31 October 2007

Very strange ...

..or maybe not.

Somehow the template I had been using became corrupted at the source. The only fix I could find was to pick a new one...

I like the old one better, but only if it works.

My views on Halloween

Every October 31, we make our annual pilgrimage to Tony Packos in Toledo.

You remember Tony Packos? In the M.A.S.H. television series, Corporal Klinger mentioned it often. It's a Hungarian restaurant, and Klinger waxed eloquent about their hot-dogs. We stopped in the first time because we were in the neighborhood and we wondered whether it would live up to the hype. It didn't. It's OK -- pretty mediocre, but not outright bad. But it is an adult oriented restaurant.

So every October 31, we go there. Mostly because it's an hour away in Toledo, making it easier to be busy and out of the way of the "festivities" we don't want to expose ourselves to between 6pm and 9pm. We darken the house, close the gates for the only time all year, and drive for an hour, eat for an hour in a restauramt that blessedly seems to have fogotten what date it is, and then drive home for an hour, arriving home after the last of the revellers has gone home to bed or out to the bars.

Why all the effort? As witches, aren't we supposed to love Halloween?

Well, a lot of witches do love it, but frankly, Rod and I don't enjoy Halloween at all. I find the whole thing disturbing and somewhat offensive. I don't particularly mind that people who see it differently than I do want to celebrate, especially now that they've stopped trying to insist that I have to play, too. But I really want no part of it, myself.

Like so many other holidays, Halloween started out as a pre-Christian celebration. The Celts called it Samhain, and it was the celebration the final harvest and of death. When the Christian church entered the scene, they preferred to call the day All Saints Day or "Hallowed evening". But the the notion of dead folks wandering around wasn't so easy to quash, and the church had to find a way to deal with it. The combination of fear and misunderstanding between very different cultures left us with a mish-mash of ideas, none of which make a lot of sense when thrown together out of context.

The celebration of the final harvest and the honoring of the the dearly departed has morphed into a candy-fest featuring horrific images of death and highly fantasized images of magic and witchcraft.

Our major objection to Halloween as it's celebrated now start with the whole problem of the glorification of violence and the desecration of death's sacred nature. This time of year is indeed focused on death, just as spring is focused on birth. We honour the entire cycle of life, including death. Making one part of the cycle (birth) "sacred" and another (death) "scary" seems wrong. Add to that the "devils night" antics and the destruction of property that seems to have taken root in this time of year and the whole thing becomes pretty repulsive.

We also don't like the idea of children being fed on pounds and pounds of sugar. Yep, it's their parents call, and we honor that. But we don't want to poison your children and "healthy" treats will be thrown away, so we'll just opt out, thanks. (We have at least one friend who offers books to the children who come to her door -- and that is a great idea! If we ever get past our other objections, that's probably something we'll adopt.)

The idea of begging from strangers isn't a really great model to give kids, either. We prefer that our child be raised to be a contributor because in the end, that will make him much happier. If this was a once a year phenomenon it might pass muster, but name a single day of the year for which the children aren't conditioned to expect to be indulged ...

Then there's the commercialization problem -- people spend hundreds of dollars on this non-event every year! Hundreds of dollars for two hours of revelry on a holiday that has lost any real significance. It's insane!

What about the costumes? Those, I just don't understand. I think playing dress-up is great, but why limit it to once a year? And why focus on someone else's idea of a good costume, when there is a whole world of good ideas outside the costume shops? I have one friend whose children dress in costume on any day they wish -- now *that* is fun and imaginative! Jack hasn't shown any particular interest in costumes so far, but if he ever does, he won't be limited to this one day a year.

Rod adds to this list his objection to the appeasing of the spirit world with gifts, the trivializing of magic, and the typecasting of witchcraft and the supernatural as something perhaps frightening, or evil, but most definitely "other".

No we are not Disney Witches, nor even a Hogwarts graduates. This godawful trivialization, distortion, and commercialization of death and magic is something we just don't want to be a part of. So, we're going to enjoy our journey to Tony Packos.

See y'all tomorrow, when some semblance of sanity has returned.

The trouble with libraries (a whine)

I love the library. I have loved them since I discovered them at age 6. Imagine -- thousands of books to read and every one of them FREE!!

But libraries have changed since I was a child. At least, our local libraries have. Instead of focusing on books, they now sacrifice half or more of their space to non-book media. I guess I can understand that -- I don't mind that CDs and DVDs are available to check out and certainly, making computers available to people who couldn't otherwise afford them is a good thing. But toys? And do the computers and toys have to be more prominent than the books?

This wouldn't matter so much, if it was just me - but it's been a constant source of frustration in trying to take Jack to the library. When we go to a book store, Jack is riveted by the books. He picks up one book after another and falls headfirst into the stories.

At the library, though, there is so much competition for his attention that the books gets almost no attention. I have finally convinced him that the computers are a waste of time at the library because he has a computer at home. But the toys, well, he doesn't have *those* toys. And they're not bad toys, even.

But there I am, stuck in the children's section of the library for hours -- I can't get to the adult section to look at books I might like because I can't (and don't want to) leave him unattended and tearing him away isn't working. Getting 10 books to take home takes me 10 minutes. Getting Jack out of the toys takes another hour and a half of boredom.

