Monthly Archives: February 2009

Cornerstones of Democracy

Feeling cynical tonight. Dissatisfied. And maybe culpable in that dissatisfaction by virtue of my ignorance on the subjects of history, politics and government. 

Surely a literate person in this generation is ignorant only by choice.

So borrowed some books.

And learned several interesting tidbits in the process: Jefferson was the "founding father" if you will, of the Democratic party, and Abraham Lincoln of the Republican party.

Yes, I honestly didn't know that.

Those two facts might feel more significant after I figure out exactly what those respective parties consist of–both what they purport to be, and what they actually are.

The other thing, which seems more significant on some level I can't identify yet, I found on the inside cover of a textbook first published in 1951. 

There's a depiction of the four cornerstones of democracy: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

I think as a nation we've pretty much honored the first two. But I'm curious to know–you who live in America, and any other nation who purports to be democratic. Are you free from fear? Are you free from want? Is our government still sitting solidly on four corners, or have a few of them started to crumble? I don't know.

Certainly, we all worry about finances and the weather and maybe even the stock market. But Want. Fear. How do you define those, exactly? Do they exist in our country today? I have been so blessed, so much of my life, that I have never known either true deprivation or terror.

I am inclined to suspect that while Congress may grant freedom of religion and expression, freedom from want and fear might be rooted in the individual–choosing faith over fear, and gratitude over want.  

And yet.

I have this niggling feeling that there are people out there who don't have that choice, even here in America.

What think you, fellow citizens?

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In Your Expert Opinion

What should a parent do–what would you do if you knew your child was trying to hide something from you?

I'm not talking substance abuse, immorality or stolen merchandise. More like he took a permanent marker to his blue jeans, or didn't eat most of his lunch and it rotted in his backpack. Little stuff.

Do you call them out on it–thus making them feel foolish not only for the deed but the attempted deception–or do you let them keep their little secret and you keep your own–that you do, in truth, have eyes in the back of your head?

I tend to call them out–I try to make a joke of it, like I only noticed the deed, and found it amusing, and didn't notice the deception. I guess I want them to know that I'm not going to freak out about things. Hoping that next time they won't feel the need to conceal.

Because it bothers me that they do feel the need. They aren't any good at it, and I find that reassuring. 

But here's a disturbing thought–what if in showing my hand–I can tell when you're hiding something–I inadvertently encourage them to hone their skills at deception?


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Buddy Bear Has an Original Thought

Traditionally, the kindergarteners at our school have a class mascot.  Super Bee. Mighty Duck. Mighty Monkey. This year it's Buddy Bear.

He sits up in a corner surveying the classroom and at the end of the day, whispers into the teacher's ear the name of someone who tried really hard, or who did something very kind, and asks to go home with that child.

He comes home in a little box, along with a pencil and a notepad. The idea is that at the end of the day, I record all sorts of fun activities my son shared with the animal, and we return Buddy Bear the next morning. I'm not exactly clear on how it all works, but at some point the teacher shares Buddy Bear's adventures with the class.

Traditionally, Buddy Bear has a great time. He watches movies, visits Grandma's and eats at McDonald's. Or so I hear.

When he goes to my sister's house, he gets a full-on spa treatment. Bath, trim if he needs it; a photo session even. The notepad comes back fully illustrated with a fancy cover.

At my house, we are doomed to break with tradition.

On his first visit, Buddy Bear didn't make it out of the backpack. 

On his second visit, he emerged, but nobody paid any attention to him. I completely forgot the notebook.

On his third visit, Buddy Bear had some incredible adventures. Ones I didn't hear about until this morning when my youngest sees Dad writing in the notebook about Buddy Bear's fourth, and most recent visit of yesterday. The kid freezes. Gets this look on his face like . . . I don't know. Like whatever Dad wrote about last time, well, apparently it was scarring.

                     Dad–what are you writing?

                          Oh . . . just that Buddy Bear played in the fort. And other stuff.

Other stuff. See, that's the troubling part. I have no way of knowing what other stuff Dad wrote unless Buddy Bear comes to visit us again, and judging from the look on my five-year-old's face, I'm not betting on that ever happening. I also caught something vague about Buddy being bored without television and having his first original thought, which scared him at first, but he adjusted.


I'm hoping that some other parent (Nena–is Buddy due any time soon at your place for a treatment?) will fill me in when they read it. Also hoping Mrs. S learned her lesson last time Buddy returned from our house, and reads the entry silently to herself first, applying liberal censorship as needed. 

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In Case You Were Wondering

As of today, the air date for Oprah's interview with Nadya Suleman's father and Dr. Oz is planned for Tuesday, February 24.

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Mom’s a Secret Agent with the FBI

The UPS man delivered a big, black, padlocked Hardigg Storm case Monday evening. It took my thirteen year old about three minutes to guess the combination. This is the same child who can break into our house with his ASB card in the time it takes the rest of us to exit the vehicle–first dibs on the bathroom, you know–the same child who if he can see the target, can hit a bull's-eye, every time.

Does this sound like a reassuring pattern to you? Lock-picking? Sharpshooting?  I did not teach him these things. He has just sort of stumbled across his talents at various times and found them convenient. I keep hoping he'll put some energy into developing his keen ear for music or storytelling, but so far he has no interest.

Granted, he isn't the sort to pick a lock that really matters–he didn't even open the case, just the lock. And presented it to me along with a Cheshire grin. Started speculating with his siblings that the FBI had sent Mom a bomb, maybe. Someone peeked in and noticed a lot of electronic equipment packed in custom cut, high grade foam.

I ducked the speculations as long as I could, but finally made the confession that yes, mother is going to appear on a talk show. Egad. They thought that was funny. Probably because they have never seen a talk show.

