Above and Beyond

Upon seeing Andrew riding his bike to work, a family at the school realized that we must be in serious need of a vehicle... and gave us a perfectly gorgeous 2000 Expedition.

No, I'm not joking.

It's sitting in our carport right now.

And the van--which had been running smoothly ever since we began to pray for it incessantly--has now stopped running.

We were fully confident that God would provide for our transportation needs. We just had no idea that He'd do it so spectacularly.

And His timing, as always, was nothing less than impeccable.


Idyllic afternoon

It's been quite nippy out--it even snowed on Wednesday--but this afternoon was lovely and sunshiny. Isaiah led the older three in assisting the roly-poly bugs in their farming endeavors--didn't you know that roly-poly bugs plant their crops in neatly plowed little rows? Willard discovered grass, and Nathan collected fallen leaves, showing me how each leaf changes color progressively, green-golden-red, while I ambled slowly through the Republic. Plato improves with interruptions, I think--it gives the dialogue breathing room, keeps me from rushing on too fast. All the questions about the good life become so much more immediate, too, and it's very sweet indeed to step back and see that this is precisely it.


Campfire Questions

For Thanksgiving, we went camping with some friends from Andrew's work. It is a good thing to strip everything away and touch what's real. Even the rain dripping into the sleeping bags is real, and being real, it is good.

A good way to judge the real-ness of things, I think, is to try to explain them to a four-year old. As it turns out, it is much easier to explain electromagnetism to a preschooler than, oh, say, the CMA awards. Or the phrase "dot org." The things God makes are quite frequently much more complicated than the things man makes, but they are real and solid on every level.

Kids this age will ask a million questions wherever you are--it's just what they're supposed to do. The difference is that out in the woods, the questions that they ask are all well worth answering. Sometimes I don't know the answer, like the question "what do armadillos eat?", and sometimes the questions lead to more questions, like "what is fire made of?", but the questions are always worth exploring.

In case you were wondering, armadillos snuffle through the leaves looking for grubs. And although I still have no idea what fire is, I can tell you that the pre-Socratics make a whole lot more sense when you're sitting around a campfire with preschoolers.


My husband...

...is on his way to work.

14 miles away.

on his bike.

Yup. He's been riding 28 miles a day, and we're doing just fine as a one car family.

My husband is so cool.




So let me get this straight. The world leaders got together last week to discuss the global financial crisis, and to establish a spiffy new international bureaucracy to keep an eye on things, so that they won't be blindsided again. Because all this was so very, very shocking. Nobody saw it coming. Did I mention that it's shocking?


But then how is it that several years ago, several different people--ordinary people, not privy to any sort of special information, just ordinary statistics about mortgage rates and such things--explained to me that we were on a collision course for global economic meltdown in 2008?

I'm confused.


Better Parenting through Laryngitis

I'm rediscovering the power of a whisper all over again.




I forgot to change my address, so I was still registered to vote in our old neighborhood. We had a little picnic in Angie's back yard before we all trooped down together to the elementary school to vote.

September wanted me to vote for Miss Angie. 'Cause she's a girl.

Nathan wanted me to write in George Washington. Because of the crazy hair. Nathan still regrets the decision to let me buzz his head, and looks forward to the day when his own crazy hair grows back out. I think I'll draw the line if he ever wants a powdered wig, though. There are limits.

Andy's classes were almost over by the time we were done, so we went and picked him up. His students and coworkers cooed over the baby, and then he rode home with us instead of his usual carpool.

Andy was registered to vote in our new neighborhood. I waited in the car with little Willie and sleepyhead September while Andy and the others trooped in to the polling place. He said there was a television reporting election news inside, and lots and lots of cheering. Probably illegal, but inspiring nonetheless.

I didn't vote for Obama. I disagree with him profoundly on many issues. On some issues we strongly support the same goals--we just have different opinions on how to get there. My biggest hope for government is that it will be too limited to engage in massive oppression. Cynical, I know, but I really do think history bears this out.

Even if I was more optimistic about government in general, though, there's still that one issue where I think Obama's position is not merely misguided, but actually quite wicked.

Frankly, I'm a bit worried about what's to come in the next four years. At least, I would be, if I wasn't working on a setting for Psalm 131. Good words for times like these.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up
My eyes are not raised too high.
I do not occupy myself with things to great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother.
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, from this time forth and forevermore.
I didn't vote for Obama, and I obviously don't think he was a good choice for our nation.

Nevertheless, I can't help but be excited for my neighbors. Really, really excited.

In as much as these sorts of things matter, this is WAY cooler than having a woman, or a guy with great hair, in office. I profoundly disagree with the man... but there's a sense in which this is a truly beautiful and inspiring moment in our nation's history.


Some things need no explanation.

But the moon definitely needs a sign.

Compliments of Isaiah, with some help from MS Paint.

It says "moon," and I think it might even include an explanation about how it's made out of cheese.

Now doesn't that clear things up?


The Miracle Scale

We've been reading Charlotte's Web lately. Having watched the animated version more times than I care to admit, the wuggies are obsessed with the story. Throughout the day I see them acting out stories about Fern and Avery and Wilbur and Charlotte, and Nathan in particular was clamoring to have me read the book to them. We've been enjoying it a lot.

This evening we read the chapter in which Mrs. Arable sits down with Dr. Dorian to discuss her concerns about Fern's stories of talking animals.

Upon hearing Dr. Dorian express his readiness to believe such things, Nathan became very thoughtful.

"Animals don't talk in God's story. God's story is about us."

As the story continued, Dr. Dorian remarked about the miracle of the ordinary spiderweb, and Nathan once again became thoughtful.

"If an animal spins a web, that's a little miracle. Not a big miracle, just a little miracle. If an animal talks, that's a little miracle. But if an animal starts playing the piano, that would be a huge miracle. That would be a ten miracle."

He paused for a moment, carefully weighing the various quantities of wondrousness.

"And if an animal came in and cleaned the refrigerator, that would be a five miracle."

And there you have it.



The other day, I zipped down to the gas station to pick up an Auto Trader. I must have done this countless times with my Daddy as a little girl, but this was decidedly the first time I've ever had any intention of looking at it myself.

I'm trying to cultivate an interest in cars. We will be needing a new van sometime in the near future--the days of our dear doopah-mobile are numbered, I am afraid. Our mechanic (thank God for honest mechanics!) will not allow us to put any more money into fixing its overheating problems. We're managing the symptoms quite effectively for the time being, but we know that the end is near at hand for our four-wheeled friend.

So there will be big decisions to make in the near future... and it's hard to make good decisions when you're bored by the topic.

However, I'm thoroughly confident that if one intelligent person is interested in a topic, surely there must be something interesting about it, and any other intelligent person should be able to develop an interest in it. It's an important principle, and one that has a vital role in my parenting philosophy. My goal is to encourage the wuggies to become interested in worthwhile things, not to entertain them with the things that already interest them.

So now I'm seeing that I need to apply this to myself. It would be very useful right about now to be interested in cars... and there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to become interested in them. After all, my Daddy finds them fascinating.

So I've been spending quite a bit of time on the phone talking about the respective merits of vans and minivans and station wagons. I expected him to have lots of good advice on the vehicle-shopping process, and to point me toward good resources. I did not expect him to be able to instantly rattle off the names of every vehicle on the market which seats 8 or more passengers. Along with sundry details about the construction of most of the different models. I knew Daddy knew a lot about cars, but I had no idea he knew this much.

I think my project might be working. I'm not entirely bored by cars anymore, and estimating the real cost per mile of different vehicles is actually a lot of fun.

But really, it's the process of becoming interested in things that interests me the most.

I think I might be starting to make a hobby out of developing hobbies.



When the generous folks at church throw you a lovely baby shower, while the baby of undiscovered gender is still snuggled up inside, you get a lot of diapers.

As I sorted them according to size, and added up all the size ones, I realized that there were about as many there in that pile as we were likely to go through while he was still small enough for them.

There was something bittersweet about seeing all his size one diapers all lined up together in one pile. It was a big pile... but finite.

The other day we came to the end of the pile. It was time to break open the size 2 diapers.

It's a bittersweet moment, and all the more so because I knew it was coming.


Calm after the storm

We made it through the hurricane unscathed, and our utilities are back up and running, although we're still supposed to boil the water.

Airplanes are flying overhead once again, the stranded crawfish we rescued is safely back home in the bayou, and things are just about back to normal for us.

At least, as normal as they can be, when life is so far from normal for so many other people. Most of the grocery stores are still closed in our neighborhood, and with all the gas lines and impassible roads and non-functional lights, it's really not a good idea to drive very far. So I'm still getting creative with the food in the pantry. But the options expand substantially when you have electricity. =)

Meanwhile, all the schools are closed, so Andy has the week off, although he'll probably go in later in the week to help clear out the rubble.