I can't decide whether to just give up and go the the library alone and take him only to book stores or whether to try dragging him into the adult stacks first, so I can have something to read while he plays.

It would be so nice if libraries were set up for readers, like they used to be.

The end of the season

We had a hard frost Sunday night, so, in anticipation, we started putting the garden to bed on Sunday afternoon. We collected the last of the harvest, pulled out and composted the plants, and stared preparing the bed to receive the first of the season nutrients.

I'll be putting down manure, alfalfa, bone meal, blood meal, and rock dust then I'll cover it over with newsprint so that the decomposition will be well underway by planting time -- and there will be few or no weeds to deal with. I should only need to turn the soil when it's time to plant.

That's good because we have plenty to do in the spring -- like building tomato towers. The cages this year were completely useless and we lost the majority of the fruit to Mr. Groundhog, who as I have mentioned, is not terribly good at sharing. (He leaves us half of each ripe tomato. Ick.) With towers, we're hoping to keep enough of the harvest to do some canning next year.

We lost all the cabbages this year -- we didn't pick them in time and between bug damage and splitting, none of them were edible. Oh well, next year we'll know to pick them sooner.

We were delighted to find that we had some sweet potatoes. Rod roasted them up for dinner on Monday and they were tender and tasty. I think that's something we'll do again.

And we have a gazillion green tomatoes. Luckily, they mostly ripen OK in steel bowls in the sun. They don't look pretty for the table and they aren't as sweet as if they'd ripened on the vine,. but they're no worse than store tomatoes, so we use them in cooking.

We got a few more carrots, and that was about it for the final harvest. Not bad. I think we'll do a lot more carrot next year now that I know they work well for us.

Queensland Blue

I was driving home after work earlier this week and as I drove apst the local farm market, I was delighted to spot some Queensland Blue pumpkins on the edge of the market!

Of course, I had to buy one!

Of course, now we have to figure out what to do with this much pumpkin. A couple of hearvest puddings, a pie or two, roasted pumpkin...and perhaps it's time to learn to can pumpkin.

Rod wants to plant some next spring. It would be an excellent thing to know how to can them -- can you imagine finding a use for six of these a week?

29 October 2007

This might be news to some...

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Who knew?

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Reading pleasure

The time has come that Jack likes to read me a bedtime story before I read him a chapter from the latest chapter book.
It's bliss to have a child who loves to read as much as I do!

27 October 2007

Just for a laugh ...

Here's wishing...

Signs of Autumn

I took this photo last night.

I absolutely love out beautiful sugar maple this time of year! Though by today, half of those beautiful red leaves are sitting on the ground waiting to be raked up and jumped into!

But notice, too, the bright orange flag in the grass...it has companions up and down the street and interesting blue and green paint marks to coordinate with it.

I have a very bad feeling about what it means for access to our driveway, but I have no idea when this will happen...

26 October 2007

How shall we dress the children?

I came across an article a couple of weeks ago that still has me scratching my head.

Granted, it was on the MSNBC site, and that's the online equivalent of USA Today for it's depth and sophistication, so I am probably giving it way more thought than it deserves. But still... they posed a strange question.

Victoria Clayton of MSNBC asks us

"It seems more and more people are hopping on Frost’s bandwagon and marketing pint-sized versions of adult tastes. It’s down with Barney and up with the black CBGB onesies. Out with the primary colors and pastels and in with cool, contemporary children’s furniture.

But is it really cool for the kids? Are celebs and others just using offspring as the latest “in” accessory, instead of a big purse or a Chihuahua?

Face it. Kids much prefer a Dora the Explorer shirt than a Wilco or CBGB shirt"

Miss Clayton must be very young. (Actually, I suspect that Miss Clayton was more interested in creating a pretext for advertising the hip online kids retailer featured in her article than in any specific question she posed, but we'll grant her the assumption of journalistic integrity.)

Since we began wearing clothes, children have mostly dressed like small adults. At the time that childhood was "invented" in the 17th century, there were no special clothes, books, games, toys, or roles for children. Once infancy was over, children were seen as smaller, less experienced people. (Not unlike those of us in portly middle age view our thirty year old peers.)

By the Victorian era, three hundred years after childhood was first perceived as a distinct period of life, we saw the romanticising of childhood. Children were dressed in special clothes that were meant to evoke innocence. A few years later, in the era in which I grew up, the mother-daughter dresses were all the rage, and children were very often dressed like their parents.

I can see value in both of these approaches -- dressing children in children's clothing, evoking the innocence of childhood, is a charming way of reminding ourselves (as individuals, and especially as a culture) that we had these children to cherish them, and that they need our protection. Face it, there are harried, stressful days when we could use the reminder.

On the other hand, dressing children the way that we prefer to dress ourselves sends them (and us) the message that we are a team, that we expect that they will grow up to value the things we value.

There are two related trends in the way we as a culture dress our children that Miss Clayton doesn't address, and I think those trends are far more important to consider.

One is the trend to dress very young girls in a way that sexualizes them. The other is to dress our children as corporate shills. Both are alarming trends and both frighten me.

Do we seriously want to tell our sons and daughters that a girl's most important role is that of sexual object? Have women fought for the last 100 years only for us let our daughters be typecast and trivialized again?

