Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Of Moms, Careers and Kids

I love Ann Althouse. Except when I disagree with her politically, which happens - but only on big important events (like elections - grrrr). Otherwise, the way she chops people up into small pieces as only a law professor can is just one of the most enjoyable things I can think of. Try this example: she's carefully flaying Peter Beinart for his piece on why there should be more women on the Supreme Court. Beinart says:

"And that’s why it’s important not just to have lots of women in positions of political power, but to have lots of women with kids. It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both."

And Althouse snaps back with:

"Hey, buddy. My career is not your messaging device. My birth canal is not a beacon of light to the unenlightened."

Glorious. Absolutely glorious. And 100% right, mind you. I'm not at work every day so girls can figure out "that women can do it all." Most of the time I'm at work because I want to be; sometimes I'm there only because I have to be. But certainly, overall, I didn't work through college and law school and 12 years of practice because I didn't like it or because somebody made me. I did it because I wanted to; I didn't do it to send a message, or to be a mentor, or to make things easier for anyone else coming along behind me. And guess what? If that attitude is good enough for every man with whom I've worked, then it's good enough for me.

A Funny for Today

From this site.

Things Found in the Laundry

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kids and Grades

I've been mulling this subject over for a while; I read a few unschooling bloggers (one of my favorites is here), with whom I agree about the enthusiasm required for learning if not always the method. And then PJ O'Rourke wrote a piece this week on the perils of letting the A students run everything, so I mulled some more (if it was colder I might have turned to mulled wine, but that's another post).

What do grades get our children? Do they matter except as an indicator (when they're good, at least) that knowledge has been absorbed and will be (God willing) permanently retained? Do they tell us this at all? I'm thinking mostly about grades in elementary school as I write this, but much of it would apply to middle and high school as well.

I think our children's grades provide two things for us as parents. First of all, bad grades can be a good warning bell that things are not working and that something must be done. What that something is - well, deciding that's called parenting, isn't it? But they can serve as a bellwether for what's wrong, even more than they indicate what's right. Why don't they always indicate that things are going right? I'll get to that later. Stay with me.

The second thing grades are good for is as currency. They can get children places that they need to go. Except in the strangest situations, schools expect a show of grades and test scores before they accept a child into a gifted program, or before a private school accepts a child at all. Like it or not, this is the way life will work for our children through grad school; getting used to caring about grades is necessary for this reason alone. In reality, these not-always-accurate but objective measurements of performance will likely dog our children in adulthood as well; have you filled out your self-evaluation at work, written your performance objectives, and so on and so forth, lately? Such a process doesn't always reflect the value someone adds to a company, but we're hard-pressed to think of a better way of meting out awards, raises, and (let's face it) the boot.

Other than these two necessary evils, why should we think about the grades our kids earn at all? Should we focus on them with our children as a goal in and of themselves? Actually, I don't think so. Or, if we do focus on them - talk to our children about them - we should explain in an age-appropriate fashion just what grades are good for and also what they are not good for. I think the goal is to get kids to focus on them enough to care that they are good, and then walk away.

Why? Because good grades in themselves aren't an indicator of the most important things in life. They don't measure creativity, intellectual curiosity, or critical thinking. Those three things are a thousand times more important to encourage in children than an 'A' on a science test. Enough of all three and you will have a seriously intelligent child on your hands - one who will be more than capable of handling whatever is coming in her future. What are they? The first two are the essence of finding something interesting in everything you encounter; they are the ability to challenge yourself to engage with the world at every turn, no matter how boring things seem to be at the moment. They are the desire to run down rabbit trails after an idea that fascinates you until you've exhausted it and yourself - all for the fun of doing so, not because anyone offered you a reward first. The last of the three comes after long experience with its friends, creativity and intellectual curiosity. Critical thinking comes when you've learned to absorb and process the world around you, and you find you can make comparisons, value judgments, and come to logical conclusions about what you've experienced.

