Monday, June 29, 2015

18th Anniversary

18 years it is!

I'm very thankful that the Lord brought Kevin and me together.

There are a lot of things I could say about marriage but as usual, I've got little people who demand attention.

I would say 2 simple things.

Marriage is a lot of work.

Marriage is totally worth it.

That's all for now, folks!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Words Matter

So yesterday was the Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage the law of the land.  I was not surprised by the decision, as that is the way our country is moving.

I'm not going to talk a lot about the ruling itself except to say that I profoundly disagree with it.  I won't go into why right now.

I am concerned that our government is quite broken where the courts are concerned.  I guess the court system is sort of democratic, because the judges are appointed by people we elected...but it is down the line a ways from the actual elections. And more and more, judges are overturning the will of the people by declaring (it seems arbitrarily) that a law is "unconstitutional."

All this isn't a huge surprise.  Our Founding Fathers managed to put together an amazing government for its time, but people are people, and sin is sin, and power is power.  Power tends to corrupt.  When a black cloaked judge can decide in his or her own wisdom that a law passed by the people is wrong -- well, that's a lot of power!  And often judges use that power to advance their own agenda (both the conservatives AND the liberals.)  The checks and balances have gotten whacked out.

  Anyway, back to my blog post title. Words matter.

  How EASILY we are affected by words.

  On my Facebook page, on the right side, is a set of 3 headlines every time I open the page.  The current top one is:

 #MarriageEquality  Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal nationwide in landmark decision.

  Now Facebook doesn't pretend to be a balanced news reporting site and indeed many of its headlines are so short on actual news that it is funny (the next headline today is about a handsome gorilla at some zoo.)

 BUT...the wording of that headline is SO meant to skew our perceptions positively towards the Supreme Court decision.

  Equality...we LOVE that word.  We are all about equality. We are all about being fair.  Right?

 Landmark decision:  that sounds good too, doesn't it?  We aren't maintaining the status quo.  We are new, and adventurous, and progressive in our country. That is something to be proud of, right?

What would a neutral headline read?

Maybe something like:  Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage.

What would a headline read that opposed the ruling?  Maybe...

Supreme Court arbitrarily overturns centuries of human history in ruling that same sex couples can be "married."

I will confess I don't even bother reading the news very much anymore, because stuff like this annoys me regardless of who is writing it.  Most news sites lean liberal, but conservatives are guilty of rhetoric as well.

Kevin and I vote Republican almost all the time.  I know there are plenty of lousy Republicans (power corrupts, sin is there, etc.) but as I've said in a previous blog post, the abortion issue is my litmus test issue.  Show me a pro life Democrat (and they do exist) and I would likely vote for him or her.  Show me a pro abortion Republican (and they exist) and I will vote against him or her.

Since we vote Republican, we get Republican mailings (especially around election time.) We periodically get these stupid surveys from the Republican party.  I say they are stupid because supposedly they are to engage conservative voters to find out what said voters believe about various issues. But oh, those surveys are SLANTED.

Things like...

Do you believe that the Obama administration should force the American workers to pay for the health care costs of lower income and uninsured workers, including illegal immigrants?

Not that that is a verbatim quote.  I'm just giving that as an example of the KIND of verbiage in the surveys.  Words like "force".  Words like "illegal immigrants." Those sway us against the proposal. The survey is not meant to really figure out what we believe.  The survey is meant to tally up an impressive percentage of people agreeing with the Republican party's position on various topics.

The Democrats similar survey might say something like:

Do you support President Obama's desire to provide quality health care for all Americans, regardless of their income and racial status?

Oooh, that sounds GOOD.  "Quality".  "Equality for all regardless of income and racial status."  Buried in all that is the nuts and bolts of the current health care law, which is what we really need to think about.

It is natural for politicians to try and sway people in one direction or another with their words.  That is not going to change.  I do challenge us all to THINK about words, and to teach our children to THINK about words.