And on the other hand, do we really want to send the message to our children that the role they should aspire to is "consumer"? When we pay for the "privilege" of advertising for a mega corporation on our clothing, we elevate the importance of that product in our minds and in the minds of our children. (And, yes, I include Dora, Thomas, and every other character that every kindergartner knows the name of in this.) We send a subtle message that we can be defined by the products we buy. That's exactly the impression that large corporations would like us to have, but how sad for us, how sad for our children, if we buy into that confining view of ourselves.

Is this what we have come to as a nation? Has corporate America not gone far enough in polluting our political system and undermining our national values? Should they now also own our children's backs as billboards?


Bring on the the CBGB or Chicago Symphony Orchestra onesies and the t-shirts bearing political statements (of any persuasion), dress your child jeans, or overalls, or sweats, or gingham -- in whatever way coveys the lifestyle and political views you prefer -- but spare the children the sexy outfits and please, please lets keep the merchandising off our babies backs!

24 October 2007

Thought on a gardening community

I find that community is a great help to us.

We belong to a children's clothing exchange, in which we gather twice a year to hand off the clothes out children have outgrown and collect clothes that out children can use for the coming season. It's saved us a fortune of clothes for Jack over the last 4.5 years -- we have had to buy very. very little clothing and so we could afford to spend money on higher quality -- and we were happy to do so, knowing that a dozen more children will use the clothes before they've lived out their natural lives.

We also belong to a children's book exchange, in which a tub (or two) of children's books comes to out house a couple times a year. We have discovered some wonderful books and have had a worthy place to dispose of really cool books that we don't need anymore. I like knowing that, again, a dozen children may enjoy the books I put in that tub.

I was pondering the excess of vegetables we had this year from our modest garden and wondering whether there are poeple out there who have the same expereince and who migh like to trade -- some of my tomatoes for some of their eggplant, or whatever. Sort of an organic gardeners vegetable exchange... ???

It sounds like it could be useful, but I'm not sure yet how it would work. It would be, by definition, more work than the book and clothes exchanges. Vegetables can't be held indefinitely. Then again, I know that Arborseeds sponsors a seed exchange and several herb and and other plant type swaps...


This might could work...

22 October 2007

The Teaching of Australian History

For three or four years now, I have been hunting for resources to use in teaching Jack about Australia's history. There are some resources in US libraries, of course, but there's not much. I also preferred to find Aussie resources -- after all, I want him to have a sense of himself as an Australian as well and an American. If the books we use to teach him Australian history always view Australia as "them", that's going to skew how he sees things.

I haven't had a lot of luck finding materials. My sister-in-law found a series of books, not unlike the books Time-Life put out when I was a kid, but these books are clearly meant for much older children. I have found no equivalent to the biographies of great Americans for every age and political view that are so easy to find here.

At first, I was puzzled. It simply seemed to me that I was missing something. Not explaining it right...something like that. Then I wondered at a people that didn't tell it's children about their history.

As I have dug deeper and deeper, I have come to think that this tendency not to talk about history is a lot more complex than I could have imagined. It's not so much a lack of interest in teaching kids about the origins of their country -- it is instead a deep confusion about *what* to tell kids about it. Was Captain Cook an intrepid explorer or the scout of an invading fleet? Was Ned Kelly a hero or a rogue? And what of the Botany bay penal colony should small children know about? How do you teach little ones the decidedly un-PC origins of their land when you hope to raise them to be comfortable in a broadminded and multi-cultural world?

Of course, as an American, it doesn't seem all that confusing or difficult to me. Our real origins have their decidedly unglamourous moments, too. Those things can be dealt with later, we just cherry-pick the "child friendly" parts and get the kids started on recognizing names and faces and the broadest outlines on history. But how the Australian school child is to be educated is hardly a place where my opinion would be welcome.

Nonetheless, I am coming to think that I have three choices.

  • I can teach US history without addressing the Australia equivalent.
  • I can ignore both.
  • I can create my own materials to teach the history of the two countries in parallel.

The first choice seems unwise to me. It gives Jack's maternal heritage far more weight than his paternal and might give him the idea that I think the US is more important to know about.

The second choice is simply unacceptable to me. History is important. Very important.

That leaves me with the third option. I am not uncomfortable with the writing, but my complete lack of artistic talent has me feelings pretty much at sea. How can I write a history book for a six year old with no pictures? I guess that I'll just have to steal them where I can find them. Since the books are for Jack's use, I guess it won't be a problem ... But it does leave me pretty much at the mercy of what I can find on the Internet. It also means that Jack's history education won't have a particularly "authentic" Aussie voice -- but I don't see much alternative right now.


Especially because I know so little myself and their a good chance I will make a hash of at least some parts of it. Obviously I can lean on Rod and his family for input, but they mostly seem to think I'm being wierd about this.

19 October 2007

Interesting fitness development

I am experiencing something delightful that I have never felt before...and it seems like a good development.

For some time (a week, perhaps) I have been waking up to realize that my arm and leg muscles are alternately tensing and releasing, increasing the circulation as I wake up. It feels really nice, and it seems to start just as I wake up (or at least, it hasn't wakened me before I wanted to get up yet) so I just noted it without worrying about it.

