Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Nativity Play

We had some friends over on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew, and the children acted it out. Next year we hope to have better costumes!
Joseph and Mary

Here's the baby!

Away in a Manger

A wise man

Two Shepherds

Happy Feet!

Esther has noticed that everybody else wears shoes, and she wants to too! She brought these to me (one at a time) and insisted I put them on her feet--she chose which shoes and what foot each one went on! She seemed to be quite pleased with the effect! Yes, there are 4 shoes there, from 4 different pairs--and obviously not al hers!
Posted by Picasa

Baby Wearing


I don't often post photos of myself, probably because I'm usually the one taking the photos. I asked my husband to take this picture last week; my baby is growing up fast, and I probably won't be carrying her around like this much longer--not that I object but she has become very fond of her own two feet! My sister gave me this Moby wrap when Esther was born, and it is one of my favorite baby-wearing aids; it's just one longs strip of somewhat stretchy fabric.
Posted by Picasa

Photo of the Birthday girl


I thought I should post this photo taken on Esther's birthday to document the day. Isn't she a cuty?
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jackpot!


I found these at the bottom of my washing machine. Does that make me guilty of money laundering?
Better do a better job of checking those pockets...

Government of the People, or Government of the Judges?

I've steered away from politics lately, but I saw this editorial today and thought it worth sharing. I especially agree with the last couple of lines:

"The people are not irrelevant in deciding the type of society in which they want to live. And we'd like to think the government of the people is not government of just seven people."

Children's nativity play and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A birth story



I love reading birth stories, and as today is the anniversary of Esther's birth I thought it would be a good time to tell her story.
Last year was to be our first Christmas home with just our immediate family. Most of my family were gathering in Boston to celebrate together, and I felt bad to be missing the reunion but at 9 months pregnant no-one was going to let me on a plane! Instead we invited some friends over for Christmas Eve and planned a quiet celebration of the birth of Christ. My baby was due January 3rd, and as my first two had both come several days late I had pinned her arrival for sometime around January 7th.
The weekend before Christmas was busy. I went to the gym on Saturday morning and had a nice brisk walk on the treadmill. While I was there I noticed I was experiencing a lot of painless contractions--really the first I had experienced this pregnancy. I didn't think much of it. We went to the Church later on for Choir practice, then I walked a couple more miles (I really like walking, and find I handle pregnancy much better when I exercise) to drop off the Sunday service program for our church librarian to make copies. In the afternoon a friend called to ask if I could lead the music for her on Sunday, as she was home with a 3 day old baby. I cheerfully agreed.
The painless contractions had been going on all day, and as evening came they started to feel crampy. That's when I started to suspect I had a baby on the way. This was exactly mirroring my experience with Lily; a day of mild contractions, in the evening gradually becoming more intense and proceeding to real labor in the middle of the night. About 7:00 in the evening I called my friend Judi, who had offered to watch my kids if I went into labor before my mom arrived to help (she was in Boston with the rest of the family, planning to fly out on New Years Eve to help when my baby came). I told Judi I just might be needing her in the middle of the night, but was hoping to hold out until morning. I cleaned house a bit then went to bed and tried to sleep. Didn't work--by 10:00 I was up again. I think I pulled out a book and tried to read, but that didn't help much either. I fixed a warm bath, which did help, for awhile. By about 2:00 I was starting to think might not have until morning--I ten to have long labors but this was a third child and might go faster. I woke my husband up and told him we were going to the hospital. Then I called and woke Judi up and asked her to come (Thank Heavens for good friends!). I was having a hard time getting through the contractions at this point--I was having back labor, again reminding me of Lily's birth. I wanted my husband to stand behind me and rub my back while I leaned over a table.
Eventually we got in the car and headed for the hospital. I was in the back so I had room to change positions. Honestly, the ride to the hospital is one of the reasons I am strongly tempted to try a home birth next time. A moving car is just not a very comfortable place to be when you are in active labor. This time I was seriously afraid I was going to throw up any moment. Didn't happen till I was in the hospital though.
We made it to the hospital, through the emergency room entrance (the only one open in the middle of the night) and up to labor and delivery. It must have been obvious that I was in hard labor because they didn't bother with the little triage rooms but took me straight to a LDR (labor, delivery, recovery) room. I gave someone my printed birth plan, and they left me alone to change.
When the nurses came back in, they were smiling. "We have the perfect labor and delivery nurse for you!" they announced. "She is a midwife and is very supportive of natural birth."
Someone must have been listening to my prayers!
When my nurse, P., came in and intruduced herself, I was immediately impressed. We was indeed a midwife, and in the past had practiced independently and attended home births. She was very understanding and supportive of my desire not to have a medicalized birth. I asked about the hot tub I had heard about, and she agreed that I could go get in as soon as I had received a dose of IV antibiotics (as with my former pregnancies, I had tested postitive for group B strep). She got the IV in, and I settled down in the most comfortable position I could find, which was facing backwords with the top of the bed raised so I could support myself on it; I have found with back labor this is usually the position I want to take, leaning forward with my arms and head resting on something. At some point along the way P. checked and told me I was about 6 cm dilated. This whole time I was getting through the contractions by vocalizing and sometimes pounding my hands on the bed--both probably in an attempt to distract myself from the pain. The IV wasn't working and we finally figured out there was a kink in the line, when that was straightened out there was not problem.
Once I was done with the IV, P. and Nathan helped me down the hallway to the hot tub room. I wasn't sure how much help the water would be, as the bath at home hadn't made a huge difference. But sinking into that tub of warm water was such a relief I knew immediately I did not want to get out again until this labor was over! But I didn't tell anyone that.
P. got me settled and then went out. This tub was a big jaccuzzi type tub, not as large as a birthing tub but quite comfortable. I found that when a contraction hit I could turn on the air jets full force against my back and they made the contractions much easier to get through. In fact, once I was in the tub I didn't need to vocalize and was able to relax a lot more. In fact, Nathan told me he couldn't always even tell when I was having a contraction. Actually, my labor seemed to slow down after that, the contractions coming farther apart. Which was just as well, as I was very tired and enjoyed a few extra minutes of rest in between! Nathan was very sweet and sang Primary songs to me most of the night, as well as holding my head up with his arm while he knelt next to the tub. P. would come in every now and then to check the baby's heart beat with the doppler, and to bring me cold juice to drink. Otherwise she pretty much left us alone.
This went on for several hours. Sometime in the early morning I started thinking I was about ready to push. I didn't mention this to anyone else as I didn't want to be made to get out of the tub, nor did I want the dr. called. Instead when the next contraction came I tried pushing along with it. Sure enough, I felt the baby's head starting to descend--and I felt my water break. P. came in again to check the baby's heart beat, but I didn't say anything to her--she would have been required to get me out of the tub and back to my room. Once she went out I started pushing again, and with a couple of contractions I knew the baby was crowning. That's when I pulled the cord to call the nurse's station. Actually, I probably pulled that cord five or six times just to make sure they got the message! And somewhere in there I remembered to turn the air jets off because this baby was coming! By the time P. showed up I think the baby's head was out already. She assessed the situation pretty quickly, reached into the water, got the cord over the baby's head (it was wrapped around twice), and helped ease my baby into the world. In a minute baby Esther was out of the water and into my arms. She was a little purple and didn't cry right away, but P. just said to give her a minute and sure enough she started to breathe just fine. Actually, I don't remember that she ever did cry. Maybe being born into warm water is not as much of a shock as coming straight into cold air! P. pulled a towel out of the water and covered the baby with it as she was still on my chest--nice and warm. Actually, I probably had the water a little too warm--the heat seemed to help with the contractions, but I know I was sweating. Esther was small--7 lbs 1 oz when we finally got around to weighing her (a couple of hours later); my next smallest was Lily at 8 lbs 5 oz. But then Lily and Luke had both had a couple of extra weeks to grow inside before making their appearances! 5 or 10 Minutes after Esther was born I delivered the placenta (still in the tub). We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, then Nathan cut it (he was being cautious and actually took three or for snips to cut through the cord!) Finally P. got me out and took us all back to our room. It was another 15 minutes before the OB showed up, said everything looked good, shook our hands, and left.
This was by far the easiest birth I have experienced. I loved laboring in the hot tub, and also giving birth in the water. I loved having a birth attendant who was supportive and completely un-obtrusive. I stood up 15 minutes after giving birth and walked down the hall to my recovery room. I had no tearing or even significant soreness; in fact, later that day I remarked that I really didn't feel like I had just given birth. I was very warm from the tub and did not experience cold feet or feeling chilled as I had after my other births. I also feel that my baby had a calmer entry into the world than my others had experienced.
Baby and I were together throughout the hospital stay. Even when they took her down to the nursery to be evaluated and blood tested etc. I went with her (this is the same hospital where Luke was born and I remember them taking him for his heel stick and not bringing him back until 3 hours later--by which time I was pestering them with phone calls. I didn't know where the nursery was or I would probably have gone and got him. This time I wasn't going to let my baby out of my sight; interestingly enough with mom standing there the ckeck-up and heel prick only took a couple of minutes!) I did have to stay in the hospital for 48 hours--because of the group B strep they didn't want to let the baby go before that time. Nathan and the kids spent a lot of those 48 hours at the hospital with me; they would show up first thing in the morning and stay until evening. We all came home together on Christmas morning.
In a funny postscript, after coming home from the hospital I picked up a book called "What you didn't think to ask your obstetrician" written by a male doctor who obviously had no experience with water birth. His stated that water birth was safe under the right conditions but that the water would not help with labor pain. Huh, what does he know about it...just reinforces my inclination to not fully trust doctor's opinions!

