30 June 2007

Childhood Illnesses Up Close: Pertussis

On Tuesday, some new research was released concerning vaccines. In comparing 9,000 boys ages 4-17, a study commissioned by Generation Rescue discovered that vaccinated boys are 158% more likely to have a neurological disorder, 317% more likely to have ADHD, and 112% more likely to have autism than boys who were not vaccinated at all.

I don't want to debate if these numbers are accurate or not. What I want to do is begin a series that considers the trade-off. Just consider that it's true, that vaccines do cause these problems. I know that many pediatricians act as if parents are endangering their children's lives if they refuse all or some of the routine vaccinations. So what is the trade-off? And is it reasonable? After all, isn't it better to have my son contract ADHD from a vaccine than to die from a childhood illness?

Or are we trading short-term childhood illnesses that are relatively benign for long-term illnesses that threaten our children's ability to grow into fully functioning adults? I think this bears exploring.

So today I will start with pertussis. What is pertussis? How does a child contract it? How does a child get better? Is it dangerous? I didn't know the answers to these questions until today. This is an education for me and any readers as ignorant as I am.

So let's begin.

What is pertussis?
Pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough. This is a bacterial repiratory infection that causes a very distinct whooping sound after a long period of coughing. Apparently, the coughing continues for such a length of time that there is a literal gasping--or whooping--for breath that occurs. Pertussis is contagious in the Usual Way. If you come in direct contact with the discharge from an infected person's nose or throat, or if you inhale droplets that were expelled by an infected person during a coughing fit, you might contract pertussis. This illness lasts quite a long time, about twenty-one days. The infection initially manifests itself as a common cold, only to worsen into the coughing fits after about two weeks of symptoms like fever, runny nose, etc.

Is pertussis treatable?
How does an infected person get better? Many people get better on their own, without any intervention, but the weaker the general immune system of the person, the more likely they will have complications from pertussis. In the event that the infection is more than a person can handle,
Erythromycin, clarithromycin {Biaxin}, and azithromycin {Zithromax} are preferred for the treatment of pertussis in persons one month and older. In those younger than one month, the use of erythromycin and clarithromycin is not recommended, and azithromycin is preferred. For patients two months and older, an alternative agent, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole {Bactrim, Septra}, is available. {source}


As long as the patient is not allergice to these antibiotics, the patient should respond well to using them to combat pertussis.

What are the possible side-effects of the vaccine?
The pertussis vaccine {which is not available in isolated form, so really it is the diptheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine} has side-effects {please note that this is referring to the acellular pertussis vaccine, which is much safer than the traditional vaccine}:
Local adverse reactions, which include pain, erythema, swelling, and systemic reactions such as fever, anorexia, vomiting, drowsiness and fussiness may have occurred following any of the three primary vaccinations.

[snip]

Adverse events {rates per 1,000 doses} occurring within 7 days following vaccination with Tripedia vaccine included: unusual cry {0.96}, persistent cry > 3 hours {0.12}, febrile seizure {0.05}, afebrile seizure {0.02} and hypotonic/hyporesponsive episodes {0.05}.

In the Swedish efficacy trial where 1,419 recipients received the pertussis components in Tripedia vaccine, three deaths due to invasive bacterial infections occurred.

[snip]

Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies or to establish a causal relationship to components of Tripedia vaccine. {source}


Is the trade-off worth it?
Here's where I offer my opinion. The list of possible side-effects is a bit frightening. I am a mother whose firstborn son had a fever of 104 degrees with every immunization, and let me tell you that every reaction is very scary. If my son had contracted pertussis, he would have been offered antibiotics. With a reaction, we held him for hours at a time and hoped that things got better.

Let me boil that one down a bit: there is treatment, effective treatment, available for pertussis. There is no treatment {that I know of} for a reaction to the pertussis vaccine.

Because it is hard to predict which child will have a reaction, and because, unless the child is allergic to the mycin drugs, antibiotic treatment for pertussis is available, and because now there is research saying that vaccines can cause serious long-term complications for boys, I would think there is a good, logical argument for avoiding the pertussis vaccine.

Notice I didn't say that all vaccines should be avoided. I'm still doing research to determine whether or not that is a logical statement to make. But from what I have read about pertussis, it is a good one to skip if parents are looking for a way to minimize their child's exposure to vaccines. A simple way to avoid the pertussis vaccine {DTaP: diptheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis} is to request the DT {diptheria and tetanus} or just the T {tetanus} instead.

29 June 2007

"A" is Not For Apple

I mentioned a week or so ago that I've been rereading my preschool resources in order to inspire myself to be more deliberate with A.'s education. I feel compelled to also mention that if any "formal" lessons occur at all, they would be about five minutes in length. Usually, though, being deliberate refers to making better use of life as it happens rather than sitting my two-year-old down to a formal lesson.

However, we have sat down to lessons on color on occasion, primarily because an every-so-often formal lesson makes her feel like she is Big Like Brother. It's cute the way she enjoys it, and I like cute. Englemann, in Give Your Child a Superior Mind suggests beginning not with, "This is blue and this is red," but, rather, "This is blue and this is not blue." Here is his example:
Isolate the notion by presenting two identical objects {such as balls or blocks} of different colors. Acknowledge that you are presenting objects. "Blocks." Now point to one of them. "Red block. Red." Now present thing else--a book or a piece of paper--that is red. "Red book. Red." Finally, present something that is not red. Ask the question, "Is this red? No, this is not red." Present only one color at a time, and concentrate on the most vivid colors--red, yellow, blue, white, black.


Not that we are introducing letters now, but if we were, we certainly would not say that A is for apple, because it isn't:
During the first two or three lessons, let the child become familiar with the [alphabet] book. He'll pay more attention to the objects pictured on each page than to the letters. Identify the objects in the pictures. "Well, this looks like a ball, but it's really an apple. See the stem?" Next point out the letter. "Look here. This is a letter. And the name of this letter is A."

"Leaf."

