Dec 31, 2009

Stuff and Living

Whenever I go back home to visit my parents my own life is thrown in some interesting contrasts. My parents live in Northern California, in a place where I could not even come close to being able to afford to live. But I love it here. Every time I come back here I want to move here. But then I forget that there are good things about where I live, too, and my mom is always thinking about moving out where I live. So really, vacations aren't a good way to judge a place and one's willingness to settle somewhere.

But there is one thing that is so much nicer where I grew up. It's really hard to explain exactly. But it involves materialism and expectations and conformity and things like that. Out here, I would never be questioned if I just wanted to rent the rest of my life, if wallpaper happened to be hanging from my ceiling in spots, if my car has a rusty bumper and a few patches of missing paint. My kids would not be looked at closely because they've got faded jeans and a loved T-shirt on, and hand-me-down tennis shoes instead of being dressed in a spanking-new, radiantly colored outfit complete with cute little clippy bought online to adorn their shining, professionally-cut hair.

There is a difference in expectation in Utah Valley. Let me just say it.

And for the most part I don't mind at all. My kids wear perfectly good clothes that others are done with... and I'll just say for the most part, they're being passed on because people have kids who have grown up, not simply because they're throwing them away. But I also know that there are very few families in what I consider to be my "class" (medium-low level income, but doable, young family) who would accept hand-me-downs unless they looked spanking brand new. ANd there are a lot of those around, too. People in Utah Valley buy a lot (it seems) and end up with too much and so end up throwing or giving a lot of amazing stuff away.

Am I weird because i accept every offer that comes my way? Does that make me somehow less of a mom? Does it throw me into the "needy Family," category? ANd for that matter, is this what people assume about us, because instead of having stretched our budget to buy a house, we're renting, and waiting for the right situation to come along?

I think I am happy about the lifestyle I lead. I have been blessed with so many miracles. And they literally seem to show up on my doorstep just as I need them. Skywalker and I were looking for a place to live three years ago, and our prayers were to the effect that we'd find a place that would serve our family's needs and also allow us to save the money we'd need to pay in cash for our adoption and not go into debt. And then Anna's house became available, for what let's just say is an amazing rate, unbelievable actually. If you knew what we paid in rent, you'd be shocked, even after you saw the wallpaper falling off our walls in places and the 70's era carpet and the 40's era interior decorating and the bathroom tiles falling off our walls and the rotted wall behind our sink.

It's doable. It's comfortable. It's clean. It's warm, it's not dangerous... for my family, it's perfect. And as we continue to live here our new goal is to save up a downpayment on a house, a blessing we're grateful to be able to plan for.

When we added two new kids to our family, we realized our old car would not do anymore. It was perfectly fine (12 years old, a bit of a gas-guzzler but ran just fine, some scratches on the sides from my harrowing parking experiences living in a condo community) except that it had one less seat than we needed.

My father-in-law offered to sell us their old van (14 years old, but in better condition than our old car, even, because he is such a meticulous maintainer of his vehicles.) Sure it's an old van. It's got a rust spot on the back bumper. It's a bit dingy on the inside and outside. But it has seven seats. And we could more than adequately afford the price (300 dollars). It was another blessing from Heavenly Father, and another miraculous answer to prayer-- that he bring us something that is reliable, that can carry our family around and that we could afford without any debt. And He did.

When we brought our girls home, I quickly realized I needed to bascially double the amount of clohes I had. I was thinking in my head, if I do this at DI and other thrift stores, I can keep it under 300, maybe. And then a ward member said she'd been praying about something she could do to help our family in the wake of our adoption and thought of the clothes she had stored in the basement. She asked me what sizes I might have use for, I told her and she said those were the sizes she had. Two days later I had four boxes full of clothes and I had more than enough for my girls. I even went through and put some of them in a box to give away, myself.

Another blessing, to a prayer not even offered, this time.

I sometimes wonder, existing in the pressure and social expectation that is Utah Valley, if people look at me and wonder what I'm doing. I'm renting. I drive what they probably see as a crud car on its last legs (But in reality...we could drive it another 100,000 miles if we take good care of it, at least according to the guy who inspected it when we got home). I dress my kids sometimes in cute but slightly faded clothes, in jeans that are a little worn at the knees, in shoes sometimes just a tad too big and coats that are too large but still warm (they can wear them next year, too!) and I wonder if people think I'm somehow a bad mom because I've accepted all these blessings and the opportunity to stay out of debt, live within my means, and save up for the blessings of the future.
We could easily afford a car payment. Buying a house right now is not outside of our reach if we followed certain options and opportunities. And I could buy all their clothes new... we do have the money.

Does that mean we SHOULD spend the money? It feels sometimes like some people think we should.

That is the thing I dread coming back to.

I feel like so many couples get married and decide that in order to have a kid, they need a 3 bedroom house and an almost new SUV (the new minivan), tons of designer baby clothes and other things like that in order to be a responsible family. And it's odd to be around. It's not the way I grew up. I'm not saying it's an evil phenomenon... it's just not anything like what I value at all, and I feel sometimes like people think I'm wierd or wrong or irresponsible to be the way I am.

And yet... these were all blessings. If Heavenly Father thinks it's good enough for my family, isn't it OK that I think it's good enough?

In the aftermath of Christmas (I handmade most of my girls' gifts, and the rest were hand-me-downs that were almost brand new, and I'm very grateful for the family who thought to offer to us before taking it to DI) I'm thinking about this with an extra measure of poignancy. My kids seem happy. I'm Happy. I feel like Heavenly Father is helping us meet our goals.

So maybe it's OK, after all, that I don't have a single thing to my name that I could sell for any significant amount of money... not a single thing. And that somehow in spite of that, life is good.

Dec 16, 2009

Writers

I just went to my first League of Utah Writers' Christmas party, and I have to say...

writers are weird.

that's all I have to say about that.

Dec 15, 2009

OK fine...

So my previous post was kind of a lead-up to this. I've been rebelliously not listing my own sister's blog in my links on the side because I don't think she ever visits mine. But that's silly and internet passive aggressive. So here's her cool blog with lots of thoughtful posts and fun silliness. I realized the other day (after I looked her blog up in my email account for the fifth time) that i really need a link on my sidebar so that I don't have to look it up. That's the way I operate... the links on my sidebar are mostly for me and my own convenience, but if any of you all want to click through cuz you're curious then that's awesome too because I like to read lots of awesome blogs.

And Cait, just so you know... I love reading your posts and really my complaining is more because I want to read more of them, not so much that I need you to come over here and comment.

Still waiting on Care. She's got a blog but I think she's only posted like one thing on it. And that was three years ago. Haha.

Maybe I should start one for her.

That would kind of be beside the pt though, wouldn't it? oh well.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading her blog you'll need an invite (she's all wise like that, keeping the blog private) so email her (I assume you'd know her email if you wanted an invite anyway) and she'll invite you.

Dec 13, 2009

It Buggeth Me...

OK so I have to admit. It really does bug me...

that none of my sisters ever read my blog.

I'm Jealous of Adelle and Camilla.

