Monday, June 30, 2008
In front of me in line at the circulation desk was a nodding acquaintance of mine and her high-school age kids. They were looking for a book for one of the kids - assigned summer reading for (public) school. The child didn't know the name of the book needed - the librarian had to go look it up on the list the high school had provided them. (So I guess this one was not the first student to walk into the library looking for they-don't-know-what.) When it was determined that all copies of the book were checked out of that branch, the mother said they would check back for it another time. Of course the librarian suggested they put in a request for it so they could just come in and pick it up and not stop back at some random time when the book may or may not be on the shelf. The family looked at one another with puzzlement. The librarian went on to explain that it was available at several other branches and she could get it for them. The family still had no clue what she was talking about. She mentioned the names of some of the branches in the county-wide system that had the book on the shelf. The mother said "Oh, I can't drive all the way out there..." The librarian very calmly (much more calmly than I felt at the moment) explained the method for requesting books to be transferred from branch to branch. The family all looked stunned that such a thing is possible.
I didn't hear the end of it because the other desk opened up and I was able to pick up my requested books and get out of there. But I was stunned too. These kids attend the public high school that is across the street from the library. How can they not know how to use it? I see kids in there during after-school hours all the time - mostly using the computers, but searching the stacks too. Walking in and out with books. Real books in their hands. How can this entire family have no clue how to use the library? At least one of them had a card so presumably it was not their first experience there. That's one good thing, at least.
OK, I am sure I felt at least a twinge of superiority over this. My kids know how to use the library. They understand they can get a book from any branch in this library system. They don't know about inter-library loan yet as I have never had reason to use it. But I don't guess it would mystify them. I think if they went to school they would know, or I would teach them, not to walk in for a book without knowing the name of it and relying on the librarian to have a copy of the school's list.
So once again I am reminded that we are not like other people. I thought the public library was a near-universal experience for middle-class Americans. Wrong again!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Then I started reading Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. These are the young men behind The Rebelution: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. This is just the thing I've been looking for. Yes, there is hope for the future. Yes, there are people who care.
The beginning of the book focuses on the problem: "The Myth of Adolescence" laments the low expectations we as a society have for young people and the things they can accomplish. We get a short history lesson on a few people who did "hard things" as teens. Next, comes "A Better Way," subtitled "Reclaiming the teen years as the launching pad of life."
Why do we think the teen years should be full of mindless fun, "harmless" rebellion and not much else? Why don't we use young adulthood as a time of preparation for full adulthood? Why does our culture have such low expectations of young men and women?
The rest of the book outlines the authors' advice for moving forward to doing hard things. There are anecdotes about people who have accomplished much in their short lives, projects that came to fruition after people got motivated and got to work. This is not fluffy stuff but real advice to get things going. Reading some of the stories really made me aware of my own mediocrity. Seriously. There are young teens who have done so many good, hard things.
This book is written by Christians and absolutely has a Christian worldview. In a way, I think that's too bad, because that alone will turn some people off from reading it. But a person does not have to be a Christian to want to do more with his or her life. Of course the concept of God is not limited to Christians but there is a lot of talk about the Gospel, Jesus, and liberal use of scripture. But open-minded nonChristians can get a lot out of this book. (Death cultists excluded.)
I feel so much better now. My older kid is turning 11 tomorrow; he's teetering between childhood and adulthood. I've said for a long time that I would not use the word teenager with my kids. (I am not sure where I got that idea; from one of my regular blog reads, I think.) He's almost a young man. He's ready to start doing some hard things.
Whether you are a teen or not, are you ready to start doing hard things?
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
But then I realized that there is no reason for people to care if they don't have children. If there's no one coming behind us, who cares what the future looks like? I want the US to survive, politically and culturally, partly because I have children and I want their future to look a lot like my present. (Only better, of course.) But if I didn't have children, would I care? Well, I have 6 nieces and nephews, and 1 of them has a couple of kids; the others could someday. I'd like them to have this Western culture that I love too. But what if I didn't have those kids to think about? Would I care about the children of friends? Would I care about random children that I don't know?
Why did men go off to fight the Nazis so eagerly? What were they fighting for? Many of them, no doubt, had no children. Why did they care if the Nazis overtook Europe and then, eventually, the US? Why do men join the volunteer army to go to Iraq now? Some of them are fighting for their kids' futures, but not all. Why do some care about and fight for the future and some - don't?
