Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some Palin-related links

Well all weekend I have been snatching bits of time to collect Palin-related links, only to come home from the grocery store ($115 poorer, even with the $5 off $40 coupon, but having scored loads of cheap meat) and learn the new big news about the teen pregnancy in the fam.

The pregnancy story bothers me a lot. But I am optimistic about the possibilities here. Certainly the Palins are going to be living out their faith in a very public way. The seminarian expressed optimism (oh yeah) that this won't turn into a big deal because the press always stays away from the candidates' kids. I'm sure they will this time. Right?

Well, I was just about done so what the heck, maybe people who actually did something fun this weekend instead of gobble up news stories might be interested:

From Hot Air: Desperation from Democrats

From NOW: A press release reminding women that when they mean "women's rights" they really just mean the right to an abortion. (Found at Right on the Left Coast.)

Semi-related to that - I think it's funny how some people are gushing over Mrs. Palin's courage in not aborting her last baby even though she knew he had Down Syndrome. I guess they can't comprehend that for some people, killing the baby is simply not an option under consideration.

Sandy at Falling Like Rain has some comments about abortion. The links she provides might be interesting to you too, particularly if you are a Christian woman on the fence about a working mom in a high position in government.

Douglas Wilson is pastor of a Reformed church in Moscow, ID. I don't agree with every word that comes out of his mouth, though his books on marriage and childrearing are excellent. I enjoyed his comments on Mrs. Palin. Read all the way to the end! The reference to Deborah can be found in Judges 4.

The Democracy Project has 10 reasons Sarah Palin is a good pick.

City Journal's Heather MacDonald has concerns about upping the diversity ante: can we ever have an all-white-male ticket again?

And finally, Scrappleface on the teen pregnancy story. (Just so you know - it's a satire site.)

If I hear " heartbeat away..." one more time...

well, I don't know what I'd do. But it's making me crazy.

I can't stop thinking about Sarah Palin as VP. I admit I had not really known anything about her. I guess I had a vague idea that Alaska had a pretty sharp female governor. Her supposed lack of experience does not worry me. I do agree with those who are saying she has more executive experience than Obama.

Last night I spent some time looking for reactions by conservative Christian women. I was right in guessing that some would not be happy about McCain's pick. Who's taking care of those kids, especially that baby? Should a woman be in authority over men? I am disturbed by women who say they won't vote in this election. People you have got to vote! And while I believe, in theory, in "voting your conscience" even if that means a third-party candidate, as a practical matter it's just not helpful. I voted Libertarian a few times. Now I see that there is too much at stake to vote for a candidate who can't win.

But I also saw some people talking about this woman being brought forward "for such a time as this." (That's a reference to the Old Testament book of Esther. Great book, check it out.) To imagine a staunchly pro-life, family-loving woman in a high position in government... almost seems providential. Another blogger is excited about the effect Mrs. Palin's candidacy may have on peoples' perception of Down Syndrome babies.

This morning while I was walking the dog I was pondering all this, and I suddenly thought about Christians who think it's fine for a mother to leave her children in boarding school or with other relatives to go work in the mission field. It seems like to some folks, abandoning the kids in order to do "God's work" is OK, but having childcare while doing some other kinds of work is evil. Of course that assumes that only direct ministry work is "God's work." I don't happen to agree with that. All work can be God's work if it is done with his glory in mind.

Of course I am also a person who believes that God is sovereign and it is he who raises up and brings down nations. He graciously allows us to participate in this (that's why you need to vote!) but ultimately we will get the government we deserve (who said that first, anyway?). And if we are worried about God's curse, what is worse: a woman who gets help caring for her kids, including her Down Syndrome baby, or a guy who would have supported her in aborting her baby, maybe even letting him die if the abortion failed? That is not necessarily a rhetorical question, if you are of a mind to comment on it.

Well, that's enough of my thoughts, scattered as they are. Here is some Mark Steyn for some more cogent thoughts on the topic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Personalizing the Weather Underground

Because history really is important.

From "Fire in the Night," in City Journal:

Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.


Though no one was ever caught or tried for the attempt on my family’s life, there was never any doubt who was behind it. Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron Jacobs in
The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’s wife, promised more bombings.

Oh, found at Instapundit, natch.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mission creep in the public schools...

coming soon with the Obama administration:

Schools Are Not Social Service Centers... yet.

The argument runs like this: kids do better in school when they’re well fed, healthy, and so forth. Therefore schools should be transformed into social-service centers that will not only teach students, but also provide health care and lots of other services. Schools would be open all day and provide a wide variety of community programs.