However this afternoon, about the time I would usually have started my walk, I noticed that my arms, legs, and back muscles were alternately tensing and relaxing, increasing circulation in a very pleasant way as i worked at my computer as if in preparation for my walk.

Today, because I went out to lunch, I didn't walk at 3 as I usually do, and I can feel my body "missing it". I have to say that reaching the point where regular exercise is something my body is actively enjoying is quite a treat -- I feel like I'm really on the right track as far as the type of exercise and the amount and frequency being about what my body needs right now.

I have some hand weights somewhere in the house. I have been looking for them, and once I find them I am planning to add a little weight training every few days. That made a big difference to me several years ago when I was working out in a gym regularly and I'd like to get that strong feeling back.

It's also about time to dig out the Richard Simmons video I bough early last spring and see what I can do about hooking the laptop up to the stereo so I can hear it well enough to play along. (It was too hot to dance over the summer, but gardening helped.)

(Yeah, I am feeling a LOT better than I was yesterday. I doubled up on my thyroid meds starting three days ago, so the symptoms are abating rapidly. It seems that slightly under my usual dose was causing trouble over time, so I'm stuck with slightly over that dose. I'll feel good for as long as the tablets last - and with any luck, I'll find a good doctor before they run out.)

18 October 2007

Indications that my current thyroid treatment isn't working.

I complained some time ago about my last doctor taking a whimsy to halve my Synthroid dose. I *knew* that was a bad idea.

Anyway, she didn't halve it cleanly, and I had the choice between a little too much or a bit too little, so I have been alternating.

That is, evidently, not good enough. I knew it was a time-limited endeavor anyway, since even alternating like this, I am going to eventually run out of medication before I run out of month.

But in the last few weeks, these symptoms have started to appear:

  • My hair has started to fall out in handfuls again, though not as badly as it did as on the generic medication
  • My skin feels like sandpaper, even though I have stopped using soap on it and moisturize twice a day
  • My legs are knotted and achy like they used to be before I was treated -- for that matter, my back and most of the rest of me feels that way
  • There isn't enough sleep in all of time nor coffee in all the world
  • My memory hasn't start going yet, but my energy and ambition are gone.
  • I have gotten extremely moody -- grumpy and depressed all at once
  • I can't keep up with the laundry -- it's Thursday and I haven't found the energy to get down there and start *last* weekend's laundry.
  • I want to cry all the time -- partly in exhaustion and mainly in frustration.

Time I went on the great physician hunt again.

Surely, there is a HAES-friendly physician somewhere in SE Michigan who understands that he or she is a consultant and not a boss!! Ideally this person would also be covered by my insurance, but I am beginning to think that is asking too much.

TJ and Corey circa 1984-85
åstad, Sweden

15 October 2007

Jack solves the world's problems ...


Jack: "Mamma, are you Grandma's child?"

Me: "Yes, I am."

Jack: "And Dad is Mormor's child?"

Me: "Yes."

Jack: "And TJ and Corey are your babies and Mike and Joel are Dad's babies?"

Me: "Yes, that's right."

Jack: "Who is Auntie K's child?"

Me: "Auntie K doesn't have a child."

Jack: "Why not?"


Me: Well ... sometimes life just works out that way. Not everyone has a child. Not everyone wants a child."

Jack: "It's sad that Auntie K doesn't have a child."

Me: "Yes, I guess it is. Auntie K would be a wonderful mother, wouldn't she, Jack?"

<long pause>

Jack: "I Know! Auntie K loves me very much. I'll be Auntie K's child!"

Parenting perfection

“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

The recent Venus retrograde (reexamining values) has resulted in a lot of people questioning the things that matter most to them.

In many of the blogs I read, I have read the concerns of conscientious parents beating themselves up for being human. It's better than some of the alternatives, I suppose. The papers are full of stories of parents who if nature were just, would have been barren. But it's so sad to see good, caring parents struggling with an image of perfection they think they have to emulate to be 'good enough'.

Having born my first child 34 years ago, I have had a lot of time to ask myself what parenting means and what makes a good (or good enough) parent.

In my 20s and 30, I think I suffered the twin errors of holding myself to too high a standard and the complete inability to see where I was really making a mess. That's not unusual, I think. In my late thirties and my forties, when TJ and Corey were teenagers and young adults, I had time and experience to really think about what I had tried to accomplish, where I thought it had gone well and where it had failed disastrously. I was very hard on myself for the things that had gone badly and blamed myself for their having such hard teen years. Some of it truly was the result of the way I parented them, some wasn't. In the end, I am extremely proud of the men they have grown into. They didn't make the choices I might have wished for them -- but they are good men, contributing to their communities and very caring of their children and elders.

A few years ago, of course, I had the unexpectedly luxury of Jack's arrival and a chance to try again. That set off all the questions about parenting and how I approach it again.

I've come to some conclusions that would have startled and maybe even angered my younger self. There are ideals I cherished deeply at the age of 20 that I have rethought. There are things I was adamant about with TJ and Corey that I am doing very differently with Jack and would do over again for my older boys if I could.

As an example, I wanted to believe that if we are gently raised and trusted and treated well,we will grow into gentle, conscientious, trustworthy people. In the end, that seems to have been true. But it made for some very, very hard years with ill-mannered children in between as the kids took their cues from other kids, since I wasn't providing much explicit guidance.