God has been very merciful to us. Ike brought so much devastation to so many people, but for us the storm brought only the soft glow of candlelight, and a chance to get to know our neighbors better.


Waiting for Ike

You start paying a whole lot of attention to the weathermen when 100 mph winds are on the forecast. So far, however, we haven't seen anything more than some heavy cloud cover and a slight breeze. But I feel like we're well prepared for what may come our way any moment.

We're quite a ways inland, so the storm surge will not be affecting us. And the storm surge appears to be the really fearsome part of this strangely sprawling hurricane. There's really not a lot to be worried about in our area, just lots of precautions to take.

So the grill is in off the patio, so that it doesn't become a missile flying through our window, and the windows are all taped up so that if somebody else's grill goes flying, at least the shards of glass won't scatter too much... you know, just in case.

And we're ready to whisk everything up to the second floor in the unlikely scenario that the Bayou floods enough to put water in our house. But mostly, we're just setting up for a jolly indoor camping trip.


Nathan likes his new brother very much. All the wuggies do, but Nathan in particular.

He loves his brother, and he loves the idea of big families, with lots and lots of babies. He's taken to rattling off the names of the dozens of babies he and his wife will have one day, and he insists that now that "Baby Jack" is here, I need produce a little sister named Katie. Tomorrow.

I keep telling him that giving birth is something I only do on very special occasions, but he just won't take no for an answer.

While snuggling with my newborn and recovering from this gloriously special occasion, I listened to a series of Focus on the Family broadcasts featuring the parenting advice of Dr. Kevin Leman. To be perfectly honest I was a little disappointed with the first two installments. It wasn't the content so much as the tone--I was mildly irritated by comments like "kids everywhere are going to hate [my latest] book, but parents are going to love it." Nevertheless, I kept listening, and the Q and A session on the third part was so good that we actually ended up ordering a copy of his latest book.

When the package arrived, Nathan peered eagerly over Daddy's shoulder. "What's it say? What's it say?"

And despite Dr. Leman's predictions, at least one child was ecstatic over the book Have a New Kid by Friday.


Statistics and tidbits

7 lb. 12 oz.

21 inches

1 min. Apgar score of 9

He has "opposable toesibles," with a very independently wiggly thumb of a big toe.

He likes to keep his ankles very, very flexed. It's delightful to recognize those knobby little heels that were always poking out of my belly.



Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name...

We had a name picked out. Really. It was just that once he was born, we couldn't get it to stick.

So we've been trying on various names for size, as he gazes up at us with those lovely liquid newborn eyes, so alert and trusting and interested and content... and so utterly indifferent to the question at hand. He could care less what we call him, just so long as we snuggle him and feed him and change his diaper.

I was actually about to call the midwife to tell her to go ahead and file the birth certificate with a completely different name altogether, when we suddenly flipped back right around to where we were in the beginning. We're naming him after Great-Grandpa Davis and Great-Grandpa Johnston.

There's a touch of irony in the fact that the name we've finally settled on, after so much flip-flopping, would mean "resolute."

In any case, we love you, little Willard Robert. There's not a trace of indecision about that much, and we're having a marvelous time getting to know you. Whoever you are.


Weeping may endure for the night...

but BOY! cometh in the morning.


Childbirth in slow motion

I'm a little less than halfway there.

In other words, right about where I was two weeks ago.

My midwife assures me that all it will take is a few good, hard contractions, and everything will be moving rapidly.

This is what she said two weeks and 5,437 contractions ago.

This time it might actually be true, though... through much acrobatics, I managed to dislodge the baby from his poorly (but tightly!) engaged position that was impeding progress. Once, while I was slouching horrifically (which you should never, ever do if you want a properly positioned baby) he even turned right way around.

He's back to sideways again, though. So we'll see what happens.

Next time around I won't get nearly so worked up about all the preterm labor scares. I just take a long time having babies, and my body likes to get a head start, that's all.

Meanwhile, my stretch marks are getting stretch marks, and my belly button is dilating rapidly. My midwife assures me that there's never been a case of spontaneous cesarean... but I can't help but thinking there's a first for everything.


Worth Reading

This post is very funny. That is not so surprising. Lots of posts make me laugh, and Amy is very good at being funny.

No, what's remarkable about this little piece is that it makes me laugh, and then suddenly makes me stop laughing.

And then laugh again, gently and joyously, without a trace of bitterness... laugh at myself for laughing.

Pass the carrots.


It's 10:00... way past her bedtime. I should be getting to bed, too. But oh, the glowing of her grin, the softness of her skin... and where on earth did she get that strange little tender pout, and that achingly sweet little croaky voice?

"Mama-bunny, I love you."

My baby.

It's 10pm, way past her bedtime. I should be getting to bed, too. But tomorrow she may not be such a baby, and tomorrow I may have another baby in my arms. Time slips away so preciously, and I must hold her while I can.


Fruit of my labor

Having put in a week or so of gentle warm-up contractions, and 12 hours or so of intense labor, you'd think I'd have a baby to show for it.

Not yet.

But I do have this cute little bag for September's birthday.

Jessica linked to an adorable granny square tote, which inspired this (much simpler) project.

In digging the newborn clothes out of the attic, I realized just how much fantastic material I have for rag crochet. This used to be a skirt and a shirt. Much cuter this way.

It was good distraction... and it feels good to have something to show for it, anyway.


No news is... no news.

I've been slipping in and out of labor... it's been very, very slow.

I actually got a pretty good night's sleep last night, but Saturday night I kept having contractions strong enough to keep me from sleeping, just not strong enough to actually have a baby. As I lay there groaning, my husband (still asleep) sat bolt upright and firmly shushed me. It's a good thing I'm used to his sleep-talking. We had a good laugh about it in the morning. =)

Through church, I was contracting gently but insistently, and I was utterly incapable of concentration. It was a good sermon... I think it may have had something to do with the Apostle Paul? This is a very strange experience for me, to be so utterly averse to rational thought.

Afterwards, the ladies of the church threw a lovely luncheon and shower for baby and me, which September and I greatly enjoyed. The contractions were quite easy to ignore as long as I had lots of distraction that didn't require the use of my suddenly nonexistent rational capacities.

Until the very end. I didn't need to leave early... but we sure packed up in a hurry, and the pastor's wife did go over the speed limit driving Timmo and I home.

The midwife met me at home, and one of the ladies from church stayed to watch the kids.

I went upstairs and contracted until I felt like I was going to split in two, and then I contracted some more... and then it stopped.

Second verse same as the first.

This could take a while.

It's frustrating and discouraging... but all the same, I'm very glad for the good night's sleep. I feel much more ready for whatever it is that comes next.


I did NOT expect to be live-blogging labor.

But then again, I didn't expect everything to stall out after 6 hours of hard labor.

I guess I get a break. Which is okay, because my water didn't break, so we aren't on any sort of urgent timetable.

The midwife went home, but the kids still stayed the night with Uncle Paul and Aunt Lorre.

So we had ourselves a date night. Except that our idea of an ideal date involves way more intellectual activity than is possible for a woman under the influence of labor hormones.

Which I still am, just not powerfully enough to produce any major contractions. The world is warm and gentle and a little bit blurry--maybe the hormones are supposed to help me empathize with baby. Or who knows, maybe during one of those enormous contractions, some wires got crossed, and baby would like nothing better than to help Daddy out with that geometry problem.

In any case, we rented a movie.

And now, for a few observations on labor from the middle of things:

1. It's true. The first thing the midwife does when she walks in the door is tell somebody to start boiling water. Apparently midwives have known to sterilize their instruments for a very, very long time. Go figure.

2. They call it labor for a reason. It hurts. A lot. It's not like cutting-off-your-toe hurt, though... more like weight-lifting hurts, or running a marathon. You know, "feel the burn." Except that you don't get to choose when to stop "feeling the burn." You just keep right on exercising through to the point where it's torture, and then beyond. Way, way beyond. I feel like I have a better idea what the Children of Israel were going through in Egypt.

3. My own personal slave driver seems to be pretty merciful, though.... for better and for worse. I really don't need quite this many breaks, and they don't have to be quite so long, either. But that's the the thing about labor--you don't get to pick your pace.

4. I like ripe strawberries, grapes, and almonds way better than ice chips. Way better than ice chips. =)


Turn, Baby, Turn!

No, he's not breech.

But at my last appointment, the midwife pointed out that he's facing frontward. She said I should keep my spine as straight as possible to encourage him to turn around.

Well, working on my posture is always a good idea, but I couldn't see how being front-facing could be bad thing. After all, it's fun to feel lots of arm and leg movements--not to mention reassuring. Surely it can't make that big a difference which direction he's facing... right?

But now I completely understand.

I'm not even in labor yet, but last night had me ready to beg for an epidural.

