Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bioethics Conference

On a completely different note from most posts on this blog ...

Check out the two-day bioethics conference coming to Houston Baptist University at the end of April. The three keynote speakers are Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant; the Orthodox speaker is St. George's own Reader Herman, otherwise known as Dr. H. Tristam Engelhardt, Jr. of Rice University. I am hoping to be there - and you should be too! Even though I am not (obviously not) in the medical field I think it will be full of interesting information and discussion. Registration is $50 (clergy and students $30).

Monday, March 28, 2011

First Day of Swim

Yesterday was our first day to venture out to the Y for a swim. It takes at least a week of 80 temperatures to convince us that we're not going to freeze, and finally Two's begging to go swimming (he's been at it since January) was no longer for naught. As befits the otter he is, he took full advantage of it.

At first One was a little too tweenish to participate.

But he finally gave in and played with his brother, swam laps with his parents, and generally acted like himself.

After the swim we went out for tacos. Two's love of swimming got the best of him on the way.

But with dinner and a cookie under his belt he woke up fully and even took a run (okay, it was a jog) with One and me. Well, a 2nd clarification: One and I jogged, Two loped like a gazelle until he was too far ahead, then race-walked back to ask us if we were coming, and then loped ... well, you get the idea. All in all he must have done a mile more than One and I.

A good day was had by all. Spring is here to stay.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quote for Thursday

"These are all things which may very well be within that golden box marked “Divine Will.” ... [but] in our loneliness, we sometimes try to drag God down into our limited view of life: Black-and-white, Lord. Just tell me what to do. But just because WE see only two choices before us, let’s not forget that God is all-seeing, all-knowing. His Will is not a checklist of do’s and don’ts, but a living, fluid, powerful force that somehow, inconceivably finds its way into our puny seedling lives, nourishing us like the rain and making us grow and bear fruit."

From Simcha Fisher's latest post at the National Catholic Register. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lenten Perfection

Husband bought me this treat today while he was at Whole Foods, and I can't imagine finding a better treat to eat during Lent. It's vegan, raw, and gluten free --- and absolutely amazing. The raw coconut oil gives it a rich, creamy mouth-feel, almost like a flourless chocolate cake. It also has only 360 calories, which is not bad for a sweet. I wouldn't want it in place of my favorite dulce de leche cake cake from Pico's, but I'd eat in instead of anything else at the Whole Foods bakery, even when it's a non-fast day. Yup, it's that good.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Interesting Internet

Some links for a foggy Tuesday:

Megan McArdle in The Atlantic writes about how to raise the quality of the pool of teachers, including by making it easier for people to move in and out of teaching, and for teachers to move between schools and districts without penalty. While our school is blessed with many excellent teachers (some of whom have been in the classroom for years), one of the favorites in the Grass Widow household is Mr. S., who practiced commercial litigation for more than 20 years before embarking on a second career. I’d love to see changes that make it easier for more people to switch careers and become teachers later in life, as he has.

Katie Granju has a heart-breaking series of posts on her son, Henry Granju, who died last year from a drug overdose and assault. As hard as it is, if you have kids of any age, you need to read Henry’s story. We all need to know what can happen if our children get involved with drugs; I can’t think of a better way to do that than by reading Katie’s very open writing about what happens when a good kid gets involved with some very bad people. In an earlier post she admonished parents not to take lightly a child’s first experiment with any drug, and someone very close to me who has battled addiction for more than half her life has vociferously seconded Katie’s advice. Yes, it’s true: not every kid who tries drugs ends up like Henry. But all kids who end up dying way too young from drugs and their collateral damage had a first experience with drugs that was “just an experiment.” As parents we need to make sure those experiments don’t happen, or if they do happen, that we come down like thunder and make sure they never happen again.

On a much lighter note: my children would eat this. Yes, it does say “chocolate covered pickle.” And yes, the fact that they would want one does make me cry, just a little bit.

Want to learn more about what your kids are eating at school (as opposed to when they’re begging you for a fried pickle at the Rodeo)? Check out Bettina Siegel’s “School Lunch FAQs” at her blog, The Lunch Tray. Let me give you an old fashioned SAT word analogy to tell you how much I like The Lunch Tray: Bettina’s blog is to good information as school lunch food is to ….. carbohydrates, of course.