Sisters, you must read my blog. And comment uponeth it. That means you, Carolee... yes, you have to get internet in your apartment. And you, Cait... well, really you have no excuse except you're not really fond of the internets and you're newly married and wrapped up in honeymoon-type bliss as well as the stress of working a part time job while taking 18 credits.

Still, that's no excuse.

Am I right?

....sigh.

Dec 10, 2009

Fear Tactics

Loli has had a mysterious fever these past several days. It actually gets quite high, about 104 sometimes. The odd thing is, she has NO SYMPTOMS. Literally, NONE. She's just as bouncy and lively all day and her fever is about 101. At night it spikes to around 103-104 and then she starts acting tired and sluggish. None of my other kids have anything! I give her tylenol at night, and I've been doing cranberry pills because it seems to me it must be bacterial, somehow. If she still has it tonight, I'm planning on taking her to the doc tommorrow to see what's up. And perhaps cancel some plans (though I hope that doesn't happen... we have a full, fun weekend planned.)

So Loli's problem is she hates drinking water. She gets dehydrated really fast, though, especially when she's sick. So I've been pushing the emergen-c and water the last couple days. Last night I got a little frustrated.

Me: Loli, if you don't drink water when you're sick you could die.

Loli: (Looks at me suspiciously) No you can't.

Me: Yes, you could.

Loli: Mom, you can NOT die from not drinking water!

Me: It happens all the time.

Loli: Oh. (Thinking over the possibilities.)

Me: But before that happened with you we'd probably take you to a hospital, where they'd stick a needle in your arm and give you water THAT way. So you probably wouldn't die after all.

Loli: (Eyes completely round) Oh.


Next morning...

Loli: Mom, I drank a LOT of water last night.

Me: Good.

Bella: Mom, is Loli Die?

Me: No, she won't die.

Bella: (snickering) Loli Die, no water?

Loli: It's not funny!!!



And that's how you do it, ladies and gentlemen. As my mother before me, I have learned to utilize the tactic of scaring my children completely into submission.

Things they say

MayMay:

"Gloon." (Glue)

"No Weird Me!" (don't call me weird! Usually to loli)

"Mama! Ethiopia, Me, and Bellarina, me sparkles! Coat, blanket, backpack, face, sparkles! And green makeup, and Jaws Green makeup, and Loli green makeup, and Mama and Daddy all buzzo bananas!!!) (Ethiopia has now become a fairtyale place in all our memories)

One thing about May is that she is really, really cute especially when she's really, really mad. Her voice is growly-roary, and her face screws up in a fascinatingly, maddeningly cute manner that makes it really difficult for me to follow through with a declared consequence for not-OK behavior. She reminds me of an angry baby rabbit, ready to claw her way out of the situation, but really in need of lots of cuddling as soon as possible. Thankfully she doesn't get in trouble nearly as much now... they've all learned that hurting is not a way to get things, and obeying is non-negotiable in most circumstances.

Jaws:

"Buzzoo Buzzzzzoooo!" accompanied by emphatic arm waving. (That's the Amharic word for lots or many. She uses it instead of English and I don't blame her because it's a far better word for it.)

"Mama, MayMay no takafahee." (MayMay won't share. I'm trying to figure out a way to encourage good English while not discouraging their use of Amharic.)

Jaws has a cute, high little girl voice and those large, blue eyes and she is suuuch a cuddler. She's been pushing boundaries a little more lately, and when she gets mad, she stares at you out from under her eyebrows in a very stern way that nearly has me doubled up in laughter. It's hard to stick to my point and follow through teaching her about sharing, helping clean up, being nice, etc. She reminds me of my sister Caitlin when she was little, in that she's so very open and happy to play whatever game is going on and gets really, really shriekingly excited about things.

Bella:

"Mom. Buzzoo Koyee Christmas?" (Lots of waiting until Christmas?)

"Yes. It's in a little while."

"This much koyee?" Lifting her arms out to the sides, then stretching them until they're as far back as they can go, so they're almost touching behind her back.

"This many days." (flashing ten fingers, then two). "Then we'll leave for Grandma's."

Bella (jumping up and down.)

I've been talking to Bella about how babies get born. Loli hasn't been curious yet, and my working method so far has been to wait for the questions. Bella has a plethora of questions, from how long until the baby's "ready come OUT!" To how the doctor "Get the Baby OUT." IT's been quite enlightening, especially considering the fact that, as always when explaining something to either Bella or may, I have to resort to a lot of animated repetitive, simple phrases, as well as dramatic gestures, because she's still working on English. Gestures I would be embarrassed to display in polite company.

So whatever Loli might ever have wanted to know, she now knows, probably in more detail and demonstration than she ever could have wished. Thankfully we haven't gotten to the part about how babies get INTO mommy's tummy yet. Hopefully we'll all know enough English at that point to render gestures unnecessary.

I might take the chicken's road out and check out a book from the library if it comes to that.

Loli:

"Me? Upstairs? Me boozoo talking and then boozoo fall and Doof! Ouch on my head!!" (Maniacal laughter from Loli and Bella and Jaws and May.)


Yeah. Like I said... how do you encourage good English while at the same time not discouraging the use of another language in your home, which is something I acually love having happen? At least they seem to be getting better. These last two weeks, they have made the switch, I think, to mostly English.

Loli is reading "Mr. Popper's Penguins" right now and thinks it's hilarious. And she loved when I read her essay today so she could see me smile over the "funny" thing that happened in the chapter. It was way cute.


Squirt:

(Playing with one of Jeff's tools.)
Me: Squirt! Don't touch that.
Squirt: (attempts to hide it behind his back, staring at me guilelessly with his blue, blue eyes).
Me: Squirt, put it back.
Squirt. "O-ka-ay." (Makes a move as if to put it into the tool box, then quickly snatches it away and hides it behind his back again.)
Me: Put it back, squirt.
Squirt: Gives me a squinty-eyed, toothy grin. "Hi, Mommy."
Me: Hi, squirt. Please put the screwdriver back. (I wrest the screwdriver from his tiny iron grip.)
Squirt: (Ear piercing shriek, forms his hand into a little fist and holds it threateningly in front of his face.)
Me: No, no, squirt. Don't hit. Want to watch Duck Duck? (Disney cartoon, "the ugly duckling").
Squirt: (Pouting.) "O-ka-ay."


Squirt loves to take a coat hanger and a big stick and pretend to be a pirate. He'll go into a little baby-boy lunge stance and thrust his stick-sword and grin at you and say, "I Cappin Hook!"

I sometimes have to take sticks away when he hits people. We're working on that. He's all boy, that's for sure... Yes, Dave, in spite of all the soy milk. And in spite of the fact that he's surrounded. Who knows? Maybe he feels an obligation to be extra-super boy-like to balance out the household.

We're getting him a toy tool set for Christmas. :)


I just wanted to write down some of these things here because I don't keep a journal and I know, later, I'll be sad I didn't record these things, especially this irretrievable time when my entire brood is speaking pidgin Amahric-English. I'm going to take out my H-2 recorder one of these days and just record, record, record... I know it'll be something we'll enjoy for many decades to come.