Happy birthday my little Christmas baby!

What a mess

As you can see, our neighbourhood has a major trash problem--people throw the trash into the dumpster enclosure without bothering to open the dumpster and put the trash inside. After the racoons get to it, this is what it looks like. I printed up these little notes this morning to pass around the neigbourhood. What do you think? I'm not trying to be the garbage Nazi, but it does seem that a reminder is in order.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Play Time



Esther loves her baths these days. I guess the bathtub can be a fun place to play even without the water--this is where I found her the other evening. She kept saying "ba', ba" for bath.


Here's my little monkeys enjoying their new Christmas jammies.

Tot School 22 December

Reading Stories with Dad.
We've been busy. Here are a few of our recent activities.
Helping Mom bake.

Decorating Gingerbread houses. This one came from a kit. We tried to make one from scratch but it didn't go so well.
We also made a version of Carisa's bottle top name speller, only I didn't have bottle tops so we used paper circles with the letters. Luke and Lily both enjoyed the activity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Courage to Love

Lizzie, over at A Dusty Frame, demonstrates courage in loving and sustaining her husband through some difficult trials, including his incarceration. Her example has prompted me to consider the place of love in our lives and the need for us embrace love as a motivating force in our lives.
To truely love takes both courage and effort. During the last days of his mortal ministry, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the time preceding his second coming. Concerning that period of time he tells us: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24:12) Where is the evidence of the wilting of love the greatest? It is found where we should expect love to be strongest. On the one hand we see a generation of young people who hesitate to marry, choosing instead to pursue a series of casual relationships. On the other we see unprecedented numbers of families breaking down, husbands and wives abandoning one an0ther and pulling the foundation out from under their children. People are afraid to love. Maybe people are afraid of love, real love, the kind that binds us to one another with cords so strong that we sorrow in another's sorrow, suffer in their suffering, rejoice in their rejoicing. Love that can lead two people in the dawn of their lives to commit to one another for all the years ahead. Love that can then sustain them through all the sorrows, challenges, and human failings that mark the course of our lives. Love that inspires us to bring children into the world, to offer even the gift of life, and with it accept the burdens and responsibilities of parenthood with its sleepless nights, long days, and even potential heartache. Love that, in the sunset of life, still binds us to spouse, children, grandchildren, and future generations we may never see, while at the same time its strands tie us to parents, grandparents, and other loved ones gone before and make of death not only a time of parting but of reunion.
What are the characteristics of such love? In thr Bible, this binding and motivating love is sometimes called charity. Paul describes love of this type in 1 Corrinthians 13:4-8, 13
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
My mother likes to say "no-one can change without a source of pure love". Of course, the ultimate source of pure love is our Savior, whose atoning sacrifice on our behalf stands as the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Certainly when we understand that he has taken upon himself not only our sins but our frailties and suffering, and that he has paid that price not only for us but for every member of the human family, we can see that the way is open for us to take those frightening steps of change that are necessary in our hearts and lives. Unfortunately we live in a world that can easily overwhelm us with harshness and loneliness, and with incessant clamor that makes it hard to hear the voice of divine love. When this happens, our hope is to be warmed by the echo of that love found in the words and actions of those who are close to us. Love is both the guideline and the safety net that can allow us to move forward when our own faith and hope might be dim. It give us the security to move beyond self-imposed protective walls and barriers, to allow our own hearts to soften. The love between husband and wife, between parent and child, between true friends, warms us in a cold world and draws each of us closer to the true source of love and light.
As we fill our homes with light in this Christmas season I hope we can also fill any dark places in our hearts with the light of love.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quest for Simplicity: Eliminating Clutter from our Lives

My husband, with a background in Finance, frequently reminds me of the need to acknowledge a sunk cost and move on. I find a lot of truth in his observation. When we have invested ourselves in a thing or an activity, whether with our time and energies or our money, we find it difficult to let go even when our investment stops yielding returns and becomes a burden. And so we clutter or lives with objects or activities that drain our time and energy, while at the same time we strain to make room for those things that are truly meaningful. As I examine my life to determine what is clutter and what is not, I find it helpful to keep in mind concept of sunk cost. Something that is currently blessing my family--tangibly or intangibly--is not clutter. Something that was once a blessing, but is now only a burden, is clutter and should be let go.

Quest for Simplicity is a new feature on my blog aimed at helping eliminate the clutter in our lives. Clutter can come in many forms, whether it is physical clutter taking up space in our homes, unnecessary obligations taking our time away from our families, or emotional baggage sapping the energy we need to fulfill our responsibilities to God and our neighbour. I hope some of you will join me in taking a look at how you can simplify your life, cut back on stress, and make more room for those most important things that might be getting marginalized.
Feel free to grab the Quest for Simplicity icon and post it on your own blog. Write a post about what you are doing/want to do to simplify your own life, then come back here and sign the Mr. Linky; be sure to include the url for your specific Quest for Simplicity post.
Update: I have removed the autolinks from this page. Instead Mr. Linky will be included at the bottom of each Quest for Simplicity post I write; If you write a Quest for Simplicity post, sign the Mr. Linky at the bottom of my most recent Quest post. Once you participate once I will put a link to your blog on this page as well.
I look forward to hearing from you! Also, the code for the Quest for Simplicity button is now easily accessible in a scroll box below the button. Copy to your blog and you're good to go.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on simplifying life!