This will, of course, cost a ton of money and entail a huge expansion of the government educational bureaucracy. Which has nothing to do with why the unions want it.

Read the whole thing and check out the links and comments, like this one:

We seem to be about one generation away from parents being required to turn their children permanently over to the government full-time at age 3.

I often wonder what life will be like for my kids as parents. Will they have the freedoms their dad and I have to raise them the way we think we ought? Will they even live in the US or will they have to go someplace where they can be free? And where would that be?

And from the Wall Street Journal: Protect Our Kids From Preschool

Our understanding of the effects of preschool is still very much in its infancy. But one inescapable conclusion from the existing research is that it is not for everyone. Kids with loving and attentive parents -- the vast majority -- might well be better off spending more time at home than away in their formative years. The last thing that public policy should do is spend vast new sums of taxpayer dollars to incentivize a premature separation between toddlers and parents.

Unless separating toddlers from their parents (specifically, the parents' philosophy and beliefs) is the goal...

Homeschooling is not for everyone, but even people who use public schools should be afraid of the mission creep of the education system.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I love youtube

because almost anytime I think of a song from my past, there it is.

Utica Club is/was a brewery in upstate New York. I am quite sure I never drank the beer as I left NY at age 9. We had this 45 and at some point converted it to an 8-track (yes I am that old), and then to cassette... and then it was lost. But no more.

Oh, the reason I was thinking of this today? We finished taking down a dead tree in the back yard today and the seminarian started singing an old Miller beer commercial. One thought led to another....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Good Question: What is the purpose of VBS?

What is the purpose of Vacation Bible School?

a. To provide daycare during the summer months when kids are underfoot

b. To introduce teen volunteers to the joy of teaching and doing crafts with little kids.

c. To bring the gospel to unchurched children.

d. To reinforce knowledge kids have already learned at church and at home.

e. To test the endurance and memorization skills of the adults of congregation (at least those without paying jobs that make them unavailable during the day).

OK, OK, it's c. And d, I guess. Or, that's how it started out. Just like Sunday School, VBS was begun as a way to bring biblical teachings to kids whose families don't go to church. (But are open to their children learning about Jesus, presumably, or they wouldn't let the kids go.) People tell stories of the church bus coming around the neighborhood to pick kids up for church and Sunday School. I guess that probably still happens, somewhere. But I think mostly kids go to church, or don't go to church, based on their parents' beliefs.

In my experience, VBS doesn't get many unchurched kids. (Remember I said in my experience. That doesn't mean someone else hasn't experienced something different.) I don't recall a single VBS experience in my 8 years of involvement with various VBSes where someone was exposed to the gospel for the first time.

In the VBS we just finished, the teaching was way below most kids' knowledge level, except maybe the 4-7 year olds. The 8s and up? Forget it. But mostly they seem to enjoy it; there are always some kids who are way too cool, till they find themselves having fun playing duck duck goose. They have fun with the songs and seeing the adults singing and doing those hand motions. The crafts were pretty good this year, because they involved paint. So it was a nightmare from a logistical standpoint but worth it in the end for what we produced.

Since we are Presbyterians, there is no altar call at the end. No one is asked to make a decision for Christ (is that the way to put it?). We send them home with, we hope, questions and a desire for further exploration. And their t-shirts, bracelets, promise boxes and new Bibles. And I guess that fulfills the purpose.

Oh and next summer? I'll be getting a job (see e above).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's the hand motions, baby

People keep asking me why I don't like VBS. I figured it out last night: it's all the hand motions. The songs and the memorization all require hand motions:

"It is He who made us..." (clasp hands in front, sway like you're holding a baby)

"Shout..." (put hands in front of mouth like a megaphone)

"Enter His courts..." (jog in place)

And the ever-popular

"We are His..." (hold hands over heart)

Yes, I know that this aids in memorization. I know that doing things in various ways cements learning. No one has to lecture me on that, OK? I know the kids (some of them, anyway), find it fun. Some just think it's babyish.

Actually, after helping out this week I think I'd say that VBS should be for about ages 4 - 7. I think that's about pre-K to 3rd grade. The older kids don't seem to be getting a lot out of it.

Most of the kids at our VBS go to church - if not ours, then somewhere. It would be different if church was a new experience for them. But these guys are not hearing the gospel for the first time. They really don't need to keep hearing the basic stories over and over again, but are ready for more depth. And, they don't need to glue jewels onto a fun-foam crown each day. Now, painting the symbols on t-shirts has been cool and fun for the bigger kids. But still. They groan just a bit when I ask why we are painting a snake, a cross, and a crown. Duh. Oh, and don't forget the rainbow!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tomorrow my head might explode. Or maybe the world will end.