While I still believe that it is important for everyone to take responsibility for their actions rather than just following authority in sheep-like submission, I have come to have more respect for the important of teaching children manners and interpersonal respect and then expecting them to show good manners and respect. I still believe that respect is something that must be earned rather than being granted because we demand it -- but I have come to realize that young children don't have to experience with which to question authority. First they have to be taught how to show respect, then later, as they develop more intellectual sophistication and acquire more experience with which to judge whether or not someone has earned respect, they can be taught the importance of being responsible for their own actions, regardless of who told them to do what. Eventually they will understand not only that it is important to question authority when it's in conflict with their own sense of right and wrong, they will know why it is important. That's a subtle difference that was lost on my 21 year old self.

There is one thing I am, unfortunately, doing very much the same with Jack as I did with his older brothers. It's a flaw of mine that I am not proud of and I do my best to overcome it -- but unlike in my youth, I have decided not to beat myself up over it. Oddly, accepting it has made it somewhat easier to control; but so has the support of a good, strong partner.

I am cranky.

I try very hard to be patient and kind and tolerant, but some times that it is simply beyond me. I open my mouth and out comes something I instantly regret. Perhaps it's partly a matter of having grown up with parent who had six children in their first five years of marriage -- my parents were overwhelmed and they yelled. I don't blame them -- two children nearly drove me around the bend! I think they're heroes because they got us all to adulthood intact and we all turned out to be self-supporting and reasonably sane. (I was their close call, but I think I acquired a sufficient ability to pass for sane, anyway.)

But, I also grew up to be a yeller.

What's worse, I sometimes yell when it's not even really warranted. It's bizarre, really. Some days I can be patient in the face of great frustration and really naughty behavior. Other days, a minor oops will set me off. I don't really know what the difference is, and I strive to be patient and pleasant always...but the reality is, sometimes the best I can do is notice quickly that I'm being horrible and stop and apologize.

I used to blame it on the children's behavior -- and then one day I couldn't anymore. I began to see that my temper tantrums didn't have all that much to do with the children's behavior. Then I beat myself up and felt like a horrible mother. I did the best I could, and I tried always to stop and apologize when i caught myself...but the guilt was immense.

I guess it went ok. I think the older boys have survive my moodiness and still know how deeply I love them. Sadly, I see that my oldest has inherited the family moodiness and is also prone to being cranky with his children -- but they don't seem to doubt his love either, so I guess they'll survive.

And that brings me to a very important point. I say it a lot when discussing parenting.

The one quality every parent on the planet has in common is that we are all human. We have different flaws, but we all have flaws -- we are inherently incapable of perfection.

So ... we can't be perfect. We just can't. It can't be done. If we were capable of perfection, we wouldn't need to be here. We'd be wearing ethereal wings or (not?) experiencing nirvana or something.

Shouldn't we try? Well sure we should. (See the Browning quote in the title of this post.)

Even more important, we should realize that human children weren't meant to be raised by robots or saints. Sure, it models how to be a saint or a robot, and they get only the best modeling.

...or do they? (This one dawned on me after living with a couple of people who had elders who modeled something so far beyond their ability to attain that they gave up and didn't try to do anything -- fifty year olds who had never held a real job and had no goals.)

One of the things that spurs us on to greater heights is the strengths we learn from our parents. Another is the urge to do better at the things at which they weren't as successful. Which of us didn't get a charge the first time we beat Dad at chess, baked something Mom said was "too hard" and had it come out right, or in some other way went our parents one better? What if your kids didn't think they could do you one better at something worthwhile? What if your example was so unattainably perfect at every turn that they couldn't touch it in their wildest dreams? Would you really want to do that to your kids? Granted, none of us is in any real danger of perfection, so this isn't counsel to relax and stop trying, it's just another way of looking at the inevitable mistakes we make.

We can use them to model for our children how to cope with the flaws that they, too, will inevitably have. We can't work on what we daren't look at or admit to. When we screw up, perhaps we are actually teaching our children valuable lessons on humility, on persistence, and on forgiveness.

We have to be prepared to admit to our children that we make mistakes, we must be prepared to apologize to them, we must hear them when they have a complaint about the way we're behaving, because sometimes it will be whining, but sometimes their complaint will be warranted.

Oddly, children seem to take it a lot better to be told they're 'out of luck' when they're being whiny because life isn't fair if they also know that when we're wrong, we can admit it. They are also quicker to admit to having made a mistake if they've seen us model how to own up to a mistake and seen that the world doesn't end.

It's been very empowering to look at my flaws as yet another parenting tool. When I snap at Jack for being four, I haven't failed. I have been presented with another opportunity to model how to be a good person. Funny thing...Jack has started to hug me when I apologize and say "it's OK, Mamma". And he has started to apologize without being prompted when he does something naughty .

Now I wish I could go back and do it again -- TJ and Corey deserved a lot more than they got from me. I had a tool I didn't even know about.

Fitness Update

I think today may be a crucial, make ot break day for my walking routine. I only got 4 of my 10 miles in last week. I walked Monday, as usualy, but Tuesday, I was on the help desk phones and couldn't get away to walk. Wednesday, I went out to lunch and couldn't stay late, so there was no time to walk. Thursday and Friday, it was rainy and I was sick and just not up to walking.