"Yes, that's a leaf coming out of the apple's stem. But look at this thing. This is A. Can you say A?"

"A."

"Good."

Do not indicate that "A is for apple." A is not for apple and it should never be presented in this manner because the relationship is obvious only to those who know how to read and can see that the first letter in the word apple is an A. For the beginner, "A is for apple" is a false rule, and the potential source of a basic misunderstanding.

28 June 2007

Dominion Musings

First and foremost, man was created to have dominion over the earth. Tend the garden, that sort of thing. Due to the curse upon the land, toil was introduced. My backyard is particularly good at growing weeds. However, we are learning to also grow plants that have more value. These are my useful plants, grown not for their beauty, but for food. In fact, the plants I have grown for beauty are currently deceased and I do not see an imminent resurrection in their future.

Last night, my son came in, red in the face. He was sweating from Backyard Toil. He and my husband have worked tirelessly in the flower beds, clearing out the weeds, making room for Useful Plants. (They do this while the toddler repeatedly hurls herself head-down on the slide and then complains that she bumps her head.) E. told me that he was sweaty from the work, and he was so proud of that. A garden is good for more than food.

Last night, we hilled our pumpkins. The children helped, and they each got to plant a seed. Next week, we will hill one more. Pumpkins need so much space, but we love them. E. has a dream of having a fruit stand in the front yard and selling pumpkins to the neighbors. He is anticipating a future that is hard to imagine, because right now all we have are two dirt hills with eight feet of vacant land around them.

Gardens are a good lesson in patience, now that I think of it. Did you know that it takes a hundred and twenty days to get to the pumpkin harvest once the seed has been planted? I certainly had no idea, and if my father hadn't drawn this to our attention, we might never have planted on time. But now we have two dirt hills {soon to be three} and the anticipation of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, and a fruit stand.

What is a seed but hope for the future?

Of course, there is also the harvest. The zucchini is producing more than we can handle. This has been benefitting our next-door neighbor a bit. The sunflower is climbing tall, and we are about to research how to harvest the seeds. The watermelon is still going to be a while, and so is the corn, but we can see them getting bigger and stronger every day.

The strawberries, on the other hand, look like they are hanging on for dear life.

And then there is my Beautiful Plant, which is not too beautiful, as I explained in the beginning. The first day of the summer that we hit one hundred degrees, this plant looked a bit hesitant. Then, I sent my son out to give it some extra water. Only he became distracted by the killdeers, which seemed to need chasing, and he never did it. And I didn't know. And that was the end of Beautiful Plant.

We are thinking about transplanting some geraniums into the pots. They are quite a bit tougher.

And this is the end of my garden musings. I never thought of myself as the gardening type. I watched in amusement in early college when Rebecca tenderly nursed her African violet. She used to feed it and water it and put special light on it, and I thought, all that for a plant? And now, here we are, hoing and watering and hilling and feeding and loving {almost} every second.

27 June 2007

Introduction to Music

My children are aware that instruments exist. However, I have good reason to fear that they believe all instruments are made of plastic. Sure, they see real instruments {from a distance} at church. But all the accessible instruments in our home are plastic: drum, flute-like thingie, kazoo, weird shaker intruments, etc. We have a couple guitars in a closet somewhere, but they haven't seen the light of day in almost a year. We have a piano we keep meaning to move to our house, but we haven't done that yet for a variety of reasons.

And yet I have the sneaking suspicion my children should be exposed {regularly} to the idea of a type of music that reaches above and beyond Raffi. {I don't even know where Raffi came from. He appeared during one of my mother-in-law's visits. He is like Melchizedek, having no beginning or end.}

So my Ambleside-Online-inspired thought was to begin a composer study. And I will. But first, before plunging headlong into Beethoven and Bach, we are going to explore the idea of an orchestra. Story of the Orchestra is going to be a great resource for us. My primary interest in the book {for now} is the section that details the individual instruments of the orchestra, including how they are held and played. The idea of a conductor is introduced. This is full of facts for my five-year-old to devour. The Story of the Incredible Orchestra would be another good resource, I think.

Once we understand what an orchestra is, I plan to get the older two children to the place where they can identify basic instruments like the violin, flute, and trumpet. Extra points will be given for viola, what I always called the wanna-be violin growing up. Ha.

Once we know most of the major instruments, we will be ready to attend our local symphony orchestra's free sack lunch concert for homeschoolers. It'll be a great outing.

And then we will study one of my favorite composers, also one of the best composers of all time, Beethoven. Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells will serve as a most interesting biography, and a simple CD of his major works will provide great background music as we do chores. Because they will know what an orchestra is, they will understand how this music was made.

So these are some of my music plans for the upcoming year. What are yours?

26 June 2007

The Great Penmanship Triumph

I am in the midst, as many homeschooling parents currently are, of planning for the upcoming year of school. Though school is technically always in session around here, there is definitely something significant that begins with the coming of Autumn. And this beginning requires some planning.

Most of our learning, especially at this age, we plan to have come from simply reading aloud. We spend at least an hour a day reading during the summer, and I plan to double it when the new session begins. Toddlers are free to roam at will during Reading Time. Little boys have been known to play with toy cars and trucks during Reading Time. But somehow even the two-year-old is memorizing her Catechism, so the play-a-bit-while-reading approach seems to be working for us.

One of my goals for the new year was to find a way to generate custom handwriting worksheets. For at least a year now, and maybe two, I have been hand-making worksheets using manuscript paper I purchased for a dollar. This was economical with money, but not necessarily time. Now that I have three kids, I prefer not to make these by hand.

The reason I desired customized sheets is because I wanted this activity to serve a few purposes. First, and most importantly, to hone the skill of writing clearly. The ability to communicate well is of great importance, and communcation does not occur if no one else can read the child's handwriting. Secondly, I wanted this to serve as a precursor to copywork. I have read many accounts of copywork improving a child's knowledge of spelling and sentence structure, long before the child is officially introduced to formal grammar. I see the value in this. Thirdly, I wanted to be able to have tracing worksheets that reinforced other lessons. I was thinking that I wanted my student to write out his Catechism questions and answers, his memory verses, and anything else that was being memorized. Sometimes, memory work gets sloppy. We all know kids who sang hymns with mixed up words in them because they heard it wrong. Writing it out clears some of this up.