I'm pretty confident about the contractions. I know it's going to be hard, but I feel ready to face it.

The back of baby's skull grinding against my spine? Not so much.

Please pray for mercy, and a rear-facing baby.

Turn, baby, turn!


The Stories that Weren't

"Mama, I'd like to tell you a story tomorrow morning."

My firstborn flung his arms around my neck and grinned at me.

"You could tell it to me now, if you wanted to. I'd love to hear it."

"Well... okay."

"So what's your story about?"

"It's about the Veggie Tales and the train."

"Oh, that sounds like a good story. So what happened."

"Well... nothing happened! Because the train didn't fall into the water, and the bridge didn't fall into the water!"

How frequently do I forget to marvel in gratefulness, for all the horrendously eventful happenings that don't.


Life on the Inside

They asked if Baby Jack had a home inside my belly. (Baby Jack may well turn out to be Baby Jill, but you have to call the child something...)

I told them that yes, Baby Jack has a nice, cozy home inside me.

And so ever since, they've been speculating about the sort of facilities he might have.

Does he have a bed? What about a potty? You know, surely Baby Jack must be busy building a log cabin, and a suspension bridge. Every baby needs a suspension bridge.

Perhaps this is why my skin isn't fitting very well.

Last night we finally made use of our community pool, having discovered the reason why it never seemed to be open when it ought to be. The spot where the lifeguard naps when nobody's at the pool happens not to be visible from the gate, that's all. I can certainly understand why he would rest in the shade when there is nobody about, but the situation seems to be rather self-perpetuating. Perhaps this might also explain the heated arguments at the HOA meeting over whether or not the pool was ever open last summer. But in any case, once you figure out that he's there, he does come let you in when you holler, so having solved this mystery, we put on our suits and went swimming.

As she skipped happily toward the door, September paused to pat my belly.

"Baby Jack's going swimming, too!"

I nodded in affirmation. We've talked before about how he's swimming around in amniotic fluid; also, Baby Jack would definitely be coming along on this excursion. I wasn't sure exactly what she meant by the phrase, but one way or another, Baby Jack was definitely going swimming.

Her next question had me flumoxed, though.

I have no idea what color his bathing suit is.



It's hot outside, because Isaiah is sweaty.

Oh yes.


Poetry in reverse

I've been thinking a lot about childbirth lately.

Might have something to do with the little feet that keep pressing insistently against my ribs, warming up, as it were, to help catapult new life into the world.

As I think about birth, my mind can't help but turn to other concepts, more abstract and more familiar. And like so many other times, my "new" thoughts are expressible only by the old words and phrases I've heard a thousand times before.

I think perhaps that being born must be something akin to being born again.

And certainly my midwife's role is highly Socratic, being someone who has walked this road herself a number of times, and now guides other women through the births of their children. You could almost say that being a midwife is like being a "midwife of ideas."

The poetry of birth is all around us, inescapably so. So many deeply important things are impossible to discuss without talking in terms of birth. Can we really understand them without understanding birth?

And so it is that I'm quivering with impatient excitement, eager to dance that poem with this, my littlest child.



Our food has been thoroughly blessed of late. Every night the kids argue about who will pray, and so most nights, they all do.

Tonight, after Nathan said grace, Isaiah offered up the following prayer, reproduced to the best of my memory:

"Dear Jesus, thank you for this food. Please bless it to our bodies."

Nathan gave a hearty "Amen" to this, but his brother wasn't finished.

"Thank you for the orange juice. The orange juice. Thank you for all the orange juice. Thank you for the pot lid, and the pot. Thank you for the silverware and the plates. Thank you for the plates and all the food on the plates. Thank you for the orange juice. Thank you for the table and the chairs, and thank you for the light bulbs."

At this point, we lost it. We'd been trying so hard not to chuckle, but we just couldn't hold it in any longer.

Isaiah didn't mind, though, and joined in the laughter, a natural outflowing of his unselfconscious gratitude.

It was a fitting prayer for such a meal. There are some crock-pot experiments that just shouldn't be made.

Thank you, Jesus, for the silverware and the plates and the orange juice and the light bulbs. And for Kraft Mac 'n Cheese.


We're back...

...after a wonderful and refreshing summer jaunt.
I really, really like Texas in the springtime, but summer... well, let's just say that summer is a great time for travel.
I got to take a 3 week summer class on Ephesians, while Andy took the wuggies to see Gramma and Grampa.
It was blissful, and the very best part of the whole trip was seeing my dear family again after being away for so long.
It is good to be home again.


"May I be excused?"
"Yes, but first you need to put your dishes in the sink."
"But not the knife."
"Yes, the knife, too."
"But it's still clean."
"Um, actually it's covered in egg."
"But this side is clean..."


What I wish we'd known before buying a home

Everybody says you need to have your home inspected by an independent inspector.

And we did. Oh yes, we were very conscientious, looked into everything a responsible home-buyer is supposed to look into. We researched the neighborhood, the crime rates, talked with the constable, thoroughly analyzed the flood risks, and hired a reputable, unbiased professional to go over the home with a fine-tooth comb.

And he was very thorough. He checked everything, and gave the house a clean bill of health, with the exception of a few minor-but-urgent repairs to the exterior.

He checked the plumbing, said everything was in working order. The hot water heater had been recently replaced... at least that's what he said.

I have no doubt that the guy was very professional, and did quite as good a job as any other home inspector would have.

But he wasn't a plumber, and as we are learning the hard way, when it comes to plumbing, the opinion of a non-plumber just isn't worth a whole lot.

We've just replaced one toilet, and the other two are on their way out. The seals were shot on all three of them... fortunately only one of them leaked through the living room ceiling.

And that hot water heater? Rusted on the interior, and on the verge of disintegration.

Thank God for the leaky toilet that got us to call a plumber before we were surprised by a river of hot water pouring down from the attic. I suspect that might have been a rather more disastrous repair.

As these things go, it could have been much, much worse. We still like the house, we're still glad we bought it. But it would have been nice to know about these things before while we could have negotiated with the seller to help out with some of the repairs.

We'd never heard anyone recommend a specific plumbing inspection, but if and when we ever find ourselves buying another older home, we're definitely getting Mr. Rooter to check things out before we sign on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, if you could spare us a bit of prayer, we could use it. This comes just as I'm recovering from heat exhaustion, which sent me into preterm labor. I'm okay now, and more importantly so is "Baby Jack," still snuggled safe inside for another 10 weeks at least, God willing. But I'm still trying to take it easy until I'm fully recovered.

And there's a mild fever running through the family.

When it rains, it pours.

Straight down through the living room ceiling, to be precise.



His sobs come crashing in on one other, wave upon wave, each subsiding only to collide with the next in a foaming froth of spray.

Beyond his briny tears, I can almost taste the sweet, sweet sleep to come, when all strivings have been spent.

There is no lullaby like the rhythm of the surf.


Don't poison the primates!

We had a fun trip to the zoo the other day, with a family from church.

It took some careful arrangement, but we were able to fit everyone AND the quad stroller into the doopah-mobile. I felt quite bad for my poor friend who was stuck sitting in the 2/3 of a seat that was left over next to the carseats, but I was very glad indeed that we carpooled. For one thing, I learned how to navigate the HOV lane, and avoid rush hour traffic--it's more complicated than you'd expect. You know how in California they have carpool lanes? Well, in Texas, they say HOV (short for high-occupancy vehicle) and there's only one per highway, and it changes directions with traffic flow. So in the morning it goes south, and in the afternoon it goes north. But don't worry, it's closed during mid-day, so I presume everybody's had time to clear out before the cars start going the other way. I hope. Anyway, it can save an awful lot of time, but it's also something of a gamble, because if anybody breaks down, the whole line of cars is stuck--I would have assumed that in such an urban setting, one would be immune to the hazards of one-lane roads, but apparently not. However, nobody broke down in front of us this time, and we happily zipped past the bumper to bumper traffic.

Once we got to the zoo, however, we had to circle for nearly an hour before finding a parking spot--another reason I was glad we were carpooling. Such ordeals are much more bearable with good conversation--and who knows how long it would have taken to find TWO parking spots.

But the zoo itself was a good deal of fun, particularly the reptiles and primates. The giant pythons were truly spectacular, and the baby chimpanzee was heart-meltingly adorable.

And somewhere in the primate section (I think it was in front of the howler monkeys, but I'm not quite sure) I found some food for thought.

