Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Houston


Houston's official birthday is today, August 30th. Happy birthday to my wonderful town.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Antidote

To counter-act the poison Ellen Tien injected into the blogosphere yesterday, read this.

A little better picture of a marriage, yes?

HT Tony Woodlief

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Denver Scoop

If you're interested in the Democratic Convention, Lileks has been blogging from there all week. Since the Republicans are meeting in St. Paul (and Lileks lives in Minneapolis) I'm sure he'll be at their to-do as well.

Creating Kindergarten out of Whole Cloth

Two went to Kindergarten Monday, and he loves it. Every morning he jumps out of the car and runs to his classroom. In the afternoon his teacher puts him in the car with a "he did a great job today". Nevertheless, he's taken to "storytelling" about his days at school. This is one of his favorite habits, and boy, are his creative juices flowing this week! Until we let him in on a secret last night - that we would be meeting with his teachers next week to see how things were going -he really laid some whoppers on us. Our favorites were:

"I read 20 books today, all by myself."

"I counted to 10,000, and Ms. Letzel covered her ears to make me stop but I kept going."

"I read a book on sharks to the whole class, and everyone said they didn't want to learn how to read. They only wanted to listen to me."

I dunno - con artist or famous fiction writer? Where is he going with this particular "talent"?

Some Things Are Beyond My Comprehension

So after the boys and I arrived home, I locked myself in an Internet Bubble in my room while mom played with the urchins. When I finally came out, I heard:

"Does anyone have a Noah?"

"Does anyone have Jonah?"

"Does anyone have Adam and Eve?"

Yes, you guessed it. My mother has found Bible Go Fish cards. Why on Earth anyone would want such things I have no idea, but we're now "blessed" with a set. Hooray.

Honestly, isn't there a better way to teach kids about the fallen, complicated, yet faith-filled people in the Bible? These were people with deep flaws and yet deep love for God - better yet, He loved them deeply. Reducing them to one-dimensional, smiling figures on children's playing cards isn't going to communicate anything to anyone about the church's great spiritual heritage.

The Manipulators

My mom is visiting this week, helping to take care of the boys while I work and they (fitfully) start back at school. Yesterday afternoon she was trying to get them to clean the playroom and they were, as is their wont, resisting. Finally, she laid down the law: get to work.

One: "Grandmommy, you know, you used to be a lot more fun."

Two: "Yeah. You're the meanest grandmother in the whole entire world!"

Guess what? They picked up the playroom anyway. Where did they think I learned how to be the Meanest Mommy, anyway?

Bat-Sh*t Crazy Woman

Okay, I know I'm not alone in thinking this, but who in Heaven's name thought this woman had something important to say that we needed to hear? Who thought she spoke for anyone but 0.00001% of American women?

Oh my sainted aunt, is this chick selfish or what?

"We were groomed to think bigger and better -- achievement was our birthright -- so it's small surprise that our marriages are more freighted. Marriage and its cruel cohort, fidelity, are a lot to expect from anyone, much less from swift-flying us. Would we agree to wear the same eyeshadow or eat in the same restaurant every day for a lifetime? Nay, cry the villagers, the echo answers nay. We believe in our superhood. We count on it."

"No. Your husband is not your best friend. Your best friend is your best friend. If your husband were your best friend, what would that make your best friend -- the dog? When a woman tells me that her husband is her best friend, what I hear is: I don't really have any friends."

"We are also tickets with jobs and disposable income. If we jump ship now, we're still attractive prospects who may have another shot at happiness. There's just that tricky wicket of determining whether eternal comfort resides in the tried-and-true or whether the untried will be truer."

"Having choices is a cornerstone of strength: Choosers won't be beggars. "Thinking about divorce is kind of like living in New York City with its museums and theater and culture," a doctor friend of mine said. "You may never actually go to any of these places, but for some reason, just the idea that you could if you wanted to makes you feel better.""

Where did this woman learn about marriage - shopping at Neiman's? "Oooh, if I don't love this Prada bag I can take it back and get a Kate Spade one instead." Does she ever give one single thought to the fact that her husband is a person, complicated and interesting and most likely worth getting to know beyond his superficial habits? I doubt it, simply because it is obvious from this piece that she has no thoughts other than superficial ones - ones that flit selfishly across her brain much the same way that images of cheese, cats and naps fly through Lambchop's little head.

Marriage is so completely the opposite of what this poor woman thinks it is. In the end all I can say is: how pathetic.

Link compliments of Dr. Helen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Growing Up Nervous

We watched this video in church a year or so ago, and I've come back and watched it several times since. Take a minute, watch it, and then read on.

video

Video courtesy of: http://www.shalomauslander.com/

I grew up Christian, but with a similar God. He loved me - the songs at Sunday School told me that, but those songs didn't gibe entirely with the rest of the message. God was worried about my skirt - it might be too short. He was worried about my language - if I said "jeepers" we all knew I was really taking His Son's name in vain in my heart, and so when the word slipped out in Kindergarten I came home crying and prayed for Him to forgive me. Of course, I had to make sure I'd confessed all my sins before I prayed. God didn't listen to the prayers of those who had sin in their hearts. He only listened to clean people. So confess first, pray later. Or He'll close his heart to you, and everything you ask will be in vain.