Dec 3, 2009

Misplaced Stewardship

My 5-year-old throws a fit at the store parking lot because I won't give her something she wants. She refuses to come with us, standing and yelling outside the store, watching us move away from her. I ignore her, traversing the parking lot (not too far from the entrance) looking for the car. Just about the time I find it, she runs toward me to join the other kids, still yelling at the top of her lungs. We've been thru this before; I know the routine and don't let it bother me. Until grandpa-aged man comes up to me and scolds me for "scaring her so bad."

Ok, now I'm a little ticked. No, more than ticked, I'm mad.

How come I'm not allowed to put random stranger grandpas in their rooms for time outs for being nosy and interfering?

It reminds me of another time. A more difficult time in my life, just after some ridiculous events that left me an emotional wasteland, and my parenting a tired, automatic, draining-me-of-my-lifeblood process for about 6 months.

During that time, Loli became ill with a flu that left her returning violently anything I put in her stomach. It lasted for about a day-and-a-half, and,per pediatrician reccomendation I had her on a liquid diet: pedialyte and water, two tablespoons every half-hour, because it was all she could keep down. She wanted other things; bread, cereal, etc, as most tiny kids do when they're sick and don't understand the association: solid foods=throw up violently, including emptying the system of all fluids that mommy has painstakingly gotten into thier poor, tiny, potentially dehydrated systems.

I took her to a bishop's interview (I had a lot of them at the time, there was a lot of ridiculous aftermath to deal with.) The bishop was tired of me, tired of dealing with my situation... probably as weary and drained as I felt, dealing with it.

Loli reached for a bag of cereal he had on his desk, I told her "no." The bishop gave me a look, handed her the cereal, watched her down the thing frantically, and said I wasn't feeding her enough.

Thanks, bishop. Good thing you don't have to deal with the messy aftermath. Or the emotional wasteland, 24-7. I know there were some people who (maybe rightfully) thought my parenting somewhat lacking during that time. But you know what? I did a pretty good job, considering. I maybe wasn't as present emotionally as a woman in normal circumstances would have been, but I took care of her. I loved her, and held her, and felt fiercely protective of her, and found the very best childcare for her that I could, and worried about her every second I was away from her.

Why can't I put an interfering, nosy bishop on some kind of probation? Just, like, maybe a no-hugging-any-cute-toddlers-or-babies restriction, for like a couple weeks?


Just two examples that have nothing to do with each other, but somehow are emotionally linked to me and my perception of men, (sometimes women, too, I guess) and misplaced stewardship.

I feel like parents are judged much more harshly by people who forget (or simply do not know) what it is like to be in a particular situation, parenting a particular child. The comments I love are, "wow. You're brave, bringing 5 kids to the supermarket." "looks like you've got your hands full! Good job." And the knowing looks from others as they glance at my obviously non-nuclear family, and see one of my adopted kids needing a little quiet talk in the middle of the store.

People who know, don't interfere.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Dec 1, 2009

A discussion of republic Vs democracy

From this website.

"Republic. That form of government in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated.

"Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy."

From this website:

Democracy

The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

Direct Democracy:
In the direct type, applicable only to a small number of people as in the little city-states of ancient Greece, or in a New England town-meeting, all of the electorate assemble to debate and decide all government questions, and all decisions are reached by a majority vote (of at least half-plus-one).

In both the Direct type and the Representative type of Democracy, The Majority’s power is absolute and unlimited; its decisions are unappealable under the legal system established to give effect to this form of government. This opens the door to unlimited Tyranny-by-Majority. This was what The Framers of the United States Constitution meant in 1787, in debates in the Federal (framing) Convention, when they condemned the "excesses of democracy" and abuses under any Democracy of the unalienable rights of The Individual by The Majority.

Republic

Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term "the people" means, of course, the electorate.

John Adams:
"By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionately chosen . . . the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act."

James Madison:

"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another." (Emphasis added.)

It is noteworthy here that the above discussion, though brief, is sufficient to indicate the reasons why the label "Republic" has been misapplied in other countries to other and different forms of government throughout history. It has been greatly misunderstood and widely misused--for example as long ago as the time of Plato, when he wrote his celebrated volume, The Republic; in which he did not discuss anything governmental even remotely resembling--having essential characteristics of--a genuine Republic.




*OK, now I'm talking again.*


So, I think, in doing my reading (which I did back in my freshman year at BYU as well as in my Constitution class in 8th grade... but back then I think my brain was half-formed and only vaguely understood enough to get good test scores) I realize that I do not want a direct democracy. And never have.

But I think I have also realized that a lot of people misunderstand our government. They talk about it (libertarians in particular)being an "other." "Government taking over." "Government infringing upon our rights." Well, I understand that now, in a sense, because with a republic-form of government we have created something (the constitution) that is supposed to be the golden rule upon which all else hangs (we need to follow laws created by the legislative gov't. We need to abide by the rulings of the Judicial system. We need to obey executive powers, or expect consequences if we don't.)

SO is government really other? Or is it US? I realize nobody is alive now that signed the constitution. So you could effectively say that none of us alive have agreed to this implied agreement upon which our government is based.

What we should realize, though, is that we have slid a bit from the first picture that Madison had of government. The Madison compromise was the first bit. Madison wanted a true representative republic: the actual population represented proportionately in government. But the large, more-sparsely populated southern states were, of course, not OK with this... they felt themselves at a disadvantage if the legislators were chosen in proportion to population, and wouldn't effectively represent all states' rights, and if the state's rights were to be upheld, then there should be a governing body that equally represented each.

So, already, we have a contrived element to our government that has nothing to do with actual people, but instead an entity known as State.

This is not necessarily bad. But it's something to think about.

One of the biggest elements of our constitution was the resolution that the state's legislative bodies would elect our national representatives: senators, specifically, while congressmen were elected by the populous. This changed at the beginning of the 20th century, when the right to elect senators was passed on to the people in the state, to elect through majority. Thus, moving us closer to the idea of democracy as opposed to the Republic. Here's an article on how this happened and why.

Because Congressmen were already elected by the people, this made it so that our entire legislative body was elected by the people.

Our national judicial system is not representative... basically, we elect our president who will select the supreme court judges. So we're still a step removed from a more direct-democracy approach, there.

Our national executive branch is an interesting thing. The people don't directly elect the president. When we vote in the primaries, we directly narrow down the presidential candidates to two, who run against each other. But when it comes to the national election, the nationwide vote translates into electoral votes. These electoral votes are cast by the "electoral college", who are selected either by the state legislature or randomly (each state has its own system). Depending on the state, these electorate may not even have to vote the way the state itself has voted. Though a lot of states have changed that now because the populace gets upset (another example of our our republic system has shifted to a more representative-democratic system.)


The president selects his own cabinet, which makes up the rest of the executive branch. So this is a more republic aspect of our current system: the President, who the people halfway directly and halfway indirectly elect, is a representative who then appoints the rest of the executive branch.

The interesting thing about all of this, is that our government was formed four hundred years ago, when most people were not educated enough to know the information and understand what they would need to, to participate productively in the system. So all these Republican protections, eg, having the populous elect representatives instead of directly deciding who is in our government, may be somewhat unnecessary.