It is not easy to do this. We live in a world with a barrage of information. We have long lived in a world where people with skills in speaking have swayed large numbers of people in one direction or another.

Sometimes that has been good.  Martin Luther King AMAZES me.  I am thankful some of his speeches were recorded.  His "I Have a Dream" speech is rightly memorialized.  But even in his case, I want to analyze the WORDS. Yes, I love listening to him. I love the words that roll off his tongue in the recordings.  They sway me, and uplift me. They encourage me.  But the main point is that I actually agree with what he said.

Apparently, one of the reasons Hitler did so well politically is that he spoke incredibly well.  That is hard to believe because he looks like an idiot to me, in the recordings of his speeches that I've seen. But I don't speak German, and he was a German speaking to Germans, and the way he spoke uplifted and directed and drew them to the point that his countrymen (mostly) followed him blindly into World War II, the Holocaust, and catastrophic defeat.

So, let's think about what we read and hear.  Think about the messages.  Think about the underpinnings. Think about the words and how the author is trying to make us feel.  And let's teach our children to do the same.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Surgery for Lydia

A long, long time ago, when Lydia was quite a little girl, she was walking a dog.  The dog took off on her, and the leash got tangled, and Lydia was jerked off her feet, and broke her left ring finger.

We think.

Lydia is a stoic kid, and we were busy, and she didn't complain much, and we totally missed that she broke her finger. For more than a year.  I kid you not. Yes, I feel guilty.

So we're guessing it was the dog incident that led to the broken finger.

Naturally, it didn't do the finger any good to have no attention, and it healed wrong.  Crooked. With a couple of bits of bone in the wrong places.

A year after the broken bone, Kevin noticed the finger looked funny.  We trundled her off to the doctor, who trundled her off to get an x-ray, and yes, it had obviously been broken, and healed wrong.

Then we went to 2 orthopedic surgeons.  The first one strongly recommended surgery. The second said surgery was an option, but doing nothing was also an option.  He said she had a really good, strong grip and that leaving it "as is" was a fine way to go.

So we did.

Mostly the finger has been functional, but in the last year it started hurting Lydia more when she was playing the piano and gripping items in that hand.

So we went off to the second surgeon again (whom Kevin really likes) and he ordered x-rays and a CAT scan and said yes, it should be fixed. Apparently the misalignment has gotten a little worse and the fact that it is hurting NOW, when Lydia is young and limber and vibrant, means in the future she would likely have problems with it.

Earlier this year, she had physical therapy to stretch out the muscles as much as possible. Kevin's job was particularly impossible then, so it wasn't a reasonable time to do surgery.

Kevin now has a new position at work, which is more flexible, and so we have scheduled surgery for about 2 weeks from now.

It is a good thing.  I am very thankful we can afford to get this fixed, that we have insurance, and that there are excellent orthopedic surgeons within driving distance.

One thing that rather astonishes me is how much time this one, relatively minor injury, has taken.  In a family of 9 children, trips to the doctor and to a physical therapist have to be planned out fairly carefully.  Of course, it isn't a HUMONGOUS deal because Naomi can stay home and watch the other children, and I'm a mostly stay at home mother so I have time.

But I am filled with awe at the stamina and determination of parents who have children with serious medical issues.  I know some parents spend countless hours EVERY WEEK in therapy and at doctor's offices.

I have a blog/Facebook friend who, with her husband, has 3 biological kids and 4 adopted children.  2 of the children are from China and both have very serious medical problems.  One child has been in and out of the hospital multiple times this week due to a serious pain problem which they are having trouble pinning down.  HOW they are managing with 6 other children at home I do not know, though they have some help from extended family.

So yeah, thankful that we're just dealing with a broken finger that healed wrong.  And excited that it'll be straight soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


  It has rained and rained and rained and rained the last week.

  There is flooding locally.  I am thankful we live on a hill and never have flooding.

