Monday, July 28, 2014

Zimbabwe Feast

The father of a family we know was born in Zimbabwe; he is of European ancestry, so he, like many "white Zimbabweans," emigrated in the mid-80s, and he finished growing up in South Africa. Tonight the whole family came over, and he told us a little about Zimbabwe. He also brought cricket equipment and let us play some cricket at a nearby park. Now I know what a "sticky wicket" is!

I spent much of today cooking, trying to provide both enough traditional African food and food that was what a white Zimbabwean would have eaten. Here was the menu, along with websites that taught me how to make the items:

  • Sadza - http://www.chirundu.com/sadza-recipe-south-african-mielie-pap-nshima-zambia-ugali-2009-08/
  • Greens - http://living-learning-eating.blogspot.com/2014/06/recipe-zimbabwean-style-greens.html
  • Oven-baked chicken (our guests brought piri piri sauce to put on it) - http://www.ehow.com/how_2212924_make-oven-baked-chicken.html
  • Okra - http://www.zimbokitchen.com/zimbabwe-traditional-derere-okra/
  • Mealies (corn on the cob)
  • Sweet potato cookies - http://www.food.com/recipe/cookies-from-zimbabwe-139868
  • Candy cake - http://globaltableadventure.com/2013/11/15/recipe-zimbabwe-candy-cake-chikenduza/
  • Sweet buns - http://www.fisoskitchen.com/sweet-zimbabwe-buns-2/
  • Shandy - homemade non-alcoholic version consisting of pink lemonade (from a powdered mix) mixed with lemon-lime seltzer water
  • Baobab powder in water - http://www.baobabfoods.com/recipes/ (I ended up adding grenadine to this because it just didn't taste that great alone)
  • Water

The sweet buns were probably the biggest hit with everyone. I'll be cooking those for my family in the future for sure. The okra...not so much of a hit....It's just so slimy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Early Marriage

A friend came by tonight and shared how due to infidelity and other serious issues he is going to file for divorce from his wife. They dated in high school and got married as teenagers, and he is devastated that this is happening.

I have a sibling who married at age 18 and is now being divorced after 20+ years of an often stormy marriage. My parents were not in favor of the marriage back then but supported their child nevertheless.

While having gotten married early is not necessarily the reason for these broken homes, I don't think it helped either. Here are some excerpts from a paper that looks at whether some of the problematic results of early marriage are caused by the earliness itself of the marriage:

Women who marry while in their teens are two-thirds more likely to divorce within 15 years of their wedding compared with women who postpone marriage.

***

Although teen marriage and low education are associated with a variety of below-average outcomes, it is not necessarily true that these choices caused the bad outcomes. For example, differences may be due to preexisting characteristics of women who marry young versus later, rather than any causal relationship between teen marriage and negative adult outcomes. To my knowledge, no previous research has studied the causal effect of early marriage. Yet, understanding the causal effect of teens’ choices is key for understanding whether they are making choices they will later regret or which impose costs on their children and society. If teenage marriage and dropping out of high school are largely driven by unobserved personal characteristics that are the primary cause of negative outcomes, legal interventions to prevent these choices may make little difference. However, if strong causal effects exist, then state laws restricting teenagers’ choices have the potential to greatly lessen the chances of future poverty.

***
CONCLUSION

Do the negative effects associated with early teen marriage and dropping out of school reflect unmeasured characteristics or the true consequences of a teen’s choices? To better understand the effect of women’s early decisions on future life outcomes, this article examines variation over time and across states in the laws that regulate early marriage, school attendance, and child labor. Based on using these laws as instruments for early marriage and high school completion, the results indicate strong negative effects on poverty status that are not due to self selection. The baseline IV estimates imply that women who marry young are 31 percentage points more likely to live in poverty when they are older. Similarly, women who drop out of school are 11 percentage points more likely to be in families below the poverty line. The IV results are robust to a variety of alternative specifications and estimation methods, including LIML estimation and a control function approach. In comparison, OLS estimates are sensitive to how the data are aggregated; regressions on individual-level data estimate small effects for early teen marriage, while aggregated data estimate large effects. I argue that the difference is due to a large amount of measurement error in the early marriage variable, resulting in substantial attenuation bias in the individual-level OLS regressions but not the aggregated OLS or IV regressions.