There was a big educational display describing the dietary habits of some species or other--again, I think it was howler monkeys, but it doesn't really matter, because it was mostly about what it means to be an omnivore. So the monkey (or whatever it was) has his preferred foods, but if they aren't available he'll eat just about anything. There was a display of the foods they eat in the wild--they can't digest the cellulose of mature leaves, but they love tender young greens, as well as sundry fruits--and next to it, a display of their zoo diet. At the zoo, they feed them corn, and carrots, and lettuce, and fruit, and eggs... a nice assortment in fact, of optimal human foods. But then there was a third display, full of danger foods--soda pop, corn dogs, candy bars, etc. All things that this omnivorous creatures would greatly enjoy, but would make them sick. And all sold at the zoos numerous concession stands, for human consumption.

The irony was striking, and I remarked that perhaps the advice was generally applicable to ALL primates.

My friend was a bit shocked that I would refer to humans as primates, but really, I wouldn't dream of suggesting that there is not a very great distinction between man and the rest of God's creation.

I merely suspect that perhaps the image of God deserves at least as much respect as the howler monkey.

Or whatever omnivorous primate it was.


Looking for Piggie

I wouldn't have gone back in the house--not when she was asking so rudely--but I really had said I'd look, and I really had forgotten. And I knew that if I didn't give in, another meltdown was immanent. I absolutely had to get the reference form to Pastor--along with an overnight envelope--and Pastor was going to meet me at the church on his way to lunch, at 12:15 exactly. There was very little margin for error, especially since I had to allow time for a potentially lengthy stop at the Post Office.

No, I definitely couldn't afford a tantrum. So I went in to (quickly) look for Piggie.

I didn't find him.

I did, however, find the reference form sitting atop my dresser--not in the car, as it should have been. I was very glad indeed that I'd gone back in.

I tucked the wayward form in with the rest of the paperwork I was carting around, and offered Zebra to Tembo, knowing full well that no substitute would be satisfactory.

"Where's Piggie??!!"

I could see it coming. This car ride was shaping up to be yet another battle of the wills, pulling over every few yards to put my tantruming little escape artist firmly back into her seat.

Today, there just wasn't time to invest in all the firm, loving discipline that the situation called for. Today, those errands had to happen, and quickly.

Suddenly, in that split second of sheer panic, it came to me.

"Maybe Piggie went to check his mail. Shall we go to the Post Office to look for him?"

And so we did.

We went to the post office, and after obtaining an Express Mail envelope, a book of stamps, and sufficient quarters to feed the toll meters, a quick but thorough search of the building showed us that Piggie wasn't at the Post Office.

"Maybe he went to church to swing on the swings."

Piggie wasn't there either, but as it turned out, a sweet little playmate from our small group was, and after our picnic lunch, they had a wonderful time frolicking in the light rain together. Piggie was forgotten for the afternoon.

It's a good thing, too, because Kinkos was the next stop after that, and I'm not sure how much longer I could have kept the game up.

Everybody knows that piggies don't use fax machines.


The Gospel According to September

They wanted yet another Bible story. Under normal circumstances, I'd happily comply, but company would be arriving shortly, and I needed to tidy the living room.

They all leaned in together, as Isaiah flipped through the book. When they'd reached a consensus, he handed the book back to me.

"Mary and Joseph. Read us the story of Mary and Joseph."

I handed the book back to him.

"Why don't you read it to us?"

"Nope. I can't."

But September cheerfully volunteered for the task.

And so, without further ado, I present a two-year-old's version of the Christmas story--short and sweet and to the point.

"They carried a donkey and stuff, and they had a baby and stuff. Mary and Joseph loved God. And He loves Meepo."



It is spring, now, and the very air is alive with vibrance and unpredictability. All the greenery I'd forgotten to miss is suddenly back again, and I am living within a great shimmering emerald. A great shimmering, living emerald, speckled with wildflowers.

A faint mist caresses my skin, and the air is deliciously warm and cool all at once.

Spring is here, and oh, it is good.


Boundaries of home

I'm at the library again... this time alone, without any kids in tow.

Well, just one. But this one doesn't get into too much trouble yet. =)

But with or without the wuggy-crowd, I like going to the library for my internet stuff.

The internet is an amazing thing. All you have to do is wonder about something, and google is just a click away, and wikipedia, and link after link after link.

But having the internet only at specific times, I find myself keeping a running list of stuff I need off the internet.

And then, once I'm at the library, it's just as easy to find all that wonderful information... except I'm more focused. I come to the internet knowing exactly what I want out of it, and knowing exactly how precious my time is. I'm more focused, less likely to follow trails of links into abscure topics I don't really need to know about.

And, since I don't have the information flood on tap in the house, I actually have to trek to the library. And going to the library frequently is a very good thing for all of us. Truth of the matter is, I love reading lots of unfamiliar childrens books to the kids. I don't love reading Gertie the Green Cab for the 47th time. Course what the kids really want is another iteration of Gertie, but they're generally satisfied with something completely new to us. The more often we go to the library, the better a mommy I am.

Going to the library is a good thing, and since I can just check out a laptop and sit right there in the children's section while supervising the wuggies, it's the perfect time to do internet stuff.

Living without a pipeline to the internet in our home is a good thing so far, and I think we're going to keep it that way.

Strangely enough, living without a landline telephone has been a good thing too. Up until the move, we've relied mostly on our landline, using our prepaid cell phones very sparingly. But through the move, we've been relying on our cell phones, and you know what? That's been a very good thing.

Lots of times I'll be on the phone, and chaos breaks out. "Should I call back at a better time?" But usually, sadly, the answer is no, there really won't ever be a better time. Either there's chaos, or it's a lovely moment of tranquility in which to catch my breath and play the flute for a few minutes. Talking is good, but there's no good time to do it.

On a landline, that is.

But while the kids are playing on the playground? That's a great time to talk.

So I think we're going to ditch the landline, ditch the internet, and just get a good cell phone plan.
And I find the idea strangely beautiful. Home is home, and outside is outside. Of course the membranes are quite permeable--it is a lovely thing to invite books and friends inside. But there need be no pipes flooding the outside into our home, when we can simply open our door, breathe in the scent of the wildflowers, and go explore the wide world.


Greetings from the library

Apologies for the sporadic posting. Be warned, it's likely to continue, while we slowly decide what we want to do about phone and internet services. Through the moving process, we've been relying on our cell phones... and that's just a very nice thing. So we're thinking about getting a better cell plan and ditching the land line. But of course we can't pick an internet plan until we decide for sure.

So I might be restricted to library internet use for a while longer.

Meanwhile, we're settling in to our new place, and liking it very much.

The Bayou is so very beautiful. Before we moved in, I thought of it as just a big muddy ditch that might flood our beautiful house someday. But I get so much pleasure every day out of passing over the lazy river glistening in the sun, watching the leaves float by... and oh, the wildflowers on the banks!

I dyed Easter eggs for the wuggies, but I think I did the wrong carton. Or maybe I turned the burner off too soon. I have no idea how it happened, because I was meticulously careful... but they definitely weren't hard boiled.

Fortunately we discovered this without too much trauma to the carpet.

September was enthralled with the discovery that her beautiful purple egg was actually such a volatile object.

She grinned impishly at me. "I like to throw it."

"But I won't."

"Because I want to give you kisses."


Well, we did it.

We bought the townhouse, airplanes and flood planes and all.

Fooling around with the parameters of the policy, we were able to get flood protection for a much more reasonable premium. And with the lower premium, the flood insurance costs less than the extra property taxes alone on the more expensive, but less wonderful, houses that we might have considered instead. Not to mention that we're paying less for the house itself, and actually getting what we really want. =)

It feels good to have finally come to a decision. No more second-guessing, no more frantic information gathering, just the blissful knowledge that we have our very own home.

It feels good to have made a decision, and I feel good about the decision that we made. When you buy a house, it's about so much more than just a house, it's about the sort of life you want to live as a family. We've done a lot of thinking over the past six months about how to structure our life, I really think that this is the right house to help us live well.

Of course, we could live well in a smaller house, but we would have to work harder at it.

And we could live well in a bigger house... but we'd have to work harder at that, too.

This house is just right. Not just "good enough for now," but really-o, truly-o just right.

At least, for now it is. God willing, it looks as though we'll be running out of bedroom space in a few years. =) But it has a high-pitched roof, and good solid attic ready to be finished into a few more bedrooms. When we outgrow the house, the house can just grow right along with us--but we don't have to worry about that until the time comes.

It's a good feeling.

And in the mean time, baby is turning somersaults, and that's a good feeling, too. =)



I really didn't think this would be so hard.

Emily has tagged me with a most delightfully intriguing meme.


Look up from the computer, look around the room where you're sitting and pick up the closest book. Open the book, turn to page 123, count down to the fifth sentence on that page, and then post the next three sentences.

And Emily made it quite clear that there was to be no cheating whatsoever-- it had to be the very nearest book.

Well, the nearest book is Richard Scarry's Chipmunk's ABC. It doesn't even have page numbers, but being an alphabet book devoting one page per letter, the page count can't be much above 26. The next closest book is Beethoven's Klavierstucke, but while the fifth measure on page 123 is quite lovely, I'm afraid I'm not entirely sure how to blog it.