Today I should walk, but I feel so tired at the thought. That probably means I really *need* to walk though.

Thirty minutes to psyche myself into it...can I do it?

Edited 4:15 to add: It took me closer to an hour to work up to it, and I only made a mile and a half rather than two miles, but I'm back on track. This distance matetrs less than getting out there.

14 October 2007

Tomato Canning 2007

We spent yesterday evening canning tomatoes.

As always, Jack was an immense help. At this point, he is as much help as many adults - -though he still doesn't have the stamina to see how the whole job through. (He generally ends up laying on the floor watching us about halfway through the process.) But he's more and more help each year nd it's gotten to be almost quick and painless. Almost.

It was actually our second bushel for the year, bringing us to almost 50 jars of tomatoes for the year. Last year we ended up with 15, and that just wasn't enough. We ended up "saving them for a special occasion" since we could only treat ourselves to one jar a month -- which meant that we arrived at spring with half of them left. Now we can eat them with abandon -- YES!

We still have two bushels of apples to can. One will be apple sauce -- and we're thinking the other might be apple wedges for crisps and pies. Rod is thinking we'd be best off waiting a few more days to let them ripen further so we'll probably do that next weekend.
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13 October 2007

Fossil Park

We went to fossil park near Toledo last weekend, but I couldn't write about it then because, of course, our server was down more down than up.

But the technician, a very competent and pleasant young man, was here this morning and we're up and running again.

Fossil park is a public park near Toledo, in Sylvania, Ohio. Admission is free and the place has a ton of fossils to find.

Things to know if you decide to make the trip:
  • Fossil park is basically an old quarry where trucks come and dump loads of shale every two weeks between May and October. The shale has tons of fossils, but you do have to work at finding them.
  • The directions you'll get online don't take yopu to the park, they take you to the ice cream parlour. Once you've wandered around the shopping center for a bit, try crossing Centennial Street (the highway).
  • As an old quarry, it can get *hot* in there. Wear your hat and cover your skin with something light. Also bring water to drink.
  • As an old quarry, the "luxuries" are pretty sparse. There are some reasonably clean portable toilets up the hill from the quarry, and there is some suspiciously dark water for washing your fossils available in a tank in the center of the quarry. That's it.
  • There is no food or drink available at the park, so if you plan to be there a while, you'll want to bring water and something easy to eat with filthy hands. There is, however, a nice Strohs ice cream parlour across the highway as you leave for the day -- YUM!
Jack and Connor had a blast -- but I don't think fossils came into it much -- they had fun running around, banging rocks together and playing in puddles. Even so, they did find a few small fossils. Neal, Connor's Dad, was far more persistent and found *two* gorgeous, complete specimens! It's worth a trip with older kids who grok and the smaller kids won't be too bored -- if only because of the amazement of watching adults playing in the dirt!

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10 October 2007


The server is up for the moment...but I am running late so this will be quick:

Jack: "Mamma, do you love me?"
Me: "I love you very much, Jack!"
Jack: "Do you love your other children?"
Me: "Oh, yes, I do. I love them all very much."
Jack: "Mamma, do you ever wonder who is coming next?"
(long pause)
Me: Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do wonder who is coming next!

"Mamma, I'm a not a baby anymore. I'm a big boy! Soon I will grow up to be a big man like TJ and Mike! I don't know what I will look like when I am an adult, but Mamma, you can come and visit me and my children every day!"
Where do these things come from??? *laugh*

(Yes, the pants on the head was hilarious for several days...)

08 October 2007


Sorry about the silence folks. Comcast has become extremely unreliable and so I don't have reliable access to the Internet at home. It's up for an hour or so from time to time, but not often when I am trying to log in. I will write as I can at home and publish through Google documents. It doesn't look as nice (no photos unless I can log in from home), but for the time being I can do it on breaks at work.

04 October 2007

Living with diabetes

Living with diabetes is such a barrel of laughs.

You get to develop the discipline to stick your fingers a half dozen times day, and then to poke a needle into your belly several times day. You exercise a lot of will carefully choosing what to eat based on things other than what would taste yummy -- or opting for yummy and an extra injection. Turning every day, every meal into another grand science experiment on the biology of the endocrine system...

Conversely, you can ignore all of that, suffering deteriorating health and experiencing the reality that diabetes can be a gruesome way to die.

And of course, because there are no promises, turning your life into a grand science experiment can simply make you aware more quickly when things start to go wrong. As an example, I have worked hard to control my diabetes for 11 years now. I have balanced my meals to keep my blood sugar controlled, I have exercised to keep my insulin resistance under control ... and yet earlier this year I found myself restricting foods further and further in a vain attempt to bring my blood sugar down.

One day I had to admit that I was in trouble. A week on basically no carbohydrates had not lowered my blood sugar. Exercise, which used to bring my blood sugar down 50 points or so was having no effect -- and occasionally it was even raising my blood sugar.

Time for a consultation with a doctor...

Anyway, against this backdrop of constant effort for spotty results, you can imagine my frustration with the attitude some uninformed people take.