Quest for Simplicity 13 December 2008

What am I doing to simplify my life right now? I have to say there is a lot that I plan to do, but finding time to actually accomplish it...ah, here we are allready in the endless circle--momentum carries us forward, and we keep doing exactly what we have been doing in spite of our best intentions!
Actually, I have been making an effort lately in couple of directions. One, as those who have been reading my blog for awhile may have noticed, is that I am spending less time online, including blogging. There is a delicate balance to be maintained here: on the one hand, the internet is a valuable tool, allowing me easily to connect with others, track my finances, stay on top of what library books I have due; on the other it is an ocean without boundaries that can easily absorb all my time in pursuits that, in the end, add relatively little value to the life of my family. I haven't quite figured out at this point what the optimal balance is, but I strongly suspect that in this area, less is more.
The other effort that I am engaged in is tackling the physical clutter of our lives. We have 5 people in a small home, and corralling and organizing lots of stuff is not something I am good at. Given the choice, I would much rather be playing/teaching/enjoying life with my kids than cleaning the house. I believe the solution here is a two-pronged attack. First is eliminating all unnecessary stuff, second is better organizing what remains For now I am going to focus on the elimination part. This goes very much against my nature; I have always been the kind to collect and keep things just in case I find a way to use them in the future. And if I hold on to something long enough, there is a pretty good chance that at some point that thing will be just what I need! The trouble is, I have to take care of the thing in the meantime, and I have to be able to find it when I need it! I have determined that, at this point in my life, I simply don't have the time and energy to dedicate to taking care of a bunch of things that are not currently blessing my family. They have got to go! I have been through several rounds of major decluttering in the past, most recently in connection with our move this summer (if you are a packrat, moving every few years can be excellent therapy!) I have decided that it is time for another round. I think it might be fun to report on lbs. of stuff given away as a method of record keeping. I plan to keep track for the next month--I will report back on January 13th :-)

Tooth Fairy

Lily came into my room early this morning: "Mom, you forgot to be the Tooth Fairy!"
I told her to go back to bed as the Tooth Fairy could only come if she was asleep. I gave her a few minutes then got up, took two dollars, and went to her room. She pretended to sleep while I pretended to be the toothfairy. The teeth were no-where to be found, but the money was left under her pillow. Amazingly Lily kept a straight face and kept her eyes clothes while I went out of the room singing a little song about the toothfairy. Eventually she "woke up" for the second time and was delighted to see that the Tooth Fairy remembered her.
As you can see, the identity of the Tooth Fairy is a big secret in our house!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christ-centered Christmas

I love the Christmas season. For one month out of the year we are invited to lay aside the weight of this world and instead contemplate the Hope represented by a birth in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Unfortunately, the world does not like to be set aside and finds numerous ways to invade our season of Hope. It seems that for many people the days and weeks leading up to Christmas have become a frantic rush of preparations and activities that, in the end, have very little to do with the birth we claim to celebrate.
During my time as a missionary in Japan, I witnessed Christmas from an entirely secular viewpoint. Japan is not a Christian nation, so I was surprised as Christmas approached to find Christmas trees and Christmas music in the stores. From my Japanese associates I learned that Christmas is, indeed, celebrated in Japan. That is, in many homes trees are decorated, presents are given, Santa Claus is acknowledged. The true spirit of Christmas, however, is missing, because the reason for Christmas is not celebrated. Christmas is celebrated in Japan because retail stores and other commercial interests have learned to exploit it. The true celebration, the proclamation "Joy to the World, the Lord is come; let Earth received her King!" in nowhere to be found.
Sadly, I find that this version of Christmas is far to common in our own country. We find stores feverishly vying with each other to sell the trappings of the season--the trees, ornaments, light displays, and to make us believe that this or that special gift will be just the thing to impress our family and friends. We find ourselves caught up in competitions for the best decorated house, the most lavish party, the most expensive or creative gift. Instead of being a season of peace, joy, and hope, Christmas becomes a season of fatigue and stress.
In constrast to the rush and flurry of the world we have the quiet image of a tiny baby, "wrapped in swaddling bands, lying in a manger". There were no gifts that first Christmas. The gold, frankincense and myrrh of the wise men would arrive much later on the scene. Instead, there were shepherds, following the directions of a heavenly messenger, kneeling in solemn wonder before the greatest Shepherd of all.
This is the Christmas I want for my family. The trappings of Christmas--the trees, lights, songs, food, gifts--should play a secondary and supportive role, pointing us towards and not away from the message of the angels that holy night: "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord".
This message, the message of a Savior, was the one I was in Japan to share, and that Christmas Day in 1999 we found a way to do so. One of our service activities as missionaries was to teach free Enlgish conversation classes, and Christmas day fell on one of our regularly scheduled class days. We planned a Christmas party to celebrate, and to teach the true meaning of Christmas. We read the Christmas story from the Bible, and our children's class acted it out in front of their parents and friends. It was a very sweet and simple Christmas. I was thousands of miles away from family and friends, but in the celebration of the birth of our Savior I was enveloped in the warmth of Christmas.
I pray that this Christmas and every Christmas can be such a celebration for my family.
Lord, with the angels, we too would rejoice
Help us to sing with the heart and voice
Glory to God
Glory to God
Glory to God in the Highest
Peace on Earth good will to men
Peace on Earth good will to men.

Lily's First Violin Concert

I really, really should have pictures of this, but as you may have noticed, keeping a camera on hand is not one of my talents. Maybe someone else will post pictures and I can borrow some.
Anyway, Lily had her very first violin concert on Saturday. Her group of 56 beginning violinists performed at the beginning of the concert, which also included the orchestra I play viola in and a fantastic singing group. The whole concert went well, and I was especially proud of Lily, who marched out with her group and played in front of an audience of over 500 without any signs of nervousness. Lily tends to do very well in any situation where she is confident that she knows what to do and how to do it, but to panic if she is not sure she can meet expectations. In preparation for the concert we had been practicing her three performance pieces (Twinkle, Alegro, and Jingle Bells) in concert order for the last few weeks. On concert night we arrived early and I walked her through the whole process from lining up in the hallway, walking on, order of pieces, final bows, and exiting, several times. When performance time came she and all the other kids did a great job. And, if I do say so myself, our orchestra put on a pretty good performance as well! We have a broad range both in terms of age and ability. I think our youngest players are 8 or 9 years old, and the oldest is probably near 70. It's a really fun group to play with.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dairy Farm

In a follow-up to last week's trip to see corn being harvested, we went yesterday to witness the next step in the food production chain: a dairy farm. Really this post should have pictures; I didn't have a camera with me, but hopefully I can get some pictures from some of the other participants. If I do I will be sure to post some. The tour was really fascinating (Thanks Dave!) We pulled up outside and walked past a big milk tanker truck; a hose connected the truck to the milk silo inside the building. This truck will take the milk from the dairy here in Utah to a milk processing plant in Idaho. Inside the building, we saw the big holding tanks, about 30 feet high, full of milk. This dairy has cows being milked (80 at a time) around the clock, so the milk trucks are always coming and going to transport the milk. We got to watch the entire milk collection process. First the cows walk single file into the milking bay and turn so they are lined up in stalls (the do this on their own--they've obviously had lots of practice). Two or three dairy workers then go down the line cleaning the udders and hooking up the milking machines. There is a meter at each station that shows how many pounds of milk each cow gives. The ones we saw seemed to be averaging 25-30 lbs at one milking. Each cow is milked three times per day. When the milk stops flowing the suction machine automatically pulls up and off the udder. Dairy workers then go through spraying the udders with a disinfectant. Once one group of cows has been milked the gate in front of each stall opens; those cows move out and a new group comes marching in, as they line up the dairy workers hose down the floor. The milk is collected through tubes that lead to milk pipelines downstairs. These pipelines lead to the chiller, where milk is rapidly cooled to refrigerator temperatures; if I understood correctly the chiller is a basic heat exchange structure where tubes of milk move past tubes of a coolant (Propylene glycol I think). The process seems to be pretty efficient--the milk pipes going into the chiller were very warm (body temperature) and coming out they were cold. From there the milk goes into the silo-shaped storage tanks. Their temperature is constantly monitored. Every time a tank is emptied it is cleaned out with hot water (180 degrees F).
The whole process was fascinating. The dairy had a definite factory-production-line feel. The cows did look healthy and the process seemed clean. I'm not sure I like thinking about this long production chain (through the dairy, trucked cross country, through the processing plant...) that my milk goes through before I drink it...It certainly made a fantastic field trip adventure for the kids!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tractors!