The results imply that the decisions women make early in life can have long-lasting consequences. The IV estimates suggest that legal restrictions that prevent early marriage and mandate high school completion have the potential to greatly reduce the chances of future poverty for a woman and her family. The implication is that legal restrictions on teenagers’ choices can reduce external costs imposed on society, and it is possible they also prevent some teens from making decisions they will later regret.

Gordon B. Dahl, Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty

We have already started to instill in our children the expectation that they will finish college or other preparation for a good job and will not marry in their teens. A little extra maturity can only be a good thing before one enters into the grand adventure of starting a family.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camping

My husband took dd9, dd7, and dd4 camping the past two nights. We had planned for them to go camping during Mongolia weeks--since so many Mongolians still live nomadic lifestyles--but it didn't work out. Happily our current country of focus, Zimbabwe, is connected to camping via the Scouting movement.

Over a hundred years ago around Bulawayo, a city in then Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe, British soldier Robert Baden-Powell commanded recon missions in hilly enemy territory and got many of the ideas that he put into a small manual he later wrote called "Aids to Scouting." The popularity of this manual led to the founding of the international Scouting movement:
In 1900, Baden-Powell became a national hero in Britain for his 217-day defense of Mafeking in the South African War. Soon after, Aids to Scouting, a military field manual he had written for British soldiers in 1899, caught on with a younger audience. Boys loved the lessons on tracking and observation and organized elaborate games using the book. Hearing this, Baden-Powell decided to write a nonmilitary field manual for adolescents that would also emphasize the importance of morality and good deeds.

Excerpt from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/boy-scouts-movement-begins

I love Boy Scout manuals. As a girl, I would pore over my brother's Scout manuals, and what knowledge I have of knots and the Morse code is from them. My husband was involved in Boy Scouts for years and loves to camp. He's quite good at setting up tents and building fires. I was never involved in Girl Scouts, but our church does have a summer camp program that I regularly went to as a teenager, so I also love camping (but not with babies or toddlers). I'm glad that my husband is passing on the benefit of his years in Scouts to our daughters now.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greek Weeks

Between Brazil and Mongolia, we learned about Greece. I had just had the baby, so we didn't do that much. Highlights included watching Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (for the Greek mythology aspect) and tasty Greek food from a local restaurant. The adults (my mother-in-law stayed with us for 2 weeks after the baby was born) also watched For Your Eyes Only (it has James Bond being a tourist in Greece) and My Life in Ruins (the actress from My Big Fat Greek Wedding portrays a boring tour guide in Greece who learns to loosen up and finds love).

I was planning to have the girls take a session of swim lessons, but never got around to it while we were on Greece. Maybe when we're studying Zimbabwe...hey, the country may be landlocked, but they still swim sometimes over there!

Mongolia Weeks

I have been witness to the slow miracle of a newborn changing to a baby for the past almost-4 weeks. A miracle which I get to witness just as readily at 3 am as at 3 pm. Our baby is quite healthy except for a little jaundice--more common here in Colorado, apparently due to the high altitude--and a mild cold that has required some use of that bulb syringe they gave us at the hospital. My husband is 75% back at work (having him home when the older kids wake up and need breakfast is SO helpful), and my mother is funding 20 hours of having a local teenager be a "mother's helper" for me.

We are still doing math and a little music on a daily basis and studying countries. Last week and this week, the country was Mongolia. We listened to throat singing and the Mongolian national anthem on YouTube. We watched two movies set in rural Mongolia--which is pretty much the entire country outside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar--which displayed modern nomadic life very well. The movies, The Story of the Weeping Camel and The Cave of the Yellow Dog, were in Mongolian, but when I read the English subtitles aloud, dd4 and dd2 unexpectedly found them engaging. We also ate buuz and a cheater crockpot version of lamb khorkhog. Finally, I surprised dd7 and dd9 with horseback riding lessons.