The God of my childhood was also pretty picky about who was going where. Catholics, of course, were all going to Hell. They didn't have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ". Instead they worshipped Mary and the Pope, and portrayed Christ still on the cross, which really meant they didn't believe He rose from the dead (it was like some sort of secret Catholic code, that crucifix). Methodists, Episcopalians, random Northeastern sects - they preached a "social gospel", not the real gospel. They didn't put tracts in their Christmas cards, didn't have altar calls and sing "Just As I Am", and they even thought PG movies were okay for children. We all knew what was going to happen to them.

So I was scared of God. But at the same time, I knew in my heart that it was all wrong. That He did love me. After all, if He made me, why would He hate me? I shuffled through church as a child - kept my head down and kept moving. It was too confusing (and I was too young) to sort it all out. As a young adult, I stopped shuffling and started running. Whatever God was like, I really didn't want anything to do with Him. The farther I ran, the more confused I got. Did He want me back? Did He really love me? Or did he have some sort of fantastic punishment waiting for me? I waited for Him to stop blessing me, but He didn't. I did my best to screw up those blessings, but for the most part, they stuck. In the end, I found out He was out there, but He wasn't waiting to slap me with a bad case of boils. Instead, He wanted me to love Him, to follow His Son. I felt a relief and a joy that I never felt as a child. Yes, I was a complete incompetent. A miserable sinner. And He didn't care. Well, He cared, but He loved me anyway. And that's all that matters in the end.

Lately I've been reading Frank Schaeffer's Calvin Becker Trilogy. I've had to read the books one at a time and take a break between them - sometimes even put one down for a few days and walk away. The God in those books - the one who Calvin's mother torments him with - is all too familiar to me. I read the books laughing and shaking all at the same time. More than once I've put one down for the night and found myself in the midst of a panic attack. I'm glad I read them, though, because they've helped me further sort out the God that haunted my childhood from the God that comforts me now. They're a literary trip to the dentist for me - painful but well worth the trip.

I do not worship a God of fear and vengeance. I worship a God of love. And that's all I have to say about that.

Rhetorical Question

Are all Europeans such gormless snots as this guy?

"There were not many journalists from non-combatant nations present in the remote corner of Beijing where Japan played the US in the Olympic women’s softball final on Thursday night.
But a Scandinavian sat opposite me in the press room afterwards. We exchanged conspiratorial smiles: the Americans had lost and that always goes down well with everyone else at the Olympics.


In the main stadium around the same time, two US relay teams dropped the baton and crashed out of events they might have won. The smiles there, I understand, were less furtive."

Maybe my inferority complex was this raging in junior high, but I've actually matured since then. Matthew Engel, alas, has not.

Instapundit's link, as usual.

EEEEEK!

There's a skink in my house. And I don't know where it is. Even worse - I slept in here last night not even knowing it existed.

I need to move.

You see, this morning, while I was having a quiet, lazy Sunday morning, Husband says to Two, "Did you tell Mommy about the lizard?" No, he had not. Then Husband says "It was some skink-like thing; we found it in the corner by Lampchop's crate - last night while you and One were out."

Oh really?

"And of course you caught it and put it outside?", says I. "Oh no. We tried but it got away from us."

Missy, pray for me.

I am from the Far North. Where lizards don't live. Or snakes. Or much anything else creepy and slithery. I am genetically and environmentally unprepared to deal with a skink in the house. I am even more unprepared to deal with a Husband who is nonchalant about skinks in the house.

I don't know what to do. But I'm only taking my shoes off in bed from now on - I know that much.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The World Weary, Yet Curiously Beguiling, One

We went to school this week to go over One's work plan with his teachers. As we walked by the big window at the front of his classroom, One let out a long "aaaahh" of contentment.

Me: "What was that about?"

One: "The good old, familiar classroom. How nice it is to see it all again!"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Old But Good Quote

I was listening to No Doubt today and Hey Baby came on - it reminded me of when One was much smaller and we were riding in the car, listening to that CD. The song came on ...

"Hey baby hey baby hey ... all the girls say"

And One burst out with "Well, the girls at my school don't say things like that!"

I almost wrecked the car. And I started listening to different music after that. At least while the boys were with me.

Wuv, Twu Wuv

Exodus

That's what the boys are listening to right now. God bless my husband!

The Island of Bob

I had a report from my dad and step-mom this AM. They live on the central Atlantic Florida coast and were hammered by Tropical Storm Fay. Dad described the water in the street and surrounding the house as "rivers". The streets had at least 15" of water in them, their retention pond backed up and poured water into the subdivision - the only thing that saved their house was my dad's foresight to have the house built up above the then-current floodplain. With the house surrounded on all 4 sides by water (hence Bob Island), they just stayed put and hoped for the best. Thankfully it all worked out and nothing flooded. But they're as shell-shocked as we Houstonians were after Alison - he kept repeating "the rain just kept coming" when I talked to him today. They've sat out 2 hurricanes so far, but this has been the worst weather experience they've had. Thank God everything is okay.

Anyone have Florida Fay stories to share?

Governor Moonbeam

I love Jerry Brown. His politics may be farther left than mine will ever be, but he's honest - always has been - and that's not something you can say about most politicians. Now he's considering chasing after NY Democrat Chuck Schumer over the IndyMac bank crash.

"California's attorney general is reviewing a request by former employees of IndyMac Bancorp Inc to investigate whether a New York senator triggered the bank's collapse by releasing confidential information."

Go Jerry!