We had a great adventure today. A family friend helps run a large farm out here in Utah. We took the kids up to see the farm. They were harvesting feed corn, and we all got to not only watch the tractors at work but to ride on the tractor and the combine to see the process close up. Luke was particularly delighted to get to ride on the farm machines. Like many three-year-old boys he is fascinated by trucks, tractors and machines. After we left the farm he told us all about how the combine cuts down the corn and puts the kernels into the tractor trailer, which then puts them in a truck, which takes them to the dairy farm where the cows eat them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Natural Resources

I wasn't planning to post again today, but my kids are making me laugh so I had to share. Luke has been walking back and forth between the sandbox in the back yard and the refrigerator in the kitchen with a small bucket. The reason? The most child-accessible source of water in our home is the water dispenser inside the refrigerater--I guess he needs water for his sand constructions. I like watching my kids solve their problems creatively :-)

15 things you might not know...

Mary Anne tagged me awhile back to write a list of 15 things you might not know about me. With Thanksgiving coming up I'm planning to take a little break from blogging, and I thought this might be a fun post before I go. Of course, what you don't know depends on who you are...I'm generally not a good secret keeper! So here's a list of 15 things you may or may not know about me, in no particular order...

I celebrated my 6th birthday in Mexico, my 10th in Guatemala, 13th in France, 16th in Bolivia, 18th in Austria, 21st in Jordan, 22nd in Japan, 23rd in Nicaragua...the rest you'll have to guess.

I once won a grapefruit-eating contests by finishing off 10 grapefruit halves for breakfast.

I also won a water-chugging contest by drinking a glass of water faster than anyone else.

All three of my children were born without epidurals or any other form of medical pain relief.

I majored in Archeology in college.

When I graduated I accepted a commission in the US Air Force (archeology doesn't pay well...); They didn't know what to do with an archeologist so they put me in charge of lodging.

My greatest accomplishment as an Air Force officer was getting the cable TV fixed in time for a visiting General to watch an all-important football game.

The most fun I had in the Air Force was driving a bulldozer.

I happily changed careers when my husband and I were blessed with our first beautiful baby. Now God is my employer, my children are my stewardship, and my salary comes in hugs and kisses.

Thanks to my 3-year-old son, I still get to drive bulldozers; now they are the kind that push sand around at the park.

I also have many opportunities to use my archeology training, unearthing lost and buried treasures (that missing shoe?) around the house.

I have lived in 17 cities, in 6 countries, on 4 continents, in 2 hemispheres.

In the first year after I met my husband I asked him out three times. He asked me out once. (He later made up for the discrepancy).

I have had some success in learning to speak French, Spanish, and Japanese. I have had much less succes in attempts to learn Russian, Cantonese, German, Arabic, and Hebrew...

I have read the Bible cover to cover at least twice. I have read the Book of Mormon cover to cover at least 10 times. The Book of Mormon is a lot shorter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why are all my kitchen chairs lying on their sides?

I'll give you a hint. The kids didn't knock them down. I did.
Esther has taken to climbing everything in site. My lightweight wooden kitchen chairs are one of her favorites. She climbs up onto the seat then tries to climb the rungs on the back. As you can probably imagine, this is an accident waiting to happen: baby climbs up chair, chair tips over, baby end up with a concussion from hitting the hard tile floor head first. Possible solutions: 1) supervise baby at all times--ideal, but in a household of three children impractical; 2) removed kitchen chairs to an inaccessible location--also impractical, especially since we need them at least 3 times a day; 3) eliminate the tipping hazard by pre-tipping the chairs. I chose option 3. I'm sure chairs on their sides present hazards of their own (tripping?) but after three close rescues this morning I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anyone with blogging know-how?

I'm trying to create a button for the Quest for Simplicity meme I am starting. You can see the image on my sidebar right now, but I haven't yet figured out how to turn it into a button that would link to the meme home page. Does anyone know how to do this? I'll figure it out eventually, but I don't have much time this week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Emulating Mary and Quest for Simplicity

I would like to add two new features to my blog;
Emulating Mary posts would focus on efforts to live a gospel-centered life, with Mary, sister of Martha, as our example:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:38-42

Quest for Simplicity posts would focus on eliminating unnecessary clutter--both things and activities--from our lives to make room for the most important things.

If people are interested, I think it would be fun to do this in meme form. Anyone who wants could write an "Emulating Mary" or "Quest for Simplicity" post on their blog, then sign the Mr. Linky on my page. I've got to figure out how to set that all up, so we may not be starting right away.
Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in by leaving a comment. Other suggestions are welcome as well!

Prioritizing

I have a little mandarin tree in a pot. I bought it sometime this spring, and it seemed to be thriving, it even had a mandarin or two growing. Then the tree suffered and accident; I was carrying the pot and dropped it, the tree fell on the ground and the entire top broke off. All that was left was a bare trunk.
This all happened when we were in the process of moving, and the little mandarin tree was left with other plants for several at a friend's house before we were able to bring it to our new home. When I saw the tree a few weeks later I was astonished; several new branches had grown and put out leaves, and once again the tree appeared to be flourishing. Interestingly, there were a few branches at the top with large leaves, and several growing from the side of the trunk with thorns and small leaves that never got any bigger. And as I continued watering the tree, I noticed that only the branches with the small leaves and thorns continued to grow and put out new leaves. I did some research and discovered that citrus trees are generally grown on a graft. The fruit-producing tree is grafted onto the root stock of a hardy wild citrus type, which provides a good root system (but on its own produces inedible fruit). Apparently, the shock my tree had undergone had stimulated the root stock to put out branches. I was concerned that only these "wild" branches seemed to be growing, sapping the tree's resources, so I pruned them off. Within a week or two, the larger "tame" branches were once again putting out new leaves and growing. I'm hoping for some mandarins next year.
This morning I was thinking about how to prioritize my time and efforts so that I can attend to the things that are most important to me. Recently I feel like I am barely holding on, trying to do too much and not doing any of it well. What I want is a peaceful, pleasant home where my children can learn the gospel and develop their talents. I want my husband to be able to come home from work in the evenings and relax and enjoy being with the family. Instead, meals are usually late, dishes are never done, laundry is is various piles, toys are on the floor...I think I have too many wild branches growing and I need to figure out how to prune them off so that I can devote my energy to those that will bear fruit.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Procrastination

Lily was happily enjoying her bath this morning when I told her it was time to get out and dressed as we needed to leave for church in ten minutes. Her response? "All right, I'll be out in nine minutes."
Procrastination develops early...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Harvest!

Because we moved in July, I wasn't sure if I could have a garden harvest this year. I planted anyway, in August. We have had a very warm and sunny season here in Southern California, and I was delighted this morning to pick the first zuchini from our late planting. Who knows, if it stays warm for a bit we may even get some tomatoes!

Qualified Commandments?


My favorite reading copy of the New Testament has this Carl Bloch painting to to illustrate the Sermon on the Mount. As I was reading Matthew's account this morning, I kept coming back to the picture; I noticed that some of the listeners seem to be accepting what is said, while others are portrayed turned half away from the Lord, as if they don't like what they hear. Perhaps they find they can only agree with part of what the Master says.
I wonder how often we accept a commandment in principle, but add private qualifications?