  When I drove to church today, there were a couple of closed roads due to flooding.  Thankfully, today and tomorrow are supposed to be dry.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rose is 1!

Yes, our Miss Rosy Posy is 1!

She still seems so small...

And indeed she is.  She is a tiny thing, only 17 lbs.

But her skill set is expanding rapidly.

This is standing!  She hasn't taken a step yet, but she can stand, wobbling dubiously, for more than ten seconds.  You can see that she usually has a cheering section when she attempts a dangerous feat like standing.

This kid is not short of attention around here!

So yes, no "zero year old" kids around here anymore.

It is a little bittersweet that Rose is almost certainly our last child, and growing up. But slowly. And she is still very much a little person.  So I'm doing Ok.

Happy birthday, Rose!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Review: Karla Faye Tucker Set Free by Linda Strom

I received the above book yesterday, when I visited a homeschool sale and the book was being offered for free.  I found it a fascinating, disturbing, and compelling read, and since I was feeling a bit sick I gave myself permission to read for hours, so I finished it by bedtime.

First question is: who is Karla Faye Tucker?  Answer: she was a convicted murderer who was executed by the State of Texas in 1998, and had the dubious distinction of being the first woman executed in Texas in 35 years.

This book is written by a dear Christian friend who met Karla while ministering at the prison where she was being held.  Linda visited Karla at least yearly for more than a decade, and more often at the end of Karla's life as her execution date approached.

The book is really good. So...first off, Karla very definitely committed the murders.  She was high on drugs and full of hate when she and another man broke into an acquaintance's house one night to steal motorcycle parts. The owner and a friend of his were home, and both were brutally murdered by Karla and her friend.

Karla became a Christian while awaiting trial for first degree murder.  She believed both in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, and also realized she needed to speak truth. So she pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to death in 1984. She wasn't executed until 1998, which just shows how SLOWLY the justice system grinds along in death cases.

I could say a lot about this book and my thoughts are jumbled, so I'm just going to throw out a few things.

One is...I feel better about Karla's execution because she was definitely guilty.  It can be argued that the state shouldn't execute people but I don't necessarily agree.  I think the death penalty can be appropriate.  I DO find it unnerving that people are sometimes discovered to be innocent of a crime long after they were found guilty.  If someone is executed and is really innocent, that is awful.  Horrendous.  At least in Karla's case, there was no shadow of a doubt that she was guilty. She admitted very openly that she committed her crimes.

Two, the slow process of execution seems like one of the worst things about capital punishment.  Maybe this is just me, but wow...for the death sentence to take more than a decade to carry out seems like cruel and unusual punishment.  I guess this is typical for death penalty cases.  Lawyers know what to file and there are numerous appeals and it all takes tons of time.

One of Karla's friends on Death Row was 2 days from execution when she was granted a stay of execution.  The government later commuted her sentence to life in prison, so she'll die in prison but won't be executed.  I am not sure that is better, honestly -- if one is a Christian, being with Jesus SEEMS better than being stuck in a maximum security prison for the rest of one's natural life.

But that brings me to another point. Karla was in prison for 15 years before she was executed.  Other men and women spend their entire lives in prison for murder (and maybe other crimes?)

To me, that seems like such a wasted life. But really, we all are living under a death sentence, aren't we?  I mean, we're all going to die, unless Jesus comes back first.  Karla and her Christian friends had a real and powerful ministry behind bars.  Interestingly, Karla's vibrant faith proved to be incredibly helpful to those who came in to minister to HER and the other Death Row inmates. The author's son, who struggled with a drug addiction off and on through his young life, met Karla and she helped turn him around as she had also battled drug addition.  Another friend learned about forgiveness through Karla.

Linda Strom claimed that hundreds of people through the 15 years of Karla's time behind bars met her and many were profoundly changed by her. That sounds like a valuable, useful ministry in spite of the fact that she was locked up away from the world.