These three traits are the hallmark of a mind that is alive to the value of ideas and constantly looking for new ways to experience the world. They are not found in children who have been taught only to figure out what will be on the next test and study for it; they are found in children who have been constantly challenged to explore the world around them and make it their own.

Unlike some (some unschoolers, perhaps?) I don't think school learning and these three traits are mutually exclusive, any more than I think sitting at a desk for a set number of hours a day doing legal work precludes me from being interested in the complicated workings of the life that is all around me. Yes, children - all of us - need to learn to figure out what's going to be on the next test, but we don't need to let that task consume us or define who we are in any way. Our intelligence goes much deeper than that, or it can if we give our curiosity and creativity enough room. As parents, our most important job in educating our children is to do just that.

Small Stuff for Tuesday

I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird and my, had I forgotten what an incredible book that is! Husband read it to One as his bedtime reading, and then I picked it up as soon as they were done. There are so many lessons to teach your children in there - and not just about race. "I love everyone", says Atticus. So should we all.

Tony Woodlief has a good piece on the human need for blood and mystery in faith, titled, of course, Blood and Mystery. What he said. Jen Fulweiler blogs about much the same thing in this post. What I like: "...the more I received the Eucharist, the more I understood in both my mind and my heart that this is indeed life-giving food for the soul. I've come to see the genius of God giving himself to us in such a primal way, and what an unfathomable gift it is that he strengthens us with his own physical being."

On another note: not only am I assaulted with a 10 year old's love of facial hair (he's starting comparing mustaches with classmates now - good Lord), I am attacked with a 7 year old's stories of the potty. Yesterday after school Two regaled me with a story - very important to him, I could tell - of how all the "spots" in the boys' bathroom were taken up by him and his friends. "And we all flushed at the same time! Isn't that cool?!" Help me.

My heart has been crushed by the departure of David Tennant from Doctor Who. The replacement, Matt Smith, looks and acts like Matthew Modine, Jr. To compensate, they've given him a better-looking traveling companion. I hope the demographics for the show were already 89% male, because that's where they're going.

Check out this great free podcast of children's books: Under the Grapevine. It includes several of the Narnia chronicles. Good stuff.

An obituary for you: Michael Stoop, a war hero, gambler, and the man who lent Lord Lucan the car in which he made his getaway. Whew.

In closing, a diet update: the diet actually disappeared 5 or 6 weeks ago, due to the ridiculous amount of work I was facing at the end of the fiscal year. I'm not sure if it will come back anytime soon; since stopping dieting I've lost another 1.5 lbs. I will be getting back to the gym soon; I liked the "getting in shape" part of the diet best. But unless I start to gain weight back, I'm not sure I'll start counting calories any time soon. If I can take an inch or so off a few places via exercise, I think I'll be happy walking into 40 where I am.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hook Bids Run the World

PJ O'Rourke on A Plague of 'A' Students.

My favorite quote - not necessarily related to the substance of the piece but priceless nonetheless:

"Nancy Pelosi needs a session on the ducking stool, of course. But everyone with an ugly divorce has had a Nancy. She’s vexatious and expensive to get rid of, but it’s not like we give a damn about her. Harry Reid is going house-to-house selling nothing anybody wants. Slam the door on him and the neighbor’s Rottweiler will do the rest. And Barney Frank is self-punishing. Imagine being trapped inside Barney Frank."

I love PJ O'Rourke.

HT: Instapundit.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Help in Time of Need

As I pointed out two nights ago at the end of one of my soapbox rants, I frequently need help in focusing on the positive nature of my beliefs, as opposed to my negative reactions to things in which I do not believe. A most wonderful source of such help is Ancient Faith Radio. Their thousands of podcasts are such a blessing, and never fail to educate me and calm me down, rather than stir me up to blather on sarcastically.

One of the best series I've listened to is At the Intersection of East and West, recorded as a Sunday school class taught by Dn. Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and a Deacon at St. Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, Tennessee - a church that converted together from Evangelicalism to Orthodoxy in the late 1980's (wow, huh?!). My new favorite episode is Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us: not just a discussion on Mary, but a wonderful discussion on the nature of salvation as a whole. Give it a listen; it's much, much better than my ranting and nonsense any day, believe me!

