Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Win Enemies and Not Influence People

Last night, a friend I admire on Facebook posted a link to an article about vaccination; specifically, the author of the article was anti vaccine.

This article was in response to an outbreak of measles tied into Disneyland (or is it DisneyWorld?) in California.

Now I will admit I was not at my best as we've had lots of illness and I'm super tired, so I was feeling a little more on edge than usual.

The article was SUPER annoying to me.  I know my friend (who is awesome) was focused on the first part of the article.  The author of the article talked about how food and water and toxic chemicals are all very important, probably way more important than being vaccinated against measles.  He also has serious concerns about what is in the vaccines.

But he ended the article by saying the following about parents who choose to vaccinate, and this is copied from the article (apologies for the slightly off color language):

Finally, be angry with yourself for not opening your eyes to the snow job and brainwashing which have taken over your mind. You NEVER asked the doctor any questions. You NEVER asked what is in the vaccines. You NEVER learned about these benign infections.
Let’s face it, you don’t really give a crap what your children eat. You don’t care about chemicals in their life. You don’t care if they sit around all day watching the TV or playing video games.
All you care about is drinking your Starbuck’s, your next plastic surgery, your next cocktail, your next affair, and your next sugar fix!

Wow.  Just wow.

I was totally offended and wrote so on FB, openly, which isn't really great.  I shouldn't have because I could tell I was annoyed and FB isn't a great place to sound off when annoyed.

But SERIOUSLY?  REALLY?  All I care about is my next plastic surgery, cocktail, or AFFAIR?

I don't think I'm the only person who, when attacked unfairly, struggles to even remotely consider the arguments of another person. We do vaccinate our children.  We have many friends who do not.  I have read the arguments and analyzed the data and based on what I know (which certainly isn't everything), we feel it is wise to vaccinate.  I believe parents should have the right to decide against vaccination.  There have been negative responses to vaccines.  Parents need to evaluate and decide whether their child should be vaccinated and if so, if they should do it on the schedule promoted by the medical establishment.

But we vaccinate.

And we do care very much what our kids eat, watch, and do.  Our poor girls can't even buy cheap nail polish for their fingernails, because I read that there are toxic chemicals in most nail polishes and they can get into their bodies.  (The expensive stuff?  $10 a bottle instead of $1.)  I think and pray about how to limit the children's exposure to chemicals that can cause hormone disruption. I am FAR from a health nut, but I care so incredibly much for my kids and for this guy to accuse me of laziness and stupidity is really obnoxious.

So...what can I learn from this?

Well, I can learn that it is less likely that someone will listen to me if I start yelling and treating someone else like they are morons because of their position in a certain area.

I do have strong beliefs in areas like abortion, gay marriage, and homeschooling.  But wow, it does NO good to be rude and antagonistic to those with the opposite position.  I am not a debater and rarely DO debate, but when I talk to someone with different views, I would be wise to be polite and kind as much as possible.

Good lesson to ponder.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kevin's Job and Associated Musings

Kevin has a PhD in materials science and engineering (and actually, I do too. We met in graduate school.)  He's been an Air Force employee for more than 20 years now, which is amazing given that he is only 44 :-). The Air Force actually sent him to graduate school and paid his way, with the agreement that he would work for 15+ years after his PhD.

His work situation is really good, in many ways. The Air Force has many fine people in it.  His job is secure, well paid (relatively speaking -- he makes a lot, though would make more in industry), and he has quite a bit of vacation and sick leave.

He has moved around within the materials directorate of the local Air Force base, which is the center of materials research for the Air Force.  A few months ago, he took on a new and very strenuous, stressful job.

The first couple of months were exhausting but he learned a lot. Then, without going into details, things "went south."  There were some personality conflicts and the job became extremely onerous. The new job required some extra hours at times, which was challenging with our large family plus a month's worth of illness.

Over the last couple of weeks, the opportunity arose for him to seek a new position.  And he is.  So...this has been a stressful time, though it is good that he is moving in a new direction.  For now, he has his old, stressful job AND the additional challenge of finding the best new position.

In all this, he won't lose his job at the Air Force.  In all of this, he is able to come home each evening -- worn out, at times, but home.  There are many serving overseas who don't have that luxury. There are many husbands and fathers who have to travel and don't see a wife and children for days at a time.

