple devices for keeping children warm - drawstrings. Children's jacket hoods had them. Just try and find a baby or toddler jacket with one now. I haven't seen any in stores. Now you can't keep your child's head warm, as those hoods will not stay on.

Little baby nightgowns had drawstrings in the bottom. How I loved cinching those little baby feet in all snug and warm. You could completely close the bottom, but yet so easily open it for diaper changes. Now manufacturers just put a lame elastic in the bottom, which does nothing! I would like to know what three week old baby is going to pull out the string and strangle themselves with it. We have become a society full of irrational fears.

Lastly, in the old days, a child's mittens were joined by a long piece of yarn or string. That string ran through the sleeves and back of the coat, and the mittens hung out the ends of the sleeves. No more lost mittens. A kid could take them on and off without losing them. They were always where they needed to be. This one, I admit, is slightly more hazardous than the others. But, by golly, I bought my daughter some new pink mittens today, and I am going to get some yarn and string them together! So there!

So in order to protect our kids from a neglible danger, we have made it harder to keep them warm. What ever happened to common sense?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why didn't I think of that?

A Chinese company is fighting for the right to pitch plots of land on the moon for sale after authorities shut the scheme down on charges of profiteering and lunacy.

Notice the pun? I normally hate puns, but I thought that one was pretty good. My husband will be so proud of me.

Yet another public official with poor judgement

School Board chair admits Web post

THe Richmond School Board chair was caught with his shirt off on an explicit online dating sight. I just can't understand how people think they can get away with not getting found out online - especially if you post your photo! It amazes me when I see blogs where the authors spill their guts at the expense of the people around them. I wonder if they have a plan for damage control when someone close to them finds out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rural Poverty | Virginians' income ranks No. 8 Kudos to Virginia for getting a good spot in the rankings. As always the poorest states are in the South. The poorest counties were all rural. Not the inner cities, but rural areas. It has always aggravated me how rural poverty is so overlooked. Certainly there is a lot of poverty in many of our nation's cities, but at least those people are geographically close to jobs, college education, and choices. If you can't afford a car, you have at least have a chance at being able to walk or take the bus to a job or job training center. If you are carless far from a town, your choices are quite limited.

Universal Preschool?

Some argue for universal (code: taxpayer funded) preschool, implying that parents aren't up to the task of raising their children and preparing them for school. In 2006 Californians will vote on it. Some even want to make attendance mandatory. I absolutely am opposed to this. Sometimes it's enough to make me want to become a Libertarian. Hey, some parents aren't up to the task of raising their children, but I don't think mandatory preschool for all will solve very many of those problems. I feel so sad for little children trapped in crazy homes, but I just don't believe another government program will help much.

Or, here's an idea - what about universal kindergarten? Oh, wait, we already have that, and yet disadvantaged children still remain disadvantaged. How is starting them a year earlier going to level the playing field?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Getting a Physical

I went to the doctor this morning and I’m not even sick.  An aggravating waste of time, but since I have lived here over two years and still don’t have a primary care physician, I figured I better find one and establish a chart.  So I got a physical – my insurance pays for one a year.  Now I’m all ready to get sick!  No, really, I hope I don’t ever have to go back.  I’m supposed to go get blood work done, but I’m tempted to skip out on that.  It’s one of my least favorite activities, and I don’t want to have to bug grandma to babysit again.  Maybe I’ll try to drag them along with me, although when I took 18-month old S. with me once, she was horrible.  The lab techs were not amused.  Anyway, my husband called me from work to see how my checkup went.  I tell him that I’m healthy, and he says, “You are?” like he’s surprised!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Suspension Vacation

Suspensions are overused in today's hands-off-parenting world. This Washington Post article highlights some of the problems caused by spotlighting two sisters suspended for five days for fighting. The teenagers spend their time shopping, lounging around, and watching TV. There's no need for me to state the obvious about that. But a few things did catch my eye.

Kymber and Shawnte were suspended for five days, and the principal later told them that they can make up the work they missed, their mother said.
"But why couldn't they have just sent the work home? I wish we could have had that for them to do at home -- it would have kept them motivated," said Sanders, 33, an operating room coordinator at Inova Fairfax Hospital and a member of a National Guard unit. "I know they're being punished. But are they really being punished? I don't understand the value that they're trying to teach children."

Argh. First, the school can't just send the work home immediately because it probably isn't ready. Most (good) teachers' lesson plans are very fluid, and are adjusted from day to day. A teacher can only give you a general idea of what the class will be doing in five days. Nevertheless many schools do require that of teachers. It was a real burden having to take the time to prepare packets to send home to suspended kids, especially when I knew that what I was sending might not end up being what the rest of the class was doing. However, in some cases, that burden was more than offset by having a break from the troublemaker for a few days!

Second, why is the parent letting her kids have such fun on their suspension? Take away the cell phones, car keys, and TVs. Get out the cleaning supplies! If the school didn't send work home, then have them read a chapter or two ahead in every textbook.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Just back from Thanksgiving travels.  We did the split-the-holiday routine in only three days.  It helps that both of our parents reside in the same state, but it was still a little hectic.  First we went to my parents’ home so we could see my brother, who is getting ready to leave on a church mission to Brazil for two years.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone to see them until Christmas.  Then we went to J.’s side of the family for the actual Thanksgiving meal, and stayed over until Friday.  It was nice to see everyone, of course, but with such short visits I feel as though I did not spend enough time with anyone.  However, considering how awfully difficult Kate was, I don’t regret not staying longer.  She has real issues with sleeping in her playpen.  The first night away she did okay, basically sleeping through the night, so I was deceived into thinking she would be fine the next nights.  Not so.  The next two nights were just dreadful; filled with lots of screaming and little sleep.  She wanted her own crib, and there was nothing that would calm her down.  Holding her, bringing her to sleep with us – nothing was acceptable.  It’s at those hopeless two o’clock in the morning hours that I swear I will never travel again!  Naturally, today she was extra grouchy from all of her sleep deprivation.  I got her to take a nap, to my great relief, but only 40 minutes later, to my absolute horror, I find Sophie and her cousin jumping on the bed in the room Kate was sleeping in.  Kate was jumping up and down in her playpen laughing along with them.  I did not laugh.  For the rest of the afternoon Kate was just unbearable – until she fell asleep in the car coming home.

Well, that’s all seems a bit negative!  Really, aside from the sleep issues, the holiday was good.  In keeping with the spirit of the day, I will say that I do have so many blessings in my life that I am thankful for!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Parents' Effect on Achievement Shaky??

I hardly know what to say! I don't care what studies have been done - parents have an enormous effect on their child's achievement. Parents have a direct impact on how much value a child places on learning. Parents have a major contribution to their child's literacy by controlling (or not) the amount of reading and TV in the home. Parents teach their children how to behave (a child who can't be respectful and behave in school will miss out on a lot of learning). Parents can send their child to school well fed and rested so they can be ready to learn. Parents can send their child to school from a loving and secure home. So don't tell us it's "shaky."

That said, I do agree with some of the points in Jay Mathews's column. In particular,

"Principals need to make schools welcoming places for parents," said Elizabeth Useem, a research consultant with the group Research for Action in Philadelphia, "but that is different from putting huge amounts of time into trying to get parents involved in governance or in coming to events at school planned for them. It takes a long time for parental governance input to work its way into classroom learning -- and even then, it might not be helpful input."

"Great schools and school systems . . . aren't obsessed with teaching the parents," Allen said. "They aren't making excuses. They are focused on one thing: teaching the children."