RSB Tour

Here is the first part of the tour schedule for Robbie Seay Band this fall. If you've never seen them, get off the couch and get yurself some tickets, y'hear!

In particular, if you're in Houston they will be at Taft Street Coffee House (home of Ecclesia) on Wednesday September 17 at 7PM.

Here's the band's myspace page, with some of their music to try out. And the band blog, mostly written by Robbie.

Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vaccination Frustration

I've written about this subject several times, but here's yet another article on the effects of free-loaders on the US vaccination program.

"Measles cases in the U.S. are at the highest level in more than a decade, with nearly half of those involving children whose parents rejected vaccination, health officials reported Thursday."

I don't get it. I just don't.

Dogs are Smart

Well, no kidding.

"Because of the way owners have selected smarter and more empathic dogs down the generations, these pets now appear to have a limited "theory of mind", the capacity that enables us to understand the desires, motivations and intentions of others, New Scientist reports today."

I'm going to ship Lamchop over so they can re-do the study. She'd mess everything up.

Fantastic Satire

This is great.

"Finally, never underestimate the "hedge of protection" you have heard so much about. When you are inside my will for your life, nothing bad will happen to you. If something bad does happen to you, you only have yourself or the devil to blame. But since the devil is no match for my hedge of protection, obviously, you did something to make me mad. Didn't I tell you not to do that?"

Thanks to Kristi Bennett for the link.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You Can Hear Me Far Away Again

Only this time I'm laughing:

http://rachellucas.com/index.php/2008/08/19/most-volatile-flame-war-ignitor-evercats-are-assholes/

"Someone needs to make a fancy hierarchical graph showing the statements that are likely to create the ugliest comment or interblog “debates” by which I mean train wrecks."

I can't say I agree with every point on her list, but I did almost fall out of my chair reading this and that counts for something.

Thanks to Anwyn for the link.

Blog Action Day: October 15

Kate just introduced me to Blog Action Day 2008, a day you can, as a blogger, focus attention on a globally important topic. The goal of this endeavor is "to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion".

I'm hopping on this train, and I hope you will as well.

This year the theme is Poverty. "Bloggers are free to interpret this as they see fit. We invite bloggers to examine poverty from their own blog topics and perspectives, to look at it from the macro and micro, as a global condition and a local issue, and to bring their own ideas, views and opinions on the subject."

Here is a list of post ideas, if you're wondering how to make this work best on your blog.

Let's go!

Monday, August 18, 2008

TS Eliot

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

Helicopter Parenting

Chinese style.

"The number of Chinese college graduates per year has nearly tripled in the last half-decade—from 1.5 million in 2002 to 4.1 million in 2007—which means more than 2 million grads a year end up with expensive diplomas, but no job. With so few top positions available and so many seekers, urban only children must study constantly just to have a shot. Out of Yanming Lin's five hours of schoolwork per night, four hours went to "voluntary" homework designed to boost test scores ... The extra homework is not required by the teacher, explains Lin. "But all the other students do the extra homework, so if you do not do it you will lag behind." At one top Beijing kindergarten, students must know pi to 100 digits by age 3. " [Emphasis added]

Link via Instapundit.

AGJ'WEFJKKLGHKS

Just a small word of advice: when you're stuck at work with nothing to do, DO NOT try to show off by reading Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People at your desk. Your nose and your keyboard will thank you.

The North Country

This is a distressing article about wind turbines being built in far north NY State - an area that has had a lousy economy for as long as I can remember, and is best known for a record number of prisons per square mile. I'm sure there's a statistic out there somewhere that says the prison population in some of these counties is far greater than the number of permanent residents.

Between wind turbines and prisons - it's a good example of the NIMBY-ism of downstaters in NY; they need somewhere to put unsightly things, and where better than a part of the state where none of them will ever go? I'm sure they all think they're doing the residents a great service. And to some extent they are - but the blessings are mixed to say the least.

Link to NYT article compliments of Instapundit.

I Just Couldn't Shut Up

Not that this a subject that is burning in my brain, but I generally have trouble keeping my mouth shut, so I decided to post something.

I will continue to keep mum about my job. No wallowing, in other words. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Phillippians 4:8. Yup, that's me. Well, at least I'm going to try.

Anyway, I was reading Lileks today and his usual dissection of Garrison Keillor's weekly column. While I did, two thoughts appeared in my head:

1. If hot, sticky air destroys self-righteousness, then I guess Keillior is expecting a lot of humility and lovingkindness from the Current Occupant these next few weeks. There's nothing like August in Texas to make one think "Steam baths? What a waste of money!"

2. Keillor only wants to put John McCain in that steam bath for 30 minutes in hopes of bringing on heart failure.

An Update

Acting on my mother's maxim that "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all", I've decided to shut up for a few days.

And my mother couldn't follow her own advice if you gave her a map - here's hoping I can do a little bit better job.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Conversation

As the minivan hurtles down the street on the way to evening church, the boys and I have the same conversation every week:

Me: This week you're really going to behave well at church, right?

Them: Of course, mom.

Me: No playing football in the Sunday School room, right?

Them: No football, mom.

Me: And One, no tackling Brian and wrestling with him.

One: Nope.

Me: And no climbing the teacher, right Two?

Two: I promise.

Me: And no throwing pillows at each other or at the other children.

Them: No pillows.