The question is, where can a mom go and make a handwriting worksheet? Is this possible? Is it economical?

Let me share my triumph! I found the perfect place out there in the void we call the Internet, a handwriting generator powered by SoftSchools.com. Did I mention it is free of charge?

Let me give a couple pointers before I leave off. The worksheet does not generate question marks or apostrophes. I am unsure about commas. I have found it beneficial to leave off apostrophes and simply add them manually. Type a period instead of a question mark so that there is room to add that later as well. It is much faster to add a couple punctuation marks rather than generate the whole worksheet by hand.

I just generated a Catechism question one worksheet. The sheet was six lines long (landscape rather than portrait). The first four lines contained the question and answer, the fifth line was my son's full name, and the sixth line was the numbers 0 to 9. Once I figured out the program, it was simple. And I saved the worsheet to my hard drive so that I can reprint it at a later date if needed.

Voila! Triumph.

25 June 2007

The Worlds His Hands Have Made

I've been reading through Hebrews the past few days. Hebrews is, in my opinion, the most magical book of the Bible outside of Genesis. I don't understand it all. It is a great mystery in the truest sense, and I love that. When I read Hebrews, I come to understand some of the greatest Christian fantasy writers.

Take the idea of Christ being a priest in the order of Melchizedek:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. {Hebrews 7:1-3}


For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,

"You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek." {Hebrews 7:14-17}


Or the idea that the tabernacle was a shadow of something that is really in existence, a pattern of a greater thing in a greater world:
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain." {Hebrews 8:1-5}


We have been reading The Magician's Nephew the last few days, and I began to think of these mysterious Hebrews passages as I read the chapter entitled The Wood Between the Worlds. The Bible makes it so clear that things here sometimes represent things elsewhere. Perhaps fiction writers feel not just the permission, but the obligation to consider other worlds.
The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others--a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive.

[snip]

"Why, if we can get back to our own worlds by jumping into this pool, mightn't we get somewhere else by jumping into one of the others? Suppoing there was a world at the bottom of every pool."

"But I thought we were already in your Uncle Andrew's Other World or Other Place or whatever he called it. Didn't you say--"

"Oh bother Uncle Andrew," interrupted Digory. "I don't believe he knows anything about it. He never had the pluck to come here himself. He only talked of one Other World. But suppose there were dozens?"

"You mean, this wood might be only one of them?"

"No, I don't believe this wood is a world at all. I think it's just a sort of in-between place."

[snip]

"The Wood between the Worlds," said Polly dreamily. "It sounds rather nice."

23 June 2007

Engelmann on Early Childhood Education

I have a deep appreciation for the work of Siegfried Engelmann. There are many faults in his work, most especially his Darwinian view of the child. However, Engelmann's strong point is that he understands how a child processes information, and therefore why children make the mistakes they do. He helped me see clearly in this area, and also gave me good help in making corrections in an appropriate manner.

I own Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but I have only used it as a reference thus far. I consider Give Your Child a Superior Mind his most important work. As I have been contemplating being more intentional with my two-year-old, I find myself rereading parts of this book. Here are some of the gems within its pages:
The child will not burst into language. His development will be gradual before 2 years and than rather fast {averaging probably better than four new words a day}. He will have a tendency to overgeneralize words. Overgeneralization is necessary to determine the scope of a given concept. It is necessary for testing the limits of the concept. He might want to call all brightly colored things flowers, for instance. Be careful about how you treat overgeneralizations. "Yes, it does look like a flower, doesn't it? But we call it a scarf." {pp 102-103}


When a child learns the name of an animal from real life, he is dealing with an object, and he learns it just as he learns about any other object. When he learns about the animal from a book, however, the task is more abstract. Some primitive people are completely incapable of recognizing a photograph of a familiar person. They can't see anything because they can't translate a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional object.

[snip]

Relate the book object to objects in the world by putting the child in the picture and by taking the object out of the picture and putting it in the room with the child. Be dramatic. "Look at this elephant. If you were standing in this picture, next to this elephant, do you know how big you would be? I'll mark it with this pencil...There. You wouldn't even come up to his knee! And do you know how big the elephant would be if we put him in this room? He would be up to the ceiling and he would fill this whole room. His head would be way over there and his tail way over there." {pp 105-106}

22 June 2007

Ch-Ch-Changes

Depending on your family's eating habits, the process of eliminating nonfoods from the menu may require very little change, or a huge overhaul. Personally, I am not much for change of any sort. I don't like moving. I wear the same clothes all the time. Trying to build new habits requires some mental gymnastics for me. And it might for you, too.

There are two approaches to making the change. I chose the "positive" route for our food adjustments. This means that I decided, about five years ago, to cook from scratch, and began to build a menu based on recipes utilizing "real" foods {think flour, sugar, eggs, meat, and fresh veggies rather than a can of this and a box of that}. The "negative" way would be to check the labels on every item in your fridge and pantry and then see what needs replacing.

In The Evolution of a Family Recipe, I discussed the idea of making a recipe your own. Take a standardized recipe, cater it to your family's tastes, and make it healthier all at the same time. This is one avenue for making changes.

Replacing store-bought, artificially-flavored and -colored popsicles with frozen fruit smoothies is another example.

Because changes might inevitably involve budget-muscle flexing and shopping at unfamiliar stores, I find that it is easier for me to make small changes successively rather than trying to do a total overhaul in a few days. For instance, this month I decided to tackle what is put on our family's skin {because skin is permeable and most topicals contain chemicals}. I purchased real soap {not beauty bars or bath gels with chemical fragrances} and toothpaste that is full of xylitol, fennel and myrrh, rather than fluoride, saccharin and FD&C blue 1. I am still searching for an {economical} replacement in the shampoo department.