Of course there are lots of people out there who are apathetic, and those who are a tad crazy, and those who would like to promote their own, narrow interests as they decide who to elect. But in the end, aren't all these factions supposed to balance each other out in favor of what the majority would wish (assuming the majority of the population participates?) That's the beauty of democracy.

There is a scripture in the Book Of Mormon that says exactly how I feel about government:

Mosiah 29:

26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

When you read this chapter of scripture, you realize that Mosiah was also describing a system of electing representatives that then create law. Specifically, he was addressing the issue of Judges. Which, when you think about it, makes sense, because a judicial system governed by only the majority voice is a scary thing. Think what would happen to people like OJ Simpson and Charles Manson if the undefined majority (as opposed to a jury, selected by a judge and panel, who are elected by the people) sentenced them. Justice would not be served... it would be more like vengeance.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Figuring out what the beef I have with our current system is... because i feel like it's not nearly representative enough, but I'm not yet sure in what way. Just a vague but also powerful feeling that I need to put into actual political theory, just for my own benefit.

Nov 30, 2009

China Again

So the other part of my China epiphany was this:

China has more than a billion uninsured people.

What makes us think we're so important that we can sell China our bad debt, take their money, and use it to insure our current 30 million that are not covered by healthcare? What makes us so much better than them? hmmm?

So this is my new political stance: It is not moral for us to be in debt as a nation. After reading and thinking about it a lot, I feel like our debt is literally taking the food out of others' mouths, or could be seen that way at least (and yes I know there are a hundred equations and philosophies and opinions and predictions that would explain this view into oblivion. But see... we're selling them money we don't have and can't guarrantee ever to have, and they are paying real money for it. And we think that we can go into FURTHER debt to insure our 30 million while China has over a billion uninsured... who is China going to sell debt to, to pay for coverage they can't really afford?)

I am a democrat. I have realized how very thouroughly a democrat I am, in the purest sense of the term. I believe in a free democracy above all else. Really I do. I believe that our current Republic works out OK most of the time, but it's a compromise we should never have made. I agree with James Madison in that we ought to have Actual representation, and not be forced to channel our votes through a few people that have been selected by committees who have been selected to represent the rest of us. We really ought to have more of a democratic system.

I believe we have way too many laws that dictate the way people live their lives. There need to be some laws to protect the innocent, yes. But we shouldn't have laws that force one particular narrow set of values and customs upon a large population. That's not the place of Rule of Law.

I believe that welfare is vital to any country or nation or government's well being, and that a well-run system will hugely benefit the population it serves, without bankrupting said system. In fact, a well-run welfare system should produce profit and productivity. We just have a lot of beaurocratic deadwood and expensive red tape procedures and policies that need to be cut, shifted and changed.


Basically, I think I now am a Democrat who believes we need to start from scratch... after we get completely out of debt. Because what kind of person thinks it's OK to sell fake money to a population where a large number of people still starve to death sometimes, and an even larger number have absolutely no access to healthcare? At least here we have emergency rooms and laws that make it so everybody has to be served in them.

So that's my bleeding-heart-liberal reason for thinking we should not sign this health care bill.

OK, go ahead and start throwing donkey poo at me. :)

Nov 23, 2009

US in real life

I'm not going to post the latest SNL Obama skit because it has a few very crude references in it, and my Mom and Grandma read this blog. Heck, someday my kids will read it. SIGH, because it was very politically interesting, that skit. It was about how much money we owe China.

Here's how the situation is:

China owns a large amount of our US treasury bonds. Those are the things we create when we don't have the cash to cover our expenses (as a nation). We create these bonds and offer them for sale to other countries (or the American people), basically selling "futures" in American currency. They are supposed to mature and create a profit for those who buy them.

China owns so many of these bonds that basically, they own around 25% of our nation's debt (see here for some illustrations of the kind of debt that the US currently owes). Japan owns a further 20%. The rest is owed in smaller bits and pieces... some by countries where we are currently engaged in tricky diplomatic processes.

This, in itself, is troubling. But we see that it's even more of a dilemma when we realize how much of our labor is outsourced to China and Japan. How many goods and products we buy from people who give jobs to people in Japan and China at the American People's expense, because they can do it at a much lower production cost, partially because these countries do not have this debt, as well as other regulations that we in America put on businesses. It's an endless downward spiral.

Another problem is that China is artificially keeping its currency at a low rate, thus giving itself an unfair advantage over other currencies. We can't do much about it, can we? For a very pithy illustration of this, go ahead and watch that SNL video I told you not to watch.

Most people say this isn't a real worry because China and Japan need us to have a stable economy so that we will provide them with a market for the goods that they export, and they will lose a significant investment if they liquidate the bonds they hold. The problem with this argument, is that it's missing the whole point. We are currently in the position of Owing. We are in Debt. Right now, China doesn't seem to have any real reason to liquidate bonds. But they may soon find one.


So, what does this have to do with SNL and Obama and this trip he took to China?

It appears we are becoming more friendly to China. More diplomatic, more chummy. More willing to overlook points upon which we don't agree as nations. This could be good; diplomacy is always good. But not if we're doing it for the wrong reasons.

This is a very clear example of how America as a Nation must be free from entanglements and obligations, if we Americans want to be able to effectively promote our cause (even the most altruistic, noble cause, including things such as human rights.)

Of all the news I've read lately, this is the most troubling, to me. And it's the thing that's causing ME (yes me, Nosurfgirl) to wonder about the future of America; not necessarily related to communism and socialism and the constitution hanging by a thread.. but our Reason for Being. And our ability to be who we're supposed to be... are we going to continue being that City on the Hill? Most would say we've already fallen, because of our ill-conceived actions in the middle east over the past 50 years and the resulting negative image we've gained internationally.

Up 'till now, I've always felt like we're doing things for the right reasons (albeit, sometimes horribly misguided). We're trying. We make mistakes. We get stupid information. Greedy people manipulate numbers and intelligence to further their agenda, but we have tried to make the foreign policy decisions that seem most in line with our mission, our "city on the hill" identity as a nation.

This latest development makes me worry if perhaps we're starting to get on the track to doing the wrong things... because we can't do much when we don't have a leg to stand on, economically speaking.

This is the kind of stuff I'd like to hear more people debate about. I feel like we're skimming the surface in our rhetoric and our debates lately... quibbling over table scraps and finding shallow rhetoric to pit one side against the other. What we need to be doing instead is talking about the things that nobody seems to want to talk about. It's understandable that politicians want to avoid this whole subject, and others that are equally serious and threatening to the future of the US. Because it's not popular to be the voice of gloom and doom. You'll never get elected that way; Americans elect people who tell them they're Great and they're Right and they're on the Right Team. Americans like to see gladiators fighting each other. They like the race and the show, and they like being able to pick the winning side.

Problem is, right now... guess who's on the losing side? It's not the republicans or the democrats. It's US.

We can't allow ourselves to be distracted by pettiness when there are real dangers out there to America itself; what we are as a nation. Why we exist. We can't sequester ourselves in front of our little computer screens playing the Tetris of bill word counts and semantics gymnastics when there's a real problem out there.

Time to take our heads out of the sand, people.

Nov 19, 2009

Silliness...