Me: And during art, you'll draw Jesus. Alive. Maybe healing the sick? Not dead people. You have to promise me you won't draw dead people. Or pirates. Or guns.

Them: Of course we won't.

Me: Good. I just know you're going to do so well this week. I just know it.

Rinse. Repeat next week.

Sigh.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Hate My Job

It's been over a week and I officially hate my new job. Okay, I know that will change eventually, but right now I am a misery.

I have no work. My internal clients don't know I'm here. No one will send them an email telling them I'm here. I don't know who they are or I'd send the email. I had to beg my boss yesterday to ask the people in this department who inherited my work when my predecessor left to give it back to me. So far, the response has been deafening. Deafening silence, that is.

I am not being paid. I am a contractor and it takes several weeks just to set me up on the billing system. Once I am set up on the system and can invoice the company it takes 30 days for those invoices to be paid. September 30 is looking optimistic for a first paycheck. Which doesn't make paying for groceries, car payments or babysitters very easy.

I miss the boys. I sit in one place at this desk for 9 hours a day. I have no one to talk to except my secretary. I WANT MY CHILDREN. I sit here thinking "don't cry don't cry don't cry" for hours at a time. To distract myself I surf, I post - all in contravention of the company's "fair use" policy, I'm quite sure. And every time I'm not touching the computer the screen saver comes on and I watch scrolling pictures of the boys and I want to run to the parking lot, get in the car and race home.

I hate this. HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT.

This has been your pity party for today. Aren't you glad you stopped by? :)

Free Will


"The creation of man whom God in His foreknowledge knew doomed to sin was the awful index of God's omnipotence. For it would have been a thing of trifling and contemptible ease for Perfection to create mere perfection. To do so would, to speak truth, be not creation but extension. Separateness is identity and the only way for God to create, truly create, man was to make him separate from God Himself, and to be separate from God is to be sinful. The creation of evil is therefore is therefore an index of God's glory and His power. That had to be so that the creation of good might be the index of man's glory and power. But by God's help. By His help and in His wisdom."

--- Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

Thoughts?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Re-Defining "Dead"?

As wonderful as organ donation is, this story about taking organs - specifically hearts - from infants less than 2 minutes after life support is turned off is certainly disturbing. Even more disturbing - this happened as part of a federally-funded study. James Burdick of the Department of Health and Human Services, which funded the study, has this to say: assertions that the babies were not dead [are] "fussy semantics" that do not "really make common sense." Hmmm.

"The whole area of organ donation relies on the public trusting physicians, in that they believe they won't murder them or commit homicide. They won't hasten their deaths," said Arthur L. Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist. "We ought not underestimate public unease."

Exactly.

My Possible Future

Well, I guess I know what I'll be doing if Obama gets elected (and his tax plan gets approved):

http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2008/08/is-obamas-new-tax-plan-war-on-women-or.html

I'll give you a hint: it doesn't involve paying taxes at a 54% marginal rate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kids and Money

My boys have slightly different opinions on money. One is pretty laid back about it. He doesn’t mind if he’s asked to pay for something special out of his hoard, but he can be a little acquisitive. Two, however, has a completely Godly heart about money. All of his money comes from his Dad, and he truly views it as a gift from his father – not something that became his when it was dropped in his piggy bank. Consequently, he loves to give it away. Last Christmastime he was up in his room for some time alone, then suddenly came downstairs with 2 Ziploc bags of change. “This” he said, dropping one of the bags in my lap, “is for church. And this (thud) is for Africa. Because there just can’t be any more poor people anymore. It has to stop.” We took both bags to church and made sure everyone knew one was his “tithe” and the other was for Africa – read Advent Conspiracy – and that was that.

This past Sunday Chris, our pastor, gave an update on the work Living Water has been doing in Liberia with the funds we raised last Christmas. I told the boys the news: Sa, the pastor we’re working with in Liberia, can no longer find a person in Mt. Barclay region not drinking clean water. The boys cheered and rejoiced as the minivan wound its way home from church. Last night I showed them the Living Water video I’ve posted here. I also told Two that his money last Christmas was a part of that good news – the children in Liberia were drinking clean water because Two’s money combined with everyone else’s to make this possible. But, I added, there were still lots of parts of Africa and the world without clean water, so we could look forward to putting our money together again this Christmas to help. Two immediately headed for the stairs. And once again, there are 2 big bags of change on the counter, except this time they’re both for Africa. And, he says, when he’s done with Africa and everyone has clean water there, he wants to find money for India, and Mexico, and Guatemala, and “anywhere else I can find where people drink dirty water.”

This generous child amazes me. And shames me and delights me and encourages me. Father God, give me the wisdom as his mother to open his heart even further to giving himself away for You.

A Good Muddle

What with the Olympics in China and Russia stomping on its neighbors, it's been the week of the despotic dictators. Feels almost like the 80's again. Then again, as I've said before, I'm a Miracle girl, so to me there's a natural connection between the 2 subjects.

The more I read and hear about the perfection of these Olympics - the sublime and precise opening ceremonies in particular - the more I keep thinking of this quote from what was, for Agatha Christie, a bit of a potboiler. Nevertheless, it's a favorite:

"Why do you decry the world we live in? There are good people in it. Isn't a muddle a better breeding ground for kindliness and individuality than a world order that's imposed, a world order that might be right today and wrong tomorrow? I'd rather have a world full of kindly, faulty, human beings, than a world of superior robots who've said goodbye to pity and understanding and sympathy."