The next book my eyes fell upon was the Rand McNally Houston Street Guide. Since the first page is map number 2236, I didn't think I'd find a page 123, but it turns out that there is really a page 123 in the index.

So here we go:
Snail Hollow Dr.
8300 HarC 7064 3542 AS

Snake Cr.
6000 FBnC 77479 4495 E7
6000 FBnC 77479 4496 A7

Snake Canyon Dr.
2900 HarC 77449 3815 E7

My. Now wasn't that enlightening.

Now, usually with something like this, I'm extremely contrary, and I try to find a way to twist and mangle the rules completely beyond their intention. But in this case, the rules and their original intent are so intriguing that I really want to play along. I need to find a book with an actual sentence on page 123.

Ah. The Estelle Liebling Vocal Course.

60 pgs.

I fear that I'm going to have to admit defeat and just walk over to the book shelf. But then, finally, I spot the Book of Common Prayer laying on the couch.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ah. Much better. Real, live, sentences... and good ones, too. Even if it really is only 8:44 in the morning.

And now I'm tagging Sarah, and Ashley, and Christa, and Gwen, and Sharon.

I'm sure you'll all have much better luck.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go mope in desolation at the thought that all my books with more than 122 pages are tucked away on the shelf gathering dust.


Crash Landing

When we first fell in love with the neighborhood, with its gracefully arching trees and smiling children, we wondered if the planes might cause some problems. Its close proximity to the airport would be wonderfully convenient for travel, and the wuggies love seeing planes, but would it be too noisy inside?

But that turned out to be more a perk than a problem, since the airport had recently soundproofed all the houses in the immediate vicinity of their newest runway. The high quality windows and doors leave the townhouses undisturbed by noise of planes, traffic, or neighbors, and energy-efficient too. A block or two further away, and the noise of the planes might have driven us mad, but here it was no problem.

Everything was just perfect. The neighborhood was simultaneously tranquil and full of life, and it was in just the right spot, halfway between Andy's job and the cultural and educational opportunities of downtown Houston.

And the unit itself was spacious, and full of wonderful nooks and crannies. It was just the right size for us right now, and with a large, well-supported attic, it offered the potential to expand with our growing family.

Everything was looking wonderful.

But then the insurance agent called us back with those numbers.

To hear Isaiah explain it, a broken-down plane crashed on top of the townhouse, which is very dangerous, not least because it brings up the possibility that other planes might land on our car as we drive down the freeway.

Actually, it was a flood plane, not an airplane, and the house is on the plane, not the other way around. But I guess you really could say that the flood plane made a crash landing onto that house.

Up until this summer, there was no problem getting flood insurance in the neighborhood. But ever since Katrina demonstrated the inadequacies of our flood risk assessments, FEMA has been slowly making its way through the nation, updating the flood maps.

And according to the new maps, our dream house is now located in a flood plane, and the insurance is astronomically expensive.

Insurance, taxes, HOA fees, and basic maintanance--the carrying costs that you never, ever stop carrying--would come up just $100 shy of typical rent in the area.

We love the place so much... but the numbers just don't add up to good stewardship.

It might still work if we can protect ourselves financially while insuring it for its appraised value only, rather than for the full cost of rebuilding. (Rebuilding a destroyed townhouse is much, much more expensive than walking away and buying a new home.) We're meeting with a real estate attorney tomorrow to discuss the extend our HOA obligations in the event of a catastrophic flood--but mostly because we want to understand the dynamics of townhouse ownership better as we look for other properties, not because we have any real hope that this particular home will turn out to be a sensible investment.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, we looked at a pretty much identical townhouse in a different area for comparison purposes, to see how much the flood zones impacted how far your money would go. Same floor plan, same general price range, good condition, comparable community amenities, and in a quite respectable part of town.

But we both came away with the impression that we would absolutely hate living in that neighborhood. Oh, there was nothing objectionable about it. Everything was clean and well-maintained... and utterly soul-less. It's hard to put your finger on it, but there it is, and it matters. Every time we drove into that wonderful little neighborhood in the flood zone, I couldn't help but smile. It's a happy place.

This other neighborhood isn't. Not in particular, anyway. It's not that it's a sad place, or an angry place, or even an apathetic place, more that it isn't any place at all.

So we'll keep looking.


A $270 mistake for the better.

I called the survey company this morning. They hadn't cancelled my order for the elevation certificate after all. Which would actually have been a rather disturbing error, since they assured me that it was cancelled, and the charges to my credit card reversed...

but as it is, that little mistake just means that the results won't be delayed by a day after all.


Tuck me in.

"Owie. Owie. Owie."

Concerned, I pad out to see what could be troubling Isaiah so at 3:30 in the morning, but he doesn't appear to be in agony.

Instead, I find him sprawled on his belly in the doorway of his bedroom, chin resting on his hands, feet kicking in the air. The classic image of mid-afternoon boredom, not night-time distress.

"Tuck me in."

I look for his blanket, tossed off rather forcefully to all appearances, while Isaiah makes his way over to his bed.

"I need a book."

I hand him The Three Little Pigs.

"No, not that one. I need Mike Mulligan."

He holds the big red book up high while I arrange his blankets around him.

Instantly, he curls up, arms around his book, and is asleep before I am done kissing him.


5:07 PM


That is when I got the email from the property manager, saying that they didn't have the elevation certificates after all.


Which wouldn't be nearly so bad, except that I'd just cancelled my order with the survey company.

And they are closed now.


One must never underestimate the importance of being bored.

Ah, the sweet sound of happy children.

I'd been feeling guilty for being such a homebody, not taking my children out of the house enough. But this week, that hasn't been a problem.

We've been running around non-stop, and it was all stuff they enjoy, too. I mean, going to the bank may be a boring errand for me, but the local WaMu branch has a terrific play area, so that's actually a special treat for the wuggies. And real estate contracts may be dull, but the Re/Max office is a new place they've never been before. And it was all interspersed with fun stuff particularly for the kids, like the McDonalds play place and the zoo.

But slowly, over the course of the week, well... let's just say that strangers have stopped remarking over the good behavior of my children.

This morning was rocky, and this latest bit of misbehavior resulted in a safety hazard which I'm not quite sure how to resolve in the short term. So into their bedroom they went, and there they will stay until lunch, and our afternoon of errands. And oh, there's quite an afternoon of errands ahead. Without the luxury of time, I'm running around collecting documents, rather than waiting for people to send them to me at their leisure. So we'll be taking a grand tour of the greater Houston area this afternoon.

Anyway the kids are in their bedroom, and happier than they've been in several days.

I wish I could just stay home and read to the kids and catch up on chores today.

But I think it's going to be okay, because the wuggies have had their dose of boredom, and that makes all the difference.

Works for Me Wednesday: Pretty Nails

A few months ago, a vendor at the mall did a little demonstration, buffing one of my nails to a glorious sheen. Seriously, it was amazing. It looked like I was wearing clear nail polish, except very, very nice clear nail polish, only better. It brought a natural rosy glow to my nail, too, and the vendor said that all the extra blood circulation would promote nail growth. I'm not sure about that, but it sounds plausible.

So I was definitely sold on the idea of nail buffing. Unfortunately for the vendor, I was not sold on the idea of paying $50 for a nail buffer. Not even if it came with fancy Dead Sea skin care products. And no, not even if they knocked the price down to $25.

I had absolutely no idea whether it was any better than the cheap buffers at the drug store.

Well, now that I've tried a few of the drug store variety, I can tell you that if you're wanting to invest in your nails, if the mall vendor will give you one for $25, it's definitely not a rip-off. Their nail buffer really is considerably nicer than the ones you can get at the drugstore, in addition to being nicer than a salon manicure.

But as for me? I'm using the two-sided Sally Hansen nail buffer that I picked up at Family Dollar for a buck.

The shine doesn't last as long as the shine on my mall nail did, but then again, the process with the Sally Hansen buffer is much, much quicker, so it really sort of evens out.

And whatever buffer you use (as long as you don't use one of the four-sided ones with built in emery boards to scratch your nails as you try to buff) the results are splendidly mom-friendly.

No chipping polish, no noxious chemicals, nothing for the kids to knock over and destroy the carpet with... just pretty nails.

Works for Me.


Ten Days

An agreement has been reached, our offer accepted. The contract has been signed by all parties.
Now we have 10 days to figure out if we really want to go through with this.

10 days to track down the condo association and make sure they're fiscally responsible. They certainly appear to be doing an amazing job of maintaining a tidy row of townhouses and a lovely pool for quite a reasonable monthly fee. On the other hand, I'm having a horrific time tracking down anyone who can provide me with documentation.

10 days to get the house inspected, make sure there are no red flags there.