Geoffrey Nunberg's response.

OK guys, now you're just trying to find things to fight about. The word Shall? Come on. There are far worse things to worry about in this particular piece of legislation.

For instance, I've always found the word, "it," to be offensively neuter in implication. The health care bill has the word, "it", several thousand times. In fact, a lot of these so-controversial"shalls," have sinister "its" that fall directly before and after them.

This is truly a terrible thing, linguistically speaking.

Nov 14, 2009

Nov 11, 2009

A Great Big Gargantuan Picture Post....


Halloween. The kids are all kinda squished together but you can see Loli was Cinderella, Bella was Princess Aurora (hard to pronounce with an Amharic accent!), Jaws was Tinkerbell and May was Snow White. They've gone a little princess crazy since... May can now tell you the entire plot of Snow White... in English.


We've had a MOUSE problem lately. Something about this winter... lots of mouse trouble in the old farmhouses in our area. So Skywalker rigged some humane live traps. This is us letting 3 mice go. We've caught 9 so far. Ewww. But better than spiders... still I hope we're DONE. For more info on the traps go to jeffrey.thedunsters.net.


School art projects


Me with a beer belly.


Class Time! Letter and number games.


Loli wanted short hair. Really, really wanted it. I winced, I almost cried... but maybe she knows what's what. She does look pretty dang good with short hair.


Sniff. 8 inches.


Yarn braids, after 4 weeks in. Fuzzy roots!


Bella with crazy hair after getting her yarn braids out.


May has decorated her doll with her leftover yarn braids.


May's standard ham-for-the-camera face. She knows how to work it...


Bella's not sure she likes having free hair. I tried it for the first time, and I actually was able to define her curls and keep them looking good for a whole day! Amazing. Bella said, "Mom, make it go DOWN."
I'm sorry kiddo...


Bella: Ok, Mom, I'll smile. Just because you want me to. (she doesn't know how jealous I am of those beautiful curls!)


Jaws' hair is getting longer!


Can't leave Squirt out.


Just Cuz.

Nov 6, 2009

Horde Momsmanship

So as the mom (suddenly) of lots of kids close in age, I have learned (painfully) a few things.

1) The dull roar just is. I remember when I was a teen, constantly listening to angsty rock music... if I could stand the noise then, I can stand it now. And I have to.

2) Kids have this little heirarchy-- The role of Oldest, Best at ______, Fastest at _______, etc etc etc. Everyone wants to Be the Oldest, in the sense that they want Mom to trust them with responsibility. I've learened, instead of giving all the real responsibility to just my oldest, to instead give everyone a "job" when I need, for instance, babysitting while I am in the next room taking a abath. Loli is the one who watches Squirt, Bella is in charge of turning on the movie, May is going to make sure the house doesn't get messy, and Jaws will find everyone a blanket to sit and watch the movie-- just an example. Giving everyone jobs keeps kids from becoming contentious and resenting each other for being "in charge" of each other.

3) They Have To Clean Up Their Own Messes. It just doesn't work any other way. My house would either be a continuous hazardous waste zone, or else I'd be cleaning all day. Thus: strict enforcement of the policy. yes, you do get in trouble if you aren't cleaning up when mom asks you to. Big trouble!!!

4) I've had to develop a really good memory about "turns." For instance, today when I pulled into the grocery store parking lot I had to remember that two days ago, Jaws and May got to sit in the little shopping cart car, so it was Bella's and Loli's turn this time. This is very very important to kids. Like, so important you're not going to be able to go shopping, you'll have little angry demons pulling on your cart and whining and purposefully ticking the others off and generally making life impossible for you without 'really doing anythign wrong' the whole trip. I call it "being pissy" because I haven't found another, more diplomatic way to describe it. Pissy just sums it up so well.

5) Secret mom treats are now nonexistent. This many kids... there's no way to hide the brownie you bought for yourself because you feel like you need it after "what you just went through." So you have two options: Either buy a brownie for everyone, or admit selfishiness. Eg: yes, this is for mommy. No, you may not have some. yes, I know it's not fair. Too bad. I'm the Mom.

(ha! Nobody turn me in to CPS, OK?)

6) Quiet time, (brief periods, spent by yourself, in a room with locked doors that you can hear pretty well through) is not an indulgence, it's a need. Just every once in a while. a ten-minute break periodically throughout the day. Does wonders for my sanity.... I can recharge and readopt the pleasant, "no you may not tone" instead of continuing in the "wicked witch of the west, I'll get you my pretty, if you ask one more time" direction.

7) I find I love life a whole lot more if I Find time each day to Revel; to take a couple of my kids and individually spend some time just talking to them... even just for a few minutes. Or listening to them talk to you, and allow yourself to well up inside with the joy of their cuteness, smartness, hilariousness, and overall goodness.

8) For me, Humor does a lot for stressful situations. Laughing is much more productive when things are spilled, accidentally broken, or any other thing that happens. But if you don't feel particularly humorous, another thing that has worked for me is realizing the worry/startled feelings my child is experiencing when she/he has an accident, instead of focusing on my own, irritated, weary-of-cleaning-up feelings.

That's all for now. I'm sure there will be many more, painfully-learned lessons to try to gather under my belt in the coming years. These ones have helped...

but the biggest thing has been chocolate. Chocolate really can solve any (small) problem. Anyone have any? Pretty please?

Nov 5, 2009

Christmas Music



I'm looking around for a song to perform for my studio's Christmas recital. Often I listen to youtubes of my favorite singers performing the songs I'm considering, to decide which I like best and which might suit my own voice best if I tried it. I came across this.

I think this might be what angels sound like... to me, it's definitely the essence of what Christmas sounds like. It's my favorite Christmas carol, for sure, and you can't get a better, more lyric and expressive soprano... and to have the Motab as backup. Wow. I wish I had been at this concert. Once-in-a-lifetime.

Time for some more political Humor

Facebook is making me politically cranky these days. Everyone is stirred up right now. Face to face, I talk about politics to those I know like to talk about politics with-- people who listen and respond and who I can have a real coversation with. Facebook,though, is something where you get this crazy mosaic amalgam of everyone's thoughts, article postings, society joinings and whatall. And so every day I open my account for a couple minutes to read through what my friends have been doing lately. And I have been finding that people post a lot of email forwards, most of which are Snopes-debunked, and articles from their favorite "pry my weapon from my cold dead hands" or "illuminati bombed the twin towers" society. Yeah. I'd say something like 98% of my facebook friends don't like Obama, and 80% of them Really Hate Obama. Like, to the point where they think he's going to Bring Down the Principles of Free Society and Rip our Beloved Constitution in Two because he's an Evil Socialist Fascist Terrorist Foreign-Born America-Hating son of a gun whose name sounds like the names of two prominent evil people in recent history so we're going to capitalize on that as much as possible.

To this I have a response. A very good response:



Two things.

1) Lol. Seriously, ROFLOL. No... ROFLMBO and ROFLSHUC (that's my own! It means roll on the floor laugh so hard U cry. Do you like it?) Actually it was pretty dang funny. But I liked this guy better during the campaign... he did a better Obama then.