If I had more energy, I'd even be able to take my children into central Denver for the Mongolian summer festival, Naadam. Ulaanbaatar and Denver are sister cities, and Denver apparently has the largest population of Mongolians in the Americas.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Star Wars and Origami

My children have discovered the Origami Yoda books. Dd9, dd7, and dd4 are filling the house with origami versions of Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, Admiral Akbar, and what seems like the entire cast of all six Star Wars movies. To tell the truth, they're kind of driving me crazy with all their paper creations. But at the same time I'm pleased to see them so engaged in a creative pursuit.

Dd9 even includes them in her artwork these days, like in this picture below of a picnic where an origami Yoda protects the S'mores ingredients with a flyswatter while other origami Star Wars characters hang out with family members at a park.

Picnic with Origami Star Wars characters

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brazil Weeks

For the first two weeks of our summer, our family studied the country of Brazil. We watched Rio and educational films about Brazil and its varied geography (the Amazon is an amazing place!), ate feijoada (tasty black bean stew) and drank guarana soda, visited a Catholic cathedral (65% of Brazil is Roman Catholic), and observed a capoeira class.

Thanks to a friend who teaches ESL, we were able to meet with two Brazilian students learning English at a local university, and they did a slideshow presentation about Brazil for me and my children. They were also kind enough to compliment my brigadeiro candies (chocolaty truffles), even though I don't think I made them correctly.

Due to pregnancy limiting my stomach's capacity, I missed one of the highlights of our Brazil weeks: my husband took our older children out to lunch at a Brazilian grill restaurant. If you've ever been to one, these restaurants involve a constant parade of barbecued meats and pineapple, as well as yummy cheese rolls made of manioc flour and lots of cheese.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A most recent birth story

I like to share my birth stories on my blog because I think they're interesting to women, who tend to give birth. Male readers, feel free to ignore.

I opted for induction of labor this time just three days before the due date. I'm of "advanced maternal age" now (which is correlated with a higher stillbirth risk), the baby already felt quite heavy, and after so many babies the chances of my having a successful induction were very high. The doctor had me report to the hospital for the induction at 7 am, telling me that I could eat breakfast before I came. I am very glad she said that and that I ate a large, protein-containing breakfast before leaving home. Due to baby not reacting well to stronger contractions, which made it so the nurses had to repeatedly turn down the pitocin IV drip, it took me eleven hours to go from 2 cm to 4 cm dilation. So boring. But not painful because the contractions were rarely strong. I sent my husband home twice during that eleven hours to be with our kids and take a nap. When he was around, we watched Studio C comedy sketches (Photobombing 101 was hilarious and apropos) together, chatted with the nurses, and made periodic trips to the bathroom.

Finally at 6 pm, I'd progressed to a point where the doctor could do an amniotomy (making the water break), the result of which was that they were able to turn up the pitocin without distressing baby. Baby stayed rather high, though, and by 11 pm still hadn't been born. Hungry and dilated only to 7.5 cm, I was distressed enough by then to ask for some pain relief. They gave me a little Fentanyl in the IV which really helped "take the edge off." Between contractions, I even found myself laughing at Zoolander, which was playing on the TV in the labor room. Shortly before midnight an awesome nurse suggested using a peanut birth ball to open up my pelvis and help baby rotate her way down. It worked like magic. Three contractions later, I was pushing out my baby girl, all 8 lbs 15 ozs of her. The doctor barely had time to run in, glove up, and catch.

And now we have five daughters. It is such a good thing that my husband was never into football....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day

A friend told me yesterday that Father's Day is Sunday. Oops. I have been so preoccupied this past week with wondering when I'd go into labor that I'd totally forgotten about Father's Day. While my husband has four (soon to be five!) little daughters who can make him paper crafts and shower him with hugs and kisses, I would like him to have a actual, useful present, too. Which means I need to come up with something. Thanks to Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping (no, this isn't an ad--Colorado residents can't be Amazon affiliates) and gift cards obtained from doing Bing searches, I ordered him a bowtie this morning and it should be here by Saturday (at no cost to me, which is good because that would just be cost to him). Now to see which arrives first, the new baby or the bowtie!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Just hanging around waiting