I think we've both struggled with fatigue and frustration the last couple of months. It would be nice if life "went well."  It would be nice if work relationships were solid and good, and if we were always healthy.

I know I am tempted, many times, to sort of "blame" a victim.  And I say that with trepidation, because it is a jerky thing to do.  I don't do it consciously, usually.  Let me explain that by blaming a victim, I mean I mentally assign some reason why something bad happened to him or her.

So for example, if I read of  a young college woman being date raped after getting drunk at a fraternity party -- I have sympathy with the victim and am angry at the rapist, but I also mentally think, "Well, that wasn't the smartest thing to do, to get drunk at a frat party."  And it isn't that smart.

Part of the reason I want to assign blame is that it feels like it protects me and our family.  I think (at some level), "Well, if we just avoid doing something foolish, we'll be safe from bad things happening."

There is a correlation between wise behavior and good things happening.  But it isn't absolutely linear. The reality is that some people act foolishly and things turn out well.  For that matter, I've done dumb things in my life and God thankfully watched over me.

Sometimes people do the right thing and bad things happen. I recently read a harrowing book about Chinese Christians in China who have suffered tremendous persecution for the sake of the gospel.  They are following Jesus, and they are suffering.  Jesus said it would happen. It does happen.

Various people have suggested that our family's frequent illnesses in winter are tied into how we eat, etc.  And they may even be right. I've gotten as calm as possible about being sick in winter.  We usually are healthy in spring, summer, and fall, but winter is hard.  It isn't like everyone is sick for a month. It is that it takes SO STINKING LONG for everyone to get THROUGH an illness :-).

This job thing is frustrating too.  Kevin has worked hard and it hasn't been particularly good or fulfilling lately.

Life happens.  Things are hard sometimes.

There was an old, relatively uneducated man who once said he read Revelation and understood it.  When challenged, he said, "Well, I've read the end and we win."

Yep, we win -- Jesus will come back, and will reign.  His children will go to Heaven and live a life without tears or pain.

This life is full of challenge, and that's Ok.  I don't like pain and struggle, and that's good (no one should be a masochist!)  But I also need to embrace and be at peace with struggle, because life is hard.

As Wesley from the Princess Bride said, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something!"

From Revelation to the Princess Bride!  I think I'm going in the wrong direction in terms of absolute truth.  I'm done.  God bless you all.

Sick Girl

I haven't mentioned illness because we've been well. Until last night.  Miriam woke up at 4 a.m. and threw up, then let me know.  Then she woke up at 6 a.m. and threw up, and let me know.  The morning has progressed with more throwing up, though not on a tight 2 hour schedule.

Poor sweet.

We had throwing up last month but I so hoped we were done!  Miriam DID eat something odd yesterday and it is just possible she's got minor food poisoning or something, but none of the other girls (who ate the same thing) are sick. It acts like a stomach bug. I hate stomach bugs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reviews: Pacific Rim movie and Portal games

I could talk about serious things but I'm not in the mood. There has been lots of noise around here -- some happy, some not -- and it is hard to focus on deep cogitations.

Last night, Kevin and I watched most of a recent movie called Pacific Rim.  It's apocalyptic, about humans waging battle against giant beasts that are emerging from a transdimensional portal under the ocean. The humans use giant robots to battle the monsters.  It is very Japanese -- rather like Godzilla.

So far we like the movie quite well.  I like that all the main characters are noble.

I don't recognize ANY of the actors.  I don't watch a great many movies, but I have a retentive memory for actors' faces (weird, because I don't remember people I've met in person very well) and none of these people ring any kind of bell.

But there is ONE familiar actress, and she is a voice actor.  She is the voice of a computer in Pacific Rim, and...she is the voice of THE computer GLADOS in the video games Portal and Portal 2.