Our church is having a Vacation Bible School tomorrow, and our whole family is participating: the seminarian is running sound and games (with the boy's help), I am running the crafts, and the girl is a regular participant. I generally dislike VBS, despite the fact that it was at our first ever VBS that we met our favorite unrelated family. (Hi guys! Remember "the naughty boy?") But I guess if we were meant to be friends, it could have happened without a VBS. We are participating now because a friend is organizing it, we have no reason not to, and we like to support the activities of our church. None of us are really looking forward to it. The boy is extremely happy he can be a helper now and not have to sing the dippy songs, but he'd rather stay home and play with the dog and read Harry Potter, which he is blasting his way through now. The girl would rather do just about anything than learn those songs.

But it might not matter because the world could end tomorrow. I was given a copy of the Bible memorization passages today, complete with hand movements. No VBS is complete without lots of hand movements. Anyway, the daily memory verses are from Psalm 100, a reasonable choice.

The first day's verse and hand movements go like this:

Shout (cup hands to mouth, say "shout" loudly)
for joy to the Lord (point index finger to sky)
all the earth. (clasp hands above head in circle)

Picture those hand signs, or do them right now. If you need help with the last one, you can see what it looks like here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Finally, the Jersey Shore

Today we finally went to the shore. We've been here over a year now and though it's only about 80 miles away - about the same distance as the Pacific was from our home in Oregon - we just hadn't made it.

On the recommendation of a neighbor we went to Ocean City and the Boardwalk. I have such fond memories of the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and I was transported back there as we walked past the funnel cake stands, mini-golf courses, arcades, and salt water taffy shops. This Boardwalk is big - 2.5 miles long - and the kids hated it. Immediately hated it. They also hated the look of the beach itself. They looked out to the water and saw that they weren't in Oregon anymore, baby.

It was just crammed with people. And huge umbrellas. I mean it was like a solid block of umbrellas. We bought our beach passes anyway and walked down. We read the rules: no picnics. No picnic on the beach? Well, what about those people carrying pizzas down from the Boardwalk shops? Ah, I guess it means no picnics of food brought from home...

We went back to the car to get our stuff and eat lunch in the parking lot, then decided to ditch the boardwalk and go a little south to a beach that might not be so crowded. We drove along the main drag, full of pretty little rental houses. It would be fun to stay there and hang out on one of those shady balconies.... someday, maybe.

Well, we couldn't shake the crowds but we found a place and then hit the water. Once again we were reminded we weren't in Oregon anymore. This water was warm! OK, not bathtub warm but not the toe-numbing cold water of the Pacific that only allows a quick run up to the ankles before the whole body starts to shiver from freezing blood coursing through the veins. We played and played in the waves. I am not a big water lover but it was hard to get out when it was time to go. We'll be looking for boogie- or body-boards or whatever they are called now. And for some less-crowded beaches. Someone said we might have to go to North Carolina to find that...

On a roll - one more Dad memory

Just can't stop myself.

When we moved from upstate New York to California, he carried along the old snow shovel. We had had a long driveway - we'd lived in the suburbs when that meant a house on 2 acres - and he had to shovel that thing to get to work. We must have had a few shovels, but I just remember the one. He hung it in the garage and said that whenever he got homesick, he'd just go look at that shovel and feel better about leaving his hometown and moving someplace warmer.

I doubt he spent a lot of time being homesick. Our move meant a large increase in responsibility at work, and pay to go along with it. He was practical, even if also a little sentimental.

Now I have that shovel. It's not very good, compared to newer ones. Kind of weak. But it's a family heirloom.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why join facebook?

A few friends have asked why I don't have a facebook page. Do you? Should I? Why? I think I might be too old. After all, I didn't understand twitter. And I still have a landline phone. (And will, till I can call 911 on my cellphone and not have to tell them where I am.) Oh, and I didn't get along too well on CafeMom - too many husband rants and tattoo questions. How old should a child be before getting a tattoo?

(I suddenly remember my mother asking her oldest grandson not to get his ear(s) pierced while she was still alive. I am turning into my mother, quickly.)

Sheesh. I guess I better keep the next AARP mailing that comes along...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A postscript

A few months before he died my father said to me "I would do anything for my family." Of course there were things he could not do for us, including some things that we would have really liked for him to do. No parent is perfect. I think he had a lot of regrets in his life. He had time to brood on his mistakes, and he did that. But I also know that overall, he did the best he could.