I agree. Keep parents informed, encourage involvement, offer help if needed, but don't try to "teach" them. That seems a little too patronizing as well as being fruitless.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving Errands

Not much going on today.  We’re going out of town tomorrow, so I’m trying to get things in order.  The girls and I went to the store for a few last minute items this afternoon.  It seems like I am in the store every other day.  I can’t seem to get it together enough to shop just once a week.  Anyway, Kate demonstrated that she is old enough to throw a real fit when I took the bag of Goldfish away from her.  I tried giving her just a few crackers to hold in her hand, but no, she would have none of that.  Shrieking and arms flailing, she refused them.  Fun, fun, fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's Wrong With This Outfit, Mom?

We women are losing ground! Sometimes I wonder what on earth has happened to the feminist movement. More and more we allow ourselves and our young daughters to be viewed as sex objects through inappropriate clothing. This op-ed article from the Washington Post hits the nail right on the head. It amazes me what parents, especially fathers, let their little girls wear sometimes. Do they want every pedophile and teenage boy paying special attention to their daughter? Or do they want their daughter growing up with a damaged self-image just because they were afraid to say "no"?

Next time you're in Wal-mart or a toy store, go look at the doll section and find the Bratz dolls. Black leather, thigh-high boots, peek-a-boo tops, pouty lips, sultry eyes, and leather bustiers are what they wear. These dolls are marketed for the preteen crowd. There is also a new Baby Bratz line of stuffed dolls for the preschool crowd. Gotta get them hooked on sex early, I guess! I know perfectly reasonable parents who believe in modest clothing who have purchased these dolls for their kids. I can hardly believe anyone could be so crazy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Tax Revolution

I’m all fired up about I book I just read, The FairTax Book: Saying Goodbye to the Income Tax and the IRS, by Neal Boortz and John Linder.  In a nutshell, all federal taxes (including Social Security and Medicare) would be replaced with a retail tax of about 23%.  I think it sounds wonderful!  At any rate, even if it’s just a mediocre idea, it can’t be any worse than our current system.  Critics say that it would be hard on the poor, but not so.  This varies from traditional sales taxes in that everyone would receive a monthly “prebate” to cover the tax on the basic necessities of life.  So the poor would pay little or no tax.  

Currently in Congress as the FairTax Bill (H.R. 25) it does not aim to reduce or increase government spending.  The 23% is calculated to keep revenues at their current levels.  I love that it is such a simple plan.  You keep all the money you earn, and pay tax only when and if you buy something (above the basic necessities of life).  No taxes on savings or investment earnings.  No more loopholes for the rich.  No more tax evasion for “under-the-table” payments.  Even drug lords and criminals will pay their tax when they spend their loot.  No corporate taxes – thus bringing back businesses and jobs to the U.S.  The authors propose that once the current embedded taxes on all goods and services are abolished, actual retail prices will decline, so adding on the FairTax will not make prices much different than what you are paying now.  That part I’m not so sure about, but we’d still be getting our entire paychecks plus the “prebate,” so it would at least even out.   The only real problem that I see with this plan is that it is just too good to be true!  I guess there is another problem, and that would be getting it through Congress.  So read the book, go to, write your Congressman, and get involved!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Religion and Science

I don't always care for Charles Krauthammer's opinions, but this one in the Post makes some excellent points. Read the whole thing.

How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein?

Amen. I am very religious, and yet I have no problem with evolution. At conservative, religious BYU, I studied evolution taught by church-going professors, and never did I notice any student or faculty uproars over it. It was just education as usual.

I'm afraid that many people who shriek against evolution are misinformed about it. For example, you still hear the old "man didn't descend from monkeys" argument. (Not true - evolution does not say that we descended from apes. These types of people are an embarrassment to me, and make all religious people look uneducated and uninformed. However, if you don't want to believe in evolution - fine, that's your perogative. But don't be so afraid of it that you try to keep it out of the schools (Wouldn't that be a little like trying to keep prayer out of schools - something these same people want?). If you truly have a fundamental religious belief against evolution, teach your child what you believe at home. Sooner or later they will have to decide for themselves what they believe, and a few days of high school bio class shouldn't "corrupt" them if you have taught them well. For my part, I will teach my children to pray at home, and expect that they will survive 7 hours at school without prayer! I will also teach them that religion and science can coexist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Woodward Testimony a 'Bombshell' for CIA Leak Case

This is from I guess I'm a bit naive about these things, but I'll show my ignorance anyway. Why did it take so long for Woodward to come forward with this information?


I’m learning how to knit!  Last night at Enrichment meeting (women’s group at church) there was a mini-class on how to knit.  Even though I am terrible at that sort of thing, I decided to give it a shot.  I was definitely the densest person there; I had to be shown each step many times.  After an hour, I proudly left with a small, error-filled, beginning of a scarf.  I worked on it some more last night and discovered that although I began with fifteen stitches, I now had thirty-one.  That’s not supposed to happen.  I restarted twice this morning (amazed that I remembered how!), and I am getting the hang of it.  There’s kind of an addiction to it.  Now I have one more thing to keep me from doing my housework.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In Special-Ed Case, Court Backs Montgomery Schools

Thank goodness for this Supreme Court decision. I'm sympathetic to the plight of special-ed students and their parents, but there has to be some measure of sanity in the system. Basically, the ruling states that if parents have a beef with the school over their child's IEP, it is up to the parent to prove why the IEP is inadequate. In other words, if you have a problem, then you have to be a part of the solution. The parents can still take the school to court, but have to do their research first. Hopefully this will cut down on lawsuits (our new national pastime), and allow schools to more fairly distribute their funds among all their students. Currently amazing amounts of money ($312 million a year in Montgomery Co., VA), are spent on special ed services. Both schools I taught at had a full-time certified special ed teacher who did nothing but IEPS, ARDs, meet with parents and teachers, hold hearings, and the like. She taught no classes. By the way, when you see a school's student-to-teacher ratio, know that teachers like that are factored into the equation, even though they never teach a child.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fine Dining

Sometimes I wonder why I cook dinner.  It takes a lot of effort and patience to cook with a toddler hanging on your legs fussing and her older sister making various demands.  Then after we finally get seated, the meal is over in about ten or fifteen minutes.  Those few minutes are filled with interruptions, such as trips back to the frig for milk refills.  Tonight our chief source of distraction was a laughing contest between the two girls.  A laughing contest is where the participants try to see who can be the loudest.  It was cute at first, but after a few minutes it became highly annoying.  At least they did both eat what I had made.  I must be grateful for what I can get!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quick Weekend Trip

Now that my husband works at a bank I don’t complain about bank holidays anymore.  Saturday was a stake temple day, so we decided to make an outing of it and went up (to D.C.) on Friday and did a little shopping that afternoon.  It’s not too easy dragging the girls around, but we did get to a few stores that we don’t have around here.  Most exciting, I finally got a winter dress coat for myself at Burlington.  We then went to my sister’s place in Mclean for the night.  That evening I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall by myself, but didn’t buy anything.  It’s fun to look there, but most of it just isn’t in my budget.  

This was the first overnight trip we’d taken since July, so I was curious to see how Kate had changed – I was hoping for the better.  Both girls ended up going to sleep way later than usual (we paid for that yesterday), but once they were asleep they stayed out all night.  Sophie did fall off of the sofa twice, but landed on our air mattress and never woke up.  Saturday, my sister watched them while J. and I went to the temple which was spiritually refreshing as usual.  Tomorrow will be the big clean-up-from-the-weekend day.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Keep the Internet Free

This is good information to have. There will be a summit soon in Tunisia (?!), to determine who controls and regulates the Internet. Apparently there are quite a few repressive regimes who are anxious to control the Internet in their respective countries, for obvious reasons. Let's hope the U.S. can stand up to them!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Public Restrooms

I hate using public restrooms, and have very careful and elaborate techniques to avoid touching anything in one. You just never know what disease-ridden person has been in there before you! Today I was faced with a real trial. I took the girls to Burger King to play on the playground. I’m sitting on the bench, eating fries, and watching them enjoy themselves, when Sophie strikes fear into my heart by exclaiming, “Me go pee-pee.” I asked her to repeat herself, hoping I had heard wrong. Nope. Horrors. What to do? Recently, I had to take her to the restroom at the public library, but I’m classicist enough to say that I think the general clientele of a library is cleaner than that of a fast food restaurant. Plus, it was just the two of us. This time I have Kate with me! Toddling-touching-everything-not-listening-to-one-word-that-Mommy-says-Kate.

