Thursday, January 22, 2015

Twins...sort of

Last night I noticed that dd7 had been growing again. In fact, I put her next to dd10--who is not a short girl--and realized that they appear to be the exact same height now.

How did I get "twins" 2.5 years apart? I know children grow at different rates, but isn't it a bit extreme for a seven-year-old to be handing clothing "down" to her ten-year-old sister?

Still, the realization that they share so much DNA yet still are quite different in some ways is a valuable one that ties in with our biology studies for the next few weeks. We will be focusing on genetics.

UPDATE: One of the biology topics we studied today was sexual vs. asexual reproduction. Afterward dd10 did her 1/2 page of Bible reading, which coincidentally was the story of Lot's daughters getting their father drunk and using him to impregnate themselves. She couldn't bring herself to narrate a summary of her reading. What a pity Lot couldn't just clone himself after his wife perished.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


My baby's fever is now mostly gone, but she has developed a rash. Normally, this wouldn't be a cause for too much alarm. Just rest, fluids, watchfulness, making sure there wasn't too much detergent residue on her onesies, etc. Unfortunately, I also get to worry about the possibility of measles.

While the odds of her having measles seem pretty low, they're a lot higher than they should be because of 1) the trend to refuse vaccinations and 2) the recent measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. While Colorado has only had 1 reported case from the Disneyland outbreak, that was a woman who sought treatment at a hospital near our home. We regularly go to the supermarket closest to that very hospital. My baby is old enough to sit up in grocery cart seats but not old enough to have received the measles vaccination.

Measles was essentially eradicated in the US in 2000 except for imported cases, but now it keeps spreading domestically because not enough Americans get vaccinations for themselves or their children. I disagree with most reasons to refuse the MMR vaccination, especially in light of Wakefield's fraud, and I'm very displeased that there is a chance that my baby could have contracted a preventable disease that is known to kill or seriously injure many.

UPDATE (1/19/2015): No worries about baby. Her rash is disappearing quickly. After consultation with Dr. Internet and experienced siblings, we have concluded that she had roseola.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Today my children made a fasces, a bundle of sticks with an axe in it that has been used as a symbol of government power for thousands of years. Here's a picture. (Rubber bands are a very useful invention.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sick baby

My seven month-old baby is ill. I think it's a cold because she's been snotty. But she definitely has a fever. That means lots of holding and nursing. She's still pretty active, so we just keep monitoring her and taking her temperature once in a while. I'm fairly sure she's not too badly off--she just energetically turned towards the TV screen when the opening song of Dr. Who came on.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Belief vs. Faith

In German, the word for "faith" is "Glaube." In German, the word for "belief" is also "Glaube." Somehow in English, we've ended up with two different words for the same concept: the act of believing, or accepting that something is true. So "faith" often gets treated like an inert noun, a bit like "church" or "religion," while "belief" retains more of an apparent connection to the verb "to believe."

I think it is unfortunate that the English word "faith" isn't obviously linked to an action verb. Faith is a choice, a voluntary acceptance of something that isn't proven to everyone to the point of being considered a "fact."

This subject is on my mind because yesterday, some very bad men thought they acted on God's errand when they slaughtered the staff of a satirical magazine in France. They appear to have acted on three main beliefs: 1) Muhammed was a Prophet so holy his face can't be drawn, 2) any disrespect of Muhammed is blasphemy that merits the harshest punishment, and 3) God approves of them forcing adherence to their own beliefs in brutal ways.

Addressing these beliefs in order and attempting to do so within a framework acceptable to faithful Muslims, 1) Muhammed was drawn by good Muslims for centuries. The Quran does not prohibit drawing Muhammed. Only some hadith do, and they, unlike the Quran, are not accepted by all Muslims. If Muhammed was the last prophet, as Islam claims, then who cares if some imams a while back came up with a new restriction on permissible illustrations? Those imams don't speak for anybody but themselves because they are NOT prophets.

2) Disrespect of a cherished individual or object can be emotionally painful to see and hear (I personally never will watch The Book of Mormon musical), but it doesn't justify violence in response. Even if one follows an "eye for an eye" retributive philosophy, disrespect only justifies more disrespect in turn. Disproportionate punishments--such as execution for a mere verbal insult--is something most of the civilized world considers barbaric, and people are not bound by a book--the Quran--that they don't believe in.

