Why Johnny Can't Think of Others
Sunday, July 16, 2006
My 8 year old can't read. Since my last 3 homeschool curricula have failed to teach my son to read, and since the private school also failed to teach him how to read, I'm in the market for a new program.

So I'm cruising the Net in my vehicle of choice (desktop computer, totally pimped out with neon lights on the motherboard cooling fans), and I come across a *free* reading course.

I don't think this one's going to work for us. The kindergarten level starts out with this lesson, which teachers are advised to print out and post.
It is called the "Most Important Rule in Life" - which is - "If I work hard and be nice to others then good things will come my way." This phrase is printed in colorful letters on a single page and should be posted throughout your classrooms and halls of all Kindergarten and Grade 1 students. Whenever you ask - What is the most important rule in life? - the child should be able to recite the above answer immediately. If this phrase is memorized by your students, we will have given them important "Meaning" as to why they should demonstrate positive behaviors in school and in society.

This "Rule of Life" definitely does NOT fit in with my worldview. In fact, it's this exact "its all about me" attitude that makes me want to homeschool in the first place.

How sad, that in order to instill a work ethic in these children, the educators are first instilling an attitude of selfishness.

It's not, "I will work hard and be nice to others, because I am a person of integrity". It's "I will work hard and be nice to others and I'll get what I want." It reeks of the Health and Wealth Gospel, actually. If you work hard and be nice, but instead of good things, you have some problems, does that mean you haven't worked hard enough? Been nice enough?

Instead of looking at obstacles and suffering as chances to grow personally, to become stronger, and to draw closer to God, the blame is put back on the child. "Well, work harder, Johnny dear, if you want good things!" It goes without saying, that the good things are not honesty, integrity, discipline, or modesty, things that will actually help one in any and every task attempted, but rather material things. Tangible objects. Things to create envy in others.
The truth is, often good things are the result of hard work. But they also are the result of chance, of luck, of God's free gift to His creation. "Bad" things often aren't really bad, but times of change, times of laboring before new fruit is born, things that are ultimately for our greater good.

I also instantly disliked this saying because it feeds right into the instant gratification lifestyle we've all grown used to.

I'm going to take the idea, but make my own Most Important Rule of Life. Incidentally, I was also required to memorize it at an early age:
God made me to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life, so we can be happy with Him in the next.

I think I'll do two sayings - this one straight from Esther of Veggietales:
You never have to be afraid to do the right thing.
Now those are words to live by!

Tags: Homeschooling, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 7/16/2006 11:12:00 AM | Permalink | |
Like Tears on My Soul
Saturday, July 08, 2006
I know, that's a rather melancholy title, but it's been one of those days. A day like a bad country song, but without the big hair and beer.

It started out so promising, this lovely mid-July Saturday.

Then, I woke up to a freak rainstorm that has lasted all day. Now, Colorado has been in a drought for at least 3 years. You may remember seeing the Rocky Mountains on the news - those dim shapes hiding behind the billowing smoke as mile after mile burned? We should be glad for the rain. We need it, for sure. However, three consecutive summers of water rationing has left me with a front yard any New Yorker would be proud of - hard as concrete. A few tenacious blades of grass courageously poking their heads from the hardpack, loving trampled by my mob of chronically barefoot ragamuffins.

Twenty four consecutive hours of rain on barren earth = mud.

This might be fine, if I lived in a picturesque little house on the prairie, a modern day homestead where we are close to the earth, farming organically, sewing aprons, and drying healing herbs to soothe wintertime aches. The reality is, I live in a "transitional" neighborhood, which means we hide the bikes before locking them up and don't have NetFlix, just in case someone swipes them from the mailbox. It also means that many of my neighbors are either over the age of 70 or work at strip clubs. This limits the opportunity for my children to find suitable playmates, playmates with clean houses and moms who bake cookies and who invite my kids over to play Connect Four so Mama can finish cleaning/sorting/packing/weeping/wailing.

So, a yard full of mud. Six restless children. Moving truck arriving in 10 days. Already it's the makings of a disaster waiting to happen, or maybe a Ben Stiller movie (or, lately, both). Let's add a nice little case of tonsillitis for Mom, and also a nagging sense of guilt.

It was the guilt that did me in. I realized that I had been sick all week. Sick and trying to declutter 10 years of crap - I call it like I see it - and this had made Mama not much fun lately. I'm nothing if not the "fun" mom, so when my little dears begged me to play outside, I agreed. I told them to jump, and squish, and make mud pies and boats and create golden childhood memories that would last a lifetime. I also hoped it would give me a chance to get a couple more boxes done.