And, by the way, eliminating nonfoods might also help with the gluttony issues. There is some evidence that artifical sweetners {especially asparatame} can make you feel hungrier. I recently read that sugar cravings are a sign for the need of chromium in fruit. In general, hunger is a sign that the body is requiring nutrition. Eating foods that are nutrient-dense are the best ways to curb hunger. There is rising evidence that obesity is tied to malnutrition, especially a severe lack of micronutrients and phytonutrients. Of course, I have anecdotal evidence that it can also be directly linked to bedrest during pregnancy.

21 June 2007

Gluttony

In order to discuss gluttony, it seems appropriate to define it: "Excess in eating; extravagant indulgence of the appetite for food." I would add that I believe the sin of gluttony to be an ongoing action. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I see instances in Scripture where people feast. I do not think that eating more than usual on a feasting day {think Thanksgiving} is sinful. Also, I think that context is everything. We recently had a 17-year-old boy stay with us for a few days. I couldn't believe how much he ate! However, I wouldn't call this gluttony. He is simply a growing boy, and growing boys eat a lot.

The modern American life seems to be full of indulgence. Stores are full of stuff for people to buy {note the word usage there...stuff implies a certain filling of something and is akin to gluttony in many ways}. People buy this stuff. If it is food stuff, they eat it. If it is stuff stuff, they simply amass it unto themselves, and then rent a storage facility to store some of it in because their homes are literally stuffed full.

Since being overweight has recently become taboo in American culture, I have noticed that being overweight is now the sin. We have forgotten that gluttony is the sin, and being overweight may or may not result from partaking of said sin.

There was a time when gluttony was tempered by one's wallet.
Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags.
{Proverbs 23:20-21}

In this affluent country, gluttony is more affordable.

Gluttony can be born of various motivations. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes, in his vain searchings, was trying to cheer his body with wine. The appetite, he learns, is never satisified. But he does decide that every matter has an appropriate time. Even princes should feast at the proper time.

Virtue is often the antidote for vice. Joseph Hall once observed, "Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl chain of all virtues." Indeed. In cultivating the virtue of moderation, one would necessarily eliminate both drunkenness as well as gluttony.

Gluttony, remember, is an excess of indulgence. Gluttony is not one bite of chocolate once per week. It is a whole box of chocolates at once. Gluttony is not one-and-one-half servings because the day's toil was unusually intense. It is three servings regularly for no reason at all. It is in excess that one is tempted to replace enjoyment of God's little graces with an idolatry of a created thing.

I wish I could end there, but I feel the need to add that, as a parent, it is my job to weed the vices from my child's life. I have a child who would tend toward gluttony if we allowed it. This particular child obviously eats for sport. In teaching her to savor a small treat {rather than demand a large one}, we are helping her to cultivate the virtue of moderation. Of course, when presented with sweets, most children tend toward gluttony! Moderation must be modeled as well as instructed.

20 June 2007

Nonfoods

Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean.
-Mark 7:19


Now that I have set a bit of a foundation, and it is understood that my opinion is only Opinion, I will tell you that I do not think that food is really the problem with the "bad" American diet. One aspect, which I will deal with tomorrow, is gluttony. Today I wish to discuss the idea that the modern American diet includes what should rightfully be considered nonfoods.

Let's look at a handful:
  • Saccharin: This is a chemical engineered when "anthranilic acid successively reacts with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and then ammonia."


  • Red 40: Officially called Allura Red AC, or E129, I suppose this would be called a chemical, also. Red 40, however, is derived from coal tar.


  • Sodium Benzoate: Also known as E211, sodium benzoate has gotten a lot of press lately. It is produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid. Sodium hydroxide is, by the way, what soap makers call lye, a wonderful ingredient for soap, but very dangerous and should be kept out of the reach of children. Lye has been in use for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Benzoic acid, on the other hand, has been in use since the 16th century and was originally obtained through distillation.


What you are about to read is my opinion, and you are {obviously} free to take it or leave it as you choose. Chemicals are not bad. They are a helpful result of human ingenuity. As a general rule, however, I believe them to be nonfoods, meaning I do not believe they should be eaten.

Think about what the average person considers food. Cockroaches, for instance, are not considered food here in the States, and we would be hardpressed to find a person eating one at the dinner table {though we probably all knew the guy in high school who would do it for money}. Coal tar is not food, and I do not believe that anything derived from it should be considered food, either.

God gave us food. In Genesis 1, we are told that man is given every plant and fruit {save the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil} to consume as food. Later, in Genesis 9, man is given every living thing to eat, and I am assuming this would include not only animals, but also insects, amphibians, and reptiles. No where is it suggested that we should eat coal tar.

I am not saying that abstaining from coal-tar derived Red 40 makes a person spiritually superior. Honestly, we began to avoid it because of our son's sensitivity rather than conviction. But as I research these things, I keep coming back to the idea that sticking to the food God gave us is a very good idea.

19 June 2007

More Important Than What is Ingested

Reading Dr. Mercola's website can be overwhelming. It is full of great information, but the key word here is "full." In my first post on this subject, I referred to the email that started this whole series. I will quote part of it again:
Do you ever get depressed reading Dr. Mercola's website? I got an email update yesterday and went to check out some of the articles, and I feel like I am going to either totally mess up my kids for life or be left eating nothing but air.

[snip]

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Dr. Mercola. How do you cope with the knowledge that he provides? Sometimes ignorance is bliss.


I am all too familiar with the pseudo-panic attack that accompanies learning, for instance, that that soda I like to drink is causing major cell damage. Read the back of anything prepackaged, and you will likely find ingredients that are difficult to pronounce, and possibly dangerous.

Now, if you have read this blog for very long at all, you know that, for various reasons, I am careful about what my children eat. Truth be told, we are in the process of switching over topicals as well, things like soap, shampoo, and lotion. However, what if I cannot afford to switch out a product? What if I live in a state where raw milk, though I think it is best, is illegal to purchase and my house isn't zoned for owning a cow of my own? Must I despair?