Which leads me to my last point. 3) A religious movement, such as the Taliban or ISIS, that violently forces others to submit to it is an abomination in God's eyes because it removes the opportunity to choose to believe. When God--who has not even given us indisputable evidence of his very existence--tells us to believe in him, he is giving us a choice: to accept him or to not accept him. The ability to choose for ourselves is what makes faith meaningful. There is no such thing as forced faith in the same way that rape cannot be termed an amorous encounter. For that reason, I reject and oppose any interpretation of Islam/Christianity/LDS doctrine/etc. that uses violence to force others to follow it. Such violence removes the agency of a person to choose to follow God, thus destroying faith and enslaving others. (And yes, that criticism applies to some followers of the Pearls almost as much as ISIS.) Good Muslims choose to submit to God according to the teachings of Muhammed. Many people do not choose to submit to Muhammed's teachings, but they must be given the opportunity to make that choice without their survival being under threat or else the choice TO submit (i.e., Islam itself) is made meaningless. I hope that faithful Muslims promote religious movements that do not make a mockery of their own beliefs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Orthodox Christmas

We've been temporary host parents for a Russian-speaking exchange student for the past three weeks. As one might expect for a sixteen year-old girl during the holidays, she has been homesick. Today is Christmas per the Orthodox Church calendar, and I let her skip school to go celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas at a nearby church. She got to be at an Orthodox worship service, talk to many Russians, and eat Russian food at a potluck lunch. When I picked her up afterward, she looked the happiest I've seen her since we met her.

This afternoon she showed us many pictures of her family and continued be very happy.

It often takes leaving home to realize what we cherish most there.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Musical Drapes

A New Year calls for a fix to our aging draperies. Our house is half a century old, and some of the window hangings appear to be nearly that old. So I bought a couple of panels of new drapes yesterday and since then have been in the midst of swapping curtains around, picking and sewing hems, and getting a head full of dust.

The front living room curtains--custom made from J. C. Penney long ago--are being refurbished. I cut off damaged parts on the ends and sew new edge hems. Hang them up again, and I hopefully get five more years before I have to worry about them again. I'll probably sew new ones then; I like the substantial formal curtains of yesteryear, at least in our formal room.

The old dining room curtains have damaged lining halfway down, so I'm cutting them in half and turning the tops into bathroom curtains. The old bathroom curtains were homemade by the previous owner and are falling apart, so I'll wash that fabric and use it for scrap material for my children.

The new dining room curtains were actually stolen from my husband's den. He didn't realize what nice drapes he was never using anyway. He now has a pair of blue floral curtains (hemmed up greatly because he doesn't care if his drapes skim the floor, which has important papers and computer boxes piled up on it) covering his den window. The blue drapes come from our bedroom, and I've never liked them much. They're not super girly, and they bring out the wheaten color of the den carpet. He might end up using them for decades....

Our bedroom got the new ivory/gold drapes. They could use an ironing job, but I'm waiting to see if taking a shower this afternoon helps them un-wrinkle magically all on their own. Sadly, the gold drapes, though lined, let through more light than the blue floral drapes, so I dug into our material cache and found some very dark blue, thick upholstery fabric that I will turn into a blackout (blue-out?) curtain and hang under the gold drapes.

Finally, I will trash the terrible drapes in our master bathroom. They have awful stains from water condensate that collected on the old aluminum window over the course of many winters. We installed a double-paned, vinyl-framed window in that bathroom this summer, so now I'm going to use a lovely turquoise sarong fabric from Thailand that I've kept safe for 7 years to make a pretty new set of curtains.

(No, our window treatments don't sing. The title of this post is a reference to the game of "Musical Chairs.")

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cold outside, warm inside.

Apparently, dd2 thinks it's summer inside. All this lovely money we're spending on natural gas to heat our home has made her think that it's warm enough to run around most of the day with just a diaper on. As a result, she has a cough that is taking her forever to get over.

Tonight she came to me--mostly naked, of course--with a shovel and pail and said she wanted to go to the park right then so she could play in the sand. Over and over I said, "No, it's dark and cold outside." She just didn't get it. Elsa may sing that the cold doesn't bother her anyway, but here in real life, little princesses need to stay warm and get healthy!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day Plumbing

I spent all afternoon and into the evening installing a new bathroom faucet. It took a long time because I also had to install shutoff valves on the pipes coming from the wall and use a hacksaw to get the old faucet drain assembly off the sink. So messy! Why did I bother to shower this morning? I'm just going to have to go wash my hair again after scraping so much icky stuff above my head.