--- Agatha Christie, Destination Unknown

Amen.

Love and Smells

This is so fascinating - I heard it on BBC News on the way to work and it's written up in The Times as well. As the headline says:

"The Pill may put you off smell of your man and ruin your relationship"

Read it. Seriously.

"Commenting on the latest study, the researchers said that it could indicate that the Pill disrupts women’s ability to judge the genetic compatibility of men by means of their smell.
They said that this might not only impact on fertility and miscarriage risk, but could even contribute to the end of relationships as women who stop or start taking the Pill no longer find their boyfriend or husband so attractive."


Definitely one to file under "whodathunkit?"

Advent Conspiracy

You'll notice a new widget on the right hand side up top - it's for Advent Conspiracy 2008. Click on it and check it out.

Advent Conspiracy is a collection of churches dedicated to turn consumerism on its head at Christmas. Instead of filling our homes with material gifts for one another, Advent Conspiracy challenges people to give money away to those in need. One of the big charities supported by this effort is Living Water International, and organization based here in Houston that drills wells in the developing world.

Last year over 1,200 churches participated in Advent Conspiracy. I'm excited to see how many take up the challenge in 2008.



This is a Living Water project that our church helped support. Not only does clean water change everything, God changes everything.

If you want to watch more: http://www.youtube.com/user/lwateri. One of the most moving ones is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXUfVzpcSZM.

Blessings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Here is a thoughtful article on dropping the bomb on Japan to end World War II.

“Yes, no more Hiroshimas. But to take the atomic bombing of Japan totally out of context and use it to highlight one nation or one city’s suffering is morally offensive. The war with Japan, with its racial overtones on both sides as well as the undeniable cruelty and barbarity by the Japanese military, should have been ended the second it was possible to do so. Anything less makes the moral arguments surrounding the use of the atomic bomb an exercise in sophistry.”

I have to say that, even through the Cold War, I never lived in fear of nuclear weapons or what could happen in the event of a conflict. I was born too late for the “duck and cover” nonsense of the Sixties, and consequently that fear of annihilation never intruded on my childish innocence. As a parent now, I want my boys to live in the same kind of bubble. They know the world can be a bad place – they know that poverty, violence and death exist – but they don’t understand that there are weapons out there that could wipe out existence on such a grand scale. I don’t want them to have that knowledge until they are old enough to cope with it. For Heaven’s sake, I have a 5 year old who has nightmares if Jonny Quest is too scary. He doesn’t need to grapple with the thought that life could be erased from the Earth and leave nothing but shadows on pavement.

As far as the war is concerned, I am comfortable that it ended as it did. In the 20/20 hindsight of history, it seems likely that it was the most humane ending to a horrific war. I’ve spent much more time studying the European side of World War II; the Pacific Theater frightens me. It’s too big – spread so thin over so much territory – and again too small – thousands of casualties to take an island as small as Iwo Jima (10 square miles: if you live in Houston, that’s 5 West U’s). The vicious nature of the combat in the Pacific, the impenetrable jungle, the tropical diseases – all of it combines into something worth paying a terrible price to end.

Faked Crowds

Only an authoritarian country would (1) call in fake crowds when faced with poor attendance, and (2) have those "fans" dress in identical shirts. The latter reminds me of the "plain-clothes men" in Roman Holiday.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2545531/Beijing-Olympics-China-drafts-in-spectators.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2546555/Beijing-Olympic-supporter-squads-drilled-in-the-art-of-diplomatic-cheering.html

Georgia off the Map

Georgia's map is blank on Google. Hmmmm.

http://jammiewearingfool.blogspot.com/2008/08/hmm-georgia-blank-country-on-google.html
Link via Instapundit.

The US media has been eerily silent on the recent situation in Georgia; it was a welcome change to listen to BBC News on the way to work this AM and actually here a discussion going on.

But the US media has Michael Phelps to talk about, so I guess they're too busy ...

UPDATE: At 1:00pm today the Headline News anchor referred to the country as "the former Republic of Georgia". Poor reporting, or is the teleprompter operator rooting for Putin?

UPDATE 2, 7:15 PM: From what I've read today, people are suggesting that (1) this map never had any more information on it or (2) Google took down the information to avoid helping anyone in the conflict. No clue what's true, but interesting ideas both.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I Am

In an earlier post I discussed what I think is the unfortunate trend of books that cater to boys by basing themselves on potty humor. I still don't like them; I squash enough potty jokes each day to start sending the opposite message to the boys by giving them "parent-approved" reading material full of superheroes in underpants.

Nevertheless, when Kevin Bolger commented that I needed to stop picking on his book, Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger, I did as he suggested and read the except on his website. And I like the book. It's well-written. It's silly. It's funny. It's good.

So now what I don't understand is: why the farts? why the boogers? Why pander to children at all? One has laughed himself sick through several Roald Dahl books; last time I checked none of them had the word "poop" in the title. He loves Clarissa Claridge's Hiccup books, and the potty humor in them is also close to non-existent. Yes, kids (especially boys) love bathroom humor. And men in the 18 to 25 year old demographic love full frontal nudity in movies. But you don't have to resort to potty humor (or a potty title) to write a funny book, any more than you need full frontal nudity to make a sexy movie. So don't. And I think you'll find more people will read your book, not fewer. I suspect so anyway.