Thou Shalt Not Steal (but cheating on a tax return is OK)

Thou Shalt Not Kill (unless it's an unborn child)

Thous Shalt not Commit Adultery/whosoever who looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already with her in his heart (But if it's just internet pornography it isn't important)

Thou shalt have no gods before me/Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (but if you favorite sports team is playing on Sunday it's OK to miss church to watch)

Love thy neighbour as thyself (unless you hear a really juicy piece of gossip about them; then it's OK to pass it on)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs "Mom" Help!

THEME:
This week I’d like to invite you to share what YOUR “Mom” help is. Some drink coffee, soda, or chia-tea. Others check email or read their favourite blogs. Some talk a walk…. what do you do when you need to clear your head and take a breather?

I find there are a number of things that bring balance to my life. One of my favorites is going walking, running or to the gym, either by myself or with a friend. Of course, with three small children such activities generally have to be planned in advance, when someone else (usually Daddy) can watch the kids. I miss the days when I could put one or two babies in a stroller and go for a long walk while I let my mind wander.
When I need more moment-by-moment encouragement, I turn to music and especially to my favorite hymns. Whether I sing, play the piano, or listen to a recording, I find encouragement and comfort in sacred song. Here is one of my favorites.

Count Your Blessings
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your Lord on high.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Gratitude Journal #2

I really should have posted this on Tuesday, but it has taken me a couple of days to decide what I wanted to say.
I am thankful for all those who have put their lives on the line, over the many years, to make our country strong and free. Since before the Revolutionary War, America has been defended by those who took up arms and put themselves in harms way, so that their families and loved ones would have a chance to live a life of liberty and security. Many have died. Some have fought by choice, many others have taken their place out of duty.
War is a terrible thing. I have stood in the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb victims in Nagasaki, Japan, and felt the horror of war; the weight of death and suffering for millions of people, each one a child of God, each life infinitely precious. But greater still than the horror of war is the horror of a tyranny of evil reigning unoposed. The evil in the world is real; it does not hesitate to impose itself on communities and nations. I have seen the record of such evil at work. As a teenager I visited the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, one of the largest concentration camp complexes established by Germany during World War II. In Mauthausen, as in other concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of people were systematically exterminated. Unfortunately, bondage, cruelty, terrorism, and other facets of evil have existed in all periods of time; they continue to exist today. Sometimes, taking up the sword is necessary to oppose such evil. I pray that we as a nation, and others of good intent throughout the world, will have the wisdom to discern when such action may be necessary, and the courage to act when it is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kisses

Mommmmy! My foot hurts!
Luke just came running in with a splinter in his foot. He showed me where it hurt, then said: "kiss it better". I removed a small splinter, kissed the foot better, and he was off. I love 3-year-old boys who believe in the power of Mommy's kiss to make everything all better!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baby Talk


This little Miss is starting to talk. Just not in English yet. Her most-used word is ga-ging; combined with the sign for milk (opening and closing her hand) it means nurse. She babbles all the time, and does try to imitate some words. Kitty and Doggy are popular, they both come out sounding something like kiiiy! Mamama is mommy, but so far daddy seems to be ga-ga. She's obviously got her G sound down!

Prepared Dictation

I was thinking this morning of a way to combine Copywork and Dictation, two pillars of Charlotte Mason's approach to language arts. Charlotte Mason advocated the use of prepared dictation for teaching spelling and grammar. I am familiar with prepared dications, as teachers at the French school I attended in middle school occasionally assigned them. A passage is given in advance, the student studies the spelling and grammar, then the teacher dictates the passage while the student writes. My idea this morning was, why not use copywork for prepared dictation passages? The approach seems efficient to me--the child practices their handwriting while learning the spelling and grammar conventions of a language, paying extra close attention because they know they will have to write the same passage from dictation later. I believe this approach could be helpful not only with English but with foreign language study as well.
I don't think my kids are quite old enough for this yet, but if anyone decides to try it out let me know how it goes!

How Parenthood Changes Us

I was mulling over our experience at the amusement park on Saturday and contemplating the fact that, for us, it was all about the kids. In fact, although Nathan loves roller coasters, he didn't go on a single adult ride at the park and neither did I. As any parent knows, you don't take the family to an amusement park for your own amusement. We and the many other parents there were having a wonderful time watching the kids enjoy themselves.
Interestingly enough, even in the children's section of the park, there were a number of young adults, people who looked to be between the ages of about 17-25. They were wandering around among the game booths and going on the kiddie rides. I'm sure had we gone to the more exciting parts of the park we would have seen many more.
I started thinking about the changes that parenthood makes in us. We see all around us, particularly among teenagers and unencumbered young adults, a rather intense focus on self. The time spent worrying over clothing, appearance, social status, and other self-absorptive concerns is substantial. I occasionally stumble upon the blog or social networking page of one of these people who obviously thinks the world does or should revolve around themselves.
I'm not trying to slam teenagers or young adults as a class, as I also know many who are generous, kind, and service-oriented. I do, however, think there is a great shift that takes place in the thinking and attitudes of many people when they become parents. All of the energy that might previously have gone into thinking about oneself now goes in concern for a child. In the process, I believe many of us discover a great truth: seeking for the happiness of others is in fact much more fulfilling, and therefore brings us more happiness, than seeking for our own happiness could do. With this in mind, I wonder what the implications to society are of the trend towards delayed marriage and even further delayed child bearing. The effect seems to be that we extend the po0rtion of our lives that is dedicated to ourselves, and put off those experiences that teach us the joy of selfless service. I would not be surprised to learn that one result is a society where selfishness is normal and expected.
Certainly the parents at the amusement park, ourselves included, took great delight in watching our children's delight.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Playtime at Knott's

We went to Knott's Berry Farm yesterday







On Squirrels and Primary Presentations

I've been wanting to catch a picture of this fellow for awhile. This is our friend Squirrel Nutkin; he hangs around looking for crumbs and such and has more than once been know to come into the house to steal fruit, if we ever leave the back door open. This morning he was caught red-handed trying to break in--he's climbing on the screen door. The sliding glass door was closed, so no squirrel-bitten apples this time.

Church this morning centered around the annual Primary children's presentation. Lily had a part to read, and did it very well (once she recovered from a minor panic attack when all the children were walking to the front of the chapel). She actually read most of this on her own, she only needed prompting on a few words; can you tell I am proud of her?

"I know I am a child of God. I am glad my parents have taught me about Heavenly Father and Jesus. I know that all people are children of God and he loves each of us. We can tell other people about Heavenly Father and Jesus. When they learn about the gospel they will be happy. We will be happy too.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. "

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Building Bridges

These past several months have seen an unusual degree of cooperation among people of many different religious persuasions as we have fought to preserve traditional marriage and families in California. Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons, among others, have come together to work towards a common cause. We have stood up for our faith, for God-given truths, for the sanctity of our own homes and families.
I have great hope that this cooperation will lead to increased friendship and understanding among us. There are differences in our beliefs and practices, I do not wish to minimize them. But there is also much that we share. In an increasingly secular world, I pray that those who are witnesses to the power of God in our lives, the power of prayer, the moral truths of the Bible, and the sanctity of human life, will stand together against the oncoming tide.
I personally have benefitted greatly from the testimony of faith in Christ, reliance on scriptural truths, and power in prayer I have seen in so many faithful Christians who are not members of my church. SHS sisters, you are among these and I thank you for accepting a Mormon in your midst. I admire you for your faith and diligence in living in accordance with your respective beliefs. I have learned so much from you and hope these sweet associations will continue.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Since this seems to be our week for field trips, we went to the local aquarium yesterday. I repented of my earlier negligence and actually took a camera this time!
Posted by Picasa

Ethics: out of Sight, out of mind?