I posted this on Facebook already, but good news from HISD Superintendant Terry Grier: there will be no changes to the HISD magnet program this year. The Board was set to vote on a series of recommendations that would change the program, but they and Grier have decided that the current budget conundrum is a much bigger fish for them to fry than tinkering with a magnet program that more or less works. Much rejoicing in the Grass Widow house as our Fine Arts program lives to sing (and paint and dance) another day.

Finally, want to read just a little on Orthodox Christianity but have no idea where to start? Try The Word, the monthly magazine of the Antiochian Archdiocese. I am still working my way though the February edition (it’s sitting on my nightstand right now) and already the March one is available online. Oy, I’m behind again. What else is new?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Forgiveness and Trouble

Last night we went to Vespers to mark the beginning of Great Lent and to celebrate Forgiveness Sunday. After Vespers the entire congregation lines up and asks forgiveness of one another, one by one, with the words "Brother forgive me, a sinner" and the response "May God forgive us both." The lights in the church are dimmed, the altar prepared for Lent with the gold doors to it closed. All in all it is a moving and emotional way to begin the journey to Pascha, and Husband and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

The boys, however? Well, I have a feeling that, next year, the promise of a $20 each won't get them to crawl out from under their beds where they'll be hiding. You see, as each person asks forgiveness of the other, they hug. And kiss. And being mostly Arab, they kiss three times - left, right, left. Some make contact and others air-kiss, but suffice it to say we were all kissed several hundred times last night. The boys bore this stoically until Two found himself in the worst possible situation ever: a third grade girl of his acquaintance was headed straight for us.

"Look out, One. We've got trouble!" said the unforgiving imp, and he promptly hid behind my back until the danger had passed.

Forgiveness? Well, we're working on it. But I'm glad to say that with the boys, kissing has a long way to go before it's deemed acceptable. And I guess that's just as it should be.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Playing Catchup

It seems as if four million things have happened in the past week, and because of that I forgot to write a post about the ever-important attainment of the almost-black belts. Yes, both boys are now official black belt candidates; if they work their tails off for the next few months they will be eligible to test at the end of May. I have a fantastic picture of them with their master that I would love to post, but he's a little too social-media-adverse for me to do that to him. Instead I give you One, breaking 2 boards at once on the first try and then crowing about it:

Two wasn't able to break his board, but he did pass the test with the same score as his brother. He also put on a good show at the beginning of the test, when they warmed up with some calisthenics, including Two's speciality: push ups:

How anyone that small can do as many push ups as he can is beyond me.

This week has been easily as hectic as last, but only because the boys have taken turns being sick, staying home, and watching copious amounts of Stooges, Good Eats, King Solomon's Mines, and just about everything else they can get their hands on. There's really nothing like having a conference call with a client and politely explaining that, why, yes, that is the Harry Potter movie theme song in the background, but really, I've been working steadily all day and not watching movies myself - of course not. The long pause of disbelief that follows is something that I can live without, believe me.

Th-th-th-th-that's all for now, folks.

Joke for a Wednesday

An NEA member, the CEO of a Fortune Five Hundred Company, an elected public official, and a tea partier are sitting at a table. The tea partier, as a taxpayer and member of the private sector, bakes a dozen cookies and puts them on the table. The elected public official takes the 12 cookies and gives 6 to the CEO and 6 to the NEA member. The CEO and the NEA member wolf down all the cookies. The elected official pulls a gun on the tea partier and says “bake more cookies.”

And the moral of the story? Crony capitalism, where companies like GE and Goldman Sachs get money from the government, sucks . . . and so does crony political capitalism. Crony political capitalism is where government officials give higher salaries and benefits with taxpayer money to public employee unions in exchange for: (1) a cut of the wages coming back as political contributions from union dues; and (2) a ready supply of campaign workers and street thugs in the form of union members.

This crony political capitalism has lead to unfunded pension liabilities for public employees of over $2,000,000,000,000.00. That has to be dealt with by shared sacrifice. “Shared” means everyone gets to take a bite of the sh!t sandwich. That includes the NEA and other public employee unions.

Finally, considering that the average salary for teachers ($42k per year)—before factoring in the several months off per year, the very generous health care, and frequently guaranteed-benefit pension plans—now exceeds the average full-time worker salary in the U.S. ($39k), NEA members have far more in common with CEOs these days than with workers in the private sector: they both sit on top of pyramids taking income and benefits created by others.