Saturday, October 17, 2009

Better keep your Boy Scouts out of public school...

... because zero tolerance policies may have a harmful effect on their futures.

Matthew Whalen is an Eagle Scout who is hoping to go to the US Military Academy. Maybe he won't be able to, though:

Seventeen-year-old Matthew Whalen, a senior at Lansingburgh High School in Troy, N.Y., says he got in trouble over a survival kit he keeps in his car that includes a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal and the small pocketknife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town.

When Whalen acknowledged he had the knife locked in his car, he was barred from school for a calendar month. Now that he is getting just 90 minutes a day with a tutor instead of 7 hours of instruction in class, he says he is worried that the suspension will mar his academic record and affect his application to attend the U.S. Military Academy.

From Fox News via Commentary.

This comes just after a Cub Scout was suspended (though the suspension was later reversed) for bringing in his new fork/knife/spoon utensil he was given in Scouts. One of the defenders of the decision said:

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

What, they don't use pencils in that school? Do they have someone checking to be sure they don't get too sharp? I'd have loved to have been the pencil-sharpener monitor in kindergarten!

The community center where Derrion Albert was killed probably had a zero-tolerance policy too. But he wasn't stabbed with a pocket knife, just beaten with fists, feet and 2-by-4s.

I think kids are safer around pocket-knife-toting Boy Scouts than they are around zero-tolerance administrators.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Even a kid can figure it out.

Yesterday an off-hand comment turned into a major discussion. The words "Nobel Peace Prize" were uttered and set off a few questions by my girl. My kids have heard of the Nobel prizes, of course, though they are not usually major topics around here. I told her that President Obama had won the Peace Prize that very day.

The boy was walking into the room at that moment and only heard a few words of the conversation. He asked, "Is he up for the Peace Prize?" I told him that he'd won it. The boy's eyebrows contracted. He looked puzzled. "Really? For what?"

Friday, October 09, 2009

Have you read To Kill A Mockingbird lately?

Last week (or maybe the week before) was Banned Books Week at the local library, and To Kill A Mockingbird was one of the featured books. I am not sure why I don't own a copy, but I picked up both a hardback and an audio book version.

Why don't I read this book more often? It is one of the best books, ever. Sweet, funny, heartbreakingly sad... It's a story of racial tension and prejudice in small-town Alabama in the 1930's. Of two kids growing up. Of bravery, honor, hatred and acceptance. There are wonderful characters. It's a huge book - not in size, but in all that the story holds.

I realized as I read that most of my memories of the story come from the movie. The book is, as usual, much much richer than the move - though the movie is very good and true to the book. Still, there's just not room for everything.

I probably listened to about a quarter of it and read the rest. The audio was perfectly read by Sissy Spacek. She captured the narrator's voice beautifully. Still, there were certain things I heard in the movie voices as I read.

This is not a book for kids even though the main characters are children. I can't wait till my kids are old enough for it. I know they'll be in high school then, but I plan on reading it to them, if they'll let me.

Cooking improv

Last week we were in the mood for fall-ish food so we made some pumpkin scones. They turned out really badly. Very bland and dull. It is not often any sort of baked good is disliked in this house of carbs, but these were not going to be eaten.

Still, I wrapped them up and put them in the freezer, thinking there had to be something I could do with them. I hate throwing out edible food, even if it's not very good.

Don't know where the inspiration came from, but tonight we enjoyed them as pumpkin bread pudding. It was pretty simple: just a basic bread pudding recipe with scones instead of plain bread, the usual eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla, and the rest of the can of pumpkin I opened to make the scones.

It came out custardy and rich and very delicious. Perfect for a night when half the family is a little sickly. The kids convinced me that it's healthful enough for breakfast tomorrow - as long as we leave off the whipped cream. Perfect, since the seminarian is having breakfast out tomorrow, and we need something special too.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Insomniac dog

Last night the dog couldn't get to sleep. So, I couldn't either.

Most nights he sleeps happily (or at least silently) on the "foot table" (kids' name for an ottoman) in the living room, or curled up at the end of the girl's bed. Sometimes he'll wander through the house at night, checking out each room before settling back down. I don't mind hearing him clicking his way through the house on those nights. It's kind of a comforting sound: the watchdog on patrol!

On rare occasion he will come into my room and whine, softly at first, then with increasing insistence (he is a very polite dog). That usually means "please let me outside for a minute." We do, and then it's back to bed for everyone.

But last night was different. He was cranked up and ready to party. He came into the bedroom and whined like crazy till the seminarian took him out. After they came back in, he was still wandering around, seeking attention. So after a while I got up and took him out. He seemed happy enough to be outside, but came in when I was ready to. But he wouldn't go to bed.

So I decided to treat him like one of my children (almost) and lied down on the couch next to his bed. He came up to me and stuck his snout in my face like dogs (and kids) will do when they want attention. Finally I convinced him to lie down. Seemed like we both slept, off and on, through the night. But every time I woke up and went to check the time - and maybe go back to my own, more comfortable bed - he'd jump right up and go with me, staying close.

He had just taken some hookworm medicine and I wondered if insomnia was a side effect. But tonight we stopped in at the vet to get some other medicine and asked. She said that he might have felt nausea from the medicine and was just uncomfortable and didn't want to be alone.

How about that? Just like those children.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

One-car family no more!

When we moved from Oregon to Pennsylvania two years ago, we came with only one car. We left behind the beloved yet too-old-to move 1988 Camry. (Actually, it wasn't beloved by me, but it was a good car, and paid for and all that, but pretty worn out and not worth moving.) We figured we'd try to live with one vehicle for a while. Maybe a couple months, no more than that.

After about a year we figured we'd had enough of the one-car life. Here in the suburbs, and without good public transportation, it's just hard. There are very few useful places we can walk: the post office, car repair shop (and that's a very good thing), a crummy yet overpriced grocery store and a deli. Oh, and a Mexican restaurant we've been to just once.

So we started looking for a car but nothing really turned up. Oh, we'd have opportunities now and then, but it never worked out. We didn't want to buy in a panic and make a mistake, so we tried to be patient. Of course we prayed about a car, and for patience till we found a good one. But it was getting pretty tiresome. I'd have to drive the seminarian to school most days, then go back and pick him up. We had to coordinate every activity carefully to be sure we could get everyone there and back again on time. We had to skip some things we'd like to have done because we just couldn't make it work. And, perhaps worst of all, we had to bum rides from people.

Two years went by and I alternated between hating my one-car life and loving it. Sometimes it was nice to send the seminarian off to school and be housebound; it took away the temptation to go out unnecessarily. But then there were those times when someone had to be disappointed because transportation just wasn't available.

Two weeks ago another opportunity came up. We tried not to get too excited about it, but it sounded pretty good. We were given the chance to drive the car for a couple of days and have our mechanic check it out. It was very cheap, because the owners believed that the car needed a lot of work. When the mechanic's report showed that the car needed only minor (and inexpensive!), we were able to seal the deal. And now we have another car!

It hasn't even been two weeks but I can feel that a huge burden has been listed off my shoulders. We don't have to choreograph every move we make. We don't have to bum rides and we can drop off and pick up one child from an activity without having to worry about leaving the other kid stranded at another activity somewhere else. (As in soccer practice on Monday nights, same time, different fields.)

This is one of those times when I can truly say that God cares about His people. In the big picture of life, there are many, many things worse than being a one-car family. He kept us going through the difficult times. We figure those deals that fell through were protection against future car troubles. (Of course we don't know that, but, looking back, we can see that.) This car we waited for was cheap, oh so cheap. A gift, really. And that's how we are looking at it.