Took me all of half an hour last night to set up the equipment, and then another half an hour or so with the producer, on Skype, "setting up the shot". This is techno speak for tearing apart the furnishings of three rooms in your house in order to pretend as though you live in a different house.

Pick up the camera and turn it all the way around, she tells me. Let me see the rest of the room. Apparently she didn't like the blank corner behind me. What she didn't realize is that all of my corners and walls are blank. I don't even have a headboard.  Fortunately my mother-in-law pawned off an insanely large ficus tree on me a few months back, and after strategic branch bunching I was able to fit it through the door into my bedroom, and position it just so. I think I even knocked most of the dust off in the struggle.

If you look closely, and the feed actually works, and they actually get around to talking to me Thursday, you might notice two ceramic pots in the background. Aforementioned son made them with the same scout master that taught him to point a rifle. They like their scouts well-rounded, you see.

Just think, if it weren't for my thirteen year old, I may have never got the Skype kit's lock open–and if I had, it would be just me, the camera and the branches of a ficus tree. How dull. At least you'll get to admire his pottery. It could be the highlight of the show, I don't know. I'm not actually allowed to blog about it, I found out. Or record it, or in any way preserve a transcript of it. So this is it, I suppose. After tomorrow, mums the word. 

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Fine Dining in Kennewick, WA

Hi! Can I take your order?

    We'll have your Wikiki Burger and . . . Hmmm. Are the mushrooms on your 'Shroom and Swiss burger canned, or fresh?


    Yeah. Are they raw and you cook them, or do you get them out of a can?

Uh. I don't know. I'll ask. Jerry! Are the mushrooms on the swiss burger canned, or fresh?

I don't know. I'll ask the cook.   Hey! Hey! Yeah, are the mushrooms on the swiss burger canned or fresh?

How should I know?

I'm sorry, Miss. Even the cook doesn't know. I'd like to say fresh, but there's really no way of knowing.


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The Finger of God

The story goes that some 5000 years ago, while the rest of Babel was running around speaking gibberish, there was one man who went to God and brokered a deal on behalf of his neighborhood. We will follow you—wherever you want—if you’ll just let our language alone. Don’t confound us.

And God agreed.

The man packed up his family and friends—whoever wanted in on the divine bargain—and hightailed it out of Babel. The trip was going pretty well until they got to some water. A lot of water.  “A raging deep,” he called it. But God said “that way,” and he wasn’t pointing back the way they’d come, so the man built ships. Small, watertight, sea worthy crafts, but he didn’t know how to illuminate them.  It was dark in there. Dark, dark. And they had little kids with them.

Imagine trying to get a wink of sleep in that ship with your little sister in the next bunk. You’d start wishing for Someone had seen fit to confound her.

So the man goes to God and lets Him know they aren't comfortable with the situation. And what do you know, God didn’t fix it for him. Didn't sympathize or make suggestions even. 
Just said, Get thinking, man. Figure out a way to bring some light into the lives of the people you love.
So the man goes up into a mountain and makes sixteen molten stones.  Small and round and clear, and he takes them to God and says here, touch these.  Lay it right here Lord—make them glow. And God does. He stretches out his finger, and they cross the raging deep snug and enlightened. 
Here's the thing.   
If it were me up on that mountain, I don't know if I could lay out my handiwork and say, there. I've done all I can. Now it's your turn.
I'm afraid the Lord wouldn't ever get an opening because I'd be so worried about–me. Before his finger ever got near my pitiful little stones,  I'd be picking them back up for one last buffing. Maybe arranging them just so. 
I'd be so worried about my own performance, I'd forget that there is no limit to what God can do. Like somehow if I could impress God enough maybe I could earn the light in my life.
It's a struggle, isn't it? To know when to stop struggling–to say, there, I've done all I can. Now it's up to you. And to wait for the miracle, the finger of God. Even when we've seen it at work in our lives so many times before.

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Sixty Years and Counting

Received a link to this video today, and who should it be but my grandparents on the news. (Just in case you aren't directed to top news stories for Feb 14, that's what you're looking for. It seems to be occasionally directing clicks to the current days news.)

Might not mean anything to you, but it made my day in so many ways.

Tell it like it is, Grandpa.

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The Kleenex Cure

Kimber, will you put this Bratz tattoo on me?

    I think you'd better keep the tattoo on the valentine, and when you get home, you ask your mom if it's okay.

She will say it's okay!

    Then we'll let her put it on you.

Pleeeeaaase. Ally might get her feelings hurt if I don't put it on.

    Ask your mom. I'm sure Ally is happy you like her Valentine.  

Then, can I have one of the cupcakes she brought?

    I'm sorry sweetie; you heard what your mom said about the cupcakes.

Nuh uh!

    You have too much snot this week. She doesn't want you to have any sugar when you've been sick.

But she said that if I have a lot of snot, I can just blow reeeeeaaaaly really hard, and then the snot will be all gone and then I can have sugar.


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Let Not Your Left Hand

Look at me. Are you listening? Okay. Socks and shoes on–NOW. Chop chop!  Hey, did I sign your reading log?


Did you brush your teeth?

    [a bit of eye rolling] Yes.

Where's your homework?

    In my backpack.

Did you remember your valentines?


Did you address them yet?


Why not?! I bought them a week ago–you've had time to do this!

    Mom, if I put a valentine in their pouch, then obviously the valentine is for them; addressing them would be redundant.

    Well. Don't you think you should at least put who it's from?

No . . .

    Why not?

Um. Doesn't the Bible say to do good things for people without telling anyone you did them?


I've been told this is a symptom of having possible lawyer or politician tendencies. And I did try so hard to be a good mother . . .

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