However, I had no real choice so I picked up Kate and hustled Sophie on down to the bathroom. I briefly considered asking a stranger to watch Kate for me, but decided against it for obvious reasons. Fortunately it looked reasonably clean inside. Sophie promptly puts her hands on the toilet seat. Kate explores, but mostly just touched the walls (I’m sure they have never been cleaned – I worked at McDonald’s when I was a teenager, and I know how these places function). Sophie is so small I have to hold her on the seat, and her clothes touch it! Aaagghhh. Skipping to the end of this painful tale, it has now been three hours since then, and none of us show any signs of disease yet. So I guess we will all survive!

Kaine to be VA governor

Election results are in, and my candidate lost.  I’m not as disappointed as I would be normally, as I think Kaine will be okay.  I had a very difficult time this election deciding who to vote for, since on many issues Kaine and Kilgore were similar.  I usually vote Republican, but Kilgore’s negative campaign ads were just awful.  I agonized for weeks, and even yesterday I changed my mind three times, finally making my decision as I walked to the polling station.  In the end, I voted for Kilgore, but decided I wouldn’t be too devastated if Kaine won.  His mentor, Gov. Warner, has done a decent job for a Democrat, and hopefully Kaine will follow suit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day

The difference one year makes - a year ago, when I went to vote (without taking the girls), I had to time it between newborn breastfeedings, drive even thought it was just two blocks away, and park as close as I could to the door.  There was a bit of a line, and I almost had to ask for a chair to sit in, as I was still recovering from my c-section.  This year it was no big deal.  I didn’t need to wait for Jeryl to come home.  This afternoon I walked with the girls to go vote at a nearby church.  I had Kate in the stroller, and Sophie is big enough to walk.  How nice it is to be feel healthy and fit again!

Fires in France

From the Washington Post editorial Fires in France, we have some more rhetoric aimed at getting the reader to feel sorry for criminals and excuse their behavior.

But not all the demonstrators are hoodlums and drug dealers either, as some senior French officials portray them;

Demonstrators? What kind of a lie is that? If you are a demonstrator, you march in the streets, hold rallies, wave signs, etc. If you committ crimes such as arson and attacking the police, you have crossed the line from merely demonstrating, and are now a hoodlum. Maybe not a drug dealer, but certainly a hoodlum.

Dangerous Baby

Yesterday Kate chipped a tooth – my tooth!  She was playing with a pot lid.  I foolishly got down on her level, she grinned, toddled over waving the lid, and whack!  It wasn’t until that evening that I felt the rough spot on a lower front tooth.  It doesn’t show, but I am a little worried that the tooth is weakened now.  This is the kind of dental work I really don’t want to pay for, so I’ll just hope for the best.  

Monday, November 07, 2005

Less guns, less death

After 10 or 11 days of rioting, arson, and violence in France, they have had their first fatality.  I wonder how different it would be if they had as many guns as we do here in the U.S.  

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

Mark Steyn makes some great points about the situation in France, although his history lesson on past Muslim invasions in Europe isn't really necessary. He points out what many Americans don't seem to comprehend: these angry North African Muslim youth are a major problem in many European cities, and have been for a long time. In my opinion, there is little parallel between the European situation and discrimination against minorities in this country, but much of the media keeps trying to find common threads. It's hard to understand if you haven't been there. My bet is that Steyn has. I have been there, and it's still hard for me to explain.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

VA schools must offer tutoring option

If a poor-performing school has to offer its students the option of transferring elsewhere (under the No Child Left Behind Act), it also has to offer them the option of private tutoring at the school's expense. What on earth? What an insanely expensive option. With all the things school need, this seems to be an inequitable distribution of funds.

Apparently 17.6% of eligible VA students took advantage of this. It sure saves the parents a lot of trouble and money. Really, it's sad that more eligible students aren't doing it. That shows something about the culture of learning (or lack thereof) in this country.

On a side note, I don't care for the term "poor-performing school." It should be "school with poor-performing students."

Table update

Well, I forced myself to finish sanding, although it wasn’t the most thorough job.  This morning my husband and I carried it out to the carport and I put on a coat of stain.  It actually looks good – much better than I thought it would!  I am so relieved.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Youths" riot in France

This AP report on has a really hard time saying who is responsible. The word "Muslim" is mentioned only once! Otherwise it is simply "youths."

Who, where, what, when, and why - the basics elements of reporting that kids learn in grade school. - Fiery riots spread beyond Paris

Having spent some time in these poorer non-tourist areas of France, I am not surprised at the violence. However, unlike some French officials, I think there is no good excuse for it, and it should be dealt with harshly. How can a so-called civilized country let law and order break down like this? Here are a few mind-boggling selections from the news article on the French rioting.

Much of the rioting has occurred in areas heavily populated by poor African Muslim immigrants and their French-born children who are weary of poverty, crime, poor education and unemployment.

(So the reader can feel sorry for them. As a side note, apparently socialism is not the success some would have us capitalists believe.)

The youths were apparently angered by a police crackdown on drug trafficking in their neighborhood, AP reported.

(How dare those police do that!)

The rioting began last Thursday after two teenagers of African descent -- Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17 -- were accidentally electrocuted while apparently trying to escape from police by hiding in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.
Officials have said police were not chasing the boys, and the Interior Ministry has released a preliminary report exonerating officers of any direct role in the deaths, according to AP.

(Moral: Don't run away from the police. Nobody made them hide there.)

Speaking to parliament Wednesday, de Villepin demanded punishment for lawbreakers but used calmer language than that used by Sarkozy, who has been criticized for calling the protesting youths "scum."

A police union official has proposed establishing a curfew and bringing in the military to help handle the rioting, while some members of the opposition Socialist Party have suggested the police should withdraw from the communities to quell the unrest.

(Eight days of this and there's no curfew yet? Bring in the military, by all means. Police withdrawal - good grief!)

I hate sanding.

I've lost my enthusiasm for refinishing furniture. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I detest sanding. Unfortunately, it's one of those projects that once you start you're more committed than most marriages are these days. So maybe we'll be stuck eating in the kitchen off of barstools forever. I'm kind of tempted to just stop sanding now and slap some spar urethane on. How bad could it really look?

Thursday, November 03, 2005 - Glued to toilet, man sues Home Depot

This is just one more reason why you should never let yourself touch public toilet seats. Poor guy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 - Critics Slam Univ. of Oregon Diversity Effort

In an effort to promote diversity at the University of Oregon a plan has been developed that would hire, fire and promote professors not just on the quality of their teaching and research, but on their so-called “cultural competency."

Supporters say they understand the challenges, but such a program is necessary because racism and discrimination persist.

I can't stand those types of programs (usually boring, a waste of time, patronizing, assume the worst of its white students), having had to sit through them myself (although I was never faced with losing my job over it). The motives behind these diversity efforts are usually noble - make the world a better place by teaching everyone to get along. But in my opinion this program (and most others like it) is very misguided because the people that need to be taught "cultural competency" the most are neither college students or professors. The target audience should be young children, and the teachers should be their parents. Any other teacher is bound to be much less effective. Whenever I came across prejudice in my classroom I tried my best to address it and correct it, but I cannot think of oneinstance where I had any effect on the child's opinion. Even though kids act like they hate their parents, that is whom they look to for their culture and mores.