The current rising generation is a very self-absorbed group of people. (This is not an original thought.) Young men are not bothering to marry or even to grow up. Women are still having babies, but often don't seem to care about giving them a future (like those high school girls in Gloucester, MA; you can google it if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's all over the place) or like the gals who figure they can do a better job raising kids on their own, who needs a stupid man around? And of course all these fatherless boys are not going to grow up with any idea of honor and defending one's country and culture. The woman:man::fish:bicycle crowd is interested in creating their own culture, possibly looking like a colony of wasps (but with more queens). What are these self- or celebrity-absorbed mothers going to teach their boys? The US will not have the ability to defend itself; enough people won't care to. I'd guess that the time will come when few people will care what kind of government is in power, as long as the checks keep coming and the tv reception is good.
What about those monks who "saved civilization" by copying out ancient Greek and Roman texts during the dark ages? They didn't have children. Of whom were they thinking when they were doing all that work? Why did they bother? Did they know their work would end the dark ages and bring Western culture back to life?
Who will bother to preserve our culture?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I just finished reading America Alone this morning. It's a worthwhile book. Some people can't stomach the anti-Islam tone, though all his commentary about radical Islam's desire to rule the world comes directly from the news or from quotes by Islamists themselves. So I don't see where the "hate" comes in. He's reporting.
But, if that's not to your liking, you could read just Part 1: "The Gelded Age," and the last 2 chapters, "the Importance of Being Exceptional" and "the Falling Camel," in which Steyn outlines the demographic problems facing Europe and, to a lesser degree (so far), the US: European citizens are not having enough babies to keep their cultures alive. The US is close to doing the same. And who pays for those nifty welfare-state benefits when the population ages and there are no babies coming along behind? Important to think about as we contemplate Canadian-style Socialist medicine.
There are great quotes, like:
As French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel wrote, "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."
Multiculturalism was conceived by Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own.
That reminds me of a comment a long-lost friend of mine made about a neighbor's marriage: they were really cool, she said, because it was a multi-cultural marriage. Implying that mine, being mono-cultural, was not so cool, I guess. Sorry to be so boring by being white and American and marrying a white American guy.
It's funny, too. A quick read, maybe an important read for this election year.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
How do these great books find their way into my house? A few weeks ago I picked up a library book on a whim: The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers. I guess it was on the featured books shelf in the kids' area - I don't even remember how it got in our bag. It looked like a fantasy - which my kids don't typically like! So it went in the library book basket and sat there for about 2 weeks. When I was going through the books to find the (over)dues, it turned up and I looked it over again. Hmm...
Echoing from the river bottom forest...the bark of the bog owl speaks of wild places still untamed, of quests not yet pursued, of great deeds not yet done. Aidan Errolson heeds this call of the wild, and soon learns it's a call to save his country.
Having nothing else to read (yeah, right), we dove in. And then we couldn't stop...
You might find the story familiar: Aidan is a young farm boy, youngest among 4 brothers. His main job is tending the sheep; he protects them with his sling. One day he is called home only to find an old man, "the Truthspeaker" in his home, giving a strange prediction... this young boy is to be king? War erupts, and no one will come forward to answer the enemy's challenge, till Adain and his sling save the day...
It's a fun adventure story with lessons if you want them: bravery, trust, friendship. There's an explosion. My kids figured out the biblical connection early on. Kids not exposed to the Bible might just see it as a great story - it is not a "religious" book; there are a few references to "the One True God" and that's it.
And, this story does not take place in Israel. More like Georgia swampland. Then there's the surprise of the "feechiefolk" who some think are mythical creatures...
We've started the next in the trilogy immediately (I think yesterday I read about 100 pages between the 2 books) and it's just as good. Aidan is now part of the king's court, but is losing the king's favor. He is sent out on an impossible quest...
Written for 9-12's, it's still a satisfying read aloud for the parents. OK, for this parent, anyway.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
This partnership showcases GSUSA’s goal to build our brand relevance among the teen audience, and to communicate to potential young volunteers that Girl Scouts is the place to give back. These tools support our diverse and contemporary image.
After some more looking around, I found a link between one of MTV's reality tv shows, "Run's House" and Girl Scouts. Apparently the daughters of Reverend Run join the Scouts. Reverend Run is rapper Run-DMC and was ordained by Zoe Ministries, which from my admittedly quick look appears to espouse a combination of liberation theology and promise of financial blessings from God. (I think that's sometimes known as "name it and claim it.") I could not find a statement of faith but did see lots of opportunities to donate money.
Gotta wonder about a reverend who is associated with a TV network that carries such shows as "A Shot at Love 2 with Tila Tequila" which appears to chronicle a young woman's efforts to find a new lover - male or female. The clips I saw would be, I think, R-rated if not X.
So, anyway, the real story on this partnership seems to be: money. Are you surprised?