The faucet, sadly, is faulty. It works fine right now, but the aerator doesn't sit straight due to something internal being bent or something. I've emailed the company, which has a reputation for fine faucets to uphold, so I'm hopeful that they will send me what I need to fix this. But I'm still disheartened that I'm going to have to do some more work before this repair job is done.

Never, ever expect that a DIY project will be speedily accomplished. That way you won't be too disappointed when it takes far too long.

Update (12/28/2014): I went to Home Depot yesterday and exchanged the faucet. I think I'm done. Now to install the other faucet and drain in the two-sink vanity!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Crazy Easy Homemade Yogurt

I make my own yogurt now. I thought doing so would require the hassle of wrapping canning jars in towels and putting them in a cooler overnight, but I found a much easier way online that has given me good results every time.

Here are the steps:
1) Heat a gallon of milk* in a pot to the point that it starts to have little bubbles around side and forms a skin on top.
2) Discard the milk skin and pour the milk into a cold crockpot liner (the ceramic part).
3) Let the milk cool down for a while. It should be warm but not burn your finger.
4) Mix in about a cup of yogurt starter.
5) Put the glass lid on the crockpot liner.
6) Put the crockpot liner, milk, and lid (all together, of course) in the oven.
7) Turn on the oven light (must be an incandescent bulb because you need its heat).
8) Let the yogurt incubate overnight in the warm oven. (DON'T TURN ON THE OVEN. Just the oven light.)

Voilà!. Yummy homemade yogurt for minimal cost. It's going to be runnier than the stuff from the store because you don't add pectin, but who needs solid yogurt when you're going to be mixing it with muesli or granola or using it in recipes like naan?

By the way, I make no guarantee that this will work in everyone else's kitchen. If your oven light isn't warm enough, if your crockpot liner is thicker than mine, etc., you might just end up with gross milk in the morning.

* I like to use whole milk. It makes thicker and tastier yogurt.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


We moved into a new-to-us-but-fifty-years-old house two years ago. The woman who lived in it before us had lovingly cared for the same drapes and carpet for at least thirty years. The pretty living room drapes (still on working traverse rods!) are starting to fall apart despite my attempts to mend and patch. It is finally time to get new drapes.

This is not a simple matter. Nowadays, there are five different common ways to hang drapes: tab top, rod pocket, grommet top, pinch pleat, and back tab. I personally like our traverse rods, and since they are hidden by wooden cornices, I could theoretically attach nearly any kind of drapery top to the little plastic pieces--half of which are ancient and brittle and will need to be replaced--and get the benefit of being able to open/close the drapes quickly and without touching them. I like the fullness of pinch pleat drapes, which is what we currently have, but the selection available in that category is not very good.

Do I try to sew my own drapes? It's theoretically pretty easy. Hem big rectangles of fabric, then, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, pinch together at the top for pinch pleats. But this is my living room I'm talking about! I don't want my sad sewing skills to be responsible for curtains with iffy hems that make me cringe for the next decade. For if I buy 20 yards of fabric (I have to do two windows), even at bargain basement prices, that's a lot of money, so I won't just toss them unless they're truly dreadful.

I'm hoping for some good post-Christmas department store sales in the drapery departments this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


An interesting etymology fact is that sycophant, which currently means "insincere flatterer," originated as a Greek word for a false accuser. False accusations could be very harshly punished in the ancient world. Some Mesopotamian laws made death the penalty for false accusations of certain crimes.

Why punish a false accuser so severely? To discourage false accusations, of course. False accusations tie up the legal system and harm the accused, particularly if the accused is wrongly found guilty and especially if he is executed due to the false accusation.