Refinishing the table

I took the girls to Home Depot this morning and bought some stain and other supplies.  I’m going to tackle refinishing our dining room table.  We bought it at a yard sale, and the finish is quite marred, so I figured I can only make it look better (I hope!).  But I’m going to be lazy and just do the tabletop.  I just can’t stand to sand corners, table legs, etc.  Last spring I refinished a nightstand, I learned how hard all that detail work is.  I tried using paint remover (overcoming my fears after reading the warning label), but did not have good results with it, as I did not really know what I was doing.  So this time I’m taking the easy way out, even if it is a little unorthodox.  I know the stain I bought doesn’t exactly match the original, but hopefully it won’t be too glaringly different.  Of course, half the challenge of this project has nothing to do with craftsmanship and everything to do with trying to do it with my two little “helpers.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 - Woman Saves Boy

A Richmond woman, 56, with her foot in cast, stepped in to save a 3 year old from being choked by a man, as bystanders watched! She is hailed as a hero, while everyone wonders why no one else stepped in to help. It saddens me that people are like that. Is it fear? Or are we so numbed to violence from TV and movies, that when we actually see it happening in front of us violence causes less shock than it should? Mary Geibel explained her actions, "It was instinct." So where were everyone else's instincts?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I am a very practicing Christian.  I like Halloween.  Gasp.  Yes, I think it is a perfectly harmless holiday, particularly for children.  I get so aggravated by certain religious people who think that it is so evil and Satanic.  Maybe it did have pagan roots eons ago, and I’m sure there are Satan-worshipper types today who go all out on October 31, but for the vast majority of normal people today, it is a harmless holiday, if that is what you want it to be.  Dress up in a fun costume, take your kids trick-or-treating and let them learn how you feel when you eat too much candy.  See, it’s even educational.  Throw a fun, safe party.  Carve a jack-o-lantern.  I’m going to make pumpkin cookies this afternoon with Sophie.  She is going to be a dog tonight for her first trick-or-treat outing.  Kate will be a ballerina, but I’m not going to carry her up to the doors to get candy – she’s too young to know the difference.  

Bush Selects Alito for Supreme Court

Let Act II begin! This is why the Democrats were so supportive of Miers, Christian evangelical background, and all. They knew they would be better off with her than with an Alito type. This should be a nasty fight. When reading a bit about his record in this Post article, one thing jumped out at me that will surely be a focus of the smear campaigns.

Alito joined joined a Third Circuit panel in upholding most of a Pennsylvania law imposing numerous restrictions on women seeking abortions. The law, among other things, required physicians to advise women of the potential medical dangers of abortion and tell them of the alternatives available. It also imposed a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and barred minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent.

"Imposing numerous restrictions"?? Come on. Physicians should tell of potential dangers of abortion, as they do for any surgery. A 24-hour waiting period is not that harsh. Many states have similar or longer waiting periods to buy guns, and those guns probably aren't going to kill people. And yes, minors need parental consent for other medical work, so why not abortion?

Now, in that same case Alito did support a provision requiring husband notification, which I am not too keen on. He felt that it did not impose an undue burden. (Does this indicate that he has a very good marriage himself?) I suppose that spousal notification is supposed to protect a father's rights, but when it comes to 9 months of pregnancy, the father's rights are insignificant compared to the mother's. However, having said that, let me be clear that I am firmly opposed to abortion. And although I may not agree with Alito on that particular item, I do want to see a reasonably conservative, intelligent person on the Court, so based on what I have learned so far, I support his nomination. - Do Witches Breast-Feed?

A Vermont couple set up a scarecrow witch "breastfeeding" a baby witch in their yard, and the local townfolk are ready to have a burning. For goodness sakes, people, calm down. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding! I'm not an anti-bottle fanatic, but I am definitely pro-breastfeeding, especially in public (as long as you are somewhat discreet). Breastfeeding is best for the baby, and how can more mothers be encouraged to do it if they are made to feel like social outcasts for months on end? It's a big sacrifice to breastfeed. Don't make us feel like we have to stay shut up in the house, or go to nasty public restrooms. It so upsets me that people would even dare suggest that.

One outraged town resident says that she is "not ready to explain nursing to her 4-year old grandson." Explain? It's not the birds and the bees talk. Just tell the kid that that is how babies get their milk. Fox News's opening line to this little piece was less than supportive, "If there was one thing we didn't want to see the Wicked Witch of the West do, it's this." Shame on you, Fox!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

No More Special Counsels

The usually liberal Post has a shockingly conservative op-ed article slamming special counsels, saying that they overstep the normal bounds of justice, and have too much power. The co-authors try to derail Fitzgerald's indictment of Scooter Libby. They even go so far as to say that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, just a bureaucrat. First time that I've heard that version of the story, except for a FoxNews article recently that said maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to have blown her cover. I would like to believe these guys are correct, since I'm conservative myself, and desperately trying to hold onto a little bit of faith in the current administration. I looked at several other blogs linking to this article, and they're not buying it. I'm so intrigued that the Post would run this. Perhaps it's just a feeble attempt to appear less biased.

Friday, October 28, 2005

AOL and Waste

What is up with AOL? By now, everyone and their dog is familiar with those annoying free trial offer CDs they send in the mail, regularly enough to keep the USPS afloat. I just toss them, as I'm sure many do. But today we got one in a thick plastic case. Is that really necessary? Come on, people. Spare a thought for our poor landfills. Not that AOL is the only culprit, either. It seems like every company is bent on wrapping their product securely enough to survive a trip back from the moon. When I was a kid (late 70s, early 80s), it seems to me that we used to hear about using less packaging to conserve resources and reduce landfill buildup. Not anymore. Now the only product targeted is disposable diapers - the one product that is absolutely indispensable, in my opinion! So let's cut back on all other waste so parents can use disposable diapers and keep their sanity (if you have never used cloth diapers, you have no idea how awful it is). That's my idea of an ecological compromise. - Views - Junk Science - DDT Is Only Real Weapon to Combat Malaria

This little article goes against everything I was told in school as a kid. We were practically raised on the "DDT is evil" mantra. I never even heard a whisper of doubt. So I find Milloy's article fascinating - why haven't we heard more about this - unless he's just dreaming it all up? Or unless the environmentalists are indeed bent on stifling the truth? I would love to read some serious scientific treatment of the subject.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Car repairs

The car only cost $113.04 to repair!  That’s the lowest repair bill we’ve had in years.  Of course, they found other big problems (oil leaking in multiple places), which even the mechanic said might not be worth fixing, given the age of the car.  You know it’s gonna be expensive when they say that.  We already knew it was leaking a little oil.  We’ll just keep putting more in, until it just won’t run anymore.  The longer we can go without buying a new vehicle, the better.

Miers Withdraws Nomination

Miers Withdraws Nomination I'm glad she withdrew now, instead of prolonging the agony and wasting more time.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers."