I think one unnerving thing about the book is that it opens a door to a whole culture that I am dimly aware of, but which I don't really understand/  I mean, of course, prison culture in general and Death Row culture in particular.

I have always liked to be in control.  I am a first born engineer.  I think the part of Karla's story that sounds the WORST is having basically no control about anything.  Prison has a lot of rules and many of them are oppressive -- not necessarily out of cruelty, but because prison is full of dangerous people who will hurt each other and the prison personnel if given the chance. It is also a place full of many sad and angry people.  Karla's early life was truly horrible, with abuse and drugs and alcoholism and fighting between her parents. That doesn't excuse what she did at all, but  it IS true that children in abusive, dangerous homes are more likely to get in trouble with the law.  So prisons are full of hurting people.

I might add more later but the kids need me. This is a good book.  A thought provoking book.

More thoughts (Monday morning now...)

I've thought off and on about the death penalty during my life. I don't necessarily feel like I've "nailed down" my view of execution, partly because I don't feel the need to.  Let me wander off on a tangent at this point.

So the world is full of all kinds of issues.  There are some that directly result in specific choices.  Homeschooling is a fine example.  Kevin and I started researching homeschooling before our first child was born. We knew at some point, Naomi would need educated (as would all her sibs) and we needed to figure out how and where she would be taught. We decided homeschooling was right for our family.

Some issues, like global warming, don't affect my daily choices nearly as much.  I'm not sure about global warming.  There are valid scientific data from both camps.  I haven't made the time to investigate global warming (and by this, I mean MAN MADE global warming) in great detail. Why?  Well, because it doesn't fascinate me, and it doesn't affect my choices.  I guess a strong man made global warming advocate would say Kevin and I are leaving WAY too large a "carbon footprint" by having a bunch of kids.  We believe, with all our hearts, that God called us to be open to a large family, and every one of our children is a specific blessing from Him.

Right now, I have the general feeling that man made global warming isn't the issue that many say it is.  Maybe I'm wrong.  If so, it doesn't affect my moral decisions very much.  It isn't really a "voting" issue for me, because my litmus test issue when I vote for a political candidate is that I'm ardently pro-life.  Many global warming advocates are so called "pro choice" (not that I prefer that term, since many women who have abortions feel they have NO choice) and that means I won't vote for them.

So I don't feel like I need to totally "figure out" global warming.

It is similar with the death penalty.  My views on the death penalty will not change my behavior, I think.  I mean, I guess if some nutjob politician was advocating the execution of every person in jail, obviously I would vote against him/her.  But one thing the Karla Faye Tucker book showed was that the death penalty, when administered, is done rarely with plenty of appeals.

This morning, this minute, I am feeling "anti death penalty."  I think the reason is that I don't trust the system.  The woman who was executed in Texas AFTER Karla Faye Tucker apparently had a pretty incompetent state appointed attorney, who was rebuked by the Texas bar 5 times.

I have a wispy memory of a story I read in the last year.  A woman named Gloria was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, or something like that (she was not sentenced to death.)  15 or 20 years into her sentence, she became friends with a woman who was ministering to prisoners. This lady is the mother of some celebrity(I think an athlete) and was rich.  Well, this woman (I'll call her Joan, which isn't her name -- I'm just tired of saying "this lady") came to the conclusion that Gloria was possibly innocent. So Joan started an investigation into Gloria's case. Joan spent $100,000 of her own money and eventually discovered, without a shadow of a doubt, that Gloria WAS innocent and that state prosecutors had lied and deceived to get Gloria convicted.   Gloria WAS released, but it would never have happened if her friend didn't intervene.  It was a disgusting travesty. The truth is, the system is broken.  Sadly, many prosecutors are all about "winning cases", not discovering the truth.

So that's my main concern with the death penalty, though I guess of course it spreads across the criminal justice system.  Those who are poor and disenfranchised won't be able to hire really good defense attorneys.  We KNOW there are innocent men and women locked up in prison for crimes they didn't commit.  At least if they are still living, we can set them free if the truth comes out.