Peace, my sisters.

Mark 7:14-23:
And [Jesus] called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" {Thus he declared all foods clean.} And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."


I, like most other mothers, desire to give my children the healthiest start possible. However, I cannot allow all the health information out there to distract me from the fact that raising children is first and foremost a spiritual activity. I will discuss tomorrow about Jesus declaring "all foods clean," but I think that today it is important to stress that it is more important to concentrate on discipleship. Effective discipleship {Shema-style, if you will} is the best start I can give to my kids. It is like feeding the heart rather than the stomach. Of course, I am not an expert on this, since we are still little around here, but There It Is.

But take heart; I have overcome the world.
-Jesus

18 June 2007

The Diet Discussion Guiding Principle

It seems that every family I come across has their own way of eating. And I suppose that this has always been true. In the past, the foods eaten by different groups of people were differentiated by the spices used. For instance, I couldn't believe how bland some of Si's family recipes tasted! Apparently, the New England diet {which is where his grandparents originate from} is very mild. Out here in California, with so many different ethnic groups in the metaphorical soup, the food is sometimes packed with flavor. I started out cooking with chili powder, cumin, garlic {lots of garlic}, basil, marjoram, curry, oregano, thyme, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, etc. I could go on, but I will stop there. My spice cabinet is packed, but I didn't own nutmeg until Si's mom bought me some during one of her visits.

However, the American diet became a bit unified for a time with the acceptance of processed, packaged food. I can pretty much buy the same frozen pizza in every state. Most families I know, regardless of ethnicity, have eaten a frozen pizza. But there are also omissions from the diet--foods that are not easily prepared from frozen. These are foods that some families rarely or never eat, because they either do not fit the instant-food mindset, or have simply been forgotten from the family's collective memory.

These days, many Americans are moving away from the frozen food aisle for health reasons. Our journey away began with a desire to be more health-conscious, but didn't really get going until we discovered triggers for our son's tic problems. Others around us are changing their diet as they become aware of the nonfood ingredients in processed foods, namely artificial flavors, dyes, and chemical preservatives. And others are trying to combat weight problems.

When you begin to read the literature in all the health books out there {or even Dr. Mercola's website}, you will find that each author has their own view of what is the best way to eat. That sense of superiority carries over into a judgment of those who choose to ignore the author's advice. This is particularly true in the vegan/vegetarian arena, where there is an influence of animal-rights activism that condemns those of us who choose to eat meat on moral grounds.

So where do we go if we are to navigate this issue? Check out Romans 14:1-4 {emphasis mine}:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.


And in verse 10, in this context of food, it is written:
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God...


Finally, verses 13-23 sum it all up:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


There is a lot to unpack in these verses, and I'm not going to go into it all. Suffice it to say that people have been judging each other's food selection for a very long time. This is not some battle over Mosaic dietary laws; it is clearly a battle between vegans and carnivores {remember the first few verses, where we learn that the he who is weak "eats only vegetables"}. And what are we told? Quit judging. Let each person make up their own mind and live according to their own conscience.

I wanted to use these verses to frame this discussion because I want to emphasize that what I share here about nutrition, even though I sometimes couch it in absolute language, is a sharing of what our family does. It is not an attempt to judge someone else. Dr. Mercola is only a man. He gives some great advice, but in the end it is you who are accountable to God. Act according to your own conscience. To reiterate verse 22, this time from the NASB:
The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

16 June 2007

Dietary Laws, Restrictions, and Overall Disasters

Do you ever get depressed reading Dr. Mercola's website? I got an email update yesterday and went to check out some of the articles, and I feel like I am going to either totally mess up my kids for life or be left eating nothing but air. I think my friends had the right idea moving to [third-world country]. There are so many of the issues addressed by Dr. Mercola and his kind that would be totally non-issues over there because of the more agrarian-type, not overly industrialized way other countries function. It is so sad that our blessings have kind of become our curses here in the States.

[snip]

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Dr. Mercola. How do you cope with the knowledge that he provides? Sometimes ignorance is bliss.


The above is an excerpt from an email I recently received. I told this friend of mine that I would answer her in a post because Si and I have been thinking about food and diet for a while, and discussing it from a more philosophical angle than a health angle.

The fact is, unless a family is going to remove themselves to the countryside and run their own self-sustaining community {a.k.a. "farm"}, then that family has to make daily food choices. And like all choices, choosing one thing inevitably means not choosing another thing.

Let's take the milk issue. We have gone over and over the milk issue around here. Generally speaking, pasteurized/homogenized milk is bad for you. Pasteurization of milk "destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, alters vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer." Click on pasteurization if you really want to know more about that! Meanwhile, homogenization is "is a mechanical process that breaks down butterfat globules so they do not rise to the top." "According to some studies, the process makes the milkfat particles small enough that they pass, undigested, into the bloodstream, leading to heart disease. Interestingly, consumption of dairy fats has actually decreased since the 1930s and the advent of homogenization, while heart disease and heart attack deaths have increased dramatically" {source}.

When the Promised Land was described as flowing with milk and honey, I can guarantee the milk being referred to was unpasteurized, non homogenized, organic milk. And it might have been from a goat. {And the honey was raw, but I digress.}

But perhaps my child is intolerant/allergic to dairy. We head to soy, only to learn that soy is an estrogen and, for instance, a child on soy formula might have as much as 22,000 times the normal amount of estrogen in his/her blood when compared with a normal, breastfed baby.

Eventually, we try goat's milk. But raw goat's milk is illegal to sell in California. So we drink it powdered, bought as cheaply as possible on Amazon.com, and we quit worrying. We are doing the best we can with the options we have.

Do you see how complicated it gets? As my friend says, the blessings of our post-Industrial culture are also its curse. And as a parent wading through these matters, it can feel like a huge burden to carry. My goal over the next few days {or however long it takes} is to try to wade through the issue of food from a distance and gain a few principles to ease the decision-making process. This is written as much for myself as it is for anyone else.