I woke up this morning thinking about the "Chicken Statute", otherwise know as Proposition 2, that just passed in California. Proposition 2 requires that certain farm animals (egg laying hens, calves raised for veal, and pregnant pigs) be kept under conditions that allow them to turn in a full circle and extend their limbs. When I was considering this proposition, my thought process went something like this:
If I were raising an animal, let's say a chicken, for eggs or meat, would I confine it so that it could not even raise its wings? Absolutely not. I could never live with myself if I treated an animal so cruely. Does the fact that the hen that produces the eggs I will eat is being kept on a farm (egg factory) somewhere where I will never see it mean that the conditions in which it lives are irrelevant to me? I think not.
It seems to me that we not infrequently sidestep the moral implications of our choices and actions by mentally and physically disengaging ourselves. Examples are myriad. When we choose to leave a shopping cart loose in the parking lot of a store, we cheerfully choose to ignore the burden and inconvenience we are placing on someone else who will have to retrieve that cart. When we buy a cheap pair of shoes made in China we are happy with our bargain because we are not forced to see the miserable conditions in the sweat shop that produced them.
On a more serious note, a woman who chooses an elective abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy is insulated from the true nature of her choice by several distancing layers. In all probability, she will view her choice as "ending a pregnancy" (something abstract and a nuisance to her); since she does not see the beating heart and moving limbs within her, she can comfortably ignore the life she is ending. And since she herself will not perform the procedure that destroys that life, she can distance herself from its reality by viewing it as simply a medical procedure, the moral equivalent of having an unwanted mole removed. Were those layers of insulation removed, were she to see the life and be required to snuff it out herself, I suspect many women would make a different choice.
Because making truely moral decisions is hard and often very inconvenient, we frequently choose another route. We willingly wear blinders that allow us to see only what we choose to see.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Thoughts on the Presidential Election

This is not a political post, it is a patriotic post. Two days ago, millions of Americans went to the polls to elect a new president. The winner of the election was not my candidate; to be honest, I wasn't thrilled with either candidate, but because conservative social values are important to me I picked the candidate most likely to uphold them. Am I upset with the results? Oddly enough, my mood since the election has been largely one of gratitude. Gratitude to live in a country dedicated to liberty. Tuesday's election saw record voter turnout in many areas. We voted freely on everything from who would be the next President of the United States to whether or not a chicken should have enough space to raise its wings. In doing so, we exercised a right that historically has been, and currently is, enjoyed by only a minority of the people of the world. We demonstrated, by electing a President of mixed African-American race, that we as a nation are moving beyond the racism that was so painfully divisive for so long. We supported the fundamental institutions of marriage and families, so important to me personally.
Most of all, we demonstrated that we are Americans, and America is still great.

Mercy

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are contiually before me.
(Isaiah 49:13-16)

My dear friend Kelley wrote recently about an experience she had with mercy in a traffic court. She had been pulled over for speeding in a construction zone; she didn't deny the charge but went to court to plead for mercy because she couldn't afford the ticket. The judge listened as she explained her situation; her husband had recently lost his job, and they have four young children. He dismissed the charge.
As I read of my friend's experience, and the deep gratitude she felt, I was reminded of the divine mercy that is available to each of us, and how deeply grateful we would rightly feel if we truly understood it. Some day we will stand before God to be judged. On our own merits, we must plead guilty. But there is one who offers us mercy, if we will accept it.
The Book of Mormon prophet Amulek speaking before the time of Christ, spoke of His great atonement:
"And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrivice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." (Alma 34:14-16)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Explorations and Adventures

Maybe we will set a record for Field Trips this week. So far we have been to a polling place (multiple polling places, actually), on Monday. The same day we made our first visit to the Marine Mammal Care Center. This morning we went back to the MMCC--those northern fur seal babies are sooo cute. I discovered today that it is actually the baby sea lions, not the seals, that sound like sheep. After visiting the MMCC, we stopped at the Korean Friendship Bell Park. There is a huge bell there under a canopy, a gift to the United States for the bicentennial in 1978. I would love to hear the bell rung! The park is beautiful, overlooking the ocean. Pictures would be appropriate here, but as usual I forgot to take a camera.
This afternoon I drove to Lily's piano teacher's house, only to realize after we got there that we were an hour early. I can't even blame this on the recent time change; all my clocks were set correctly. I got in the car at 1:15, I knew the lesson was at 3:00. Somehow in my mind 3:00 comes 45 minutes after 1:15. My only excuse is that I had been up since 2:30 AM (when I heard Nathan get up and turn on the computer to check election results). We watched the early results coming in for Proposition 8, and felt cautiously jubilant as it looked like passing. But I was way to keyed up to go back to bed, so I stayed up doing dishes and laundry (just a few of the things that have been seriously neglected in these last few days of campaigning).
Anyway, the upshot of arriving an hour early for the piano lesson was that we had an hour to kill. We took of to explore the neighbourhood. Less than two miles from the piano teacher's house we discivered a 1844 ranch house (built spanish-style around a courtyard) that has been converted into a museum od that period in California's history. We only got a quick tour, but we will be going back. Maybe we'll go an hour early to next week's piano lesson.

Playfull Interludes

Lest anyone think we spent the whole day on election-day activities yesterday, I want to report a great discovery we made in our local area. Actually, it happened thanks to the election--our assigned polling place is a community center in a local park which we had never visited before. As I had already sent in my ballot by mail, we decided to drop Nathan off to go in and vote while the kids and I did some exploring. I had seen an intriguing sign on the way in pointing to a Marine Mammal Care Center, so we drove off in that direction. We found a modest little facility to house marine mammals found in trouble on local beaches. When we visited, the resident guests included two adorable baby fur seals, 6 or 7 sea lions, and one gigantic baby elephant seal. It was a wonderful discovery, and a nice complement to the fun little aquarium down the road from us. The kids want to go back today, so as soon as I get everyone dressed we're off to visit the seals. By the way, I had always heard of seals barking, and I suppose adult seals to. Baby seals, however, make a sound remarkably similar to the "ba-a-a" of a sheep. I kept looking around for something with wool!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy in Action

We're busy today and I hadn't planned a blog post, but I want to quickly write about our experience this morning. We were scheduled to stand in front of a local polling place during the high traffic hours of 7:00-9:00 AM with our Yes on 8/Support Traditional Marriage signs. We arrived to see voters ligned up outside the building waiting for the polls to open, and opponents of proposition 8 distributing handbills (100 feet away from the polling place, of course). We proceeded to set up with our signs, talking to voters to make sure they know what they are voting for (there's been a lot of confusion--people voting no on proposition 8 because they think they are voting against gay marriage). We exchanged greetings with the No on 8 folks, and chatted about non-political things in between times. What I felt, and really don't know how to capture in writing, was appreciation for our democratic political process. It was inspiring to see so many people lining up early in the morning to go cast their vote. It was equally inspiring to be able to stand side by side with someone supporting a position opposite to mine and know that that was OK, we can disagree and even hold strong feelings on an issue, but still treat one another with courtesy and respect.
This is democracy in action.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gratitude November 3

I'm impressed to see many bloggers using the month of November to express thankfulness. I'm not sure I can commit to blogging about things I am thankful for every day this month, but I would like to keep gratitude in my thoughts and words and write as often as I find opportunity. Who knows, perhaps this could become a gratitude journal extending past November.