Hot Hot Hot

Is this supposed to surprise anyone?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Things I Have Learned

In the spirit of being a lazy blogger tonight and stealing all my ideas from one person, Michele has another great post on things she has learned: a big victory: things i have learned.

Here is my list:

  • Don't rub hot sauce in your eyes [thank you to Jonah Goldberg's dad]
  • When someone talks incessantly about how stupid everyone else is, they think you're stupid, too
  • True love accepts you for who you are and hopes for the best
  • Women lawyers are crazy - more likely than not, anyway
  • I don't have to understand every word in the Bible to still believe in God
  • Things in my life don't have to make sense, and I can still believe in God
  • Reading a mystery novel a second time is okay, as long as you're not completely sure you remember whodunit
  • Sheets and towels should always be white
  • Never let anyone shorter than you take your picture
  • There is no shame in driving a minivan
  • Doctors don't know any more about their job than you know about yours
  • No tombstone ever read "valued employee" or "worked harder than anyone else"
  • Secretaries rule the world, so be nice to them
  • When your son tells you he "washed really well with soap", don't believe him
  • If your child throws up a food at the table, don't bother feeding it to him again
  • There really is such a thing as Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Sons love their mommy more than you could ever imagine

Do you have a list?

Teens and Heroin

Michele Catalano writes a great article about why more and more middle and upper middle class white teens are turning to heroin.

"So here was this generation of kids who were led to believe they were each the most special person on the planet. They were kept from harm, kept from failure, kept from any kind of mental anguish. When these kids hit 16 or 17 years old and life started taking on some emotional dramas, and maybe they started to realize they might not get into the college of their choice, an interesting result of how these kids were raised emerged: they have no coping skills. These kids were never taught how to handle duress. They were not taught what to do when things don’t go your way because things always were made to go their way. The pressure their parents put on them to succeed, the normal pressures of applying for college and facing life after high school, together with the realization that they are not special snowflakes and there are thousands of kids just like them out there, all vying for a place in that perfect school, caused a crash and burn for a lot of these kids."

I think she makes a great point. Our instincts as parents tell us to protect our kids at all costs - you look at them for the first time and you just know: you'd throw yourself in front of a speeding bus to save them. But so many parents take that natural protective instinct - the one that keeps you from killing them after they've painted their room with poop - and distort it until it does much more harm than good. We need to let our kids fall down, we need to teach them how to solve their own problems - and we need to do these things early and often. We're raising adults, not children, and in the end we have to equip them to be adults. As unpleasant as that job may be. Because it's what we signed up for.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Lads


The boys just spent an amazing week at VBS with The Lads, a Christian kids' band from New Zealand. This is the second summer they've come to perform at VBS, and they do a fantastic job. They stay all day, all week with the kids - play for the 3 year olds as well as the older kids, act in skits, and generally goof around and get all the kids to absolutely love them. We ended the week with a concert tonight, and the boys (especially One) were jumping and dancing all over the place.

If you get a chance to see them and bring the kids - take it! You won't be sorry. Their message is fantastic and the music is pretty darn good at the same time. I can't say enough good about these guys.

Quote for Friday

Two (who else?): "Dad, you need to take a rest. I've been saying this for years."

Don't ask for context. There wasn't any.

Bad Books Make for Poor Readers

Although I'm usually the one hawking the idea that young boys need to read more, this article in today's WSJ disturbs me. Why? Because I don't think you should sacrifice quality material in order to get boys to read: I don't believe you have to. If the choice is between my 8 year old reading Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger and not reading recreationally at all, I think I'd go for the latter. At least I'd have the chance later on to introduce something good and fun, rather than have my son get addicted to the literary equivalent of daytime television.

Think of it this way: do you remember when you were starting to feed your baby solid food? Everyone warned you: veggies before fruit, right? And maybe you compromised and did the orange veggies before the green ones, but it made sense. You got him to like foods that taste good and that he needed to eat before you gave him the sweet treats. You didn't say - oh, I want my baby to like solid food, so I'm going to start with the yummiest, sweetest foods I can find, just to make sure he likes eating. No, not when you knew he was also going to have to go through life eating broccoli, you didn't.

The same thing should be true with books. It's not just about getting you child to like to read. It's about teaching him to recognize and value well-written, interesting books. That's a much harder job, but it's a more rewarding one in the end.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back to Work

I survived my first day back at full time employment - I have to say I was a little surprised. I overslept (set the alarm wrong) but didn't burst into tears - just got in the shower and ready as fast as possible. Thankfully the other attorney in the office, who has to "sponsor" me until I get my paperwork completed and a badge issued, didn't show up until just after I got there, so we met in the lobby as if we'd planned it. Whew!

It was a good day, if quiet. I think it will be busy as things get going, but since it's a small outpost of a much larger legal department it will never be frantic, with people running around all over the place (and me running around too, trying to look as worried and important as they look). The boys took the first day as well as can be expected - they had VBS and swimming to distract them. They were furious that their grandmother told Two (1) to "shut up" when she was on the phone and (2) that he would look different than all the other Kindergarten boys because of his long hair. They tattled on her to me tonight at bath time. She has them again tomorrow and then we have nice, kind, sweet young women coming in to take care of them all day every day until school starts. It's good to be reminded now and again that the boys don't need to spend any more time alone with their grandmothers than they already do.