I had occasion recently to find myself at a luncheon table with several people I don't know. Because the options had been limited at the buffet, I had an odd looking lunch that consisted a slice each of three different types of cold cuts, two slices of fake cheese, and a half a bowl of powdered, reconstituted chicken broth. One of my companions comments on my "eating light", and I mentioned that I was simply trying to eat for my diabetes. (Never mind the HFCS in all the meats and in the broth, we do what we can.)

The conversation at the table quickly went to the subject of all the diabetics everyone knew who "weren't taking care of themselves". Comments about diabetics who "think they can get away with" eating like everyone else. I did my best to point out that high blood sugar makes one insanely hungry for good reason. That it's not so easy to live life ion a constant restricted diet, and that there is no moral credit for and no guarantee for living a life of deprivation.

I don't think anyone heard a word of it.

Worse, it was clear that these people had no clear idea about how to control diabetes themselves -- they hadn't bothered to inform themselves, they were just judging someone else for not living a life of virtuous deprivation. These people sat there eating refined breads, cookies, chips, and pop while trashing friends and relatives for eating exactly the same way!

The one who took the cake? The woman who, between bites of cookie told me "She has no right to eat like it's her birthday every day! I'm an only child and she's making herself a burden on *me*!" I dryly pointed out that if her mother was doing that poorly at caring for herself then her daughter had no reason to worry. Her mother wouldn't live long enough to make a burden of herself. I'm pretty sure she didn't hear me.

I suppose they might have thought that since I test my blood sugar (largely the people they were complaining about didn't - - or didn't admit it to their judges, anyway) and work hard to try to control my blood sugar, that made it OK to trash people who they don't deem 'to be doing a good job' in front of me.

It was hard to choke down my tasteless, nutrition-less lunch. I felt so sad for their relatives and friends...I know I have had friends and relatives who judge without knowing what I know. It makes a tough row even harder. I have to admit that it got to me in the usual way and I ended up eating cheap, nasty chocolate later in the day in a sick kind of rebellion against those who would, in full ignorance, judge. Yeah -- smart, eh?

If you have a friend or relative who is living with diabetes, please don't judge the way they choose to treat their diabetes (or not). Nagging isn't helpful. Want to help? Don't make assumptions that your ideas are really helpful, ask. And remember that no one deserves less freedom of choice because of their health. It may not be the choice you'd make, but in a free country the choice to join in the community of our loved ones by sharing the same foods as everyone else eats is a valid one.

Maybe the best help you could be would be to do some real research about how best to treat diabetes and then make yourself the first member of the community to join your loved one wholeheartedly in the lifestyle and food choices you deem best for them.

Is it too hard for you to make the adjustments you expect your friend or loved one to make? Why?


It would seem that I am not the only loon who thinks this way!!!!

Veronica posted a challenge to her readers a few months ago to choose a book from a list of classic stories she provides all of which have been turned into movies.
It doesn’t matter what book or short story you choose, as long as it’s one you’ve never read before. I’ve linked the titles to Amazon if you prefer buying books, but most of these could be found at a public library or interlibrary-loaned.

Read the book and then post about it on Monday, August 20th.

I missed it -- but I ,love that she made the challenge and I intend to borrow her list!

03 October 2007

A Revolution in Nutrition and Health

A Revolution in Nutrition and Health

I attended a conference put on by the Michigan chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and it exceeded my expectations in many ways.

The first thing I noticed about the speakers list was the number of these people who are at the very top of their game at an international level in their chosen field. The second thing I noticed was how few of these people are specifically WAPF people.

This told me two things. The local chapters of the WAPF are more interested in nutrition than in evangelism. The conference was likely to be informative, if nothing else.

I can only comment on the lectures I attended, but here goes…

Kathleen Rafter from WAPF West Michigan gave the introductory presentation, outlining the principles of nutrition as promoted by Weston A. Price. She summed up her introduction with a moving testimonial about her own experience, restoring health to her adopted child who entered her care severely malnourished and barely functional. The child is now in great mental and physical health and much of the skeletal malformation has addressed itself.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Price approach to nutrition, it is basically summed up in the notion that highly processed foods of all varieties are the major contributing factors in the deteriorating health of humanity. Price’s research into native cultures (back in the1930’s when many cultures still existed that had not adopted western eating habits) determined that a variety of factors contributed to the optimal health of these people. He was able to determine this by looking at subsequent generations of the same people as they were introduced to modern western “convenience” foods, (all coming under the general classification of “de-natured foods”) while maintaining their lifestyle in other ways. Those who adopted de-natured food suffered from the same maladies as we suffer in the west, those who remained with their native diets did not. Price was also able to observe skeletal differences, which suggests that the de-natured food was causing systemic damage at a fundamental level.

Some of Price’s observations include:
  • Native lifestyles include a lot of physical activity.
  • No grains or legumes are consumed by native cultures that have not been fermented, either by acid treatment or by bacterial means.
  • All native diets include some animal products, largely from pastured animals raised in natural conditions foraging on a diverse range of foods in mineral-rich soil.
  • Native diets contain between 30 to 80 percent saturated fat, mostly from animal sources.
These findings are contrary to popular wisdom, but the case Price presents is compelling.

On to the next lecture…

“Don’t put that in your Mouth:…”- Jeffrey M. Smith

Jeffrey Smith is the author of “Seed of Deception”, and “X-Files” type book that exposes the political graft and industrial corruption that have contributed to the massive use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in the food supply without sufficient testing to determine their safety. More startling is the notion that, when objectively tested, GMO’s are consistently determined to be harmful.