2)Shouldn't the right be calming down a little bit right now?

I mean, as fake Obama said, if anyone should be upset, it should be the Left, right? Right?

Left?

Sorry.

Anyway, this fence is comfortable, as always. But the neighborhood's kind of getting noisy. I might need to buy myself some earplugs...

Nov 1, 2009

Holy Halloween Tradition

Oddness.

This week has been just plain disrupted.

In addition to Skywalker needing some time home to recoup from Second-Wave-H1N1 (he was overdoing it at work, and the cough came BACK!! Another tip to add to my previous post) We've had three (almost) Halloweens... A ward party, a voice-class party, and trick or treating. This has been suuuuch a buildup in anticipation for my kids. Crazy. There were those yarn braids (which I didn't JUST do for Halloween, you remember); there was the sewing back together of slightly-ragged DI princess dresses. Every single day since I bought the dresses the girls would ask, "princess dress? Princess dress?" (or in the case of Loli and Jaws, "Mom, when's Halloween? Is it next week? How many days?)

My kids went trick-or-treating together for the first time last night, and they had a ball. I had to wonder, as we walked around in the dark, going from one, sumptuous Park-City lodge-style home to another (we visited my sis for Halloween this year. We don't get up to see them much and it seemed like a good excuse) what they were thinking. Loli taught them the proper Trick-Or-Treating Ettiquite, and it was four flying, sparkly skirts dashing from house to house, and a chorus of husky/supersonic voices every time a door was opened. I wonder, do my bright-eyed children feel the same sort of Glee I felt as a child on Halloween? Are Bella and May too foreign to the concept yet, and is Jaws too young, to fully appreciate the joy that is yearly tradition? Will they be thinking about Halloween occasionally all year long, and then when we come upon the middle of September and the leaves start changing and the air gets that bite to it that somehow makes me want to guzzle gallons of cider, will their minds turn to pumpkins and orange-lit houses and maniacal giggling as timid fingers press a doorbell?

I'm so glad my girls got to go trick or treating. There was a mix up about timing with my family, and for a while I was pretty worried trick-or-treating wouldn't work out this year. I got this terrible sinking feeling, that all I had been promising my kids for a month wouldn't pan out. It's so silly, really. Halloween? Candy? A completely frivolous, non-religious holiday for us folk here in Utah, at least. I didn't realize it was that important to me.

I guess, for me at least, there's something religious about tradition, about family time, about seeing people we don't always see, perhaps. And about Mom and Dad making an effort to create a gleeful, sugar-high-filled, whimsical experience that will resonate in childish memories throughout the year, adding a little more anticipation with each year. As my kids get older, it matters more to them. As they get older, it becomes security... the promise of a wonderful experience, of a day just for kids.

Happy Halloween everybody. I hope all your candy's gone. Because if not, I may be visiting you in the near future... our kids downed ours within two hours, and I didn't get a chance to extract the obligatory chocolate tax that all parents are entitled to. Just a piece of advice: if you know I'm coming, hide the chocolate.

Oct 28, 2009

H1N1 (We Won)

We all came down with a "flu-like illness" a couple of weeks ago. I missed a Sunday of church and had a fever for about four days and a horrible chest cough for a few days after, but I think my biggest anguish was mental. Guys, don't google swine flu. They have all sorts of scary, wonderful statistics that will drive you mad with worry. I seriously wondered to myself if I were to not survive, what my husband would have to do. Which is silly.

Pregnant women are a high-risk group, though, and it's looking like a scary percentage of them (something like 3-6 % is what I've read) end up hospitalized with subsequent pneumonia infections, and some have died. Everything I've read and done, though, has pointed me toward treating yourself right and you won't get horribly awfully ill.

Here's what we did:

Because it was too late for Tamiflu by the time we realized we had it, we treated ourselves with some natural remedies and avoided sugars, dairies, and refined flours, all which increase mucous production/and or lower the immune system's response range. The natural remedies that seemed to help the best were:

1) Garlic/cayenne capsules
2) Emergen-C!!! Seriously, a life-saver. I downed so much of that stuff, I was worried I might give myself kidney stones or something, but it seemed to work soooo well. My whole family guzzled it. You can buy a fam-size pack at Sam's for around 20 bucks, which is much cheaper than you can buy it at the normal grocery or health food store. I'm guessing Costco likely also carries it.
3) Humidifier. Be careful to clean it out well, because it can also harbor and spread bacteria if it's not properly cleaned. I put Young Living brand Theives oil in the humidifier and it really seemed to soothe the cough a bit.
5) Peppermint oil on the chest/neck/throat and Olba's Pastille lozenges, to relieve the awful pain of coughing endlessly when your throat is raw as a pulverized steak.
6) Heating pad and/or socks filled with rice and cinnamon/cloves, heated up in the oven at around 250 for half an hour or so. Put on the chest/throat.
7) Sitting UP in bed. honestly... when I was lying down it felt like the mucous pooled more, and that coughing was much less productive.
8) Onion soup. Fry some sliced onions in some oil or butter ( a LOT of onions, like four or five whole onions) and then stew them in vegetable or chicken broth for about 30 minutes more. I added shredded parmesan cheese sprinkles even though it was dairy and therefore, mucous producing... because then it was like french onion soup at a good restaurant.
8) An over-the-counter expectorant, such as Mucinex. Really helped loosen the gross chest crud and helped with coughing it up (though honestly, it was torture for a bit there... endless coughing.)

For my kids, I kept tabs on their temperatures and administered Tylenol if they went above 103 or so.


The stages of the illness seemed to go as follows:

1) Like the beginning of a nomral, bad cold accompanied by the achiness of fever and an actual fever, and a feeling of weak helplessness like there's no way you can get out of bed, even to put away your dirty socks.

2) The chest cough really starts to set in the next day or day after. Also some nasal congestion, for us. Focus on this symptom, because it is the one that tends to make people go downhill, fast, if not addressed.

3) The fever tends to last for a while! It's amazing. I treated it with peppermint oil, which helped sometimes, and Tylenol, which helped when nothing else did.

4) The cough is still with us. And the hoarseness will continue beyond the time when you feel capable of getting out of bed... so when you go out in public people will look at you like you're typhoid mary. Don't worry about it... most sources say you're not contagious 48 hrs after your fever is gone. But still, I brought hand sanitizer everywhere we went and made my kids wash before we went inside any buildings, just to be good citizens.

So we survived! And the way statistics are looking right now, almost everyone will get this flu within the next couple months... so here's what we learned. Hope others can benefit from it. Biggest piece of advice... try not to freak out. Everything I've read said the symptoms to keep an eye on are struggling for breath, wheezing when breathing... bascially the symptoms of pneumonia. Which is what you watch for with any cold/flu, especially in your small kids. :)

Oct 21, 2009

Yarn Braids...

These took me (combined for both sets) probably about 16 hrs total to do. That's right.




Bella, before and after.




May, before and after. I didn't follow thru and take a pic of her hair in the bath like I'd planned, so I'm cheating and using an old one that shows the texture/length of her hair with no messing.


BUT they will last (if we take care of them...) for around 8 weeks! I'll have to replace a few here and there, but I shouldn't have to comb out hair for 8 weeks.