As for school-year care - God is amazing! He is so good! I was without a nanny to pick the boys up after school as of Tuesday, and now I have 2 absolutely perfect fits! One woman can work M-Th and the other, who just needs a little bit of work (she's in college and raising a little one), will take them on Friday afternoons. They are both sweet, fun, patient women - I couldn't be happier! What an amazing blessing!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shakespeare

Archaeologists have found The Theatre in Shoreditch, where Shakespeare staged his first plays:

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080806173611.55jwcsq3&show_article=1

Oh, this is such great English major dorky excitement - I can hardly stand it!

Quote of the Night

I spoke to my sister in law a while ago - she has 2 girls and a new boy. Her middle child is 2 1/2 and you can tell that until recently she lived in a female-centric household:

To my brother in law: "Daddy is a very bad girl!"

To the dog: "Bob, you are a very bad girl!"

I hope she grows out of this before her little brother gets old enough to understand her - otherwise he's going to be a little confused ... :)

Beyond Tacky - How Fun!

These religiously-themed gift items are an absolute riot:

http://timesonline.typepad.com/faith/2008/07/bad-taste-belie.html

There's something for everyone. For my Baptist mother (who prevented my dad from teaching me to play poker, even for pennies) in case she changes her mind on the horrors of gambling:

For your favorite Catholic, a Virgin Mary Memory Stick [note to self: tell Joe he needs one of these]:

Or just for anyone you know who might have been a little more sinful than normal lately:


Shop early for Christmas!

Nothing to Say

Well, I haven't posted today because ... I have nothing interesting to say.

We went to lunch today with friends - Chick fila, very chi chi - and one of my friends said that when she asks her husband what he's thinking about and he says "nothing", he means it. She was amazed, because usually things fly through her head at all times (she's a mom of 3, so that would be normal). But today I feel like her husband:

What you thinking about, Tare? Nothin'.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rain. Yawn.

So far the "storm" has been singularly unexciting, thankfully. We're getting much-needed rain (so needed the floody parts of my backyard still aren't floody) and the temperature is so cool the AC hasn't switched on all day. We may have some wind later on, but we're SW of downtown and the wind predictions here are pretty mild. Still, I'm waiting until mid-afternoon to go grocery shopping.

Here's our level of excitement for today:

Trash pickup as usual:


Dry cleaning guy has been here no later than usual:


Husband's office is open today and the boys have late-afternoon taekwondo still scheduled. So far a pretty good day.

Waiting for Kindergarten

I just read this article about how "redshirting" for Kindergarten is a bad idea for so many reasons. There is so much wrong with it I don't know where to begin. But that won't stop me:

1. the author says that holding back upper middle class kids makes it harder for low income kids who don't get held back. So remember: your job as a parent isn't to raise your child, it's to raise everyone else's, too.

2. how many public schools do you see these days with the real income disparity that the author discusses in #1 above, anyway? Oh, I know - look in Washington DC, where all those good-hearted and caring politicians take a stand for public education by sending their kids to local schools and not somewhere like St. Albans.

3. the author somehow forgets how to do Kindergarten math by saying that starting your child at an older age means fewer years of school for him/her. Huh? K-12 still means K-12, right? I count 13 years - what do you get?

All in all, a foolish article about trying to further regulate parents' ability to choose what's best for each of their children. Don't waste your time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

First Blog Train Leaving the Station

Let's talk about me, since that what Kelsey said to do in this great, linky, first-ever Blog Train:

1. I am an idiot, since if you clicked on Mr. Linky you thought this post would have something to do with cheese. Why does Mr. Linky save that information? It makes me sad.

2. I live in Texas and I love it, even though it is "stinkin' hot", as my 8 year old says, and even though our city is famously ugly for its lack of zoning and love of strip malls.

3. I take pictures to prove it's not as ugly here as you would think. I post them here.

4. I'm about to go back to work full-time and I'm scared half to death. I've been working part-time for 3 years from home and I'm not certain I remember how to put on make-up. What will my new office-mates think?

5. I have a crush on Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood, even though (a) I'm happily married, and (b) I know he's not my type.

Stormy Weather

For the 3 of you who read this and don't live in Houston (or actually in my house), yes, we're having a tropical storm. Or a hurricane. And ... we don't care. The boys' VBS is cancelled for tomorrow, but otherwise, Husband's office is open, trash pick-up is still scheduled, life is normal.

If things get floody I'll have pictures tomorrow.

Strange Laundry Facts

A few weeks ago I stopped using dryer sheets with my laundry. Instead I use a 1/2 cup vinegar in the wash cycle and another 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle of the washer. So far so good. There is no vinegary smell when everything is dry, and it's all relatively soft. The weird thing: the laundry takes less time to dry and there's less lint than there was with the dryer sheets.

I have no idea why this is so, although I'm sure there's a logical quasi-scientific reason for it. I'm just glad: less dry time and less wear-and-tear on our clothes sounds fine with me. One more good thing: the vinegar cuts the soap to such an extent I no longer have to double-rinse our clothes, so we're saving on water use as well.

If you don't like the smell of vinegar but you'd like to try this anyway, add an essential oil to the rinse portion of vinegar - something loud like peppermint - and you won't smell the vinegar even when the clothes are wet. Pretty cool, hmm?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

KABOOM

I saw this headline on the Houston Press and all I could think of was my stove exploding:

AGA-BOOM

Sunday Quote

Two to Dad at lunch: "I'm a ketchup boy and you're a mustard man."