Recently the magazine Rolling Stone published an article alleging that a rape occurred at a UVA fraternity, and now it appears that the allegation, which resulted in university action against all the fraternities, was most likely fabricated. What punishment does a person in our modern world merit for making a false accusation of a serious crime such as rape? I certainly don't think it should be death or even imprisonment (since prison is reported to have a lot of actual rape culture going on, I disfavor prison in general if a different punishment will be as effective at crime deterrence), but there should be some sort of punishment. A fine. Community service. Something. Not only is bearing false witness against one's neighbor a violation of one of the ten commandments, it transforms our criminal justice system into a weapon against innocents. Defending one's self from criminal charges and dealing with the social and work fallout from such charges are not trivial considerations. I think sycophants, in both the ancient Greek and the modern sense, should suffer social opprobrium for their dishonest actions. And where that dishonesty has done harm to our justice system, the justice system should mete out an official, substantial penalty.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sleep Training

My almost-six-month-old has regressed when it comes to getting enough sleep recently. I haven't been diligent about giving her naps in her crib (too often she ends up napping in her carseat near the family hubbub), and she's now old enough that it's time she had regularly scheduled naps. How did nearly six months pass already? Also, I've slipped back into getting up in the night every two hours instead of letting her put herself back to sleep. She used to sleep for 4-6 hours for at least one stretch at the beginning of the night, but she's stopped doing that. It can't be due to hunger, for she eats a lot, including milk (of course), rice cereal, puffs, and pureed fruit. We are both very tired. It's starting to interfere with my daily activities. So we are doing a little "sleep training," which consists mostly of me NOT getting up every two hours when she cries out. Here's hoping she's a fast learner!

Update (12/7/2014): And it turns out she is! We got a six hour stretch of sleep last night. :) I'm going to help her love resting her head on her crib mattress by getting her a chenille crib sheet for Christmas. (As the fifth girl, she doesn't need any toys under the tree!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reading Progress

Dd5 and I took a break for a couple of weeks or so from reading lessons. They weren't much fun, for she wasn't remembering some simple things such as the word "the." This afternoon, we finally had a formal lesson (#43 from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), and she did much, much better than either she or I anticipated. Where did this pleasant progress come from?

I think we owe it mostly to the Leapfrog Letter/Talking Word/Storybook Factory videos. Those are a terrific resource for children just figuring out the letter-sound code and how to apply their new knowledge. We own some Leapfrog letter fridge magnets, so dd5 and dd2 have been playing with them after watching the videos.

The concept of digraphs has started to really sink in for dd5. Previously she would see "sh" and say "ssss""hhh" nearly every time no matter how often I reminded her that "sh" says "sh." I suspect a few minutes of looking at this old toy, which we just had sitting around in a toybox, helped her realize that it's OK not to break the letters apart when looking at certain letter combinations:

Kiddicraft alphabet toy with 4 of most common English digraphs
The technical name for two letters representing one sound is "digraph." The most common consonant digraphs in English are "ch," "sh," "th," "ph," and "wh," per this phonics website. Note that four of those five digraphs are presented to the children on the Kiddicraft toy pictured above. How great is that! And it's not a fancy-schmancy electronic toy, so I don't have to worry about it running out of battery power. Even the hornbooks used for centuries didn't explicitly teach digraphs.

Traditional hornbook example, sold by Plimouth Plantation
Sadly, the Kiddicraft Flip-up Learning Center is only available used, but if you want one, it appears on eBay sometimes for a reasonable price. I think I found ours at a local thrift store a few years ago.

(I make no money from product placement in my blog posts. I'm just sharing things that I've found helpful.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not usually a sign of child abuse

I know two different young mothers who have had neighbors think that they might be abusing their children because they have heard small children yelling for extended periods of time from these mothers' homes. I can only imagine that the worrying neighbors were childless and thus ignorant of some basic childrearing know-how: some children are extremely noisy and contrary sometimes and most children throw tantrums at some point. Not all children, certainly, for temperaments vary widely. Moreover, some children have diagnosed issues such as autism or ADHD that go along with uncontrollable tantrums.

I don't take child abuse lightly. By today's standards, my father was unquestionably guilty of child abuse. He spanked repeatedly and harshly--even quite young children--and sometimes with hard objects. We lived in terror of his arrival home after work because if anything was messy--a common condition of a house with many young children and a busy mother who was rather uninterested in cleaning--he would often yell at and possibly spank the first child he lay eyes on. (Ironically, he didn't realize why we ran from him and would sometimes ask, "Where is everyone? Why isn't anyone here to greet me?" Sad, isn't it? He was abused as a child, too.)