I'm 39 weeks pregnant. My next doctor's appointment is the day after tomorrow, and I'm hoping to be induced the day after that. I would really, really like NOT to have to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night this time around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Already done

Dd9 and dd7 finished the summer reading program already. They got all their prizes and even managed to break one already. But they keep reading. It's fun to see how just three days of long reading sessions made them comfortable reading for longer periods of time than they have been used to. Dd7 picked for one of her prizes the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Ambitious, that one. To be honest, I wasn't planning on starting my children on Harry Potter for a few years yet, but the example of an older cousin was a powerful influence on dd7.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading, so much reading

I became a bookworm sometime in the middle of elementary school. I think I became so avid a reader partly out of escapism, for my home life had some issues. For instance, our father thought we shouldn't have friends over (he seemed to have some strange idea that we should be spending all our free time cleaning and weeding), so if he came home early and we had friends over (with mom's permission), we'd have to sneak them out the back door or risk his wrath.

Dd9 and dd7 read very well, but neither of them have taken to burying themselves in books the way I used to. I was so engrossed in books that I would aggravate my parents by sometimes not hearing them and not doing what they said. I remember one week, probably in fourth grade, my father punished me by banning me from reading for a week. Being a conscientious girl, I felt like I was even being naughty when I read signs along the side of the road that week; it was truly one of the worst weeks of my life.

Back to my kids. The summer reading contest at the local library started yesterday. They are constantly reading. The two oldest have already earned the first prize. Since they have to read in 20-minute increments to fill in the spaces on their contest gamecards, it keeps happening that I interrupt them with inconvenient requests right when they're in the middle of a timed reading period. So I leave them alone and forget to come back to them at just the right break in their reading intervals. I'm very pleased about all the reading going on, but I wish they would be more available to do the little chores that I periodically need of them.

Friday, May 30, 2014

School's Out!

Both school-age children were in part-time programs, which came to an end as of yesterday. Thus our school year is over, too. We celebrated with corn dogs and soda (mixed with juice) last night. Today the only thing I've required of them is basic grooming and a trip to the grocery store. I refuse to post their summer schoolwork schedule, light as it is, for them until Monday.

We're going to be learning about Brazil for the first two weeks of June, during which time I will hopefully be having a baby. Much as I'd like to go pig out at a Brazilian grill restaurant, I've learned from sad experience that overfilling my belly during the third trimester leads to great pain and regret. I'll just have to make myself some pao de queijo to make up for missing out on roasted pineapple and churrasco. My family generally isn't one for watching sports, but we'll try to catch some of the World Cup soccer championship in a couple of weeks, for it's being held in Brazil! And we hope to catch Rio 2 at the movie theater, if we can squeeze it in. Tico, taco, ya, ya, ya!!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Clutter

I am a fairly relaxed housekeeper. My kids have piles of stuff--er, treasures, including toys, hair things, school projects, folded paper crafts, books, etc.--on every non-mattress horizontal furniture surface in their bedrooms. But I insist on floors being picked up. It's a safety issue. It's dangerous to leave things where someone could step on them during a midnight trip to the toilet. Or where a pregnant, clumsy mom could trip and hurt her abdomen.

For over a year, there has been an old kitchen sink sitting in the middle of the garage floor. I wanted to get rid of it as soon as we took it out of the kitchen, but dh thought there might be a use for it and resisted tossing it. He has since consented to me getting rid of it, for I think it has become clear to him in the last year that we really don't have any use for an aged porcelain-covered sink. However, I didn't get his OK to trash it until I was too far along in my pregnancy to lift it into the back of the car myself. So it's still sitting in the middle of the garage. I've thought the whole time it's been there, "Someone is going to hurt themselves on that thing someday, and then won't my husband be sorry."