Well, the Guilty, Fun Mama forgot to check with Logistics Mama. Logistics Mama would have pointed out that due to sickness and packing, not much laundry had been done and everyone was wearing their last pair of underwear, except the 5 year old girl, who was wearing her brother's last pair of underwear. Logistics Mama also would have noted that, tomorrow being a church day, perhaps we should conserve our underthings. Logistics Mama knows that not only do we have one bathroom for 7 people, we also cannot wash clothes and take baths at the same time due to various plumbing woes.

Guilty, Fun Mama is paying the price now.

Guilty Fun Mama had a few tricks up her sleeve, however. Coupons for pizza, a rented cartoon feature, Cinnamon Graham crackers for bribery, uh, dessert.

All was well. The naked baby was settled, happily eating pizza bones while Mama cleaned fat little elbows and knees. Learning to crawl causes dirt in weird configurations on a baby. The children were settled with pizza and their babysitter, Lilo and Stitch. Mama settled into a corner to label the box she had packed earlier in the day, before she completely forgot the contents.
Me: Hey, no tape. Kids, where's my tape?

Hoodlum Children: Oh, we used it for bait.

Me: Bait?

Hoodlum Children: Yeah, we thought we saw a fish in the front yard. But he didn't like the tape so we had to use the car keys. They didn't float so got some plastic spoons instead.

Me: (Can't be repeated.)
I did mention we lived in the city, right? A city with a muddy house that looks like a Dairy Queen exploded on the front lawn.

As I waded outside to survey the damage a mud puddle did to the one item critical to packing efficiently, the tape gun, a wail pierced the soggy night.

Apparently, when Pizza Pudge says zesty sauce, they meant it. Glasses of water all around, and a speech encouraging my children to compete to see how much heat they could take. Hey, peer pressure's gotta be good for something, right?

Off to the living room, to induce a Disneyfied stupor on my lovely offspring while Guilty Fun Mama serves her sentence washing walls and floors and bathtubs. Another cry - the DVD player ate Lilo.

Another crisis averted with judicious use of whacking and a little plug pulling. Mama's Standard Technology Fix works it's magic once again. Off to whatever it was I was doing - what was it? Oh yeah, sorting Spanish tapes in my bedroom. Why are they all wet?

More yelling. The two year old is stinking out her brothers. They can't stand the smell of her, although they have no problem sleeping with three week old cheese slices and furry apple cores under their bed.

Ok, time for a diaper. Where's the new box of wipes? Oh, right, left them in the car last night, it was raining cats and dogs and didn't feel like making another trip to the car. Ok, out to the car. Hey, where's the car keys?


Tags: Family Life, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 7/08/2006 09:01:00 PM | Permalink | |
Critical Thinking Skills
Friday, July 07, 2006

Mama says, it's time we had a chat. I've noticed lately that Madison Avenue, as well as politicos, seem to think American adults lack critical thinking skills. Now, I know that logic, rhetoric, and dialectic has long been ignored in our school system, in favor of "outcome based education", "culture based education", et al., but really, how dumb do they think we are?

You don't need a high falutin' education to develop basic critical thinking skills. I , myself cut my skeptical teeth on Steven Seagal plot lines before moving on to such easy-to-see right through commercials from drug companies. (This pill makes your skin look great! May cause stroke, heart attack, weight gain, and infertility, but at least I don't have acne! -- from a real birth control commercial)

If you doubt your ability to rationally and logically dissect an argument, just use this handy, one-step checklist.

1) What are they trying to sell?

See how easy that was?

Case in point: Planned Parenthood

I am a passionate pro-life woman. I firmly believe that there is no circumstance in which babies, who are in the natural place God designed them to be in (the womb), should be burned, poisoned, maimed, or drawn and quartered simply because the mother doesn't feel like being pregnant right then. I get the e-mail alert from Planned Parenthood (or Planned Barrenhood, as we baby lovers like to call it), on the premise of "know thy enemy".

Once every two weeks or so, I get dire predictions and hysterical, breathless calls to action delivered straight to my inbox. Apparently, Planned Parenthood has no sense of irony, as I got a "donate to Planned Parenthood, honor your Mom this Mother's Day" alert from Gwyneth Paltrow on their behalf. They also offer infant onesies with the Planned Parenthood logo in their gift shop. In case you are in the market for a truly tacky gift, you can also buy chocolates in the shape of birth control pills.