Interesting reason. Hopefully that will allow her to not feel quite so humiliated by this whole fiasco, but I doubt it. For the rest of her life, she'll be remembered as someone who was nominated, but couldn't get confirmed. Ouch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Car Troubles

I’ve been susceptible to cabin fever lately; if I don’t get out of the house every day I go a little crazy.  Unfortunately, my car is in the shop today, so I may go wacko if they have to keep it too long!  For months now, I’ve smelled a faint odor of gas.  We’ve had it looked at by a down-home kind of mechanic, who couldn’t find anything wrong.  So I figured it couldn’t be all that serious, or at least not serious enough to blow us all sky-high.  But this week I started using the heater, and what a stink!  The gas smell is unbearable now, and probably damaging all of our brain cells.  I had to turn off the heat and ride with the windows open.  Not to mention how nervous it makes me.  So I took it in this morning, which involved dragging the girls down in their pajamas and coats, moving car seats (one of my least favorite activities) and having grandpa drive us back home.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Condoleeza Rice according to Eugene Robinson

Here's another example of reverse stereotyping. This opinion article speculates on why Rice is who she and works for whom she does. He doesn't quite say it, but it's almost as if her parents are to blame for giving her a sheltered, upper-middle class childhood, complete with piano lessons.

A friend of Rice's, Denise McNair, was one of the four girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. That would have left a deep scar on me, but Rice can speak of that atrocity without visible emotion.

Keyword: visible. That is a very unfair criticism in my opinion. What's wrong with being able to control your emotions? Not everyone shows grief and anger in the same way.

She doesn't deny that race makes a difference. "We all look forward to the day when this country is race-blind, but it isn't yet," she told reporters in Birmingham. Later she added, "The fact that our society is not colorblind is a statement of fact."

So what's wrong with that? I think Robinson needs to stop expecting all black to think, act, and vote exactly the same way.

Reality Vs. Rhetoric in the Abortion Debate

This FoxNews article states some statistics on abortion that shocked me. According to the study, “one of every three American women will have an abortion by the time they reach 45.” Additionally, in a typical year there are 4.1 million live births, 1.3 million abortions and 900,000 miscarriages.
1.3 million? I had no idea that it was still that high. Horrible.

However, I was not surprised to learn that few abortions are done because of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Even fewer are partial-birth, eight of every 10,000 abortions performed. I've often wondered why some make partial-birth abortions their main focus, when they are so few performed. Is it because it is the most gruesome and murderous, and therefore the angle that the activists have the most chance of winning? At any rate, with today's neonatal technology, I don't see how a partial-birth abortion is ever needed. If the mother's life is in danger (because of high blood pressure, for example), just do an emergency c-section. Many third trimester babies are saved that way. I'm not a doctor, so maybe I'm unaware of a medical situation where a partial-birth abortion is the only option - anyone want to enlighten me? At any rate, 8 out of 10,000 is very low.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Disney Princesses

Has anyone noticed how sexed-up Disney has made its Princess line of toys?  For those who don’t have little girls, the very popular Disney Princess theme toys have images of characters from their movies, namely, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Beauty, and Ariel.  For example you can buy a Disney Princess Tea set with pictures of the princesses on them.  

I’m a big fan of some of those movies, particularly the older ones, but I am not pleased with subtle changes that have been made in the current renditions.  The characters (with the possible exception of Snow White) are often posed a little provocatively, with come-hither eyes.  Beauty and Cinderella now have a little cleavage, but had none showing in the original movies.  Belle shows a lot of cleavage, and her dresses are more off the shoulder than in the original film.  Jasmine and Ariel weren’t wearing too much to begin with.  Now this is nothing like the appalling Bratz dolls, but I still find it all discouraging.  Why can’t we let little girls be little girls a little longer?  This stuff is very popular with the preschool crowd.  What kind of message is this sending?  Grow up to be a sexy princess and you’ll find a prince to take care of you?  None of these characters go to college or get job-training.  Of course, that would not be keeping with the original fairy tales.  Fine.  But neither is sticking your bosoms out.  

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Waffles and Whipped Cream

For Sunday supper, I made whole wheat waffles with strawberries (from the freezer) and whipped cream, something I do from time to time when I don’t feel like cooking a “real” meal.  I was sure it would be a hit with the girls – they both like waffles.  Sophie eats off the cream, requests more cream, and refuses to eat anything else.  That was no big surprise, after all, a three year old knows what’s good, and she has previously done the same thing.  But the weird part was after she pushed her plate away and left the table she came in the kitchen and grabbed a plain waffle off of the cooling rack.  Calling it a “square” she then ate most of it.  Go figure.  I think plain waffles are rather unappetizing, and am surprised she would choose that over the cream and strawberry-soaked one on her plate.

At the tender age of twelve months, Kate also figured out the whipped cream was the only good part.  She picked it off, and resisted all my attempts to get anything else in her mouth.  She was so cranky we got her out of her chair and put her in her pjs.  Convinced she had to be still hungry, I made Jeryl hold her while I fed her bits of grapes and . . . you guessed it . . . plain waffle, which she was happy to eat.  What is wrong with these kids?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Soldiers Burn Taliban Fighters' Bodies

There is more to this story than meets the eye, according to Jason Coleman and his sources. Check it out if you are interested in learning that the soldiers may not have been as guilty of wrongdoing as some media sources would have you believe.

White People Should Be Exterminated

So says a Dr. Kamau Kambon to a Howard University Law School panel. My question is what on earth is Howard doing letting a nutcase like that speak at their law school? My next question is why isn't this getting the attention that Bill Bennet's foolish remarks did? Not that it should get much attention, as it is also very foolish (as well as some other things).

Going to the Library

Ever since my oldest was born, I have looked forward to taking my children to the library and sharing its magic with them.  My own mother took my siblings and I to the library often, and for many years I wanted to be a librarian (actually, I still do).  I consider the public library to be a very important parenting tool.  

However, it is not so easy – at least when kids are this young.  Don’t get me wrong – they love the library, but not exactly for my reasons.  Sophie is mainly interested in playing with the toys and puzzles in the children’s area.  It is a very inviting children’s area, and I suppose half the battle is getting PlayStation, MTV addicted children in there, but I do wish there were not so many toys.  She will occasionally grab a few books off of the shelf, none of which are usually age-appropriate.  I realize that at age three I just have to choose for her.  Kate is just a wrecking machine in there – pulling books off of shelves, trying to crawl out the door, playing with toys, etc.  We all went as a family this afternoon, and it was all Jeryl and I could do to contain Kate.  I am not going to attempt it anymore on my own as she is getting so active.

Once we get home, Sophie is always anxious to read the books I’ve selected for her, and I guess that’s what counts.  In a few more years, she’ll be more interested and capable of making better selections.  Often, I go in the evening by myself to get books for them.  That’s the only way I can choose anything for myself also.  When I was a kid, my mother often went and got us books while we were at school.  I never understood why then, but now I do.

On a side note, who can tell me what libraries have for adults in lieu of toys and puzzles?  Movies!  I’m disturbed at how libraries seem to be turning in to video stores these days.  Again, I’m sure they do it to get you in the door, but I observe a lot of people who come in only for the movies.  

Friday, October 21, 2005

School Violence

We see yet again the challenges our schools are facing. A tenth grader in Maryland attacked his biology teacher with a baseball bat on Wednesday. I'd be willing to bet that administrators tried to avoid spreading the news around to the students, but that the whole school knew about it within one hour, and that little to no real learning took place anywhere in that building for the rest of the day. How are teachers supposed to teach in those kinds of environments? No wonder schools are having a hard time finding teachers these days. When I taught I always had a mental plan of what to do if faced with a classroom intruder or attacker. I didn't feel that paranoid, but the thought was present all the same. The kid "faces expulsion and possible criminal prosecution." Possible? Come on. If you commit an adult crime, you should face some adult criminal prosecution."Jerald Newberry, a health expert at the National Education Association, said cash-strapped schools across the country have been forced to cut health and counseling services for students, weakening an important line of defense against students with violent tendencies. Newberry said veteran teachers also report "more aggressive" student behavior than was the norm 15 or 20 years ago." A lack of health and counseling services is not the real cause here. We cannot let our children continually immerse themselves in violent video games and movies and expect it not to have some kind of effect on them. Additionally I'd be curious to see what the young man's family and home life were like. I bet it wasn't very good, but will the news media have the courage to report on it?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Phone Etiquette

Why do kids have to act so ornery when one is on the phone?  My mother calls this afternoon, and I am trying to have a nice conversation, but my two offspring suddenly have urgent needs to be met.  Of course, my mother probably thinks all is in chaos (she’s only partly right).  I pick up Kate, feed her animal crackers (she’s already had too many today), but she still continues to fuss.  Sophie hears me discussing my sister’s soon-to-be-delivered baby, and decides that she wants to go the hospital right now.  Later she fusses about something else and I ignore her.  When I get off of the phone, she informs me that she has just peed on the floor!  Honestly!  She almost never has pee accidents anymore.  I would almost say she did it on purpose.