Though as I said, a life in prison seems way worse than dying and being with Jesus. And as I said earlier, at least we know Karla Faye Tucker was guilty -- which is a relief.

So, rambling thoughts on a Monday morning on a myriad of topics.  Have a blessed day!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

King's Island Day

Last Sunday was that most exciting of yearly events, King's Island Day!

So what is KI Day, you ask?  Well, as loyal blog readers  know, I work very part time.  My company, incredibly enough, pays for ALL employees and their families to go to King's Island one day a year.  June 7th was the big day this year.

    Our Big Six.  Picture taken by me, which means I was there for the first time in 4 years.  Explanations on that later...

The famous Viking Fury.  I am guessing you intuitively understand the point of this ride.  It swings up on both sides.  The kids mostly love it (Joseph bowed out) and it totally freaks me out.  It has a strange feel to it.

Lunch was La Rosa's pizza.

Naomi took Miriam and Angela on this roller coaster.  You have, of course, noticed the orange shirts. We've found that wearing matching, bright shirts is an ENORMOUS help in keeping track of everyone.

This is a little coaster that is surprisingly fun.

This is the Woodstock Express, an old wooden roller coaster.  I have been to King's Island a few times, and the park has never been emptier.  Probably June 7th coincided with a lot of graduation parties. We went on this coaster 3 times in a row and there was no line at all. It was so fun.

So, where was Kevin?  

He was home, watching our younger 3 children.

Where was Kevin's mom?  (She usually comes  to KI too.)

Well, sigh, she was home helping with the younger 3 kids as well.

Kevin has been quite sick.  He is mostly better now, but the weekend was awful and he basically got NO sleep on Saturday night due to coughing.

Kevin's mom very kindly gave up her day at KI so she could help with the 3 littles.  I took the six bigs.

I haven't been to King's Island in 4 years.  Last year, I had a new baby. The year before, I was sick.  The year before that, I had a new baby. The year before that, we all went when Sarah was a baby.  So it has been awhile, obviously. I was nervous about how it would go as I had to find the place by myself (though I had GPS) and had to keep track of 6 kids in a LARGE amusement park.

We ended up having a FANTASTIC day.  The weather was great, the lines were short, and all was lovely in the world.

And here is another amazing thing. I was not stressed out watching 6 kids in an amusement park.

Because...they are all big(gish).  Yes, Angela is not yet 8, but 7 is WAY more mature than 3 or 4 or 1.

I have been down on myself many a time because I find it hard to drive places with our whole brood. This is partially a personality thing, but really -- a lot of it is that we have a lot of kids and 3 of them are small.

So yeah, it was really nice at KI and I did just fine with six children. Kevin said home was pretty peaceful too, with 3 small children and 2 adults.  Kevin got a couple of naps in, which was a HUGE help.

In the middle of the day, 2 of our littles broke out in fevers though that mostly made them tired (and whiny, let's not forget whiny.)

So, KI Day is over for the year.  It was great fun and I am thankful, once again, to my company.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pulling Up

I believe I've mentioned before that our children don't break speed records in the rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling up, creeping, and walking departments.

Which is totally fine with me. With Naomi, I was eager for her to get mobile.  Since then, I've thought -- take your SWEET time.

So Rose will be 1 year old this month, and she is just now pulling up confidently. But she's graduated to creeping around on the furniture too.  She is standing leaning up against things now -- no hands!  So she's gotten much more mobiley adept in the last month.

My brother and his wife have a son who is 6 months older than Rose. He walked before his first birthday.  We met him for the first time this last February (when he was around 13 months) and he was already a walking PRO.  He was also divinely cute.  He is one cute kid.


I think it is normal for parents to compare babies.  I don't much compare babies anymore.  I can tell our older kids are smart.  But none talked all that early, none walked all that early. Walking early is great, walking late is great.  Talking early is great, talking late is great.  If a child falls within the normal range, I really don't think the timing of those skills matter a lot.