Tonight that someone was me. Whimper. While rushing to close the garage door to keep moths out of the house, I banged my shin hard against the edge of the old sink and broke my skin. I'll probably have a horrible looking bruise and end up with a scar. See? Clutter can be dangerous. I'm glad I got injured instead of one of my kids, but I'd rather no one had been hurt at all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fast food

I took the kids out for fast food today, which I almost never do. I was lured by the cheap ice cream cones. They were SO whiny afterward. It will be a long time before I make that mistake again.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Summer 2014 Planning

In just twelve days, we finish our official school year. Three days after that, the library summer reading program begins. And within two weeks of that, I will be having a baby. Instead of studying one country each week as we did last summer, we are only going to study five countries, spending two weeks on each one. That should be doable with a new baby and also allow us to go more in-depth for each country.

Here are our "summer school" plans, ready for posting on the evening of May 29th:

Summer 2014 (Daily Learning – except for Sundays)

DD9 
Reading – Whatever you WANT!! (Especially for prizes from the library J )
Math – two pages from Math 4 (need to finish before school starts)
Music – 5-10 minutes each on two musical subjects (can be singing, piano, music maker, trumpet, violin, or recorder but NOT theory worksheets)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying 
DD7 
Reading – Whatever you WANT!! (Especially for prizes from the library J )
Math – 1-2 pages from Math 2 (Try to finish before school starts)
Music – 5-10 minutes each on two musical subjects (can be singing, piano, music maker, bandurria, violin, or recorder but NOT theory worksheets)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying
DD4 
Reading – Reading  Lesson & being read to for library prizes J
Music – 5 minutes on a musical subject (can be singing, piano, music maker, violin, recorder, etc.)
Art, PE, history, etc. – any awesome or fun stuff, especially having to do with the countries we'll be studying
DD2 
Reading –Being Read to for library prizes J

Just looking that over makes me really happy at the prospect of summer. The kids will have enough to keep them from too much boredom and mischief, but I won't be constantly supervising assignments!

This post has been included in the Carnival of Homeschooling, found online at http://whyhomeschool.blogspot.com/2014/05/carnival-of-homeschooling-eliza.html

Carnival of Homeschooling

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Only a month of "mother power" left

This comedy sketch rap strikes me as fairly accurate about the sugar cravings and uncharacteristic grumpiness pregnant ladies often experience. Of course, it's overblown. It's comedy. And it's pretty funny to this pregnant lady.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Sickness and Homeschooling

Happy Mother's Day yesterday!! I spent it all at home, drinking copious amounts of water and resting. Dd7 was sick all of last week, and now dd2, dd4, and I are all suffering from illness, too. These things seem to hit pregnant ladies particularly hard. What better weekend for a mother to be incapacitated, though? No one expected me to make food for them yesterday!

But dd9 has been fine and doing her full load of schoolwork. One unplanned but great pro of homeschooling is how easy it is to keep it up when stuck at home. Be it snow (which is still falling today from a big spring snowstorm that started yesterday), car problems (which really immobilize a family that only has one car), or illness which makes Mommy unable to even vacuum the house, homeschooling still can be done. Not only can it be done, but it should be done. The children get antsy and irritable if they don't have some time spent on concrete learning each school day. Even dd4 has gotten to the point where she requires some reading instruction or a mini violin lesson every school day, or she complains.

Obviously some subjects--most PE, field trips, etc.--will fall by the wayside for those actively suffering from illness. However, in a world where "sick days" are so often total losses as far as productive activity, it's nice to still feel like we're accomplishing something despite sniffles and aches.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Morality, Yesterday and Today

A relative of mine in her later years has become rabidly anti-religion, especially any religion that teaches standards of sexual morality and/or proselytizes. At the same time, this relative feels it imperative to put multiple videos on my Facebook wall about the China Study and to post that she's gone mostly vegan because of how "horrible" she finds the treatment of livestock. Ironically, she is adamantly pro-choice. I'm pretty sure dismembering an unborn child counts as "horrible" treatment, too. (At 8 months pregnant, I don't buy the "a fetus is not a person" argument, for it's quite clear that I have an unborn baby in me. If she were to stop moving in me, I'd mourn her just as much as if she were to pass away after leaving my uterus. Where the dividing line between a blastocyst and an unborn child is, I would hesitate to say, but I prefer to err on the non-death-dealing side of that line.)