Now I need to stop writing and get this messy house in order!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have

In the above Washington Post article the author makes some interesting points about prenatal testing, abortion, and society's opinions of the disabled. She has a Down's Syndrome daughter herself, and carefully avoids saying if she had had the testing. I was surprised how many negative vibes and remarks she has received over the years regarding her daughter. I have always thought that if I did end up having a disabled child, Down's Syndrome would be one of my top preferences, not that I really know that much about it. I did have the prenatal testing done with both of my pregnancies, but not because I was planning on aborting if there were problems. I just would want to know ahead of time so I could prepare myself.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Trip to the Pediatrician

I took the girls to the doctor for their one and three year old checkups.  I scheduled both at the same time trying to be efficient, but in the end it probably wasn’t worth it.  It was too distracting to keep track of them both at the same time as listening to the doctor and trying to remember my questions.  

It’s just such an ordeal: bathing and dressing them, getting them there and in the building, getting my insurance card (out-of-date, but I didn’t tell them that) out while holding Kate and the diaper bag, waiting with too many other people in the waiting room (including a friend of mine who was there with four of her six children – don’t I feel guilty for complaining), waiting in the examining room, putting clothes and shoes on and off, waiting at check-out, etc.  When I had scheduled the appointment I picked 11:00 on purpose to not interfere with Kate’s naps.  So naturally, this morning she refused to take a nap.  Kate didn’t want to be held while the doc was examining Sophie, and in the end I had to let her crawl around the examining room floor.  She spent a fair amount of time examining the none-too-clean doorstop.  What the doctor must have thought of me.  Sophie was very leery of the whole thing, but we managed to get her on the scale.  After that she calmed down.  Kate only had one shot.  They both are healthy, so that’s the main thing.

Arizona Teachers Face Tough Testing

I'm all in favor of higher standards for teachers. The tests I took (PRAXIS I and PRAXIS II, I think) were ridiculously easy. I've also known teachers that struggled to pass them! So kudos to Arizona for making teachers pass some tests before giving them a provisional certificate. However, after that the plan gets out of control. Required teachers to pass national board certification sounds good to those who know little about it, but in reality it is a nightmarish, time-consuming monster that few new teachers have time for. In my four years teaching at one school, I only knew one teacher who was undergoing the process. There were plenty of other excellent teachers there, but no one else wanted to go through all of that paperwork. I think the national board should streamline its certification process, while maintaining academic rigor.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Another Saturday

Another Saturday with too many activities crammed in – shopping, yard work, library, etc.  But it still makes a nice change from the monotony of the week.  I spent too much money at Staples this morning buying print cartridges and CD-Rs.  We plan on storing our photos (from a digital camera) and videos on them.  Since we didn’t get a DVD burner, we’ll have to go the computer to view them, but that’s not the end of the world.  I think it won’t be long that we will regret not getting that DVD burner with the computer, but I suppose we can always install one later.  I still do print off the better photos to put in regular albums, but since I have a hard time deleting all of the multitudes of images I put on the camera, burning them on to CDs will be a lot easier and cheaper than printing them all.

We went to the mall for the second time in a week to look for work clothes for Jeryl.  The girls were not well-behaved, which was no surprise, so I don’t know we always keep taking them places.  Sophie runs through the racks of clothes, and doesn’t stay in my sight; just begging to be snatched away by an evil stranger.  Kate goes crazy if she has to stay in the stroller, is uncomfortably heavy to carry, and doesn’t want to be carried anyway.  She really wants to crawl all over the dirty floor of JC Penney.  Once she is walking more consistently, I’m getting out the kiddie leash!  I bought it for Sophie, but she was already too independent and strong-willed at that point, and so we never could use it.  But I hope if I start Kate on it from the get-go, she will accept it.  Jeryl is not that keen on the idea, however, so I may have to forgo its use when he is around.  I know a lot of people think they are horrible, but let someone just come and try to say something to me about it!  If I were a toddler I would rather be on a cute little Elmo harness and leash, moving my little legs, than stuck in a stroller.  So really it’s a kindness to the child!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Post-birthday letdown

The girls are both napping now, thank goodness. Sophie handled the birthday celebration last night just fine. She didn't care that she didn't get to blow out candles, and although she "helped" unwrap Kate's presents, she wasn't too greedy about it.

But this morning all of the gloves were off. Sophie insisted that all of the toys (particularly the Fisher Price Animal Sounds Zoo) were hers, and wouldn't let Kate get anywhere near. Kate didn't quite realize how unjust this is, but she did see that there were new interesting toys, and she wanted a piece of the action. So I spent some time holding Sophie in another room as she sobs, "But they're mine toys [sic]!" Does Kate take advantage of this time I've given her to play uninterrupted? Of course not. She gets lonely after 30 seconds and comes to find us.

So now I'm just trying to keep the peace by letting Sophie play as much as she wants with Kate's toys as long as she isn't too mean about it. Just call me Neville Chamberlain.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kate's First Birthday

My baby is one year old today!  She looks like such a big girl with her head of thick hair and ten teeth.  Sometimes I believe she thinks she is two years old.  She has gotten into climbing lately.  She’s more ambitious than Sophie was at this age, probably because she is itching to do whatever Sophie does.  I’m making spaghetti (or rotini) for her tonight.  We’ll have an orange coconut cake – a new recipe.  Her paternal grandparents are coming over, but that’s it.  No big party.  Hopefully Sophie can handle someone else getting all the presents and attention.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Signature Required

I heard an interesting tidbit on the Richmond news this morning.  Chesterfield County Schools wants to administer a new drug/alcohol use survey to its students.  Permission slips have been sent home.  Parents who sign and return them will be entered in a lottery for $500.  

So now we have to bribe parents to do the simplest things.  Why, oh why, can’t parents be responsible?  If your child brings something home that requires your attention, read it and send it back in.  Schools shouldn’t have to waste time and money on such rewards.  From personal experience I know how awfully hard it is to get some parents to send stuff like that back to school.  Even getting report cards signed and returned is like pulling teeth.  The time I use to waste trying to phone parents (some without phones) and find out if they saw the report card.  Those same parents are the ones at the end of the year who say, “You can’t fail Johnny!  You never told me he was doing badly!”  

Requiring signatures shouldn’t be necessary anyway.  Parents should know when report cards come out, and expect their child to bring one home.  If it gets “lost” on the way, then it’s the parent’s responsibility to contact the school.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'm watching you

Sometimes when I observe Sophie about to do something naughty to Kate, I warn her with a “I’m watching you.”  

This afternoon Sophie was playing with blocks, trying to build some sort of large edifice.  She couldn’t really enjoy herself, because she was so paranoid about Kate wrecking it.  Kate really wasn’t bothering her too much, but I got sick of the whining and so I removed Kate from the room with a few blocks of her own to play with.  Kate sat in the kitchen doorway with four blocks and worked hard on stacking them for about five minutes (pretty long, eh?).  But then she began to move back towards Sophie in the family room.  Sophie shrieked out, “I’m watching you!”  