Yesterday, another urgent alert came zipping along the information highway:

Dear L.,

Birth control. It's used by 98 percent of American women. It's healthy, safe, and effective. It reduces the number of abortions. It's basic health care.

We can all agree on that much, right?

Apparently not. Leaders from the ultra-conservative right are determined to paint birth control as evil, just as they've tried to do with abortion. They have attacked the pill and emergency contraception — they've even campaigned against condoms!

It's time to show mainstream Americans who is behind the War on Birth Control.

Urge your senators and representative to sign the congressional resolution on family planning — to say whether they're for birth control, or against it.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor more access to information about birth control, and 81 percent think birth control access is a good way to prevent abortions1, so birth control opponents are clearly outside the mainstream. But a lot of elected officials are silently backing them, scared to offend their narrow political base.

So we're asking senators and representatives to support a new resolution, just introduced in Congress, which says:

(1) Congress should help women, regardless of income, avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion through access to affordable contraception; and
(2) Congress should support programs and policies that make it easier for women to obtain contraceptives.

Can you imagine saying "no" to that? No programs to haggle over, no tough budgeting decisions to be made, no lawmaker's pet project. It's just a simple statement: Congress should support access to birth control

Now, lets get our magnifying glass out of the cynicism and take a closer look.

The first claim is, 98% of American women use birth control (Again with the wasted irony. Birth control promotes neither birth, nor control. I think it should be called "The Have Fun with few Consequences but Deadly Side Effects Pill")

I highly doubt the number is that large, even if you include all possible methods (except abstinence, obviously). Only 2% of American women don't use birth control? That can't be right, can it?

It isn't.

By all statistics I can find, it's estimated that 2.6% of the population is lesbian. According to US Census figures for July, 2005, 39% of American women are age 45 and over. 2% of American women are age 85 and older. Are to believe that post-menopausal women take pills and use strange devices to avoid pregnancy? Are they slipping it into the prunes at the Golden Years Cafeteria? I didn't even look up stats for women trying to conceive, women undergoing IVF, women who have had a hysterectomy, women who are already pregnant.

More irony - "it reduces the number of abortions". Well, if abortion is simply a straightforward medical procedure, and nothing else, why should we prescribe pills with such miserable side effects to prevent it. Why should it be 'rare'? Why work to prevent it at all? I've never seen women's rights activists promulgating that teeth cleaning, or wart removal should be reduced.

Alas, I am easily distracted from my purpose! Back to Planned Parenthood claims.

The next statistical claim is that 89% of Americans favor more access to information about birth control, and 81% think it's a good way to prevent abortions . The footnote refers to a Wall Street Journal article, which I couldn't access since I don't subscribe, but I found the article reprinted here. Upon further scrutiny, it is revealed that 2600 people participated in an online poll. I don't know how these people were polled online, perhaps there was a link on the Wall Street Journal page. However, this small sampling of people with internet access and savvy enough to participate in a poll on one particular website is hardly a broad sample from which opinions of the majority of Americans can be taken. It is a very specialized, narrow demographic.

Now, the call to action: Contact your elected official, because Government should use our tax dollars to provide women with birth control and should further insinuate themselves into American's private decisions...oops, I let my opinion slip there. Well, since don't work for the New York Times, and I'm not a journalist, that's okay!

Interesting, that the abortion mills want NO government interference when it comes to their procedures - not even a health department inspection - but DO want federal funds to they can give out more birth control!

What are they trying to sell?

They are trying to sell the public on the idea that it is the government's fault there are so many abortions (which, again, according to their rhetoric, are not bad but should be rare). It is the government's fault that low income women are not on birth control. It is the governement's fault that people are having children without proper 'planning'. If only our Senators and Representatives cared about women more, they would loosen the purse strings and pay Planned Parenthood to distribute these golden little pills.

How gullible are we?

Mama Says:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, unless said prevention causes stroke, heart attack, blood clots, increased risk of breast and liver cancer, loss of vision, weight gain, depression, and yeast infections. (see p. 3 of the Rx insert.)
Then again, maybe it works by ensuring you are never in the mood.

Mama also Says:
I think the new motto for Planned Parenthood should be, "Killing off your Social Security, one future taxpayer at a time".