And if Baby takes her SWEET time getting to the super mobile stage (like climbing stairs or onto tables), I will be happy :-).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Breaking Up the Learning Process

3 situations came up this week that made me think about breaking up learning processes into parts.

Our eldest child is doing an online Driver's Ed class, and soon will start driver's ed driving instruction, both with her parents and through a certified school.

We've talked a LOT about driving.  The reality is that many young drivers are bad drivers.  Partly it is inexperience, partly it is a foolish belief that nothing bad can happen, partly it is sheer recklessness.

Naomi isn't experienced, of course, but I'm not worried about the other 2 issues.  She has a healthy respect for driving and cars.

One thing that is true is that driving a car requires learning many skills.  So one needs to learn what the signs mean, and how to steer, and how to hold down the accelerator, and how to brake well, and how to check the gas tank, and what to do if mysterious lights turn on, and how to handle the other million cars out there.  There are many skills.

I thoroughly believe that most people do better if they can practice skills individually, and then integrate them.   So I'm guessing that when Naomi gets her temps, we'll do some practicing in deserted areas so she can focus on driving without worrying about other vehicles.  Kevin and I both are amazed that we started driver's ed by being tossed into driving in public immediately. In retrospect, it is surprising there aren't more accidents by totally new drivers.

At the other end of the age spectrum is potty training, currently part of Daniel's life.  This too requires separate skills. He has to figure out underwear, and potty seats, and flushing, and washing his hands.  With our older kids, I sometimes tried to combine all the skills immediately. I'm now more laid back and willing to let the children practice one skill at a time.

The last situation isn't ours. We have a friend whose young son is struggling in the public school setting, and she is considering homeschooling him.  His "roadblock" is reading. Public schools tend to be very reading intensive.  Even math requires reading to understand what needs to be done.  Math also requires being able to write down numbers quickly, which would have been impossible for our older boys when they were younger as they have a handwriting glitch.

So this boy is miserable at school, and has been burdened with literally HOURS of nightly homework because he reads poorly, hates the whole process, and can't get through his work in a timely manner.  His entire life is consumed by school, and he is very unhappy.

I much prefer separating the skills in a reasonable way.  If a child has trouble reading, but is great at math, focus on math!  Let him proceed quickly and well in math.  Accommodate for the bottlenecks. Don't hold him back in math because he can't read well or because he can't write down numbers quickly.

If a child has a reading glitch, he can do many things orally.  We have history programs that are on CD, and many books can be borrowed from our library that are on audio. He can learn and delight IN learning, without making him swim through the bottleneck of an area in which he struggles.

I think one reason I was successful in school is that I am a SUPER visual person, and reading came easily.  My auditory memory is really bad though, and I had to accommodate by taking copious notes when I attended lectures. I was able to accommodate, but I think kids who struggle with visual learning (either reading or just because of eyesight problems) can struggle mightily in our culture.

I sometimes think about how I would have done in an oral culture. I suspect people would have thought me slow and stupid.

Just food for thought...

Friday, June 5, 2015

Flower Bed Update

This was in mid-May.

For all that this was rather a mess, it was a HUGE improvement over the previous wasteland of tall grasses and miscellaneous weeds.

A couple of days ago, my parents rolled into town for a visit, bearing plants.

I mentioned before that my mother has a MAJOR green thumb. She is a truly excellent gardener. She brought some spreading plants that were overrunning her beds, and with her expertise, we transformed the front flower bed into...this.

Now that looks quite lovely!  There are now 5 hosta plants in the back.  There are...something else in the upper right hand corner, and another something else near the sidewalk.  Yes, I need to ask my mother what I actually PLANTED.

So the current goal is to keep the weeds from overrunning this area, and to remember to water these plants until they establish their roots.

But hey, I'm proud.  These flower beds have NEVER looked this good :-).