10 days to talk with the someone from the sheriff's office, make sure that the neighborhood really is as safe as all the nice neighbors say it is.

10 days, for that matter, to decide whether or not we're really confident that out of all the neighborhoods in the greater Houston area, this is the one we want to commit to.

I think it is, though--provided we get the right set of answers over the next 10 days.

It's going to be a busy week...


In the dead of night, she cries for the morning sky.

We leave on the light, but that is a pale substitute for the sun.

She screams and she cries and pounds the walls, but to no avail. Her struggles and her strivings can never speed the morning.

Oh, my child, the morning will come soon enough. But it will be as darkness to you unless you learn to rest in the night.



I probably would have been much to intimidated to attempt a souffle, except for a recipe that I found in a baby food cookbook, of all places. Souffles were not exactly what came to mind when I thought of easy, toddler-friendly meals, but that's what the book said. I tried it, and sure enough, it's become a favorite in our house.

The recipe was a pretty standard cheese souffle--make a white sauce, add cheese, add egg yolks, thicken, fold together with beaten egg whites. However, the mom-friendly version calls for baking it in an ungreased dish. It makes things a bit messy when you're serving it up, but it rises just fine, and you don't have to deal with the hassle of coating the dish, which I've never succeeded in doing properly, anyway. One little missed spot, and the souffle doesn't rise.

Anyway, tonight I tried out a different recipe. It calls for using hot milk in the white sauce. I'd always heard that was a big no-no, but it worked like a dream. Silky smooth without the faintest trace of a lump. But it was very, very thick. So thick I don't think you could honestly call it a sauce. So instead of thickening it with the egg yolks, this recipe said to allow the "sauce" to cool before adding the yolks. So since they didn't get cooked at this stage, the yolks actually thinned the mixture, rather than thickening it, and the resulting texture was approximately the same as with a more standard recipe.

Thus the mixture is much sturdier as it cooks, and you can actually bake it in a normally greased dish.

It was a gorgeous souffle, slow to deflate, easily slice-able, and silky-textured.

Best of all, it was all very straightforward and simple to make, with little room for disaster.

And that's always a good thing.



Good Weekend

Andrew's school held a classical education conference this weekend, and a couple of students volunteered to watch the kids, so I got to go on Saturday.

It felt so very, very good to spend the day with grown-ups.

Andrew gave his talk on the relationship between pure and applied mathematics, which went quite well.

There was much singing of hymns and folk songs, and it was astonishingly tuneful. Thinking and singing both! Ah, such food for the soul!

The main speaker, Dr. Markos, is a Lewis scholar, and had lots of good stuff to say about the role of literature, and the Tao, the Chronicles of Narnia, the myth of the Enlightenment, etc. etc. etc. We stayed afterwards for a long time talking with him, and in addition to being quite brilliant, he's a splendidly nice fellow. He teaches at HBU, which is only the other side of Houston, so I have high hopes that we'll be able to hear him again sometime.

Over the course of our conversation, Dr. Markos happened to mention Cici's as a great place to feed a family on the cheap, and so when we got home, we loaded the kids up and took them out for pizza.

The food was exactly what you'd expect from a $5 all-you-can-eat buffet, but the manager was extremely friendly and personable, and did everything he could to make us feel welcome.

It's a strange thing, but having a really friendly pizza place makes life so much sweeter. Moreso than you'd think. It's one of those little things that turns out to be a big thing, even if the food isn't all that great.

Yup. It's been a good weekend.


Don't get to close to your computer screens...

In fact, maybe you shouldn't be reading this at all.

You do NOT want to get whatever it is that we have.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going curl back up into a ball and moan some more.


Mr. Rogers For President,. Part VII: The Emperor has No Gold

It was so weird. While all the other candidates spouted out the answers that Republicans wanted to hear, Ron Paul was talking sense--at least on that one issue. More than that, he was the only one who was concerned not only with how he wanted the world to be, but with being scrupulously lawful in the way we go about making the world a better place. His words displayed a quality so strikingly unexpected in a politician... integrity.

So I thought it was worth listening what he had to say about economics.

Now I have to start out by saying that I disagree with Dr. Paul about the gold standard. The constitution does not say that only gold or silver can be legal tender, it merely says that individual states are not allowed to issue any other type of money. Since no such restrictions were placed on Congressional authority to regulate currency, it seems pretty clear to me that Congress is allowed to issue fiat money. It also seems clear to me that it's a good idea for them to do so. Mild inflation is fairly innocuous, and it prevents the economic disasters that come from even the tiniest bit of deflation, so I think a little bit of inflation is a wonderfully reasonable way for the federal government to fund itself.

Problem is, that's not what's happening.

I'd always wondered how we could possibly have such a huge national debt when the government could just print out money out of nothing.

It turns out there's a very simple answer.

The government doesn't print out money.

Congress has transfered its Constitutional powers over money supply to a privately owned bank, the Federal Reserve.

The government then borrows funds from the Fed... at interest. The income tax is barely sufficient to pay the yearly interest on the national debt, let alone any expenditures, and viola, the whole nation is laboring under a negative-amortization loan.

This is silly.

Moreover, it's unethical.

I think that inflation is a perfectly legitimate way to fund the federal government. It is not a legitimate way to fund private stockholders. The Bible has an awful lot to say about what God thinks of nations that allow the rich to steal from the poor, and it isn't pretty.

This system is also just about the most dangerous national security threat that I can think of.

When our money supply--and thus our ability to arm and support our military--is completely at the mercy of unsupervised private financial interests, this is an enormously frightening situation.

But in any case, the current system is stupid and immoral...

And nobody else is talking about it.


Mr. Rogers for President. Part VI: Authority

So I was pretty much convinced that the medical marijuana debate was much more than just a smokescreen, that there really were lives at stake.

Is it really conscionable to sacrifice these human beings at the altar of "sending the right message?"

Particularly considering that we don't have any problem at all allowing doctors to prescribe morphine and cocaine. It's not legal to take the drugs as a hobby, but after surgery, they give you the stuff so that you can get high instead of being in pain. Usually, I get by with ibuprophen--I think the only time when I actually took the powerful meds was after hemorrhaging when I gave birth to the twins. I'll take an awful lot of pain before I choose to ingest something that will mess with my head.

But whereas getting high is a legitimate method of pain relief for wisdom tooth patients, doctors cannot prescribe non-psychoactive doses of marijuana to prevent AIDS and cancer patients from dying of malnutrition?

There is something very wrong about this picture.

Still, I was pretty sure that states like California were out of line in passing laws that defied the authority of the federal government.

But then I listened to what Ron Paul had to say about it. And Ron Paul said that as a physician he does believe that marijuana can be medically useful in certain situations... but that it's really rather beside the point. The Constitution is very clear that such matters should be left up to the states. California should be able to allow it, Utah and Texas should be able to prohibit it, and as long as nothing crosses a state border, it just isn't any of the federal government's business at all.

I did a double take. That's definitely not the way things work in this country.

So I pulled my copy of the Constitution down from the shelf. I spent a good bit of time poring over it, searching for something that would give the federal government authority over drug laws, but it just wasn't there. The federal government has authority over currency, interstate and international commerce, military forces, post offices and roads, patents and copyrights. But the Constitution doesn't say a single thing about drug law, and the 10th amendment makes it clear that the federal government is not allowed to do anything not mentioned in the Constitution.

And then I looked at the Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions in the 2001 case in which they decided, 6 to 3, that federal law trumped state law when it came to drugs.

O'Connor, Renquist, and Thomas dissented, saying that since backyard cannabis cultivation for personal medicinal use was neither interstate nor commercial, it could not possibly fall under the interstate commerce clause. He also gave an inspiring and eloquent argument for the importance of the federalist system, where the states serve as laboratories of justice. It's a good read.

But the majority opinion, written by Justice Stevens, states that the authority to regulate interstate commerce extends to purely non-commercial activities which have an impact on interstate markets. Stevens cited a case in which the Court decided that the federal government had the authority to regulate wheat grown for personal consumption. Apparently "regulating commerce between the several states" means that you can place controls on production in order to manipulate prices. So the government wanted to raise the price of wheat, and imposed production caps on the farmers. One farmer, concerned about the shortages that would likely arise, planted some extra for his own family's consumption, in addition to the crops for sale. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government did indeed have jurisdiction over the non-commercial wheat crops, because they would have an impact (however trivial) on the interstate wheat market.

In other words, the authority to regulate interstate commerce brings with it the power to regulate any activities which might enable you to refrain from participation in interstate commerce.

And it is through this precedent that the Court ruled that federal drug laws trump state drug laws. Since there is a large and lucrative interstate marijuana market, and marijuana cultivation for private use would have an impact on that market, the commerce clause applies in this situation.