Friday, June 13, 2008
Now I am not going to pay for a new Dodgers hat with 2 games to go. Some of you may remember my dismay at my boy's assignment to the Dodgers at all. It has been a tough season for all of us. So, no cash for a new cap.
We ripped out some of the stitching and folded back the blue fabric, then cut out some of the bill and glued the fabric down over it. It looks a little odd. But it's workable for the remaining games.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I had hesitated to get involved with Girl Scouts. I cringed at some of the offerings in the program book: "Goovin' Goddesses" (a hip-hop dance event), hair and makeup classes, "it's all about me" self-esteem programs. (Am I the only one who is sick of self-esteem programs?) But the leaders in our little troop are with me on that, and we are focusing on service projects and education. And fun, too - nothing wrong with a little horseback riding and a tie-dye party. So we've been feeling OK about it.
Now this. I am just stunned. I don't want my girl to be the next fashion design diva. I don't want any girl to aspire to fashion design divahood. I guess there is nothing wrong with fashion design, except that it seems to get uglier with every passing year. I suppose someone needs to design the clothes, or maybe we have enough designs already. I think I'll be spending the rest of the day walking around mumbling to myself. Oh, I can't. I'm babysitting 4 kids under age 9. Well, more to mutter about.
Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy, bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and business like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.
Does it make sense to say "OK, that's it, no more oil, deal with it?" What will we do with all the cars already built? Should we go back to an agrarian life in the US? Should we risk destroying the US economy completely to avoid using our own resources? No war for oil? Why not use our own?
Via Instapundit, which everyone should be reading every day. You already are, aren't you?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It had been a hot, but not too humid, day. A little after dinner it suddenly got really windy. As in stuff flying around the yard, small branches and leaves hurling off trees. The lights flickered. We shut the computers down. A breaker popped. The clouds came in. The thunder was LOUD! The lightning flashes were quick and bright.
Then the rain came - sheets of it, pounding down. Puddles formed immediately. The street looked flooded and the wind was so high it looked like waves were forming.
And then, within 10 minutes, it was done.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The dress rehearsals are offered to school and family groups. I was surprised that the theater was not even half full. With schools complaining about cuts to funding and art and music classes disappearing, I thought this free resource would be well-used. Maybe it was too close to the end of the year.
The first dance on the program was the world premiere of the Jupiter Symphony by Mozart. This was a short piece (about 1/2 an hour) with classic tutu-wearing ballerinas. Because of where we were seated, we had a great view of the stage and of the orchestra from above. I could see my boy was constantly watching, alternating between the dancers and the musicians. He was never bored.
The intermission was filled with activity as dancers warmed up, the conductor coached the musicians - it was nice to get this behind the scenes look at the ballet.
Carnival of the Animals was introduced by John Lithgow, who narrated the story. He gave a little background and then the dancing began. Oh, it was wonderful! You can see a little snippet below. Unfortunately I can't find a part with the chickens. The dancers captured the role of chicken perfectly.
At the end, we got another taste of the work involved as the choreographer began working with the dancers on the curtain call. Even this is carefully worked out. We left after this, though there was a third piece. It was called a "modern ballet" which made me wary right from the start. Sure enough, we saw something that said families might not want to stay for that one.
I need not have worried that my boy would have a problem at this ballet. He was riveted, enchanted. It helped that it was kid-friendly, of course. And that he loves music. But he wasn't super-keen on the ballet before we went. Now he'll be more open to going in the future.
We'll be looking for more opportunities to see dress rehearsals. With ticket prices mostly out of our reach, this is a great way to see a performance. Check out the opportunities in your town.
Monday, June 09, 2008
We'll say we'll stay in touch, and we might for a while. Then we'll send Christmas cards for a few years and then... they'll just be memories.
And then next year more will leave... and then the next... and then it'll be our turn!
Note: Scrappleface is a satire site. But click the link in the article and you'll see where it came from. Actually, I'm having a hard time believing the real story is... real.
The politics of oil shale
Be sure to note this part:
One acre of corn produces the equivalent of 5 to 7 barrels of oil. One acre of oil shale produces 100,000 to 1 million barrels.
And while we're on the topic, don't forget what happened the last time a Democrat was in the White House:
The Clintons' Coal-Gate
A large part of America's energy dependence on foreign sources can be traced to Sept. 18, 1996, when President Bill Clinton stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona side and signed an executive proclamation making 1.7 million acres of Utah a new national monument.
Why would he dedicate a Utah monument while standing in Arizona? Well, this federal land grab was done without any consultation with the governor of Utah or any member of the Utah congressional delegation or any elected official in the state. The unfriendly Utah natives might have spoiled his photo-op.