14 June 2007

I Can Do It All!

You read that right. I have learned the great secret, and I'm ready to share. I can do it all. I can make my husband's lunch, make a nutritious meal for dinner, plus between two and five simple snacks for famished little monsters. I can do laundry. I can blog, and also write a novel. I can write emails, real letters, make phone calls, and remember to take and send photos. I can read my Bible, read fiction, read nonfiction, too! I can plant a garden and enjoy its harvest. I can teach the toddler her colors and The Boy his phonics.

I just can't do it all at the same time.

Yesterday, I was out running errands, something I am particularly bad at. I felt so accomplished. I bought a graduation gift, a father's day gift, nontoxic soaps and toothpastes and mayonnaise and such, and mailed said gifts to their appropriate recipients, and still arrived home on time to feed the baby.

But I forgot to put the meat out and it never did defrost and we ended up feasting on previously-frozen pizza last night.

For a while, I got better about cleaning the house and doing all the laundry the "right" way.

But then I either forgot to make Si's lunch, or at least put all of the parts of his lunch into the lunch container. I think he once ate a pasta dish with his fingers.

A couple years ago, I was learning to sew, and I began a most beautiful quilt, something that would have made a person think I had a future in the quilting business.

But then I had a baby. And then another. And finally, greatly embarrassed, I bribed a good friend into finishing the project for me.

I remember once that I took a class at church on Proverbs 31. The teacher explained that this chapter was a picture of the Virtuous Woman's whole life, not average day. Did we really think she was realtor-like, buying property daily? I remember feeling a huge burden lifted off of my back.

Being virtuous means having certain character qualities, not accomplishing a certain list of tasks.

You, too, can do it all. Just not at the same time.

12 June 2007

A Summer Book Club of Sorts?

I know you all are itching for the good old days when you collected stickers and junky prizes from the local librarian in exchange for reading every children's book in the library. Well, this time around, the prize is your words in print here on Afterthoughts {if you like}. The byline can be yours or Anonymous, depending on your personality and preference.

If you're not following me here, you're probably not alone. Here's the skinny: Last night, I received my complimentary review copy of a new book called The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. In exchange for my copy of the book, I am supposed to write up a review and post it here on the blog.

But I thought it would be fun to do it together! Unfortunately, I cannot get free copies for everyone, so I understand if this isn't the new read you are wanting to spend those precious dollars on. However, if you are willing to spend the cash, or are able to get your hands on a borrowed copy, then please join me!

Buy the book {you get extra points if you buy it through one of my Amazon links}, begin to read, and email me your insights. Remember the three-fold review format as {posted in its entirety here}:

  • Good: Does the book accomplish goodness in a moral sense? Does it seek what is good? Does it actually reach what is good?


  • True: This is both a fact-check and an ultimate-reality check. Are the historical facts presented true? More importantly, are the author's observations and conclusions in line with Scripture?


  • Beautiful: I give a lot of freedom here. First, is the cover beautiful? Is the type-setting appealing? Are there lots of distracting typographical errors? But also, is the writer's style beautiful? Is the writer a great writer, in the sense of the standards of the craft?


If you want to participate in my Review Club, you do not have to write a full review. I am the one who agreed to do that. But I do wish you to send me any insights you gain and try as hard as possible to fit them into the above categories. If you read the book over a period of three weeks, you can email me every day if you like, or one big email at the end. You can decide you only want to comment on one category, or two, or all three. There is a lot of liberty here.

But, if I like what you say, you have to agree that I can use your thoughts in my final review{s}. I will give you credit if you like, or I will keep you Anonymous. Just declare your desires up front so there is no confusion. Also, be warned that any comments will be edited for grammar and spelling. I call my husband Grammar Guy for a reason.

So....Anyone want to join me? If so, please email me ASAP. I will try and set up a timeline soon.

11 June 2007

To Help an Orphan

Religion that is pure and undefiled
before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27


Chad recently wrote a little post about orphans {which linked to another post concerning orphans} in which he shared that an African pastor had once asked him why America has orphans if it has Christian churches. This question has haunted Chad enough that he's driven to do something about it: he and his wife are hoping that adoption is in their future.

We've toyed with the idea of adoption, and yet the idea never stuck for one reason or another. In the end, it was the reality that we would probably be pregnant in the near future {and we were}, and so it wasn't realistic for us to adopt and have a newborn of our own all at the same time. We aren't as mighty as some people.

My point today is not to convince everyone to adopt, or give a list of reasons why we haven't adopted, etc. My point is that Scripture commands us to help orphans, and to visit them in their distress. Though the Christian life is a beautiful pictures of adoption, and though I think there is nothing more fitting than for a Christian to adopt an orphan as the Father has adopted us all, still I felt the need to mention that Scripture doesn't command that they be adopted.

This is important, for if the Church teaches that in order to help an orphan one must adopt an orphan, then helping orphans in any other way may be overlooked. And that would be, to put it mildly, bad.

Back when I was on my pro-life blogging kick, I wrote a post called Operation Unwanted Child. A lot of the links in that post are now broken, but at the time, orphans and abandoned children were so plentiful here in the state of California that one could literally shop for them online.

My followup post, When a Church Embraces Life, highlighted what I consider to be a model church ministry, Antioch Adoptions. Antioch Adoptions works within a local church to place local children for adoption and make the adoption process free to the adopting families.

My thinking flows like this: in the adoption process, there are people who can train families to adopt, people who will donate funding for the adoption, people who will assist families with meals and housekeeping and the like after the families have adopted, people who might help adoptive families afford their adopted children {like volunteer to pay for college if the family is strapped for future cash}. In this scenario, everyone who contributed helped the orphans.

If a family learns there is a foster family in their neighborhood, and they reach out and help that family, who helps the orphans? The foster family as well as the family that reached out to them.