Today, as we stand on the eve of what will doubtless be an eventful election, I am grateful to live in a country that extends to its citizens the liberty to live, act, and vote in accordance with our conscience. I am grateful for the freedom to worship God, and aknowledge that for some that means the freedom to not worship God.
I am grateful above all for my own testimony of God's love, for the knowledge the I am a child of God, and that each person here on the Earth is also a child of God. In my personal life, I am grateful for the guidance of the scriptures and of modern-day prophets and apostles, who can guide us through troubling times. I am grateful for the opportunity we each have to approach God through prayer and seek and receive direction for our own lives.
Indeed, I have much to be grateful for.

Queen Lucy the Valiant

Every girl wants to be a princess, but I personally am not a huge fan of the animated Disney princesses. I think I've found a better dress-up role model (thanks to after-Halloween sale shopping). I give you:
Lucy the Valiant, Queen of Narnia




What's in a name? Proposition 8 and the definition of marriage: A Planetary Discussion

For those who are getting tired of my posts on proposition 8, I have good news and bad news. The good news: we go to the polls tomorrow, and my posts on this issue will probably largely stop after the election. The bad news? I've got about 36 hours left in which to defend traditional marriage, and I intend to take advantage of it!
I read a blog post yesterday ridiculing anyone who argues that semantics matter in the gay marriage battle. This blogger compared the argument over the definition of marriage to the recent argument over and redefinition of the word planet, claiming that since one didn't really make a difference neither will the other. I frankly thought his argument was a poor one, but we might after all learn something from the effort to define the meaning of the word "planet".
When the International Astronomical Union met in 2006 to reconsider the definition of planet, they were faced with two options: 1) define planet in a way that would include the numerous new pluto-like bodies being discovered in the solar system, greatly expanding the number of named plantes in the solar systerm, or 2) define planet in a way that recognizes the unique characteristics of the 8 major planets and distinguishes them from other orbital bodies in the solar system. Here is the definition they chose:
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals
Some people have been upset that this definition excludes Pluto, which all of us learned years ago in the last of planets. The truth is, the IAU did not have any particular predjudice against Pluto. However, in the years since Pluto's discovery and inclusion in the list of planets, many more solar bodies of similar size and orbits had been discovered, including one larger than Pluto. These bodies, including Pluto, differed from the other major planets in significant ways. Astronomers were faced with two choices: 1) expand the list of planets to include all of these objects, or 2) refine the definition of the term "planet" to reflect the differences between these orbiting objects and the other planets of the solar system. They chose to refine the definition of a planet to make clear the distinction between the large planets with their unique properties and the smaller celestial bodies which they renamed "dwarf planets". Why make a distinction? Quite simply, because words are more meaningful and more useful when their definition is more precise. This is particularly true in scientific and legal spheres.
Because the major planets and dwarf planets have different characteristics, if both were simply designated as planets a scientists wanting to discuss one or the other would have to specify in some other way what he was talking about, i.e. "the type of planet that is rounded by its own gravity" or "the type of planet that is too small to dominate its orbit". Clearly, carefully defining our terms from the beginning makes those terms more useful. A scientific observation that applied to one group might not apply to the other, and confusion would result.
The application to marriage laws and definitions should be apparent. Limiting the definition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman makes the term more specific and therefor more useful. Including relationships that have some marriage-like aspects, such as a same-sex union, muddies the waters, and leaves open to interpretation what marriage really means. Are the differences between a same-sex union and a male/female union significant enough to warrant different names? Absolutely. Yes, there are some similarities: both may be close committed relationships between individuals, both may be sexual and romantic unions. But only the union between and man and a woman includes the potential to produce offspring. My marriage to my husband has produced three children; because their father is married to their mother, these children benefit from close and secure relationships with both of their natural parents, as well as with grandparents and other family members. That situation will never result from the "marriage" of two men or two women.
Is the real difference great enough to warrant semantic and legal differentiation? Absolutely. Will defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as proposition 8 attempts to do, benefit children and society? Unequivicably.
Vote Yes on Proposition 8. It's the right thing to do.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sick and tired of being sick and tired...

We've been sick for the past three weeks--not down in bed sick, but don't have any energy, wish I could breathe through my nose, wish I felt like eating kind of sick. And every time I think we're surely over it someone runs a fever or starts coughing again, or...
Alright, I'm done complaining.
:-)

In consideration of our gay brothers and sisters

I have written a lot about Proposition 8 and the need to protect the traditional institution of marriage. I hope people do not think this is because I hate gays or anyone else. I recently discovered a blog that I believe is worth reading for those who want to better understand some of the issues affecting gay people. This particular blog is written by a gay man who is an active practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Because of his faith, he does not engage in behavior that violates the commandments of God. But homosexuality is a reality for him, and the perspective and experience he shares in his blog help bring some balance to discussions on this issue.
You can read Clint's blog here.

A fun new blog

My little sister has started a blog, MA's Thrifty Crafts. Mary Anne is good at everything I am not and has some really neat ideas up already--fun, crafty projects that any mom could complete on a shoe-string budget. Stop by for some great ideas!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thinning corn

I remember
standing at the head of a long row
of corn
seedlings
just beginning to grow
and stooping
working my way down the row
pulling the smaller
and weaker
to make room
for the crop to grow

Now I hear of those
who
with no more thought
than they might give
to thinning a corn seedling
will snuff out
a life
in embryo
just beginning
to grow

And I wonder
whose life it was
the one
that might have been?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why I cannot vote for Obama



Some things are so morally critical that they cannot be ignored. Barack Obama three times voted against a bill that would require medical care be given to "aborted" babies born alive. Watch this to find out what happens to these babies. This is so sickening to me, the thought of having a man who condones such practices for President of this country is heartbreaking.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Proposition 8 in Plain English



Please visit www.whatisprop8.com for more information.

Fantastic Field Trips

Theme: This week I’d like to invite you to share your favourite field-trip that you’ve been able to go on since you’ve started homeschool.
I'm going to take the liberty of interpreting "since you've started homeschool" rather broadly.
You see, as a homeschooling mother, I really haven't been homeschooling very long, and I can't think of a particular field trip to write about. But, going back a few years (OK, almost a quarter of a century but who's counting) to when I was a homeschool student, I remember some spectacular field trips. Oh, we didn't call them that, we just called them trips. Our family vacations. The one I particularly remember happened the year I turned 6.
Sometime in April, my mom and dad packed up our big family van, loaded in 5 kids between the ages of 1 and 9, and took off. We drove from Utah to the Mexican boarder, then through Mexico almost to the Guatemalan boarder. We saw Mexico city, climbed ancient pyramids, swam in the ocean, heard lots of Spanish, drove on a lot of twisty mountain roads, and picked up a pretty bad flu on the way. For a little farm girl from Utah, it was an awesome adventure. I celebrated my 6th birthday on that trip.
Looking back, with the wisdom and experience of many years spent overseas, my parents say that trip was a crazy thing to do. But with an adventurous spirit and just enough naivete to not know the dangers, they took us on a field trip that we would never forget.