Am I just another one of those people who wants to rape the land so I can keep driving my Suburban and run my a/c on high all summer? (Hey, who would buy the Suburban now? I have it, I can't just throw it away.)
Can you imagine anything better right now than telling Saudi Arabia "we don't need your oil anymore?"
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Why is the U.N. holding conferences about rising food prices, but not spiraling oil prices that in various ways account for them? Somehow in the globalist mindset the agricultural producing world is more culpable than the non-productive OPEC world. But we should remember that it requires skill, ingenuity, and a certain craft to produce enough food to feed one's country and export the surplus, and none of the above to pump oil, an accident of nature that it is beneath one's feet, and, in the case of most of OPEC, a commodity and infrastructure that someone else found, developed and currently mostly maintains.
It's a good read for this election season.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
One group has had a lot of events and is very active, very encouraging to the Webelos. Quite a few of the boys in this troop go on to become Eagle Scouts. I would love my boy to be encouraged (by other scouts, not just his parents) to work toward that goal. The other troop seems a little more laid-back and not quite as hard-working.
So it seems like the choice might be obvious, except the troop we (so far) like best has one big problem: there are women in troop leadership. Women bossing these boys around.
I really, really hate this. It's the Boy Scouts, people. The goal is to give boys an opportunity and atmosphere in which to become leaders of other boys, and then leaders of men. The boys (ages 11 and up) are starting to separate from their mamas, and rightly so. They don't need mama surrogates to boss them around. And yes, that's what my husband saw at the meeting the other night. Women refusing to allow older boys to make simple decisions on their own. The women took over. (Just like everywhere else, some of you are saying. Yes, I know you are.) I will go so far as to say: these leaders can't really help teach boys to be leaders of men. They will teach them to be followers of women. (Which, some of you are saying, is the point.)
You know, I don't think women are incapable of leadership. There are women who are smart and tough and probably fantastic leaders. But they don't belong in the Boy Scouts. They don't belong in positions of authority over these young men. They don't belong on camping trips with young men (unless it's a family camp).
Some will say "well, boys need to learn to respect authority from women, after all they may have a woman for a boss one day." Yes indeed, they might. And most boys have teachers in school who are female so they have that experience. My boy has learned to respect his female teachers, and I don't just mean me - he takes classes with female teachers sometimes. I drew the line at martial arts class with a female teacher, though.
We go to a church that does not allow women in leadership. Pastors, elders, deacons are all male. The women are not disgruntled because of this (if they become so, they leave, I guess) and there is a vibrant life in the church because these women understand that they are not to be in authority over men. They have important responsibilities in the church, important work to do. They are not treated as second-class citizens with nothing to offer. Everyone understands that men and women are different, with different gifts and talents. Complementary, not competing. It's great. So it's not surprising I would believe women don't belong in leadership over Boy Scouts either.
So. We won't tell our boy which troop to pick. He needs to do that himself. He'll probably choose the one that most of his Webelos den goes to. But his Dad and I will have to figure out a way to talk to him about the leadership issue. Not sure how we'll do that yet.
I just don't get why Boy Scouts can't be for boys. Why there is no place women can't just stay the hell out of. (Sorry if I offend. I'm just talking like my Dad. He would think this stinks.) Why women have to jump in and boss everyone around. Why?
Updated to add: Apparently at this troop at least (I found out) the women do not go on the campouts. Also I did not mention (though I thought about) the possible connection between the troop with the female leaders producing more Eagle Scouts than the more "laid back" troop. Well, gotta be careful with correlation and cause, but if the female-led troops produce more Eagles because they are babying the boys along, rather than letting them try and fail, or not bother to try, then I'd rather go with the troop that allows for self-determination. I don't know that that's the case, of course. More research is needed.
I'm going to try to take time to read it today. Have fun!
Friday, June 06, 2008
A couple of years ago I picked up the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky on a whim at Powell's Books, the ultimate bookstore and one much-missed. (The store is still there, in Portland and the suburbs; it's me that left it.) It sat around till a few weeks ago, when I was hunting around for some light nonfiction and saw it on the shelf.
As often happens in my reading life, we experienced a bit of serendipity in the library, coming across a kids' picture book version - beautifully illustrated. Of course we brought it home and read it together.
In either version, this is a fascinating and fun book to read. I have no idea how factual it is; I am not a salt scholar. The Salt Institute recommends the book on their (hard to read) website.
The book is full of anecdotes about salt production (including the salt ponds at the bottom of San Francisco Bay, not far from my old home town), history of salt in cooking and other uses, particularly for preserving fish. My favorite section is about the creation of Tabasco Sauce on Avery Island, LA. As I read that to my kids, my boy got up and went to the pantry to get out the bottle. They were thrilled to see Avery Island on the label. There's a smattering of (mostly medieval) recipes, including one for sauerkraut and caviar... no thanks. The picture version is short, interesting, and lovely to look at. If I was still buying picture books, I'd spend money on this one.