Cue The Beatles ...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

IOC and China: Blood Brothers

Here's a post from Instapundit on the Olympics - no big surprise here:


"STRATEGYPAGE ON CHINESE SPYING DURING THE BEIJING OLYMPICS:

In preparation for the August Olympic Games in Beijing, China has installed hardware and software in all hotels, to make it easier for state security to monitor foreign visitors that use the Internet. Some foreign owned hotels leaked the documents (orders from the Chinese government to install the systems) to U.S. government officials, who made it public. The foreign owned hotels in Beijing were threatened with closure if they did not comply.
Years ago, the Chinese government promised there would be open access to the Internet during the games. This despite the fact that the Chinese Internet is designed to be easily monitored by a huge (over 30,000 people) bureaucracy that does nothing but monitor Internet use (and imprisons those who say anything the state does not approve of.)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has apologized to member nations for China's failure to allow free access to the Internet during the games.


I won't be going, and I don't plan to watch. The Olympics are a fount of corruption and chicanery anyway, upholding no ideals and promoting no good ends anyway. Plus, they're boring."


To all of that, all I have to say is AMEN!

I'm Screaming Again

Why? Because One and Two are awake, and it's 12:08 AM. Husband is calmly reading Life on the Mississippi to One, and Two is perusing seven or eight books in his bed. Am I in any control of this situation? Nope. None whatsoever. If I could drink, I'd be 3/4 the way through a bottle of red wine right now. Maybe drinking it straight from the bottle while sitting on the kitchen floor. Damn antidepressants - they don't let you have any fun.

UPDATE, 12:20 AM: I just walked up there and dosed their sorry selves with Benadryl. Now we'll see who wins this battle! If that fails to work maybe I could just give them the red wine ... No, no - I have a Bar license to think of and getting arrested would probably hurt my ability to practice law. Oh, and there's that whole losing-custody-of-the-children thing to think of too. Better to stick with the OTC medication. ;)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ouch!

What hurts more than stepping on Legos? Mashing down on one of these guys. They're almost the same color of the wood floor (at least for a woman who refuses to wear her distance glasses around the house) and when your bare instep meets one of these head on - yowie!

We try and try to keep all toys in the playroom, since we're lucky enough to have one. Husband is a big enforcer of this rule, but I get lazy about it. And then my bare feet pay the price.

But little boys need soldiers, so I don't have the heart to throw them away. Maybe I need to just wear my Birks more often ...

Picking Schools

How did you pick your child's school? If it's public, did you have a choice, and, if so, did you look at your public school closely before you decided "hey, cool - free and great! we have it made!"? If it's private, how many places did you look at? What made you pick the one you did? Finally - home schooling? There's tons of great reasons for that - what are yours?

I ask because we've had such a strange journey with schools for the boys - I've written about it before, but I haven't talked much about where we are now and why we are there. Here is our story:

As I've said, we pulled both boys out of school for the 2006-2007 school year - One left and officially home schooled first grade with me from November 1 on, and Two hung on until March and then left. Although we liked home schooling - and it worked - we still wanted to give school another try and see if we could find something that fit the boys and allowed me to work. So, as it turned out, Two spent this past year at a spectacular pre-school, and One went Montessori.

Now they both go to school together: starting at the end of this month, One will return to his Montessori classroom as a third grader and Two will start Kindergarten at the same school. Montessori has been such an amazing success for us, and like most great ideas, it came about in a very round-about way.

Their school is 13 miles from the house, and I'd heard of it but never visited. I wasn't even interested in Montessori; I had a lot of misconceptions about it - the biggest of which was that it wasn't very good for boys. I was near their current school looking at a Catholic all-boys school (!) and drove by the Montessori school on the way back to the freeway. You can barely see it from the road, but I spotted it somehow and suddenly decided to swing the car around and stop by. I wound up staying and talking to the admissions director and later returned for 2 classroom visits. After the visits I actually decided the environment wasn't for the boys, and although we'd already put in applications the subject was dropped.

Last fall Two went off to pre-K and One started at a small cottage school at the edge of our neighborhood. One's first couple of days were rough but we figured it was just transitional. So we hung out, but I still, somehow, had enough sense to call the Montessori school and ask for help. One's situation deteriorated quickly; the children were given lectures by the middle school teachers after the school fired the elementary teacher (One couldn't write fast enough and got nothing out of it). The owner's daughters hated him; the youngest ransacked his locker while the fat middle one sat on One to stop him from interfering. Finally, the Montessori school called: they had a spot for that year and could we come for an interview? The minute One and I walked into that classroom I knew it would work. One and the teacher bonded immediately, and we left with light hearts. He switched over the next Monday and has loved it ever since.

I'm not sure in retrospect why I was so worried about Montessori not fitting our boys. The combination of freedom to explore so many subjects along with the structure of the teaching methods has been exactly what the doctor ordered. Also, the fact that subjects like math are covered in so many different ways helps keep One interested, and also means that if he doesn't get it so well one way, he'll pick it up another. Two made so much progress last year I know he is ready for Kindergarten in this stimulating and challenging environment.

I love watching how school has matured them - it's helping them to grow up, to stretch their imaginations and work out what they like best. It is truly a joy to have found the right school, one that does all those things that school should do for our children.