Most parents do. We are all limited. Of course there are just plain bad parents. But most parents are just flawed people, muddling through and trying to do the best they can. Most parents fail their children at one time or another. I guess everyone fails the people who depends on them, sometimes, in some way. Maybe it's a big way, or maybe it's not so big.

If I could tell him one thing today, it would be this: that I know he did the best he could for us.

I bet there are a lot of mothers and fathers out there that need to hear that. I bet I will need to hear that someday too.

Random thoughts about my Dad

This time of year I always think about my father a lot. Partly because this is the month of his birthday and his funeral: he was born on August 2 and he died 3 days before his 75th birthday; his funeral was on his birthday. Also, it's election year and so many things about this election cycle would be driving my Dad nuts.

He was your original curmudgeon. Very crusty and very opinionated. Were his opinions well-informed? I don't know. He did read the paper, cover to cover, every day. For all my life that I can remember we had the daily paper delivered. When we moved here, it felt so weird not to subscribe to the paper; having the paper delivered was the right and proper adult thing to do. I don't recall my father reading anything else. Maybe Victory Through Air Power, which I still have.

Anyway, the election. He would be spending a lot of time reading the paper, grumbling, and muttering a variation on his most-used expression: "Who the hell does he think he is..." He would have a lot of comments about Barack Obama. Was my Dad a bigot, I wonder? I never heard (or remember hearing) him utter a word that would indicate that he was. I think he would be upset by Obama's youth, his socialist/liberal thinking and his negativity about the US. Would he like McCain any better? I kind of doubt it. He was a Nixon man. Really. He always said Nixon would be vindicated.

He was the child of immigrants: "Eastern European peasants" he used to say. No point going on about being Polish, or German, or Russian, because "Eastern Europe was always a mess." But his family never hyphenated. They were Americans, through and through, even if they did eat a lot of Kielbasa and pierogis. (At least, this is how I remember it. Family members may disagree. As the youngest kid, I am sure there are things I missed.) He was also of the generation that worked hard and didn't get government assistance - or if they did, they were ashamed and got off as soon as they could. He would not have patience for our welfare state. Divorce grieved him. Single motherhood by choice would make him angry, I'm sure. "Who the hell do these girls - they are not women - think they are..."

He had a great work ethic. Sometime in the '70's he got really sick with whatever flu was going around. I thought he was going to die. He had never, in my memory, stayed home from work! He worked for the same company for 50 years, from age 17 to age 67. (He finished high school at night classes.) Once I quit a job after 4 years; he was stunned and wanted to know why. When I said I hated it, he asked "how can you know already?" I am quite sure that he would not approve of my husband quitting his job to go back to school. "Not approve" is probably not strong enough: he would think him stupid and irresponsible. Maybe even evil. "What the hell is he doing, giving up a perfectly good job...." He was thrifty as that Depression generation was. But he liked nice clothes and always looked sharp. He liked nice ties, too. But he was never free with money.

Besides working hard at work, he didn't like to sit around much. He may have been hyperactive. Once I took him and my mom to a Tony Bennett concert. At the intermission, he didn't come back, but paced the lobby. Afterwards, he said he liked the show OK, but "he was a little long-winded." However, when the first grandbaby was born, he would just sit holding and gazing adoringly at that boy. He loved his grandchildren - even if he really didn't know much how to play with them and talk to them. He didn't seem to be what you'd call "good with kids." I learned all my mildly bad words listening to him put up the tent on our annual camping trips. (The really bad ones I learned from my big bro.)

He liked good food, particularly my mother's pizza, which she made just about every Sunday. Most weeks he'd say something like "well, you messed it up again!" after eating way too much. He did like his hot food hot, though, which made things a little difficult for my mother. The first Thanksgiving after he died, we were all pretty sad, of course, till my mom broke the mood by saying "at least no one's complaining that the food's cold!" To this day I am nervous about serving food that is not piping hot!

Part of his legacy was a love of '30's and '40's movies. We used to go to San Francisco to a revival movie house and watch Casablanca, The African Queen, so many others I can't remember. He would not be impressed with the current leading men. "John Wayne? He's not an actor, he's a performer. Conrad Veidt, now he was an actor!" (OK, Wayne is hardly current but that's the quote I remember.) He also loved cars - it seemed we always had a new/old car around. Lots of car photos in the boxes of old snapshots. He bought American, was specifically a Ford man as I recall, though later in life he had a disastrous fling with a Triumph. Oh, and he kept his cars in the garage, you better believe it, not in the driveway or on the street. One of my great difficulties in moving to our current house is our lack of garage space. We have to park our car in the driveway. Most people here do; in fact a lot of people have no garage at all! That was tough for me. Dad would not approve.