Not Ready

I'm not ready for this: One has the beginnings of a mustache.

Okay, I'm done crying. I can go on now.

It's not one of those straggly teen things - he's only 10, for Heaven's sake. But it is, undeniably, there. A rectangle of peachfuzz the exact same color as the hair on his head. It's as if a teaspoon of testosterone was poured in his ear and has mixed around inside to create ... this. It's so faint that I can't provide you with a picture; you have to get right up close to him to see it at all. But it's there and it's never going away.

Sob. He's my BABY. I may never get over this.

The funniest thing about it? He's proud of it. The night before last I heard Two singing at bedtime "One has a mustache, One has a mustache!" and I yelled at Husband for "telling" - but One proudly announced that he was the tattletale, and then happily accepted Husband granting him the nickname of "Luigi", and proceeded to stride around the room twirling an imaginary handlebar mustache.

Help! I am not ready for testosterone to enter my life in such a fashion! What am I going to do?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Through a series of links tonight I found this "small children's catechism", provided by The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. As you've already guessed, I don't like it. What gave it away? I know - it's easy: the words "reformed theology". My four regular readers know without a doubt that those words can turn me into a frothing maniac faster than you can say "Jean Calvin". But really, what's not to like about a catechism for little ones? Well, an example or two:

"7. What does God reveal in nature? His character, law, and wrath." Really? I thought it was his love of this world and his love of beauty. Remember the "wrath" part the next time your car gets dented by a hailstorm; God obviously has something to tell you, and you're not going to like it.

"19. What is sin? Disobedience to God's law." Law? Like Mosaic Law? I thought sin meant "missing the mark" - as in "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We try, we fail, we pray, fast, try again, and we, through God's mercy, sin less, but we still fall short and are in desperate need of grace. Sounds better to me than "disobedience", I have to say.

"22. Why did Adam's sin affect all men? We all sinned in Adam." Oh. I thought it was because his sin brought spiritual and physical sickness and death into the world - it destroyed the perfection of the earth. Does it have to have done more than that? That alone is pretty bad.

"23. Must all men die for sin? No, God elected some to life." No comment. How exactly would you explain the doctrine of election to a small child, anyway? "Honey, it might be you, but then again it might be just your brothers. You won't know until you're dead. Good luck, little guy."

"38. What are the traits of His church? The Word, discipline, and sacraments." I thought "the Word" was a reference to the second person of the Trinity - as in John: "In the beginning was the Word..." but I know Protestants like to refer to the Bible as the "Word" and nothing else. Discipline? How about holy medicine for the soul? Healing from the wounds of sin? A hospital for those who seek after salvation? Nope. Much better to focus on the word "discipline." I'm sure that helps, especially with little children who love to be disciplined.

I know. I rant and rave, and it's the least effective way of convincing anybody of anything. It's the online equivalent of me standing up on my soapbox in the park and shouting "hey, I'm a cranky, sarcastic and hard-to-get-along-with Orthodox Christian - want to come to church with me this Sunday?" When I care about something a lot, I tend to get sarcastic and prickly; others may cry, or something similar. Yes, my tendency is a sin. Will you pray for me? And no, that wasn't sarcastic, not in the slightest.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Miss Homeschooling

There. I said it. We only homeschooled for a year, when One was in first grade (3 years ago now) and I was happy when he returned to school. Hey, I'm happy now with our public school; the boys have fit in well and are glad to be part of the school community. It's a good school - a very good school - and we're blessed to be zoned to it. It's hard to find, especially in a public school: a good education, combined with art, dance, music, lots of recess time, a very involved PTO, a good attitude toward boys and their antics, students from over 40 countries. We couldn't ask for more from a school, especially a public school in one of the largest urban school districts in the nation. I'm not saying any of this to "protest too much"; it's all true.