I see that the author also has an earlier book, Cod: A History of the Fish that Changed the World, also with a picture book companion. I am not all that interested in learning about codfish, but who knows?
An absolutely on-target parody of mainstream media, imagining how they might have covered the invasion of Normandy with today’s enhanced technology—and today’s relentless negativity.
Can you spell 'education?' This school can't ...
WESTLAKE, Ohio (AP) -- A Cleveland-area principal says he's embarrassed his students got proof of their "educaiton" on their high school diplomas.
Westlake High School officials misspelled "education" on the diplomas distributed last weekend. It's been the subject of mockery on local radio.
Principal Timothy Freeman says he sent back the diplomas once to correct another error. When the diplomas came back, no one bothered to check things they thought were right the first time.The publisher has reprinted the diplomas a second time and sent them to the 330 graduates.
Typos happen, I know. I make plenty. But of course I'm not being paid by the taxpayers to educate my kids and print diplomas.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
"I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."
Gah. Humility? I think he's starting to believe all that messiah stuff. Maybe he always has.
The whole speech can be found at Real Clear Politics, and you can read some comments on the passage I quoted here at Commentary.
2. 4.87 pounds of ground beef in the fridge - that really should have been frozen yesterday.
There's not even a beautiful sunrise to brighten my early morning!
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
My recipe is very simple; it comes from The Rainbow Bakery Cookbook: A Color-Full Adventure Children's Cookbook which my kids received as a gift a few years ago (Thanks Ls!). It's published by Gold Medal Flour.
Pot of Gold Cheese Sauce
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour (you know in the book they specify the brand)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add flour and salt and whisk till smooth and bubbly. Add the milk, stirring constantly (I never do), boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to very low and add the cheese; stir till it's melted.
If you have some powdered mustard, a dash of that brings out the cheese flavor. A dash of cayenne gives a little kick.
Then add the cooked pasta. This recipe is just for cheese sauce so it doesn't specify an amount, and I'm not sure - I think for that amount of sauce, maybe 1/2 a pound. But sometimes my kids say it's too cheesy. Sometimes we like having some left over to dunk bread in. Or pour it over tortilla chips. It's a good thing to experiment with. And it just doesn't take much longer than doing the boxed mix.
You can also put it in a baking dish, put some breadcrumbs on top, and bake it for a while. But I never bother with that, the kids are always in too big a hurry to eat it.
I've been seeing The Simple Woman's Daybook around the blogs lately and thought I'd do it today. (Though I guess it's a Monday thing.) My brain is swirling with thoughts of gasoline prices, oil in Montana, food prices, high-school AP history projects based on old pop songs, election cynicism... none of which I can properly articulate. So:
Outside my window... sunshine, blue sky, green trees, my blue delphinium - a first for me - at our old house the deer munched them.
I am thinking...about how to keep entertained, and what to make for lunch for 3 kids who are visiting for most of the day. It started out with me "babysitting" my kid's friend for 3 hours... then we added some girls for my girl.. then it turned into 4 hours... that's a long playdate.
I am thankful for... my family, my house, my computer, my sanity, my ability to read.
From the kitchen...homemade granola, hot coffee, homemade whole wheat bread.
I am creating... hmmm... sewing ideas for some great fabric we bought. Creating ideas, does that work?
I am going...to stay home all day. We are working to consolidate all car trips into one these days.
I am wearing... Hmm... My usual, t-shirt, cotton pants. Silver hoop earring because I've misplaced all my other pairs.
I am reading...The Penderwick's of Gardam Street, North With the Spring, The Mislabeled Child, Salt, Seeing With New Eyes, and a commentary on Psalm 139. Yes, I'm sure I'll read something in each one today.
I am hoping... that all these kids keep themselves occupied.
I am hearing...chores being completed!
Around the house... decluttering, trying to find a place to sew.
One of my favorite things... having my kids home with me rather than off to school. Though, I admit this day would be less daunting... hmmm....
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... working out transportation to a piano recital and a boy scout event; planning a trip downtown to see a dress rehearsal at the symphony, finishing up our "official school year" and getting my documents ready to drop off at the school district.
I am supposed to put a photo here. Well, when I learn how, I will...
There, that was easy. Writing prompts are nice for those of us who enjoy blogging but don't always have a topic. Here are the guidelines for your own daybook post if you want to participate; please read and follow them. Thanks to Peggy for doing this.