If a family in my church is raising money to adopt an abandoned girl in a Chinese orphanage and I help them with their garage sale by donating labor or items to sell, who helps the orphan? The family does the greatest work, but I helped, too.

My point is that one shouldn't allow the Big Things that can be done {like adoption or fostering} to exempt oneself from doing the small things. Visit the orphans and practice true religion, in the Big Ways and in the Small Ways.

08 June 2007

Humanism and the Public School Classroom

I often forget that the debate over public schooling has been around many, many years. It is easy to get caught up in the debate of today, and to forget to listen to the voices of the past. So, on this breezy, mild June day, I bring forth a couple voices from the past, brought to my attention by the Bluedorns in their book Teaching the Trivium.

Charles F. Potter in Humanist magazine in 1930:
Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour a week and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?


John Dunphy in Humanist magazine in the January/February edition 1983:
I am convinced that the battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity...The teacher must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit...The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new--the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.

07 June 2007

Monumental Portraits

I think I have mentioned before that we no longer patronize professional photographers. This decision was a combination of financial considerations {the place we liked raised their rates, plus the rise in gas meant it cost more to get there}, pragmatism {it is way easier to do it on our schedule rather than trying to pretend the children are happy when really the appointment was during Nap Time}, and ability {once we owned our own digital camera, there was nothing holding us back}.

This morning, I finished off editing E.'s five-year portraits and Q.'s 4-month portraits {which I had saved so that I could print them all in one order and save on postage}, and I thought that I'd share a bit about our photo-taking process. Here is a list of hints and helps, in no particular order because I tend to not be too particular about order:



  • Take lots of photos. Make the sure the camera is on portrait setting, and also macro focus if possible, and then shoot away. It took me two days and over fifty attempts when I last photographed A. Keep trying.




  • Put the child in their natural environment. This is where they are happiest, and how their childhood will be remembered. A.'s last photos were taken in the backyard at sunset. Q.'s four-month photos are very simple, Baby smiling away while leaning on a Boppy pillow. For babies, get in close and use a simple blanket as a background.




  • E.'s most recent picture were the first I've ever staged. I really wanted to take pictures of him with a pile of all the books we read aloud this year because that is what I will remember about the year that he was four. His ability to listen to a long story blossomed, and we had such fun spending hours and hours reading together.

    Staging photos is much easier than I thought. I chose a solid navy sheet set for our backdrop. I draped the fitted sheet over a desk we have. The matching flat sheet went over the carpet to give the illusion of one large piece of fabric. We opened all the windows to bring in natural light, plus we took the shade off of a lamp to add some extra brilliance.

    For a photo with a child and books, we used a child-sized white chair and piled the books on the chair. E. sat next to the chair with an additional book in his lap. The Toddler Monster danced around near the camera to bring about a genuine smile. Click, and it was perfect the first time. We also tried just E. and his chair, a stack of two books with the boy leaning on them, just E. sitting Indian style on the ground, etc. Many photos later, we had a whole collection of possibilities.




  • Choose photos that really look like the child. This is just my personal preference, but I'll put it out here. I have taken photos of my children that were breathtakingly beautiful, but never handed them out to relatives because it didn't really look like that child looks. I'm not saying it's necessary to choose an unattractive photo, but I am saying that one should consider the purpose of the photo. I do portraits for two reasons: {1} I send them to relatives from whom we are geographically separated so that they can "see" the children, and {2} I want to remember what they looked like. A gorgeous photo that doesn't really look like my child will make it to the scrapbook, but for portraits I want to choose something that really captures the essence of the child.




  • Use Winkflash. There really isn't a cheaper way to go that I am aware of. Most professional photos are printed using a matte finish, so take the opportunity to edit them before printing. Winkflash's default setting is on glossy finish.




  • If I couldn't afford to print the photos, I would take them anyhow. Some companies {maybe Yahoo photo?} enable a person to upload the photos and then others can view the album and select prints that they pay for themself. It is a wonderful courtesy to be able to print and ship photos to relatives, but if I couldn't swing the budget, I think my relatives would appreciate that option rather than not having photos at all.

    Also, save the digital negatives somewhere safe. Someday, it might be possible to print and frame them.




  • Save the funny ones. Keep the tongues-sticking-out, the off-centers, the blurred-by-dancing, the pouty-faced. One never knows when one will get a certain flash of brilliance that will turn all the mistakes into a very classy art project...or as finishing touches on a blog post.

  • 06 June 2007

    Modern-Day Fabians

    I am spending the afternoon editing some photos, so rather than writing, I will connect some dots originally written (or spoken) by other folks. Before I begin, though, let me just say that it is June, and I remember distinctly that on this day {or was it yesterday on that day?} in 1996 I graduated from high school and it was one hundred and five degrees and I thought that I might perish from the heat while wearing a dress and nylons and heels and cap and gown all at the same time. Today, however, it is not quite eighty and feels more like the middle of March. What a wonderful, breezy afternoon!

    Continuing on:

    From The Creature from Jekyll Island by Griffin:
    The Fabians were an elite group of intellectuals who formed a semi-secret society for the purpose of bringing socialism to the world. Whereas Communists wanted to establish socialism quickly through violence and revolution, the Fabians preferred to do it slowly through propaganda and legislation. The word socialism was not to be used. Instead, they would speak of benefits for the people such as welfare, medical care, higher wages, and better working conditions. In this way, they planned to accomplish their objective without bloodshed and even without serious opposition. They scorned the Communists, not because they disliked their goals, but because they disagreed with their methods. To emphasize the importance of gradualism, they adopted the turtles as the symbol of their movement.


    Hillary Clinton on strengthening the middle class:
    As president, Hillary will:



  • Make health care affordable and accessible to every American.



  • Reduce the cost of energy and make us energy independent.



  • Expand access to affordable, high-quality child care.



  • Make college more affordable.



  • Protect families from predatory lenders and help them avoid foreclosures.



  • Increase the minimum wage.



  • Create good jobs with good wages to expand the middle class.