In other words, the Suprem Court decided that patients cannot be allowed to grow marijuana because that could impinge on profits in the illegal drug trade.

No, I'm not joking. Read it for yourself.

Early to bed, early to rise...

In a little while I'll finish up my posts about why I've decided that Ron Paul is worth listening to, why I think he's more likely to be right than most, even on Iraq. I'll tell my little story, and reflect calmly and inquisitively into the thought processes that go into picking a candidate.

But for now, I write with tears streaming down my face.

I don't know which way is up anymore.

Or maybe it's just that for the first time in my life, I actually do.

I've always assumed that economics and foreign policy didn't make any sense to me because I just wasn't smart enough. Surely the smart people who run our nation understand how enforced liberty isn't really contradictory, how fiat currency is a perfectly ethical basis for a economy, after all. Surely.

So I trusted the smart people in my community, and voted for the smart people they told me to vote for.

And then, a little over six years ago, everything came crashing down. In abject horror, I watched the towers fall, and the planes, but I failed to notice that the terrorists had indeed hit their mark, that the idea of America was falling as well. They sought, through fear, to bring us to our knees, and they did.

Out of the corner of my ear, I heard the president's reports on how many terrorists had been apprehended each week, and my heart soared to know how well we were being taken care of. We were going to be okay. The president had everything under control.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the signs of the protesters, something about torture, something about oil, something about the Bill of Rights. And I shook my head in disgust at these unpatriotic souls who dared to dissent in a time of war. United we stand!

But how many have received fair trials, and how many have even been charged? How many have been tortured, and of the tortured, how many were guilty, and how many were innocent? How much evidence has been destroyed, and with it how much trust?

How long can we sit by and let this happen, how long will promises to increase the brutality be met with thunderous applause?

And now the world is wondering how long the Christians will still support Huckabee now that he has voiced his disapproval of torture.

But in this world gone mad, one man is speaking truth. One man has a lucid explanation, a likely story that neatly sorts out the tangled relationships between internal and foreign affairs, national security and economics. One man is ready to explain just where we are, just how we got here, and how to set about on the long, hard road of recovery. I don't know if he's right, but I do know that he is extremely sharp, and he is honest.

I'm still open to being convinced by McCain or Huckabee as to why their views of world are more accurate. But I need to hear some darn good answers.

Never again will I cast a vote out of ignorance.


Mr. Rogers for President. Part V: Nausea

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Synthetic marijuana, huh? Well, clearly marijuana must have some sort of medicinal property, then... why else would you bother imitating them? I'd never heard of marijuana doing anything except altering your state of consciousness, and maybe (or maybe not) causing brain damage. That and all the other lovely effects of smoke inhalation.

So I was curious. What else does marijuana do?

Well, apparently medical marijuana activists claim that it has all sorts of wonderful effects. And official-sounding organizations denounce these claims, and blah blah blah.

I have no idea.

But there seems to be a pretty strong consensus that low doses of marijuana are extremely effective in treating severe nausea and involuntary anorexia, such as in AIDS wasting syndrome, and cancer treatment side effects.

For the most part, nobody disputes that marijuana is effective for these conditions; instead, they argue that it is unnecessary, because there are lots of other, safer options out there.

Well, as little qualified as I may be to speculate on the effects of marijuana on interocular pressure or the progress of tumors, I do know a thing or two about nausea medications.

I thank God for the wonderful medications that took the edge off my nausea during my twin pregnancy. Although they had unpleasant side effects and came with the risk of damage to my heart and liver, they made it possible for me to keep food and fluids down most of the time--and that is a very big deal. I thank God for the enormously expensive wonder-drug that they gave me every time dehydration landed me in the ER, and I wish that it had been even remotely afordable at the time, and that it was possible to take it multiple days in a row without shutting down my digestive system. These drugs saved my life, and the lives of my sons... but nevertheless, I've spent an awful lot of time praying for a safer, more effective solution to severe nausea.

When that man in the wheelchair tells Romney that nothing else helped his nausea, I have no choice but to believe him.

Because I've been there too.


The Stakes on Torture

In this struggle against radical Islam, I believe that our respect for the dignity and liberty of the human soul is our greatest strength.

If out of expediency we turn away from that respect, we choose to seek power through cruelty rather than truth. If our cruelty is mild, then so will be our power. If that is the game we are playing, then we will surely be defeated unless we can muster up a cruelty as strong as our enemies'. I shudder at either outcome.

If we lose the ideological battles, can we hope to win the physical ones? If this ceases to be for us a war between good and evil, and becomes instead a mere power struggle, our situation is grave, because it is much more than that to them, and however we may twist our consciences, it is more than that to us as well. When we ourselves ignore the liberty and dignity of the human soul, the fervor of our cause can find no target but race and creed. We become an impotent shadow of the evil we are fighting.


Mama: Torture is bad.
Isaiah: No, porture is bad for the Mama-Chicken. I think porture is happy for the Wugger-Chicken.

My son is a child of his times, it seems.

Moral Issues

I'm one of those "single issue values voters" who will always choose the anti-abortion candidate. It's not that I think abortion is the only important moral issue, or even the most important one. The next president of the United States will be making all sorts of massive life and death decisions, and very few of those decisions will have anything to do with abortion at all.

But although the moral decisions the president will have to make on issues like national security, foreign relations, and economic policy may actually be more important, they're also really, really complicated. All of these things are case-by-case issues, complex decisions with all sorts of facets that must be weighed very carefully. Especially in a time of war, the president is faced with all sorts of enormously compex ethical decisions. I'm not qualified to make those decisions, and certainly no one is qualified to make those decision who flunks out on the simple questions.

The abortion question, on the other hand, is pretty simple and straightforward.

Killing babies is bad.


Anyone who believes otherwise has some very serious problems with his moral intuitions. And that's not the sort of person I want making important ethical decisions for our nation and the world.


Torture is another one of the simple questions.

Torture is bad. Period. And however "vague" the Geneva Convention might have been, I think we all know that any attempt to extract information by means of cruelty is torture.

Anyone who can't figure that one out is not qualified to be making the sorts of complex moral decisions involved in the presidency.

I am astounded at how secondary an issue this is for voters who would never dream of supporting a pro-abortion candidate.

In discussions on the candidates, I kept hearing "well, I don't like McCain because of a, b, and c, but I do respect him for his stance on torture."

Silly me, in my naivete, I thought they were just talking about the active way he's spoken out against torture, how through his own horrific experiences he's been able utterly dismantle the notion that torture can ever save lives. He knows from experience that the torturer has no means of distinguishing between true information and false information, and that the tortured has absolutely no motivation for giving accurate information rather than rattling off the names of all the players on the Red Sox.

No, they meant that unlike other prominent candidates in the Republican party, McCain would refrain from authorizing torture.

John McCain and Ron Paul call a spade a spade, and speak clearly against torture. You'd think that would be a given--I guess not. Huckabee appears to oppose torture, but he leaves an awful lot of wiggle room in his words. It's not an automatic disqualifier, but I'm a bit nervous about anyone who needs to defer to McCain's experience in order to decide that "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving simulated drowning qualify as torture. The world has truly gone mad when Huckabee's wishy-washy statements are notably praiseworthy, rather than a red flag. Perhaps he has made--or will make--clearer statements, without the loopholes. If so, that's great.

As for the others, I could care less about any other qualifications they may have. They may be superb businessmen, governors, and mayors, but they have no business running for president.



The rose needs no adornment

The other day my wonderful husband took all three kids grocery shopping, providing me with a few hours of blissful peace and solitude--as well as a re-stocked pantry. And then he came back with flowers for me.

Yes, I'm very lucky.

Flowers brighten up a place so much, make everything so much happier. And I was pleasantly surprised to note that I didn't even have to constantly step in to prevent the wuggies from destroying them. I guess they must be growing up. They looked at the flowers, and smelled them, and that was it.

Until breakfast this morning.

September picked up her empty cereal bowl and balanced it upside-down atop one of the blooms, milk dripping down the petals and leaves.

"It's wearing a hat 'cause it's pretty!"


Mr. Rogers for President. Part IV: Synthetic Nothing

Okay, this is the part where I actually start talking about the candidates.

Somewhere in the midst of this thought processes, I stumbled upon the following video:


Now, I always bought the conservative party line about marijuana, that its only effect was to make you high, and that even if sick people don't feel quite so miserable when they're high... well, that's hardly the best pain management solution. Medical marijuana is just the camel's nose under the tent, an attempt to legitimize recreational drug use among the sick, with the ultimate goal of legitimizing recreational drug use among the public in general.

But what Romney said was really weird, and made me stop and think.

"You have synthetic marijuana, don't you?"