Eating out with kids

It’s so rainy and gloomy today, and has been for about five days now.  I’m ready for a little sun.  It would be nice to take the girls to the park more before winter really sets in.  But with this weather the only place I could think of to go was Wal-Mart.  What excitement.  Lately Sophie has gotten into shouting “hi” at random people in stores.  If they don’t respond she’ll keep it up until they do.  Fortunately most people seem to think it is funny.  Yesterday we were eating in a little Mexican restaurant and she started to shout it at a couple sitting nearby.  We put a stop to that quickly.  Overall our little restaurant excursion went well.  It was the first time we had eaten out in months with the girls.  It doesn’t make for a relaxing meal.  We ordered them both chicken soft tacos, since they will eat that at home.  But I guess if it’s not just like mommy makes it, it’s not good enough, because Sophie wouldn’t eat hardly any.  Fortunately there was the big basket of chips to keep her busy.  Kate ate some and threw some on the floor.  Compared to the time over a year ago, when Jeryl and I had to take turns with Sophie in the parking lot of a restaurant, this was a success, although not one we will try to repeat often!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hercule Poirot

I just finished a collection of Hercule Poirot short stories by Agatha Christie.  Of course, I had read them all before, but it had been a while for many of them, so I couldn’t always remember the ending.  It’s almost as good as reading them for the first time.  I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, and have been ever since my mother introduced me to her when I was about twelve or thirteen.  I was bored, looking for something to read, and she suggested I try The Murder at the Vicarage.  It was a good start.  How sad I was years later when I realized that I had read all of her works.  Even now I still sometimes hope in the back of my mind to find one that I missed.  Since she was so prolific, however, I can enjoy rereading some of her books if I wait long enough.  Often being prolific isn’t a good thing for the quality of an author’s work, but most of hers really are pretty good.  Not serious lit of course, but hey, everyone needs a break once in a while with a light read.  One of her best books is not a mystery, but her autobiography.  What a fascinating life she led.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Birthday Party

This morning we had four little friends over for a children’s party for S.  This is the first one I’ve done.  It went well – the kids seemed to have fun, the house wasn’t wrecked, and no one cried.  What more can I ask for?  It was raining so we had to stay inside, but I managed to keep them busy for an hour and a half.  Next week is K.’s turn, but we’re just having the family party.  I’m not into big bashes for one year olds; they can’t handle it.  In fact, K. was so grouchy last night we had to put her to bed before cake and presents.  This morning I had her grandma come over and watch her so she wouldn’t get in the way.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Three years old

Today is S.’s third birthday.  My baby is growing up!  Sniff, sniff.  No, really, I think kids get more interesting and easier the older they get.  So I’m excited to see how she continues to learn and grow.  She was so excited, but handled the waiting for suppertime festivities better than I thought she would.  She helped me decorate the cake (yes, I made it from scratch).  I was trying to decorate it nicely, but kept messing up, so I decided I might as well let her have a crack at it.  She took a handful of sprinkles and dropped them all on one spot.  Her paternal grandparents came over for dinner.  We adults ate on china – S. didn’t seem to care that she just had a regular plate.  She got a lot of presents, more than I had intended, mainly due to her grandparents.  My mother sent three!  That’s the advantage of being the oldest grandchild.  I wonder if she’ll try to keep that up for all of her grandkids; in a few weeks she’ll have seven, and I am sure there will be many more in the years to come.  I was pleased that S. spent time with each present before going to the next.  I hate to see kids just tear through everything greedily.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

No Twins Here

My daughters are two years and one week apart.  To me it seems apparent that they are quite different in age at this stage of their development.  However, today in Kroger’s, I was twice asked if they are twins!  One of the ladies was quite young, so I assume her eyesight is still good.  I can see people making the mistake when they are older, like six and eight, but now?  I think it’s a bit odd.  Perhaps it’s their new haircuts.  K. does have a lot of hair and teeth for an almost one year old, and it does make her look a little older.

After that I hauled them over to Wal-Mart (because I feel compelled to get the best price on everything, I end up going regularly to Food Lion, Kroger’s, and Wal-Mart).  As usual, S. took off her sandals while riding in the cart.  As usual, she ignored my request to put them back on.  When I was putting her back into her car seat, I told her that maybe I would just leave her sandals in the cart (one of those parent threats you know you won’t carry out, but just use to try to scare the kid even though you know it won’t work – one of those techniques I picked up from my own parents).  Well, I was punished, because I actually did forget to get them out of the cart, and did not realize that oversight until we were home.  At that point, I did not want to face the hassle of driving back, finding that a Good Samaritan had taken them into the store, dragging both girls out of car seats, going inside in the rain to Customer “Service”, etc.  So the sandals are gone for good, and I hardly care.  It’s the end of the season anyway.  They were too beat up to hand down to K.  I just feel foolish about threatening to leave them, and then actually doing that absent-mindedly.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bankruptcy Filings Soar In Advance of New Law

This Washington Post article by Caroline Mayer covers the dramatic increase in bankruptcy filings in recent weeks. I think it's outrageous how many people file in this country on a normal basis, and it's all the more aggravating to think of those who are seeking to get in on a supposedly good thing before it's not so good anymore. The Post takes a nice feel-good stance on the issue. They mainly discuss the plight of hurricane victims who need to file. Who wouldn't be sympathetic to that? Although perhaps the example used of the Lee family wasn't the best. The husband made $100,000 a year, but now his salary is cut in half (still a lot more than many other hurricane victims ever made, I'm sure). The wife says of their pre-hurricane budget, "We had never missed a payment and were always on time with our bills, but we couldn't afford for anything to go wrong."

And that is a big problem. Too many people in this country cannot afford for anything to go wrong. If you're making minimum wage I can understand that, but $100,000 a year? Come on! There should be plenty of room for savings in a budget like that. But in our must-have-it-all-now culture everyone feels that they must have a big new house, new cars, fancy vacations, lots of cable channels, and the freedom to eat out all the time. Now, of course, I do not want to judge the Lee family -- it's quite possible that they had big medical expenses or something else that ate up most of that salary. However, I wonder why Mayer chose them for her article.

Monday, October 03, 2005

French Women Don't Get Fat

The other day I finished French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.   It was a trip down memory lane for me, as I lived in France and Belgium for sixteen months in my early twenties (I was a missionary for my church).  Ever since my European experience I have pondered (and bored others) with my thoughts on the thinness of the French.  They eat a lot of excellent food.  You never see them out jogging or at the gym (I don’t recall ever seeing a gym).  Everything is made with real butter (and proudly advertised as such).  Marvelous patisseries everywhere.  Fries are stilled fried in animal fat (but not hydrogenated oil – is that part of the secret?).  They eat multi-course meals.  And in spite of all this, or as the author would say, because of all this, they are thinner.  You never see enormously obese people over there.  Really, I mean never.  A little thick around the waist in middle age sometimes, but that’s it.  The book basically cements everything that I had observed and concluded, except the author does it much better than I ever could!  It made me wish I had thought of writing it, except that I am not all qualified.  

The book was enjoyable to read, although Guiliano can be a little repetitive sometimes.  She says it is not a diet book, but there are a few recipes in there.  It’s really more a life-style change book.  If you’re looking for a quick and easy lasting fix, this is not it, because there is no such thing.  My main problem is that the author is obviously well-to-do, and many of her food recommendations are expensive, or out-of-reach for those of us who don’t live in a cosmopolitan city.  I cannot afford to have my chocolate shipped in from overseas, and regular old balsamic vinegar from Wal-Mart will have to do for me.  Of course, the French do tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on food than Americans do.  But I believe that it is possible to incorporate enough of the French lifestyle to stay thin and healthy, without breaking your budget.

Key points I liked are:  Indulge in what you like, but in moderation, and in high quality (only good, dark chocolate).  Avoid processed, chemical-filled foods, soda, etc.  Eat slowly.  Sit down to eat, without the TV.  Watch your portion size.  Walk and climb stairs whenever possible.  Eat a large variety of fruit and vegetables often.  Change your attitude about food (gotta read the book for more on that).  None of it is rocket science, but yet look how many Americans are overweight!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Nips, Tucks, and Implants

These days I have low expectations for how much of General Conference I'll actually hear, so I don't get overly disappointed when my offspring cause me to only hear a few talks. However, I did hear a few gems today. My personal favorite moment was when Elder Holland was talking about body image (mainly to teenage girls) and the pressures of society. He warned against the things some do to themselves trying to fit in, etc. He alluded to eating disorders and even used the word "implanting". Way to go, Elder Holland! Unless you're like a size AA or have been in a car accident or the like, I think cosmetic surgery is crazy! Leaving out issues of self-acceptance, religion, etc., having surgery when you don't have to is astounding. Having had two c-sections, I would never undergo surgery that is not very necessary. It is just too miserable. It amazes me the number of women that have more than one procedure done. Was the first one not painful enough? Or I am just a big wimp?

Disclaimer: You're better off reading the actual talk, than listening to me. It's quite possible I was so distracted that I mixed up the speakers, or misintrepreted the whole thing.

New Job

I'm typing this while listening to General Conference online. Our old computer never would have let me do both at the same time. Half the time the audio feed would cut out. I'm listening to the French translation, which is fun. I desperately need the practice.

Big news: J. has accepted a new job. He hadn't really been looking for one, but a friend from church kept trying to interest him in working where he does. Finally, J. listened to him and decided it would be a good change. He will be an internal auditor for a group of banks. This a significant change from the public accounting that he as always done. He thinks he will like the work better, and have more career opportunities than at his current job. Plus, the salary is better, health insurance is cheaper, and there will be no tax season! I'm very pleased about this. It will be a great blessing. The extra money will help us buy our next vehicle - a minivan. No SUVs for me. The main drawback is a thirty minute commute. However, we can always move if we decide we want to. Currently we like our house and don't feel like moving.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Learning to Walk

K. is eagerly practicing her newfound walking skills. She is very wobbly still, and hasn't gone more than about six feet, but she is so pleased with herself. Whenever J. and I tell her to walk to us, she happily tries if we're not too far away. S. has been observing all of this attention, of course. She doesn't seem jealous, and even claps and cheers for K. each time she walks a little. So this afternoon we're all in the kitchen, and K. is walking back and forth between the two of us. S. then announces she's going to walk too. Then, instead of walking normally, she does an imitation of K.'s wobbly, legs-far-apart walk! J. and I had a good laugh over that one.

Chill in the Air

There is finally a chill in the air.  Normally, I dread the advent of cool weather, but for some inexplicable reason I have found myself anxiously anticipating the arrival of fall this year.  This summer was not particularly hot, but I’m just ready for it to be over.  But I do detest being cold, so I’m sure that two months from I’ll be moaning about how I wish it were summer.  How fickle are my weather preferences!  

Here’s something I’ve been pondering lately.  On this earth there is tremendous variation in temperature, from over 100 degrees to well below 0 degrees.  Yet most of us humans are only truly comfortable in a very narrow range of that span.  For me, that’s from about 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Other people who haven’t been spoiled as I have by central air-conditioning and cheap heating probably are more tolerant of temperature variations.  But still, that means that most of us are either too hot or too cold most of the time.  Kind of sad to think about it.  Or perhaps I need to think less about my own slight physical discomforts.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Toddler Questions

I realize that small children are famous for asking questions, but I did not think it would be this bad. While watching the Jungle Book, S. asked at least ten times, “He’s looking for Mowgli.” Wait a minute! That’s not a question, you say. Oh, but it is at this age. She demanded some sort of response or acknowledgement from me each time. Apparently, all of my remarks were inadequate, since she kept it up for so long. Later in the movie, “Where’s the snake?” repeated four times. At the time, Kaa the snake was very visible on the screen, and she knew it. I wonder what goes through their little minds. Perhaps she just wants to make sure that I am paying attention also. Or maybe she’s looking for confirmation that it really is a snake. I don’t know, though. She is very good at recognizing snakes, and has been for a long time. She does that with other things too. It’s probably all just to drive me crazy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Washing Hands

S. has reached a new milestone – I no longer have to hold her up to the sink to wash her hands.  She is finally tall enough to stand on a little stepstool and just barely get her hands under the water.  I still have to turn the water on and help her with the soap, but that’s no big deal.  I am just so pleased not to have to hold her up anymore.  Of course, it will be another two years until K. is tall enough to reach, but for now I can enjoy the fact that she is still relatively light to lift up.  Ah, the things that make my life exciting.

K. is starting to walk now (11 ½ months), which is quite exciting.  It took S. until she was 14 months, perhaps because she didn’t have an older sibling role model.  K. wants to do everything that S. does.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ben Affleck for Senator?

It drives me crazy when celebrities get shortcuts to things everything else has to work hard for, like publishing books or getting elected to public office. But if this little tidbit on Ben Affleck is true, it really would be just too much fun to watch it unfold. Shame on the Virginia Democrats for even thinking of resorting to such tactics! Aren't there any other qualified potential candidates out there?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Health Insurance Rant

It's time for my rant on the evils of the insurance industry. Does everyone really know how much it costs, and how many people get the shaft? The rich can afford it, no matter how unreasonable. The poor get free service in the ER, courtesy of the rest of us. But the middle class . . . . Our health insurance premiums are going up to about $600 a month. That does not include dental. We're young, healthy, nonsmokers, etc. My husband's work pays for his share, so if they didn't do that it would be over $800. The plan we are in does not exactly cover everything, either. We still have a deductible, copays, and 20% coinsurance. Last year we paid about $2000 out of pocket for K.'s birth. So why are the premiums so stinking high? He works for a small business, and Anthem gives better rates to larger companies! I can hardly believe that such a thing is legal! What if Anthem wanted to give better rates to white people? That would never be allowed, of course. Seems like almost the same thing to me. We're paying more just because he doesn't work for a big corporation.

I ask J. what other people at his office think about this. Most don't care too much, because all of their spouses have their own jobs with their own insurance paid by their employers.

Anyway, several months ago, knowing that open enrollment was coming (another peeve of mine), I researched my other options. I thought J. could keep his insurance since the office pays for it, but the girls and I could get our own plan, maybe even an HSA. So I go to the Anthem website. It looks all nice and welcoming. I get some quotes that are hundreds of dollars lower than our current Anthem plan. I was so excited! But I had a nagging feeling that it was too good to be true. I call them, and sure enough, they will not enroll me, because I can get it through my husband's work! Aarrgghhh. The lady on the phone got defensive on the phone when I asked her why not. "We do not allow competition between our group and individual plans" was all she would say. Of course they don't!! They wouldn't make as much money!!

So why stick with Anthem? Well, they are the biggest in VA, and most all doctors are participating. But when this much money is involved, it is not the time to be thinking of convenience. So I go to Golden Rule's website. Nice, cheaper, friendly lady on the phone, but they do not offer maternity coverage in VA. Not that I am about to get pregnant, but you never know. In the end, we decided to stay with Anthem. I couldn't find any other insurers in VA who offer individual or family plans. If you know of any, let me know.