Why is this a good thing? Because tightly curly hair is damaged every time you have to run a comb through it. Some hair types won't even grow past a certain length because of brushing alone. So a style like Yarn braids where the hair is kept in a naturally detangled state because it is braided through the yarn, is a beneficial break from styling. Our regimen is... no washing so far. We've had them in about a week and a half. I inspect parts/hairline every day and so far, so good... no stinkies, no dirties. I'll probably run some diluted conditioner through their hair/yarn once every week or so from now on, (now that I'm not so sick I'm not even getting my FLOOR clean every day) and use the showerhead attachment to gently rinse through without damaging the braiding. They'll take a while to dry, we might have to sit them outside in the sun for a while for that purpose.

Just a little interesting piece of info: typical African hair only needs to be washed about once a week, because the oils don't stay like they do with caucasian hair. Black hair does not get oily from lack of washing... in fact I"m hard pressed to put enough oils IN their hair on a daily basis! As opposed to someone like me... if I go two days without shampooing, my hair is like a limp grease mop. Sure you wanted that visual.

The OTHER reason I did these yarn braids is because Halloween is coming up and ALL My girls of course want to be princesses, and May in particular is going to want some fancy updo. So now we have something to work with!!



The girls LOOOOVE being able to wear "siklemajjaja" (that's how it's pronounced, not sure how it's spelled... it means ponytail holders.) They think that having their hair up in a ponytail is the most gorgeous thing ever. It's so cute to see them prance around and play with their long ponytails. I love it.




Oct 17, 2009

Amazing Grace--Renee Fleming

Gorgeous song, Gorgeous fiddling, Gorgeous soprano. How much better does it get?

I Love This

I Love Opera, Love Placido, and love this song, and love broadway in general... anyway, I bet there aren't a WHOLE lot of people who find this sort of bizarre crossover as amazing as I do, but I love it. So I posted it. So there.

Ya might wanna watch it with your eyes closed. The visual isn't quite as appealing, I must admit... in my head I picture Natalie Wood from the movie and so seeing this 50-something Italian Opera Diva singing it's not quite such a good comparison. Anyway, Lovely lovely singing.

Oct 14, 2009

Effort and Aftermath

Skywalker and I have spent years planning on these events that have lately changed our family so drastically. And as all the fallout begins to clear away and the stress and emotional work begins to lessen somewhat, I am left with a clear vision of my five, gorgeous, smart, loving,absolutely hilarious kids. I look at my family and feel really blessed.

I was just diagnosed with Giardia. It's tough, being pregnant and also having giardia. I'm also stressing internally at the thought of Swine Flu, which is currently hitting all around like the proverbial trucks that everyone describe swine flu to feel like. I feel like our kids are healthy enough, and I am normally healthy enough, and Skywalker's got a system like an ox... normally I don't worry at all about any illnesses that breeze through our way. But I'm pretty sure that half my kids have the giardia. I worry about swine flu, on top of giardia. I worry about the giardia meds... which I still havent' taken yet becuase of all the info I've read about how the meds are not so good during pregnancy. I've said some prayers and am trying to figure out what to do. I've talked the matter over extensively with my mother, who is a natural health enthusiast but also a professional nurse with extensive experience with hospitals, dr offices, medications, and raising a large family and dealing with Hairy illnesses. I keep coming back to the thought that the meds might be necessary in this case for me, especially... PG + Giardia + Swine flu might not be so good. Maybe I should clear up the Giardia as soon as possible so that I just have the PG + Swine flu factors when it hits.

Also there's the thing with the kids... I should have them all tested, but the test is kind of a messy process and difficult. And I'm just putting it off.. my kids seem to be keeping food down and staying hydrated, and the illness is supposed to pass of its own accord in a few weeks in most healthy people.

Anyway, advice is something I have an abundance of... decision making is more tricky.

In the meantime, I look at my gorgeous family and know every single kid is worth all this trouble. Not to mention all of them together.

Oct 8, 2009

Update on US

UPDATE:

They're doing even better now! MayMay loves to play and be away from mom a lot, but she comes back for hugs sometimes. Bellarina is learning that "no means no", and is learning about not taking toys from others. She's learning about sharing, too. THey're both doing great, loving each other and everyone else in the family, the kids love playing and get really crazy!!! And love each OTHER and it's obvious and so cool and amazing. They clean up their room and the toys they scatter across the living room really quickly with four of them to motivate each other. We're getting into a routine for EVERYTHING... the car, meals, the whole day, actually.

Right now i'm doing kindergarten/preschool type stuff with Jaws, Bella and May and they're doing great. Bella I think gets bored, but I can't do much more for her right now until she acquires enough English... which she is doing, fast! We do counting games and letter games and they're tracing letters and numbers and watching "Letter Factory" to learn the short sounds. They're learning so fast! I'd say MayMay and Jaws are at about the same level. It isn't much of a surprise; Jaws is advanced for her age because she's been around Loli and Loli's schooling. And May was in an orphanage for 9 months... they say you can count on any amount of time spent in an orphanage to cause some delays. So she's working at about the same level as Ruth, but they're both learning letters, learning counting, and learning to write.

Loli is my wonder kid, when it comes to schooling. Every morning she does two math pages by herself, and then she does two pages of handwriting practice by herself, and then she writes out her spelling words, by herself, then she takes her chapter book, goes in Mom's quiet room, reads a chapter. Then she writes a short paragraph-essay on the chapter she read, which I correct for spelling and find spelling words from for the next week.

Then the real fun begins. She has chosen an animal to learn about each week. This week it's horses. So she gets one of the horse books we checked out of the library, reads it, and then writes down information for her "Key words" in her science journal (right now those are predators, prey, habitat, adaptive trait, Moms & Babies.) When she's gone through all the week's books, she writes a paragraph about the animal, how it is a (in this case, Mammal) and includes all of the things she learned about her key words.

For geography/history, we listen to Story of the World by susan wise bauer. This year we're doing ancient times, and while we listen we put together wooden geography puzzles. Right now we're focusing on the World puzzle, with the continents, oceans as the puzzle pieces. Loli has almost gotten to the point where she can put it together without help. It's been really fun. A lot less stress than I ever thought possible... my kid is a bright little thing, and I'm not bragging, it's just the truth.

Later in the year I'm planning on focusing on plants (springtime is a good time for that, don't you think?) And next year we'll be doing more of a physical science focus, to balance out the knowledge. This year we're pretty biologically focused. But I look forward to talking to Loli about weather patterns and physical geography, scientific experiments, measuring mass, volume, temperature and length, and doing loooots of science projects to learn about the physical world around us.


So that's us right now! Fall, bring it on! Cold weather, you don't scare us; we've got a closet full of pink and purple coats and mittens and scarves and hats and we are all looking forward to introducing our cute African daughters to snow for the first time!!!!


Oct 6, 2009

Blog traffic wierdness...

It is so weird when you look at your hit counter and see which posts are the most popular. It's completely nonsensical to me.

For a long time my number one hit has been my Vegan Broccoli-Cheese Soup recipe. Following closely behind, is my post on Fun and Interesting Facts about Ethiopia. Next up is search term like Funny Stories About Fear or Extremely Funny Stories, which leads everyone to the link I put on those search terms.