A while back, I read a book claiming that "food is the new sex" in that people in western cultures now feel much more comfortable judging how others eat than they do having a negative opinion concerning others' sexual relations. My relative's behavior supports that thesis. A celebrity example of this cultural shift is Gwyneth Paltrow with her organic, macrobiotic diet evangelism and statements about being OK with adultery.  Tangentially supportive of the thesis is the super-harsh condemnation one sometimes sees of mothers who don't breastfeed, even though a recent sibling study showed that breastfeeding one child but not a sibling is not significantly associated with any comparative long-term health benefits to the breastfed child.

We strive to eat well, and I pay attention to studies that indicate what dietary choices appear to be best. I even breastfeed my kids! But diet is not a religion (yes, I say that as an adherent of the Word of Wisdom), and mere food choices seem a weak substitute for faithful discipleship of God. Our bodies can survive for a long time on diets ranging from Jain ascetism to McDonald's fare everyday, so preaching the need to follow any one restrictive diet doesn't make a lot of sense. Moreover, given the obvious point of sex--making new people, as science-loving dd9 easily understood when we had "the talk"--having opinions about sexual activity in our communities makes more sense given the high human stakes involved than does pronouncing judgment on someone else's choice to eat paleo-style, vegan, or neither.

Ah, baby just kicked me. I guess she likes the apricot jam and PB sandwich I just ate. Not organic but on multi-grain bread, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Circuses

Dd9's reading texts for the past few days have been on the theme of circuses. Circus bikes, circus clowns, clown makeup, and acrobats. So I showed her this video of several circus acrobats plunging 20+ feet to the ground; the accident--in which no one died--happened just Sunday, making it timely. She wasn't bursting with enthusiasm to be an acrobat before watching the video, but she's quite certain now that if she were to work for a circus, she would want to be an animal trainer. Mostly of smaller animals like parrots, but she'd like it if there were one or two tigers, too. I'm tempted to show her video of this tiger attack....

Never mind. I couldn't even watch it for more than a few seconds. There is no way I'll let her see that. Circuses are exciting because of the possibility of danger, but I don't like it when they're actually dangerous. I approach life with a safety-net-for-all-acts attitude.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo

I find it ironic that a holiday celebrating the defeat of French invaders in Mexico now has pro-amnesty rhetoric attached to it in the USA.

Having been a consular officer in a place that used to be a US colony but where now intending illegal immigrants to the USA would have to cross the Pacific ocean--which is far larger than the Rio Grande--to get to US soil, I view the push for "open borders" (amnesty is just delayed realization of an open border) as biased and more than a little racist. It is pro-Mexican, in that it is primarily to the benefit of Mexicans. Yes, other Latin Americans cross the Rio Grande...if they're desperate and willing to pay exorbitant fees to traffickers (mostly Mexicans). There are even some Asians who indebt themselves to organized crime syndicates to make the trip over the southern US border. But what about the non-trafficked Asians and Europeans and all the Africans who just want to make a new life for themselves? No, sorry, finagle to get a visa somehow or you can't come. It's totally "unfair" and based on mere geography.

I'll resist the temptation to dwell on the deterioration of the rule of law that amnesty efforts promote. Suffice it to say that the main thing that keeps the USA from being as unpleasant a place to live as Mexico is the rule of law. After all, Mexico has natural resources galore, tourist sites aplenty, and a language common to many other countries; people tend to prefer Tuscon to Nogales because of criminal and civil issues, not because Americans are somehow inherently superior to Mexicans.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Common Items and Communism

Yesterday we covered the rise to power of Mao Zedong in China. Initially, his version of Communism made the poor people of China much better off. After all, he took away the land from rich people (and then killed a lot of them) and gave it to the poor people! But that's not really communism*, is it? That's actually theft and land redistribution. These actions could have been justified in the minds of some as a "good of the many outweighing the good of a few" scenario except that then he took the PRC in a really communist direction. In the Great Leap Forward, he had peasants' private lands consolidated into huge communal farms that removed individual ownership of even furniture. Among other causes, the lack of material rewards for individual efforts on these communes led to decreased agricultural production and famine that killed approximately 30 million people.