The Portal games are some of my favorite in the world. They are puzzle games, where your character has to progress through the game by shooting portals in strategic places.  That probably won't make sense unless you've seen it. The important part here is that both games "star" an insane computer named GLADOS.  At the beginning of the first Portal game, she sounds quite sensible.  As the game progresses, she gets weirder and weirder, and crazier and crazier.  She is SO much fun.  The kids and I enjoy quoting Portal quotes to one another.  One of our favorites is hard to understand out of context, but I'll throw it out anyway:

"Put your weapon on the floor and lie down in the party submission position.  A party associate will come by to escort you to your party, and there will be cake!"  (There is no cake and no party.  The crazy computer wants to kill your character.)

In Pacific Rim, she is still a computer but a sensible one. It is funny hearing "that voice" saying normal, logical things :-).

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Disliking a Kid's Book...

Sometimes I feel very heroic.  Like now.

Let me explain.

Our local library has a truly glorious set of online features. One is a BookFlix option where the little children can watch animated features of many children's books.  The animation is very simple and the words are from the actual children's book.

It has been great, honestly. I know I should be reading out loud to the little ones, but it is hard to find the time.  And Daniel, at age 2, would rather grab any book I'm holding than listen to me read to him.

So every morning, Daniel and Sarah watch these books.

There are literally dozens of options.  I like Giggle Giggle Quack. I like Click Clack Moo. I like Curious George and the Bicycle.  I like Stars Stars Stars.  I like Planting a Rainbow, and Inch by Inch.

But the kids found a book I don't like, called Happy Birthday, Moon. And of course, they LOVE it.  As in, they want to watch it over and over and over again love it.

There is nothing evil about this book.  It is just dumb.  The person reading it out loud has a voice that annoys me.  So it is painful listening to it a couple of times a day.  Now you may think, "Can't Laraba just go to another room?"  Short answer, no.  Our main kids' computer is broken and Kevin and Naomi (our budding computer fixing prodigy) are working on fixing it.

So Daniel watches his BookFlix books on the main computer.  I have the book in a small window and I'm writing this blog post while it plays.  After I finish this, I'll work on homeschool preparation for next week.

So I'm sort of stuck.  I'm heroic.  I love my kids.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dishwasher Travails


Our dishwasher broke about a month ago. We waited several weeks for a necessary part to come in.  The people came to fix it, and did (supposedly) but it failed that night.

So we gave up on the dishwasher, which is almost 5 years old. We put it through its paces, with our large family.

We bought a new one, which was supposed to be delivered yesterday.  But yesterday we got a call from Sears saying that oh, actually the dishwasher isn't available so we have to wait until the 23rd of this month.

We are seriously annoyed about that.  Kevin picked out this particular dishwasher based on Consumer Reports ratings, and most of the local stores said it was on back order and we'd need to wait a couple of weeks.  Sears CLAIMED they could get it to us in 4 days, but they were either mistaken (unlikely) or deceptive to get our business.

Only silver lining is that they'll give us a $50 gift card to Sears.

So we wait. And we battle the mess in the kitchen. Compared to something remotely major, this is nothing. But it is an extra burden on an already super busy household.  We're used to having a dishwasher.  And I'm thankful that in a week or so, we probably will actually have a working one again.

Here is an example of the ebb and flow of mess in our kitchen these days.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Random pictures with apropos captions

Gingerbread house

Rose loves Isaac's arm!

Zoobs are nice.

Gingerbread train.  (You want to know a secret?  We actually EAT our trains and houses.)

Ice on the window.

It was very cold, so we left the cabinet doors open to prevent the pipes freezing. So naturally, Daniel HAD to get into our bags and spread them all over creation.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Don't Miss the Chickens

I know this is random, but I don't miss our chickens.

That honestly surprises me. We had chickens for several years and they were charming. They clucked, they strutted, they pecked, they laid eggs. What's not to like?

Well, there were some negative things. They were dirty. They occasionally keeled over and died, or were attacked by predators.  Chickens are so STUPID that they more or less just die when a predator shows up, because they have no clue how to defend themselves or get away.

When Kevin got his new, challenging position at work, we decided it was time to simplify our lives and get rid of the chickens.

Once they were gone, it was surprising how many chores went away. I did relatively little with the chickens, but even I found mornings (in particular) more relaxing.  I no longer need to put eggs away in the morning. I no longer have to package them up for sale when we have too many. I no longer need to make sure nasty chicken byproducts are safely cleaned off the counters.