Tags: Catholic, Prolife, Need to Know, Mama Says

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 7/07/2006 09:36:00 AM | Permalink | |
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ah, children. So sweet, so innocent. Great truths spring from their mouths, a veritable oracle and reflection of our innermost selves. Haven’t you ever read The Emperor’s New Clothes? Isn’t it true that kids say the darndest things?

My children are particularly adept at calling it like they see it. Why, just yesterday my five year old daughter complimented my knees, claiming they were spiky, just like a spider’s legs. And soft and squishy, too. (The Thighmaster might have done wonders for Susanne Somers, but then again, she didn’t give birth to six little prophets in 7 years, either.)

Well, I’m conserving razors, okay? Do you know how many greenhouse gases float into the atmosphere, causing polar bears to drown, in the production of one little razor? I don’t either, but I bet it’s a lot. Also, I think the metal would be put to a better use if we sent it to China, or possibly North Korea, for the government to use in building factories that will simultaneously continue to crush the souls of the peasantry and take American jobs. This will give Americans more time for important activities such as voting for out Idols and making heroes out of wife cheaters such as Lance Armstrong and Brad Pitt. They do make America great, after all.

My 3 year old son inquires, genuinely puzzled, “Why are you being so nice to us?”. I tried to explain about how in my twilight years, how he and his siblings would be choosing my nursing home. I also put in a quick plug for one with extensive spa amenities, including chocolate facials and backwaxing. (Hey, a lot can happen to a gal’s body in 50 years’ time. I have to be prepared for all possible outcomes.) Apparently misunderstanding in his precocious naivete, he begged for an Oreo cookie and proceeded to give himself a chocolate facial.

My eldest is also given to musings, such as, “How do you fit your big head in that little sink”, upon seeing me wash my hair at the bathroom vanity. I have to use the bathroom vanity, as my personal vanity diappeared about the time he started talking.

See what I did there, that cute play on words! Alas, it seems that none of my children have inherited my Shakespearean sense of humor, and find my puns and wordplay insufferable. I would caution them, as they ask in childish simplicity, “If no one laughs at your jokes, why do you think you’re funny?” - just you wait until we embark on our 25 hour drive to South Carolina! I’ll get you, my pretties!

Mama Says:

If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all.

Tags: Misc., Family Life, Mama Says

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 7/04/2006 10:15:00 AM | Permalink | |
Lost work, ear infections, and My Life Right Now.
Saturday, July 01, 2006

I had a really nice little post, about my husband coming home on July 18, moving, and as usual it was wildly entertaining. (Do you expect anything less?)
Then my 3 year old needed his teeth brushed, and my 5 year old decided she was going to work on the computer too, and the post has been swallowed by the Great Nothingness that takes all unsaved work.

So, you'll have to make do with this boring, vanilla little blurb.

I did discover a home remedy that actually works! My 6 year old got an ear infection. I'd heard of a couple of home remedies, and decided to give them a try. I put 6 drops of breastmilk (Nursing comes in handy, and not just because I'm too lazy to wash a bottle in the middle of the night!) in twice a day - cured it within 24 hours.
Of course, I didn't tell him what it was, just that it was my secret ear formula. Much the same way I call non-fat dry milk "astronaut milk" and the heels of a loaf "the brownest one. Who wants the one with the most brown?"

Now that we are moving, and I have the responsibility of packing the entire house, by myself, with 6 kids all home for the summer - don't laugh, it's true - I have noticed a curious thing.
I am Not Buying things. How very un-American of me.

It's also killing me! I mean, Wal-Mart has determined that I should decorate my house in a very Art Deco, shapely black and white, and I'm still living in my "so last year"..... ok, I've never actually decorated. My style is Newly Wed/Fisher Price. I've been married for 9 years, but I still accept any and all cast off furniture!

I am also Throwing Things Away, even if I might use them someday. But, I figure, I probably will come across 900 more jelly jars before the kids leave home, so I'm good there.

I have given away 15 BAGS of clothing. Clothes that don't fit the kids yet, clothes that don't fit one child but will fit another one someday, clothes I hate and don't put on the kids, clothes the kids hate. I gave away snowsuits and mittens and coats (we are moving to Charleston from Denver). That's not actually very entertaining to you folks out there in cyberspace, but I have to brag somewhere!

Mama Says:
Use it up, Wear it Out
Make it do, or Do Without

Fine words to live by.
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 7/01/2006 11:43:00 PM | Permalink | |