But I miss homeschooling all the same. All that time that regular school takes up in nothingness could be so full with goodness! As good as our school is, the boys admit that it is quite frequently boring - waiting for the last person to understand the directions, to finish, waiting for everyone to hand things out and back in again - all the administrative time that drives teachers as nuts as it does the kids, I'm sure. If we could instead fill the days - in particular the time they are now at school - with more, we'd have so much more free time for the boys to explore on their own the things that interest them most. Right now, we do "enriching" activities after school: they do extra math work, they will be starting some extra writing work soon, they attend art class and One just completed his Saturday acting class, to which he is now completely addicted. And that means we're busy! Now I'm looking into music for the fall, and that will mean even busier - but they've never had music lessons, so how can I pass up a class that teaches them piano and how to make and play a dulcimer?

But where does it all fit? Where's the time to dig holes in the backyard for half the afternoon? To play four games of Scrabble in a row? To practice archery every. single. afternoon. in the backyard - if that's what you feel like doing? It seems as if there are four categories to the time kids spend: administrative baloney, workbook/pen and paper learning (like math), creative, fun learning (music class, reading history books because you love history, etc) and good old creative play (digging holes to China, playing Star Wars with your brother while wearing capes and cowboy boots, or doing someraults on the trampoline until you can't stand up). The first category, administrative baloney, is found in school, be it public or private. There is very little of it in homeschooling, and it's that wasted time that I long to be rid of.

Oh, and the fun of coming up with what to do! Mixing in the more disciplined math, grammar and spelling workbooks with fun history reading and science projects, taking the day off on a random Wednesday to go to the Science Museum just because your 7 year old loves dinosaurs so much, growing a garden together - it's all so overwhelming and at the same time so much fun. It's such a project, it's so much work - but is there any better project, any better work that can be done?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One on Stage

One made his stage debut today, in a play written and acted by the Saturday morning acting class he's been taking since January. He suffered from the obligatory case of stage fright last night, beating out a warm glass of milk and a Benadryl to stay awake until 2:30am, but he was still up and ready to go this morning, and at the performance he was just great. Best of all, he loved it - both the performing itself and the after-show adrenaline rush - and can't wait for the next play in the fall. Here he is with his co-players, in The Rhinestone Party:

As a mercernary spy, checking out the famous singer who is the center of the plot:

With his school classmate, P, demanding payment from the star:

His second character, the doctor:

The star:

Thumbs up once it was over - I like the way P is watching him and his big smile:

And out for Mexican food as a celebration:

And that's all there is - until next time, of course.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Did you know that "thinspiration" websites existed? I have to say that, until yesterday, I was blissfully unaware of them. Unaware that young girls were using the Internet to encourage one another in their pursuit of anorexia, or "ana" as they fondly call it. Here are a few, if you can stand to look: read all of these if you really want to be ill. this last one has this bit of wisdom I'm sure we all need to know: "Use oil free moisturizers when you moisturize, oil is fat!"

Moms of girls, even if your daughter is the healthiest person both emotionally and physically, block these sites with a net nanny - do something! These sites are poisonous.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is the Culture of Death

I've been blogging a lot today, but (sorry, y'all) I still have more to say. I've spent the day thinking about abortion doctors who kill children every day, along with Yemeni men who consider it an affront to their manhood not to force themselves on their pre-teen wives.

What have we become as a culture? As a species? We speak of nature "red in tooth and claw", but can anyone match the bloodiness of humanity, who kills its children - when it's not raping them first?

It is so clear that for Christians, this is not our home. We are here to learn to be more holy, to be more like the One who created us. And so we are forced to witness this brutality, this shame, and even as we witness it, to love those who perpetrate it. To show them Christ even as they show us Satan himself. To cry for their victims, to shelter and love the ones who survive their wrath, and to forgive them even as Christ has forgiven us. If all of that doesn't make us holier and more like Him, I don't know what will.

But still my heart cries out: come, Lord Jesus, come.