Harvest Festival

Today was Co-op day, but instead of regular co-op classes, we had a harvest festival. The kids all came dressed up as a favorite literary character, and presented a book report for the group. Lily came as Garnet from the book "Thimble Summer" by Elizabeth Enright. This book won the Newberry Medal in 1939. It is a nice, simple, beautifully written book. Nathan read it a couple of years ago and brought it home from the library for me to read aloud to the kids earlier this month. We enjoyed reading it.
After the book reports, the kids decorated sugar cookies. They used paint brushes and royal frosting, the kind the hardens when it dries. They really had a lot of fun. Afterwards we had games and lunch; it was really a nice, simple party.
This afternoon Lily had her piano lesson. This is her first month of piano lessons and so far she is enjoying them. I really like her teacher, a mom who homeschooled her own kids until high school, and comes from a long line of musicians. She really enjoys teaching and it shows. I'm happy to have finally found a music teacher that I like; we haven't had a lot of luck with that in the past. This lady also teaches violin, so Lily might start taking violin lessons with her at some point. Right now she is still doing cello. Lily likes the cello and her teacher, but thus far I am not thrilled with the level of teaching. We'll see, I'm not quite ready to give up on it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

News

Lily lost her first baby tooth yesterday--apparently it just fell out while she was taking a bath. I knew it was loose, but hadn't thought much of it. Isn't this on the early end for losing teeth? Anyway, Lily didn't seem to think much about the event; she was neither worried nor excited. I'm the one having a hard time with my little girl growing up so fast!
In other news, we got Nathan's MBA diploma in the mail today. He officially graduated in August, but opted not to attend the graduation ceremony because it was Sunday morning during our church services. It's nice to finally have the official paper in our hands! It took two years of night school and another year and a half of thesis writing, he did it! I'm very proud of my husband :-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

For The Children, For The Future (Repost)

I am saddened to see so much argument in favor of so-called same sex marriage based on the assumption that "marriage" is personal affair between two people. Marriage is not and never has been a personal affair between two people. Marriage, throughout the thousands of years of human civilizations, has often varied with regards to the specific rights and obligations of the people involved. One thing, however, has remained constant: marriage is the socially endorsed union of a man and woman for the continuation of their family and lineage, and of the greater social structure, through the bearing and rearing of children. It is not surprising that we find marriage being radically redefined by "Generation Me". I know, I belong to this generation. I see the evidence all around me. Self-fulfillment, self-expression, and self-absorption are paramount. I should be able to marry whomever I want. And if that relationship ceases to meet my needs, I should be able to discard the marriage like an old pair of shoes whose color no longer pleases me. Oh, and society should give me a pat on the back for being so honest with myself in my search for personal fulfillment. I hate to break it to you, folks, but this is not what life is about. And this kind of attitude is most certainly not going to lead to a happy, healthy, productive society. Marriage and families are not about self-actualization. They are about building our future. They are about bringing children into the world within the security of a family including a father and mother, grandfathers and grandmothers, and the social support and endorsement that facilitate the children's future. We lament the state of the family in our country. We are faced with an epidemic of children born to unwed mothers, children of divorce, and the rampant breakdown of marriages and families. Can we not see that the past forty years or so have seen a weakening of the fundamental institution of marriage that has facilitated the current state of affairs? We introduced no-fault divorce to allow marriage partners to "get out" of a union that was no longer meeting their needs--did we look ahead to see that we were making marriage less binding than a common business contract? We liberated ourselves from moral restrictions that would limit sexual relations to marriage--did we stop to consider that we were stripping from the act that creates human life the soil and foundation upon which that life must take root? We legalized unrestricted abortion--did we recognize that we were undermining the value of human life itself as we bow to personal Choice? In every one of these cases it is the smallest, the weakest among us--those who are and will be our future--who bear the consequences for our choices. Whatever happened to accountability? Freedom of choice was never meant to be freedom from consequence, nor can it be. The consequences must be born. In our society, it is our children, born and unborn, who bear those consequences. Our nation was founded on principles of freedom, virtue and self-sacrifice. We who hold its destiny in our hands today. We, who will determine the world our children will grow up in and inherit, need to embrace all three of those values. Sometimes what I want must be set aside in favor of what my society needs. And right now our society does not need for the meaning of marriage to be further diluted. Marriage, as the life-long union of a man and a woman who will bear and raise the next generation of children, must be preserved. We cannot afford the loss of meaning that will occur if we re-define marriage to include same-sex (and inherently infertile) relationships. We as individuals make choices. We as a society also have a choice to make. We must choose the future. Support America's families. Support America's future. Please vote yes to protect traditional marriage in California, Florida and Arizona.
YES on California Proposition 8 http://protectmarriage.com/
YES on Arizona Proposition 102 http://yesformarriage.com/
YES on Florida Proposition 2 http://www.yes2marriage.org/

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Work and Play


Bartholomew, our betta fish, died this week. We were sad to see him go. Actually, though, I was surprised he survived as long as he did; I'm not a very confident fish-keeper. Bartholomew came to us by chance in January. I was walking out of the BX one day when someone asked me if I liked fish. Now, I was thinking of fish to eat, and said yes. He then showed me a little red Betta in a glass vase. He said he had received it as a door prize and didn't know what to do with it. I thought the kids would enjoy having a fish, so I happily accepted it. I went to check on him on Thursday morning and found him dead. I hope he had a happy life. I told the kids, and dug a little hole in the garden for him. We might just have to get another pet.
On a happier note, we had a busy day of work and play yesterday. In the morning we had signed up for Proposition 8 sign waving. There was a huge neighbourhood yardsale going on here, so we set up near the entrance with our signs and pamphlets. We had a lot of positive responses, particularly from the many latinos who came by.
After about an hour we had to hurry home to get ready for a baptism. Nathan was conducting the service, and Lily and I were singing as part of a musical number. The song was "If the Savior Stood Beside Me". I posted the words to this song recently, as it was our Song of the Week not long ago.
On the way home from the baptism we stopped by our community fall festival, and stayed for two hours. They had pony rides for the kids, and a mini train ride and other entertainment. The pony and the petting zoo were definitely the highlights. Kids always love animals. I do too, come to think of it. The petting zoo had chicks that Lily and Luke were actually able to pick up and hold, as well as goats, a sheep, guinea pigs, a young pot-bellied pig, and several rabbits. The pot-bellied pig was about the same size as the rabbits. There was a llama as well, but it wasn't very interested in being petted. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.
By the time we got home, I really wanted to take the rest of the day to recoup, clean the house, maybe catch up on some laundry. Lily had other plans though--she knew there was a Halloween Pary/Trunk-or-Treat at the church in the evening, and was planning to go. I hadn't made any plans for Halloween costumes, but Lily said she wanted to be an angel, so we went to work making angel wings. You can see the results above. We went to the party, the kids came home with lots of candy. By the time we finally got everyone to bed, Mom and Dad felt like it had been a very long day!

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Prop 8 Food For Thought

I came across a great blog post today, summarizing many of the legal battles taking place around the country as those who try to stand up for their religious convictions and traditional values are taken to court by those claiming such a stance breaches their civil rights as same-sex couples. Read the post here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Proposition 8 Food for Thought

If you think same-sex marriage won't change your life, think again.

What same-sex marriage has done to Massachusetts

Tot School #2


Lily's "Van Gogh" style painting.

Maybe she inherited my Grandpa's artistic talent.

We've been bringing home lots of library books on trucks, tractors and other machines for Luke lately. Here are a few--I bet we've got a dozen in the house right now.

Storytime!

And there's the tractors at work in the sandbox!

I'm trying to find ways to do music instruction with Luke. Lily started learning violin when she was his age, and I would like to do the same with Luke. Trouble is, he doesn't focus nearly as long as she did at that age. I can think of two reasons for that: A) He's a lot like me; b)He's a boy. The combination is dangerous. Anyway, we've done a few short lessons on holding the violin and bow, but he doesn't seem ready to play a particular not yet, or even to just bow on one string. I've debated whether to wait for him to grow up a bit or just do things slowly. There are advantages either way. If I wait, he will (hopefully) learn faster. If I push forwards now, he gets that experience and discipline.
We made used of those tractors to do some letter-tracing in the sand. I drew the letters with my finger, then Luke followed them with his tractor.