When I look at signs of child abuse, I don't see "children scream a lot" listed as a sign. Sure, parents screaming a lot can be emotional abuse. Also, age-inappropriate or sudden tantrum behavior can be a danger sign of abuse. But, in my experience, mere "children scream a lot" is a fairly good indication that the children are not being directly subjected to abusive behavior because the children do not live in terror. Let me say that again for emphasis. They don't live in terror. Living in an abusive situation is living in terror. It's the opposite of the security and care that a child hopes for and should be able to expect from his or her parents.

My father successfully terrorized us into being model children (at least, when he was at hand). We didn't throw tantrums. He would have never put up with us screaming for long periods of time. A harsh spanking would have put a stop to that kind of behavior right away. We were meek and scared and obedient. The neighbors suspected that things might not be great at our house, but the signs of abuse were not obvious. We were even forced to end spanking sessions by telling our father that we loved him, yet under those desperate words of love, gasped out to make the spanking end, were hurt, frightened children who temporarily hated yet quietly did as commanded.

So, well-meaning neighbors of the world, please keep looking out for the children you know. But please be aware of the probability that young children screaming for what sometimes seems like forever is more likely an indication that they feel comfortable enough to yell at their parents than it is a sign of an abused child living in terror.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Home for the Holiday

We have a norovirus or similar bug running through our family which is causing pain, distress, general yuckiness, and an end to most of our Thanksgiving plans with extended family. We know at least two other families dealing with it this week, but based on the timing, it's unlikely we all got it from the same place. Sometimes these things really do just "go around," and it's nearly possible to avoid them (but it helps if the toddler hasn't been messing with the dishwasher settings so that the dishes don't get properly cleaned).

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are less effective against norovirus, so wash your hands before eating!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Developing skills

I'm so proud of dd10. She just posted pictures from a field trip to the Denver Zoo that she took herself! They are on her blog here. When she first started her blog, she would dictate her entries to me and I would type them for her, editing as needed for clarity and accuracy. She's been learning to type this year, and now she types her own entries. She appreciates the wavy red lines in Blogger that tell her when a word is misspelled, for her spelling abilities are still developing.

She isn't pleased with how her photos look on the blog, so I showed her how to use a photo editor today to crop and compress photos. I hope she uses that skill soon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Good for a lot of laughs

The commentators here are hilarious, what with their ignorance of how to convert from the imperial system (miles instead of kilometers) and jokes about different kinds of football and being "shaken but not stirred."

I laughed so hard I cried.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Landing on a Comet

We went to a local museum's event to celebrate the landing of Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We heard afterward that they estimated they had only a 22% chance of the lander successfully making it onto the comet's surface. Yet they did it! With technology that is already ten years old!

Although the lander ran out of power (it ended up in a place where it couldn't access enough of the sun's rays to recharge itself), it sent back interesting information. The comet appears to have a dusty, rocky surface with a layer of very hard ice under that. Also, the lander detected organic molecules. And because it's in a shady spot, it will last longer than expected as the comet approaches the sun in 2015. Here's hoping Philae wakes up then and gives us some more interesting data!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Discovery Geometry

Back in college, I tutored math for three years. I quickly came to hate the discovery calculus that a few of the honors calculus classes were experimenting with. The students--good ones, these were honors students--often had no idea what to do and were needlessly frustrated. If "discovering" calculus on one's own were so easy, it wouldn't have taken until Newton and/or Leibniz in the 17th century for humanity to have come up with it.

This past week I've been helping a teenage boy who's being befuddled and deeply discouraged by his discovery geometry textbook. It makes the students figure out the "conjectures" and then requires them to apply the just-introduced conjectures in all kinds of novel, thought-provoking ways. Such a method sounds like a math prodigy's dreams come true. But I think it's terrible for average or below-average math students.

This boy has attention issues and Asperger's traits, so class lectures--where the conjectures get explored, explained, and supposedly compiled by the students into their own little reference notebooks--are less effective for him. This is a kid who, if he doesn't immediately know the answer to something, looks off in space, starts scratching at the side of his calculator, or enters numbers into the calculator without having a clue as to what mathematical operations should be done. His mom has worked hard with him; one year she pulled him out of school for two periods and "home-schooled" him in math. Under her tutelage, he did two years worth of math in just one. He seems bright enough and his attention issues disappear when he knows how to attack a problem. Discovery geometry is just wrong for him.