Another hit I get frequently comes from search terms like Pornography and LDS and Pornography, When to Go to the Bishop or pornography, What Happens When You Go to the Bishop or Spouse Pornography Problem, or what to do when kids find pornography. I'm very very glad to see these searches coming in, because it was with this very hope (gleaning traffic from those seeking guidance about their pornography problems, or their loved ones' problems) that I put that series together.

Lately there's been a new one. Who knows why, but I have gotten at least 20 hits in the last two days for the search term, SNL Making Fun of Obama, and that of course leads to the link I embedded there.

A few others that get regular hits have been my post about Whether Or Not I'm a Feminist, and my post entitled Naked Barbie Doll. I'm not exactly sure why someone would type that search term into a search engine.

Blogging is kind of a funny thing.

(BTW you see what I have shamelessly done? I direct-labeled all my most popular blog posts so as to raise the level of traffic! Hahahaha!!! [evil blogress laugh].)

Oct 2, 2009

Shared Heroes

Sometimes I think that B. Obama and I have a lot of similar feelings about the world. One of the moments that has really made me feel that way, was when he was asked who he would choose to have dinner with if he could choose anyone in the world, dead or alive. President Obama said he would choose Mahatma Ghandi.

I think I might have chosen Jesus Christ first. But someday hopefully I'll see him again anyway, right? Mahatma Ghandi would be the next name to roll off my tongue.

And here's why.

I'm so glad we have the opportunity to celebrate Ghandi's life and work today.

Oct 1, 2009

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Even though I'm a health-conscious mom, trying not to feed my kids too many MSG-laden products or nutritionally blank products or starchy carbs all at once; even though I try to make getting as many veggies down tiny throats my focus a lot of the time, I sometimes need that easy-cheesy, cheap, filling, always-a-winner recipe. Usually these kinds of things involve meat, as I've learnt to my ultimate despair. So I've had to improvise and come up with stuff on my own.

Shepherd's pie is a fond childhood favorite. I loooved it on a cold winter afternoon after a long, hard day of school. And so I've figured out a way to approximate it, veggie style.

Nosurfgirl's Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie.

2 cans string or cut green beans
1 can cream-of-mushroom soup
2 tsp vegetarian bullion powder, chicken or beef style; or powdered onion soup mix

Mix these three ingredients together. Spread on the bottom of a casserole dish.

1 pckg flavored mashed potatoes, cooked.

Spread this on top. It will be thin; if you want a thicker layer use 2 pckgs flavored mashed potatoes instead of 1.

sprinkle with:

paprika to taste

1/4-1/2 cup french fried onions (depending on your liking).


Bake at 375-ish for 45 minutes or so, or until ingredients are warmed through and potatoes on top start to get kinda goldeny.

Honestly... good, Mormony, Midwesterny, 50's houeswifey deliciousness :)

Sep 27, 2009

music and LDS sacrament meetings

A discussion on what is appropriate in LDS sacrament meetings.

As you can probably imagine, I have some passionate views on this topic. I found this discussion to be very interesting... and I know a lot of you who read this are interested in this topic as well, so I thought I'd put this link out there.

Sep 24, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: the difference is, no differences

OK this is a post that has been wanting to get out for a while. I have to say that, as a white adoptive mother of black children, the overarching truth is that black children and white children are not much different. They have the same stages of growth and development, the same personality vulnerabilites and strengths. They cry for the same reasons as my white children. They are as easily upset and as easily consoled. They don't have any kind of "natural propensities" for any one thing... they don't jungle gym any harder, run any faster (my little loli is a blur when she wants to be), they don't learn any quicker or slower.

And you're all reading this and going "duh. Well of course not. Skin color is just that... skin deep."

Let me just say that I was unaware of the lingering prejudices/preconceptions I still had (deeply ingrained, not because of how I was raised necessarily, or where I was raised... I blame my psych classes and the media more than those influences.) until I started raising my two African daughters. And now everything's completely blown wide apart, and I suddenly see things I didn't see before too. Those natural assumptions, those little lingering ideas of "difference" between race... they now look to me like prejudice, even though coming from the other end I know how that is never what is meant.

I also realize that I have become a mean, defensive, she-bear of a mom when I feel that race might be rearing its ugly head in any interaction with my kids. I have to tone it down in myself, because I know it's probably not the case in most circumstances. But sometimes I do things that surprise me. Case in point: the other day we were in Sam's. I was lingering, looking for sales on the cereal aisle. Several feet away was one of those little sample tables. Loli asked for some; I told her to run ahead and ask and I'd be there in a second. Bella went with her.

She came back almost immediately, with Bella, and her eyes were tear-filled. I was startled, asked her what was wrong, and she told me that the lady had said she had to wait for her mom. It wasn't what was said, that was a perfectly reasonable response to two kids asking for samples without their mother. I was the WAY she said it... Loli repeated the words in a tone that was scolding, short, snappish... and as I rounded the corner I saw the lady's grim expression.

I was sooooo mad. I don't know that it was because Bella was with Loli that the lady responded the way she did... probably not. Probably she was having a bad day. Probably she was just a crochety old lady. But because of my defensive mean-red rage, instead of just smiling placidly at her and moving along, I kind of chewed her out. I told her that if she wanted to sell things to people she needed to be more polite, that I understood there were policies but she didn't need to snap at my kids. She sputtered. I didn't raise my voice, I just gave her one of those looks I do best and in a few short sentences told her what I thought. And then I walked away.

Yeah. I don't know that I did anyone any favors. I think I embarrassed Loli.

Anyway, I'm writing right now to say there ARE differences between my black and white children. What I have noticed, different, about my African children, the older one especially, is that they seem to be constantly active, a notch up in activity level from my other kids. But this isn't necessarily because their black, it is mostly likely because they haven't had a lot of movies or TV in the past due to their circumstances, and so aren't in the habit of zonking out in front of the screen.

I've noticed that their skin feels rich and soft, almost like velvet, while my bio kids seem to have smoother, thinner skin. This is not neccessarily because of their race, in fact it is most likely because I'm a lot more conscious of taking care of their skin, because when it's dry it shows.

I've noticed that both of my African kids' voices, especially the younger, are richer, a pitch lower, and seem to come from a deeper place. If I have my way I'll have a gospel singer in May. :) I don't know if this is because they are black necessarily, or because they just come from a family that has that tendency.

I've realized that the way I was prejudiced wasn't that I was seeing other races as inferior. It was more a readiness to judge differences, whether I perceived them positive or negative, as due to race. For instance, my "Ethiopian kids can run" from a previous post. Of course Ethiopian kids can run. So can American kids. Kids run. Kids run fast. All kids run fast... some faster than others, and skin color has much less to do with it than how they are raised, and what talents and abilities are encouraged by caregivers and those that they love and admire.

IN short, even after caring for my children for several weeks, I can't pinpoint any differences between black and white. And it seems to be less and less of a worry as they settle in and become a seamless part of our family, and become more and more "My Kids" period, and not my Adopted Ethiopian Kids.