*   Communism, per Merriam-Webster: : a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property

I wanted my children to understand the problems with communism, but because most of their time is spent with family--at its heart a very communal unit, especially our home, where I use King Solomon's method of dealing with fights over objects ("work it out or Mommy confiscates the toy")--I wasn't sure how to illustrate why communism keeps failing in a broader setting. I ended up using Play-Doh as an object lesson.

We have a family collection of Play-Doh canisters and Play-Doh shaping toys. Because it is arid here, Play-Doh dries out if not stored promptly and properly. Also, our Play-Doh tends not to stay nice because the children mix colors together and end up with muddy-colored stuff. Yesterday at the grocery store, I saw a sale on individual containers of Play-Doh: just $0.49 each! Each little girl got to pick out her very own color of her very own container of Play-Doh. When we got home, all four played and played at the small kitchen table with their Play-Doh yet never mixed colors. And, except for dd2, they cleaned up the Play-Doh off the toys without adult help and stored it neatly away in the containers.

Give people--even children--private property, and they'll tend to take better care of it and be less wasteful than they would be with common property. I pointed out to my children that their behavior with the Play-Doh illustrates one very basic reason why communism works so poorly.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Obstetrics Wish List

I'm at 32.5 weeks of pregnancy! Hurrah! The home stretch is in sight. My OB even gave me the "go straight to the hospital if you think you're going into labor" spiel this morning. :)

I've been reading a lot about childbirth recently, as I often do when pregnant. Modern medicine is amazing at helping women and babies get through the risky event of birth relatively unscathed, as is evident by what happens in countries that aren't as blessed. Here is a 2004 WHO compilation of perinatal mortality rates by country. The US was at 7/1000--average for developed countries--while less and least developed parts of the world had perinatal mortality rates of 47/1000 and 60/1000, respectively. I feel very grateful to live in the USA and have access to good health care.

However, there's always room for improvement. I have a short wish list of birth-related technology advancements I'd love to see implemented in this country in the next few years:
1) Universally available wireless fetal monitoring during labor; in a time when people are tweeting and Facebooking on smart phones about the progress of their labor, it seems really antiquated that fetal monitors are still mostly wired rather than wireless. It would be great if they could be waterproof, too, for those women who want to use birth tubs.
2) Use of the Odon device to speed up labor and help with obstructed labors. It may have been developed for poorer countries, but it can help decrease the hazardous use of forceps and vaccums in the US, too.
3) More accurate technology to measure whether the baby is suffering from oxygen deprivation during labor. It would be good if we could have fewer unnecessary C-sections and more prompt C-sections for babies beginning to suffer brain injury; unfortunately, at present we often can't know which C-sections were or were not necessary until after birth because fetal heartrate monitoring cannot tell us how much oxygen a baby is getting during his descent. This recent report of MRI usage to "evaluate fetal cerebral venous blood oxygenation" looks like a promising step towards measuring the baby's oxygenation rates during labor, although it's just a first step, for I can't imagine the adoption of a protocol to put laboring women into MRI machines anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Finally some good news in history!

We just finished learning about World War II and the creation of Pakistan and Israel in our history studies. So much fighting, hatred, death, and destruction! We covered the atom bombs in Japan, the Holocaust, and the mass displacements of people when Pakistan was created. After learning about the creation of Israel and the continued security issues in that region, dd9 said it should be called "Problem Land"; it's ironic how close that is to "Promised Land."

To my relief, I get to tell my children about something good today: our country helped rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan. This was a very positive part of our national history. Yes, the US did it partly to counter Soviet influence, but at its core, it was a large humanitarian effort, and Germany and France would likely be very different today had they not received this assistance right after the devastation of WWII. It takes time to rebuild infrastructure and harvest crops, and immediate aid saves many lives after disasters.

We even found a pro-Marshall plan propaganda film called The Extraordinary Adventures of a Quart of Milk (1951), which showed how good French roads made it possible for milk to get from a dairy to a factory to be made into powdered milk. It can be viewed online for free thanks to the Deutsches Historisches Museum.