The mom corresponded with her son's teacher about the problems he is experiencing due to the book constantly hiding necessary information (formulas and such, the kind of things I grew up seeing inside the covers of my math books as ready references). The teacher responded by saying that some kids thrive and some kids struggle, but the book is in the syllabus and it's what he is going to teach. Great for the kids that thrive! And terrible for the kids that don't! Math is not a one-size-fits-all-endeavor, and when it becomes clear that a kid needs a different approach, that approach should be adopted.

When tutoring him, I've taken to letting him use a very basic geometry reference sheet like the one below:
It's done wonders for his confidence. He can actually get through some problems on his own now. And he's not doing mere "plug-and-chug" work. He finally has an inkling of what he is expected to do and can go at it. Anyway, I'd rather see him doing "plug-and-chug" exercises correctly than cluelessly entering numbers in his calculator in flailing attempts to solve problems he doesn't comprehend.

I don't know yet what math text our family will use for geometry. Dd10, the oldest, only just started BJU's Math 5. BJU has a great incremental "mastery + review" elementary math program that has been pleasant for our family to use. But because of my math background, I'd like for my children to have more extensive experience with constructing proofs, and those are rather out of vogue in K-12 math. One thing is for sure: no matter what we end up doing for geometry for my Aspergery eldest, it won't be "discovery geometry."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Personhood and Extremes

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I was so excited. I was only a few weeks along, somewhere between 6-8 weeks. In my excitement, I started telling friends and coworkers of my pregnancy. Then I miscarried. I realized I was miscarrying while at work at the US Embassy. I had to go to my supervisor and tell him I needed to leave work because I was bleeding and likely miscarrying. In my shock, I told my husband to stay at work while I went to get checked out. How I wish I had told him to come with me. When the person giving me an ultrasound started talking clinically about my "threatened abortion," I felt awful. My baby was dying or dead already. Based on the final diagnosis of "blighted ovum," my baby never even got past the point of being a fertilized egg. And, oh, sitting alone on a bench in a foreign hospital and crying, how I mourned my child that was not.

I share this to put into perspective something: I voted against the "personhood amendment" yesterday in Colorado's election. It goes too far. I marked "no" with sadness in my heart because I don't condone abortion generally. I certainly don't think public funds should be used for them except in extremely rare cases. I think that a fertilized egg is a form of human life. It's life, and it's human. I'm not sure what else we can call it without dispensing with our standard biology definitions.

But the hard truth that pro-life organizations and politicians must grapple with is that a woman's body is inseparable from a growing pre-born child for nearly six months. Respect for individual rights mandates that we permit a woman to do things to her body that might harm her baby without punishing her for it. There is no way to have a personhood amendment without then putting extreme athletes/coffee abusers/anorexics/homebirthers/obese women/etc. at risk of prosecution for murder.

European countries regulate abortion more than the USA does. We are actually rather extreme in the USA as to what abortions we permit. But the answer is not to swing back and declare a fertilized egg a legal person.

To think aloud a bit, perhaps abortion should be treated legally in a fashion similar to suicide. No one could physically help a woman terminate the life in her, but they could still sell a mother the chemicals she wants to ingest to end her hosting of a forming life and monitor her afterward for complications. We permit gun sales all the time, despite the proven link between gun ownership and suicide. Individual rights are important. Why not allow over-the-counter sales of abortifacients and birth control? Let the individual woman decide what she wants to do to her body, including her uterus. Science has come far enough that most desired abortions could be done via medicine due to how early morning sickness tells most women of their pregnant state. If an abortion requires physical dismemberment or poisoning of the fetus, then perhaps we should accept that the baby is far enough developed that the mother's individual rights no longer outweigh its rights.

Monday, November 3, 2014


For memorization these past two weeks, I planned to have dd10 and dd7 learn the first stanza of "Der Erlkönig."

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

English translation:
Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy well in his arm
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.

It is a well-known German poem by Goethe that tells of a boy dying after being attacked by an elf king, while his father rides like mad trying to get the boy home safe. It was set to music by Schubert, which made it even more well-known. Here's a great shadow puppet version of the song:

They started memorizing it with no complaints. Pleased to have found such a lovely, artistic rendition of the song, I then showed this video to my girls. Once dd7 saw it, she no longer wanted to memorize the poem. It was too sad for her.