Jeffrey opened his presentation with alarmist facts and great stories, then he changed gears mid-presentation to sound science, or should I say, to what little sound science there is that has been conducted on GMO’s.

The Cornerstone of Jeffery’s talk was the work of Arpad Puszai, the scientist believed to be the best qualified in Europe to determine the safety of GMO’s, who was fired from his position of 34 years and issued with a gag order on his research when he reached the conclusion that GMO’s should not be in the food supply. The subsequent release of his research 7 months later sparked the 180-degree turn-around in the EU about GMO foods.

Jeffrey's conclusion was, somewhat surprisingly, that we really don’t know about the relative safety of GMO’s, but that what little evidence exists at all, suggests that they should not be in the food supply.

I was surprised to hear that, because much of his talk was centered around the negative results of the tests that have been carried out and the apparently clumsy method by which GMO’s are produced. I had expected a conclusion like “there are no safe GMO’s” or something to that effect. The more moderate conclusion gave him greater credence in my view. I purchases his second book, which is called “Genetic Roulette” and outlines the 63 major concerns about GMO’s that arise from sound scientific research. It is a dense volume containing many studies, but has executive summaries for politicians and policy

The next day started with a discussion about Heart Disease from Doctor Natasha Campbell McBride from the UK.

She firstly dispelled the “diet-heart hypothesis”, which postulated in the 50’s that saturated animal fat was the cause of heart disease.

She explained that arterial plaque is caused by systemic inflammation, which can be directly related to environmental pollutants, toxic skin products, lack of exercise, and de-natured food (specifically refined carbohydrate, lot-fed meat, pasteurized dairy, and added preservatives).
I found McBride easy to listen to and very easy to understand. Her arguments are authoritative and compelling. She explained, among other things, the difference between the cholesterols LDL and HDL. LDL is basically the cholesterol sent out of the liver to treat arterial inflammation, HDL is the same cholesterol after it has done its job, which is repackaged and returned to the liver for reprocessing. She referred to them as “Good Ambulance” and “Bad Ambulance” to highlight the insanity of the “conventional wisdom” surrounding cholesterol. Cholesterol inhibiting drugs such as statins actually impede the body in the healing process. High cholesterol is a symptom of inflammatory disease; it is not the cause of anything.

She presented the best argument I have heard to date for returning saturated animal fat to the diet and making exercise a high priority.

The next speaker was Dr Rich Olree from Hillside Michigan.

Dr Orlee is pioneering research into DNA and its association with the mineral elements of the periodic table.

Orlee relates mineral deficiencies to many common ailments, Iodine, Selenium Magnesium, Boron being the most important to have in good measure. Selenium is only really useful in the form of Selenomethianine. (I hope I spelt that right).

He cites Vitamin B12 as the link between metal and non-metal elements in the body. B12 is among the most precious resources the body has.

Orlee’s synthesis of the periodic chart with DNA is a work of pure genius. His ability to relate mineral imbalance to various cancers and other debilitating maladies is impressive, and his explanations are in terms familiar to anyone with high-school chemistry.

His manner is somewhat eccentric, but his findings are profound in their implications for the future of disease treatment.

Mark McAfee, a raw milk producer in California, was the next speaker I heard, his discussion was enlightening.

Mark is an interesting speaker and makes many good points in favor of his product, and in favor of re-naturing the food supply in general.
  • Raw milk from a bio-diverse environment is pathogen free.
  • Raw dairymen need to be vigilant in both their cleaning and their testing if they are to maintain a clean product.
  • Raw milk from a clean, bio-diverse environment contains life-giving enzymes and bacterial inhibitors.
Mark makes a slightly mischievous comparison between milk produced for human consumption and milk produced for pasteurization.
He asserts that Pasteurization makes dirty milk saleable.
  • Pasteurized milk is never tested for pathogens.
  • Pasteurization increases the histamine level in milk and denatures it significantly.
  • Pasteurization destroys the bacterial inhibitors and enzymes present in milk, and reduces its vitamin levels.
His presentation was more entertaining than my dot-points suggest, but it did reinforce my family’s decision to go with raw milk and pastured meat.

The last presentation I heard was Pat Murphy, who presented his “Community Food Solution”.

I found Pat interesting, but less compelling in some ways. (I am sure there are many who will disagree with me about that, but I am very hard to please that way).

He combines Global Warming with Peak Oil and Population Explosion to present a doomsday scenario for the end of industrialized civilization.

The figures Pat presented appeared to be of the “Maximum impact, minimal substance” variety that is becoming commonplace in alternative movements of late.

Pat recounts Cuba’s 180 degree turn-around from an industrialized culture to an agrarian culture in the space of 10 years, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and left them without an oil supply. While the picture it paints is not rosy for industrialists, it offers real hope for humanity as a whole.

I like the direction Pat is going with his presentation, I agree with many of his premises, but I'd be more impressed if his data were more concrete.

I ran out of power in my laptop and in my i-pod during this presentation, so I don’t have much information to share.

All up, the convention was money well spent. The speakers were world-class, the food was high-end and great, and there were few logistical hitches.

Can’t ask for much more than that

Take Care