Now, these medical marijuana patients spoke with just about all the candidates, and all the other candidates were able to look human suffering in the eye and give an honorable answer. The answers weren't always what the patients wanted to hear--almost all of the Republicans oppose medical marijuana--but everyone except Romney was able to interact with the patients in a respectful manner. Guiliani, for instance, said (approximate quote) "I'm not a doctor, so I can only go on what the FDA says, and the FDA does not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana." It's an awkward situation, but in the end, it's perfectly honorable to tell a sick man that you believe he's mistaken.

But that's not what Romney did. He didn't question whether marijuana was helping the man, he simply said that there were lots of other options legally available.

"You have synthetic marijuana, don't you?"

This struck me as very strange indeed. If, as the FDA says, there is no legitimate medical use for marijuana, why on earth would we have synthetic marijuana?


Oooh! Pick me, pick me!

So Shannon had another poetry contest... limericks this time. And I'm a finalist! Whee!

So you should go take a look at all the fun poems...

and if you want to vote for "There was a young girl named September..."

Well, I sure wouldn't mind!



Mr. Rogers for President. Part III: Monopoly

Part I
Part II

So I started poking around, learning about hemp. Now there's an awful lot intensity and hyperbole floating around the topic, so I had to filter through an awful lot of contradictory, emotionally charged 'information.' But here's the part of the story that everyone seems to agree on:

Hemp has been around for a long time, as a staple food crop, as a fiber crop (paper, cloth, rope, etc.) and yes, as a hallucinogenic drug.

Even though they come from the same species, though, fiber hemp and drug hemp are different plants. Plants bred for high THC content yield lower-quality fibers, while plants bred for their long, strong fibers contain much less THC. In other parts of the world, where industrial hemp has been re-legalized, they have developed strains with only trace amounts of THC, but heavy amounts of CBD and other cannaboids with decidedly different effects. Smoke that stuff, and you may well get a nasty headache accompanied by severe nausea, but you won't get high. So hemp is distinct from marijuana, but inextricable related.

Anyway, fiber hemp was a very important crop in pre-industrial America. In fact, our founding fathers were hemp farmers. But as important inventions such as the cotton gin made other fibers easier to process, hemp remained extremely labor intensive, and fell by the wayside.

And here's where it gets a little more complicated and controversial. Among the numerous events of the early 20th century, the hemp decorticator was invented, bringing the hemp into the industrial age, the alcohol prohibition came and went, a process was developed for converting wood into paper pulp, and also for converting petroleum into synthetic fibers and plastics. And it was in this context that the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, and decimated the hemp industry.

Conspiracy theories abound. Was Anslinger motivated by a desire for a healthy drug-free society, or by his ties to the DuPont family? Did William Randolph Hearst publish Reefer Madness, et al (fabulous MST3K fodder, btw, though definitely not kid-appropriate) out of love for sensational stories, or in an attempt to protect his timber profits?

Who knows... and there's a sense in which it doesn't really matter. Whatever the intent, the result was to further concentrate the ability to produce wealth into the hands of the wealthy. Anyone can grow hemp. All you need is soil and sunshine, and you can produce food, fiber, and fuel. But with hemp out of the picture, if you want rope, or inexpensive durable cloth, or plastic, you are utterly dependent upon those who control the world's limited petroleum resources.

This is a troubling side effect domestically, but on a global level it was much, much worse.
After all, we don't rely on hemp as a food source. Under pressure from the US, nations such as Nepal sent their military in to destroy the crops of their poor farmers. In the mountainous regions, it is impossible to grow rice, or other staple grains--the people have always relied on hemp to provide food for their children.

We have pressured nations into slaughtering their own people.

I really don't care how well-meaning our intention... this is very bad indeed.


Mr. Rogers for President. Part II: Energy and Aimless Action

I guess it all started with the energy bill. There's a lot of stuff in there, and for the most part, I'm not really qualified to comment. I do think these are important issues, but I just don't know a whole lot about them.

However, there were two elements of the bill on which I was actually informed enough to be confused.

One issue was light bulbs (I cherish my right to safe, high quality lighting that doesn't give me headaches, even if CFLs are more energy efficient), the other was ethanol. Now, I'm very much in favor of developing alternative forms of energy... but corn? Corn? This is not good. Corn is not a long term solution for our dependence on foreign oil, since the corn industry itself is so dependent on foreign oil. You can only grow so much corn in one place without using lots and lots of fertilizers. Petroleum based fertilizers. Poisonous petroleum based fertilizers, to be precise. And when it rains, all these fertilizers run off into the water supply, and ultimately into the ocean. As good as this stuff is for corn, it's deadly for children and for fish. Corn is actually a big problem.

Because of federal policies artificially favoring corn, America consumes a lot of corn. Not just in obviously corn-based foods, but in just about every processed food. We have a big sweet tooth, and high-fructose corn syrup is the sweetener of choice. Not because it's particularly good, or efficient to produce, but because thanks to federal subsidies, it's artificially cheap.

For better or for worse, corn is at the heart of almost everything we eat. It's what they feed the chickens that provide us with Grade A Extra Large eggs and boneless skinless chicken breasts. It's what they feed the cows that give us beef and milk. Corn: it's what's for dinner.

And now we run our cars on it, too. Which wouldn't be such a problem if corn was actually a good source of ethanol energy. But it isn't. Down in Brazil they use sugar cane to make ethanol, and they get 500%-800% more fuel out of it than they use in growing and processing the cane. It's a great way to harness solar energy. Corn, on the other hand, barely breaks even. Not even the most optimistic corn enthusiast dares estimate the returns at above 125%.

Of course, the energy bill doesn't specify that it has to be corn ethanol. In fact, it specifies that some of it has to be non-corn, and gives grants to help establish processing plants to convert cellulose into ethanol. All this is fine and dandy, but in the mean time, corn is what we're set up to do, and in order to meet these new quotas, corn ethanol production will have to increase by 1500%.

The world cheered because at long last, America was finally doing something about global warming--but as far as I could tell, whatever the impact of the increased industry standards, the ethanol portion of the bill was simply going to make matters worse.

I was discouraged, confused, and dismayed.

I was also curious. Hadn't I heard somewhere that industrial hemp could be used to make ethanol? And that it grows amazingly fast, without depleting the soil or requiring the use of fertilizers?

So I started poking around. Why don't we grow hemp?

Mr. Rogers for President. Part I: Aphoria

It's a strange thing indeed. Just a few short weeks ago, I remember saying that electibility was the biggest factor in my voting decision. While I favored Romney, I'd be happy if with any of the Republican candidates, just so long as they could win the general election. Except, of course, for Rudy Guiliani or Ron Paul.

And here I am this morning, positively quivering with excitement. 2008 is a year like no other. This year I have the opportunity to vote for Ron Paul. It'd be a miracle if he won the nomination--his support base is just far too bipartisan for that. But right now, I'm thinking that even so, I'd rather spend my primary vote in support of the ideals that Ron Paul stands for, than in selecting the Republican contender for the presidency. Any one of the candidates would be better than Clinton or Obama--may the best man win.

But as for me, I think the best man is Ron Paul.

A few weeks ago, I pretty much looked at each of the candidates as a smorgasboard of opinions, with the intention of voting for the candidate who agreed with me to the greatest degree.

But then I heard the candidate with whom I shared the most views, saying something that I thought I agreed with... and suddenly nothing made sense anymore.

Is it really wise for me to vote for someone who agrees with me in my ignorance?

Perhaps I should vote for someone more likely to be right than I am.


Wherein I discover that a "G" rating is entirely too vague.

In celebration of the twins' fourth birthday, we took the kids to see the new Veggie movie.

You'd think that surely that would be safe to show your toddlers.

It's made by Christians, and it's rated G, for crying out loud. And nothing gets a G rating. Aren't most Pixar animations PG for some reason or other?

So we took our toddlers.

We were all very excited as we sat down in the theater. The wuggies were rather loud in joyous exultation at the prospect of watching a movie about pillaging vegetables, but then again, so was the rest of the audience--the place was packed out with toddlers and their accompanying adults.

It started out just fine. But then the part with the actual pirates came in.

Why, why, why didn't I have the sense to realize that I pirate movie could not possibly be toddler appropriate, no matter who made it?

Was the movie good? Was it funny? I have no idea. I (and nearly every other adult in the audience) spent the whole show trying to calm down a panic-struck child, whose precious heart was fluttering against my arms like a trapped bird. I waited far to long to take him out, because at every instant I was sure that the tension was just about to break, he could see it resolve and just be funny. Except that then they would start spinning down a drain, or giant rock-monsters would suddenly appear.

It was an utter fiasco, and we were far from alone in our mistake. The whole theater was full of whimpering, hyperventilating children.

You know, I really think that the rating system needs a new category--PG-3. Squeaking clean and entirely suitable for all person who understand that the evil pirate isn't really going to slice the cucumber. Or something like that.