She's memorizing "Bruder Jakob" ("Are you sleeping?") instead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No good response

An extended family member at a recent family gathering seemed to feel it necessary to inform everyone that she will never have children. She is in her early 30s and very influenced by modern feminism and women's studies.

What am I, a mother of five children, supposed to say to that? 
  • "I'm sorry?" - I am. I value children and being a mother. I'm sorry she'll be missing out on those herself. But saying it sounds so patronizing, so I can't.
  • "You might change your mind...when biology makes it no longer a daring choice but merely a foregone conclusion." - True, but kind of mean. 
  • "How wonderful! You wouldn't have made a good mother anyway." - Super mean.
  • "Oh, yes, what a great decision. Children are so overrated." - Overrated, sure, sometimes. But still worth it.
  • "You evil feminist harpy!" - I got the vibe that she was hoping for that response so she could play victim later in her feminist circles. But we love her and aren't going to attack her like that. 
So I said nothing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Titus 2:4

Often when it is "dictation day" (the day of the week where language arts includes a dictation exercise), I don't put a lot of thought into the sentences ahead of time. This past Tuesday was one of those days. Because I was in the kitchen repacking chicken for freezing when she asked for her dictation assignment, dd10 ended up with a sentence about the importance of meat safety. Dd7's math lesson had asked her for the total number of verses in Titus and she had left the Bible lying on the couch afterward, so when she asked for her dictation assignment, I quickly scanned Titus and told her to write the following:
"Teach the young women to love their children." 

I excerpted it from Titus 2:4, which reads in its entirety:
"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children," 

As I repeated the first sentence a few times for dd7, I realized how few places young women hear that message anymore. Social media use, while it does give us a place to show off our children--and, boy, do I engage in that--too easily gets in the way of loving our children, especially if we are so fixated on screens that we only look in our children's eyes when we're snapping their photo.

Institutions of higher education tend to discourage "family life" and make us SAHMs feel like we've failed our half of humanity by opting out of paid employment to stay home caring for little children, even though studies make it clear that kids, at least in my ethnic group, are better off not being sent to full-time daycare (I'm not trying to insult anyone; the science is what it is, and I have no motivation to pretend otherwise) and biological reality means that females are more affected by pregnancy-related health concerns. The cynical part of me thinks this happens in part because it's harder to cajole alumni donations from unemployed people.

Advertisements constantly tell us to buy things and experiences for our children at peril of being mean moms. (Sorry, Disney, I'm not giving in to your fiendish plot to make me feel like a wicked witch for not springing for a Disney World family vacation.) If advertisers really wanted to help us love our children, they'd point out how richly blessed American kids already are as far as material goods and counsel us parents to go read a library book to our kids before they grow up. But there's no money in that....

I've always been grateful for my mother telling me that the most fulfilling and important thing she did in her life was to be a mother to me and my siblings. She is a very intelligent woman who has been a schoolteacher and private school administrator, earned a PhD and a JD, and is still practicing law in her 70s.

Thus far, I have only daughters, and I will heed this counsel to teach them to "love their children." I'll teach them by example as I cuddle my infant and struggle not to get too angry when the toddler makes yet another mess. I'll teach them that they should expand their minds and do great good in the world, but that they should also carefully choose their paths so they have the best chance of being able to take loving care--which requires a substantial amount of face time--of their children. I'll counsel them to eat well and take care of their bodies, for their health directly influences the well-being of their future children, as well as the egg cells that will become their grandchildren. I hope they heed the lessons, for my personal experience is already mirroring that of my mother: there is no accomplishment that matters more to me than nurturing my children well. Isn't it ironic that self-fulfillment comes more easily when we're not focused on ourselves?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We had a terrific field trip yesterday. It was a bit of a drive but so worth it. We went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. The weather was very nice. It was a warm day for autumn in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, so we were able to play in the sand--some wet and some dry--while taking in the golden aspens, snow-capped peaks, and the beautiful sky of the San Luis valley.

Autumn in the San Luis valley

My children insisted on completing the Jr. Ranger program and getting their Jr. Ranger badges at the visitors center. We all got a chance to slide down sand dunes on a wooden, waxed sand sled. Trudging through the fine sand made for a good teaching moment about what it is like trying to get around in the Sahara desert.

Not fun to walk in after the first two minutes

If you're ever in southern Colorado, try to make time for a visit to this national park!