So yes, it was a good experience having chickens, but I don't miss them. Sometimes it is best to simplify.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Still Sick

To my loyal blog readers...I am sorry.

I am sorry that post after post is about being sick.  Come ON, now.  This is boring.  Can we talk about something else?

Or have I really posted as much as I think about being sick?  Maybe we've been too busy BEING sick for me to blog much.  Maybe. I'm not even going to check.

Ok, doky.  Here's the excitement from the last few days.

Friday morning, Lydia came down at around 9:30 a.m. (yes, the big girls are sleeping in right now as it is vacation) and said, "I don't feel good, Mom."

Well, she's been sick for days but there was a tone in her voice that made me sit up and take notice.  Long story short, she was having major chest pains.

She's 13 and healthy but still, CHEST PAINS?  I called our pediatrician and of course the nurse said, "Take her to the ER!"  At some point, Lydia actually started crying from the pain and she is a very stoic child. This is the kid who broke her finger and we missed it because she didn't complain. This is the child who broke her wrist a year ago and commented that it "felt numb".  Next day we took her in and yes, it was broken. So crying from pain?  Scary!

Kevin was off work so of course he had the fun of taking her to the emergency room.  Thankfully, it was nothing serious.  She has chondroitis or something?  Her chest muscles were inflamed, likely from coughing and throwing up (both of which she had done in the last few days.)  AND she has a virus so probably the virus attacked that area with special vigor.

So the solution is ibuprofin and rest and no heavy lifting.

Yesterday Kevin woke up feeling awful and got worse through the day, with the particular symptom being an incredibly painful throat. After an afternoon nap, he said he thought it was probably strep throat and he took himself off to the Urgent Care.  And he is right. He has strep throat. Which is very contagious.  And we have 9 kids.  So far I'm Ok.  My throat is fine.  Lydia's throat was bad last night so we are guessing she has strep also.

Sarah and Daniel are both sick though not horribly ill. Sarah is a rather "shrieking" child on the best of days, and she is freaked about a runny nose. She is walking around with a Kleenex stuck against her nose at all times.  She is even more uptight about life than usual.  Daniel has actually been, well, Daniel -- but he is taking naps regularly, which is nice.

I am hanging on. I've been falling asleep on the couch or in a recliner the last couple of evenings because I'm tired.  Our dishwasher is still out so I've got that task and we've had so much illness.

Broken record again, though -- when I think of my two friends named Sarah -- well, maybe I haven't mentioned the second one.  Both Sarahs are young widows with kids at home.  When I think of what they are enduring, the grief and exhaustion and pain and sorrow and mourning and frustration and grief -- I know I need to be relaxed about the little struggles in our lives.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

15, 9, and 12

      Naomi is 15.  Where did the years go? I know people say that kind of thing, it is a cliche, but it is so true that the years fly by and now our eldest is nearly grown up.  She can learn how to DRIVE this year.  What is Naomi like?  I think in many ways, she is like me.  She is a first born daughter, like me.  She is smart and organized, like me.  She is artistic -- ok, that is NOT like me. I think she is naturally stronger willed than I am.  She is great.  I love seeing how the children grow and develop.  People often say that they know their kids' personalities from infancy.  Maybe I'm just oblivious, but my kids have seemed fairly similar through age 3. They are adorable sweetlings as infants, cranky as all get out (in a great way) as toddlers, then their personalities diverge from one another.  I love being a parent.

Miriam is 9 now.  That also amazes me. I was pregnant with her when we moved into this house.  Miriam is even more like me than Naomi, I think.  She is more compliant than most of the other children.  She is very quick to learn things; as an example, she memorized the times tables through 12's at age 6.  In about 3 weeks.  That still amazes me.  She LOVES to play with Angela, her 7 year old sister.  Miriam is a treasure.

Isaac, our first son, is now 12.  If the 2 birthday girls are somewhat like me, Isaac takes more after Kevin in terms of temperament.  He is smart. He is strong willed.  He loves computer games above almost any other fun thing in life.  Isaac even says (at the tender age of 12) that he'd like to be an engineer like his dad.  I look forward to seeing what God's plan for Isaac is.  We are so glad that he is part of our family.