The Useful Idiot: A Field Guide

I used the phrase "useful idiot" in an earlier post today; it's one I've always liked. Since I'm in a political mood - thanks to tax day - I thought I'd write a little post about some of the most useful and idiotic people I can find. They are easy to spot, and it's far more fun to hunt them then it is to go out, say, birding. And you can do it from the comfort of your very own living room. Why not give it a try?!

Here's my first find; the one I like best in this piece is Jeffrey Hollender, the owner of Seventh Generation, an "eco-products" company. Hollender has this particular gem, that I think makes him the star of the article:

"I do feel that I should pay more taxes — absolutely," Hollender says. "While I don't like how the government spends the money I give them, I do feel that I pay too little."

Soooo. Not only does Mr. Hollender want to give more of his money away, he wants to give it to an organization with which he disagrees. Would he give his money to a lobbying group that supported the growth of responsible nuclear energy? No? Why not? Just because he's on the board of Greenpeace, an organization that thinks nuclear power is "evil"? But he says he's willing to give even more of his money to the government, even though he doesn't like how they spend it.

How do people like this make sense of things? How on earth do you come a point in life where you lack logic to such a degree that you can walk around spouting such nonsense? I have no idea. The only thing I do know: I need to find a new laundry detergent, since the stuff swishing around in my washer right this minute is making Mr. Hollender even more money - that he will eventually share with the government, of course.

Child Brides

Think it's tough to be you? Try being a Yemeni woman, where 50% of women are married before they are 18.

"An average of eight women die each day in Yemen due to child marriage, many of them in childbirth, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum."

And I don't have time to get a pedicure. Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Thoughts of the Eve of Tax Day

Some random asides:

Bill Whittle has some great quotes from the Founding Fathers on the proper place of government in our lives. My favorite is from Patrick Henry:

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”

I've done the taxes and Husband has paid the deficiency (poor Husband - at this time, yes, quite poor). I've also done the math, and discovered that 30% of our our yearly gross income goes right back out the door in taxes. Yes, I said thirty percent. That's higher than the 18% we spend on housing, the 11% we put away in savings, or the 6% we spend on our cars. And that, to me, is sick. It's wrong. It is, for lack of a better word, out-and-out theft.

As I noted on Facebook the other day, 47% of Americans pay no Federal income tax at all. If these people have no stake in the system, why do we continue to allow them to (effectively) run it? Why do they get to vote at all? Yes, I am suggesting that we tax "the poor". Anyone over the Federal poverty level should pay something, even a pittance, if only to remind them that it's their money the government is spending. If not, perhaps they should remain citizens but lose the right to vote. No representation without taxation? It has a ring to it ...

A related thought: we need to move Election Day to April 16th. No more of this November nonsense - we need to go to the polls with a very clear sense of how badly we've just been bent over the sink (pardon the vulgarism) and vote accordingly. This is a non-partisan desire on my part; let's vote to get rid of all of them, if they spend too much of what we've earned.

The boys and I will be at the Houston Tea Party tomorrow, having fun and taking pictures of the friendly crowd ... and any unfriendly crashers as well. Pajamas Media will be putting up a special gallery of the latter, who are also known as "useful idiots"; be sure to check it out. They'll also have coverage of the country-wide events. In Houston, AM700 will be covering the rally, with Sam Malone (if you remember him, you're as old as I am) as the emcee for the afternoon. See you at Discovery Green!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How Freshman Year

Who the hell does President Obama think he is? The president of the Five Minutes to Midnight club in his freshman dorm, from the best I can tell. Naive is really the kindest word for someone who thinks they can eliminate nuclear weapons from the world. "What kind of stupid?" is really more like it, but I'm feeling charitable today, so I'll stick with "naive". I thought I left people this stupid behind when I graduated from Colgate. Gah.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Red Belts

As of last night we have two red belts in the house. It's all part of our "safer neighborhood" program; my next door neighbor tests for her 2nd degree black belt soon, and with that and the gun ownership statistics on this street, we're just about ready for the apocalypse.

Here are some pictures of my wild, long-haired hippie boys and their mad taekwondo skills: