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.