What would he think of this post? Probably not much. "What the hell are you wasting your time writing this crap for?" Yeah, that'd be my Dad!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is getting tiresome

Just couldn't resist the reaction to Candidate Obama's latest: his response to the 2nd grader when asked why he is running for President:

America is …, uh, is no longer, uh … what it could be, what it once was. And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children.

What a stupid thing to say. Why would we want such a negative attitude in the White House? Really, why? I don't think anyone walks around saying America is perfect; there are always things wrong that can be improved. Like our Presidential candidate offerings.

I am not a Rush Limbaugh fan but I have to say I like his response:

...It’s a 7 year old Senator. Ya tell her because you love the country. You tell her because this is the greatest place on Earth. That we’ve got challenges, but you want to help the country through it. You don’t tell a 7 year old that her country isn’t what it once was. You do not lie to 7 year olds and tell them that your country sucks. You just don’t do it Senator.

Maybe some people don't think he's lying. That's OK. It's still a stupid, arrogant, ignorant, wrong thing to say.

Here is a comment from the linked site. (There are a lot of comments; I didn't read them all but this one caught my eye.)

Haven’t read all the comments yet, forgive if I repeat, but the first thing I noticed was his stuttering and stammering just trying to answer a simple question for a 7 yr old. No teleprompter; no eloquent speeches. Really! I suck at public speaking and I could have answered that question easily.

A candidate for the school board should have been able to answer that question without stuttering, stammering, and going all negative. For postmaster. For dog-catcher. OK, I'll stop.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Wherein we hang out with a bunch of old people and learn the truth about ourselves.

Last night the seminarian and I hit the trifecta of parental bliss: a babysitter, dinner reservations, and concert tickets. It had been a long time since we'd experienced any of this. At least 8 months, we figure, since yesterday was the babysitter's first encounter with our good dog Max, who came to us in January. He quickly got over his suspicions about her when she offered him a treat.

The dinner was at a nice little BYOB Italian cafe recommended by a friend. Since we brought our own wine from our recent spree, and split salad, entree, and dessert, it was a cheap but excellent meal. The Osso Bucco was incredible.

Then the concert. The performer was a sentimental favorite of mine: Kenny Rankin. I was trying to think of when he hit his peak of popularity but I am not sure he was ever hugely popular. I saw him back in 1980-something as an opening act for George Carlin. I didn't really like Carlin, loved Rankin. I still have a few of his albums - yes, LPs - which I can no longer play. Anyway, we came across the concert information after I listened to a few of his songs via Youtube. Oh, I love that clear, sweet tenor. Since we hadn't had a night out in a very long time, and the tickets were relatively cheap (as such things go)... there we were.

We arrived at the theater just a little early and had some time to watch the crowd coming in. Wow, everyone looked so old! How come all these old people were here at this show? Where were the young people like... us? Oh. This is our demographic now. Man, that hurt.

It was a nice night. The concert was good - that voice was still clear, the scat fluid. His banter seemed a little old at times; his throat was giving him trouble but he pressed on and well. At the end of the show he made a slight political comment that was annoying, but he kept it short. ("Let's take our country back, people.") I had been a little worried he'd flash the new Obama sign, but no. All in all, a refreshing event. Back to reality today!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The CAPD Test and homeschooling validation

My boy had a session with an audiologist today to determine the presence of Central Auditory Processing Disorder (which we suspected based on previous testing). I don't have the full report yet, but we were told:

- he behaved very well, was helpful and patient throughout the 2 hours of testing.

- he has problems related to phonemic awareness and "hearing" the vowels in words.

- he got really tired and frustrated from all the sounds coming at him.

- he would not have done well in a classroom situation with the competing voices and noises.

- he is left-brained and needs some more right-brained activities to balance him out. Hello, music lessons - she specifically said piano, which works since we have a piano and a piano teacher. But this is kind of funny to me because we had been convinced he is right-brained and worked off that assumption for a while...

- he might benefit from speech therapy as that would help him learn to hear the sounds of words better.

Now I don't understand that last one quite yet, and I haven't seen the written report. But I admit I was thrilled to hear that learning in the home, not the classroom, has been "the best place for him to be." Yes, that is a direct quote.

I don't know any homeschool moms who don't second-guess themselves sometimes. A child with learning disabilities can amp up the insecurity and second-guessing. It's good to have confirmation that we're doing something right, even if we focused on the wrong half of the brain.