  • Balance the federal budget so we don't pass today's massive debts to the next generation.



  • Reward savings, protect pensions, and provide greater retirement security.


  • John Edwards on eliminating poverty at the Sojourners Forum:
    I think it's a completely achievable agenda. There are lots of components to that agenda. Making work pay, having a living wage, making sure that workers can organize themselves into unions, having decent housing for families that don't have it, having true universal health care, helping kids be able to go to college, which is why I started a college for everyone program for kids in a very poor section of eastern North Carolina. And I believe this is an agenda that should be the agenda -- one of the agendas -- part of the agenda of the president of the United States, so there's not much doubt about where I am on this issue.


    Barak Hussein Obama on healthcare:
    Obama expects his presidency to be judged on whether he provides high-quality affordable health care coverage for all by the end of his first term.


    Barak Hussein Obama on poverty and education:
    So one of my major commitments would be to make sure that we're expanding early childhood education to everybody who needs it. And by the way, that starts before pre-k, zero to 3.

    [snip]

    There's wonderful programs that I'm going to be putting forward as models for what we can do nationally, where nurses are matched up with at-risk parents, particularly teenage parents, just so that they can be shown, you know, how to provide proper nutrition to their child, how to read to them, how to play with them, how to engage with them so that they are equipped when they get to school. So that would be an example of government action.

    [snip]

    And that will require a government investment in transitional jobs because, in some cases, the private sector won't hire people.

    [snip]

    We may need to provide them the kinds of job training support they are not currently getting.

    [snip]

    And so we've got to make work pay. That means that we've got to increase the minimum wage.


    Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you? Sometimes watching a presidential campaign reminds me of watching an ASB President race in high school. Some 17-year-old kid promises everyone a free soda and voters flock to him like flies to fly paper. Of course, once a fly is stuck to flypaper, it has lost all of its freedom.

    05 June 2007

    The Fractured Politician

    It came to my attention this morning that last night was the Sojourners Forum on Faith and Values. This gave Democrat presidential candidates a chance to talk about their religious beliefs and the impacts of those beliefs on both their personal lives and how they would govern should they be elected.

    It is my understanding {here is the transcript of what transpired that I admit I only partially read}, that both Clinton and Obama talked about "faith" in generic terms. In other words, they didn't really define what they believed. This makes the listener able to simply input their own definition of faith when hearing the answers from these two.

    However, I am much more interested in Mr. John Edwards, who declared, "I have a deep and abiding love for my Lord, Jesus Christ." Edwards was asked if he believed in gay marriage. I believe his answer typifies what is wrong with politics today:
    EDWARDS: No. Not personally. Now you're asking about me personally. But I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are. It is the reason we have separation of church and state.

    [snip]

    [M]y belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way I view the world. But I think I also understand the distinction between my job as president of the United States, my responsibility to be respectful of and to embrace all faith beliefs in this country because we have many faith beliefs in America. And for that matter we have many faith beliefs in the world. And I think one of the problems that we've gotten into is some identification of the president of the United States with a particular faith belief as opposed to showing great respect for all faith beliefs.


    Please tell me where the Constitution describes a President's responsibility to "embrace all faith beliefs in this country." But I digress.

    Edwards' answer reveals a complete and utter lack of integrity if I ever saw one. Integrity, after all, is rooted in the idea of being integrated in one's soul. Remember Soren Kierkegaard's work Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing? This is ultimate integrity: all parts of a life and soul building up into one idea, one Great Idea. Contradictions are impurities, to use Kierkegaard's language.

    Now, there are many times when one does not realize that one is lacking in integrity in a certain area. This has happened to me before, where I suddenly realized that I was acting in such a way that I denied, for instance, the doctrine of sin, that all men were sinners. Intellectually, I assented, but my actions (in this case accepting verbal rather than written contracts, especially in my dealings with nonchristians) insisted that man was basically good and refused to doubt the ability of a person to sin against me.

    However, it is an entirely different level to stand up and say that one believes one thing, but will lead an entire nation in a different direction! Soledad O'Brien pressed Edwards in the direction of integrity, and asked him, "If you think something is morally wrong, though, you morally disagree with it, as president of the United States, don't you have a duty to go with your moral belief?" and Edwards' answer was a resounding no.

    What would it mean to my family if my husband declared that he believed in Christ and yet refused to teach our children Christian truth? What would be the point of his belief? In action, he would stand for absolutely nothing. And something else, something evil would likely fill the vacuum.

    And yet no one is questioning Edwards on this point. If Christianity is true {and he claims that it is}, why would he desire to govern the country in any other way? And if he doesn't stand for his own stated belief system, what in the world is the point of electing him?

    I look around and I see this sort of thing everywhere in politics. Politicians, stating a certain belief, acting in complete contradiction. Most of them, however, don't admit it out loud like Mr. Edwards.

    04 June 2007

    The Darndest Things {06/07}

    25 June 2007: Processing Information
    This morning during Catechism Time, E. said, "Mom, during Big Church I was reading my Bible, and my Bible says, 'God's name is great.' But His name is not great. His name is God!"

    I, trying hard not to laugh at such a solemn face, said, "That is true, but the name that God has is a great name to have."

    "Oh." And then he smiled as he began to understand.


    25 June 2007: More New Words
    We are all about building vocabulary. The Boy is experimenting with new words again today. Last night, he declared to me that he is, in fact, mysterious. I can tell by his usage that he doesn't know what it means, so today I explained to him that if he were mysterious, this would mean that we couldn't understand him because he was confusing and part of him was hidden. He still insists that it's true.

    A., on the other hand, is learning new words, too, but they are small. Today, she insists she is tall: "I tall," she keeps saying.

    It seems our self-awareness levels are plummeting around here.


    23 June 2007: Just Teasing
    This is a story relayed to me by my sister. Apparently, she had my older daughter, A., on her lap for an extended period of time on Saturday afternoon. A. was picking her nose and refused to stop, so my sister, who is known for some Tall Tales, told her there was a worm up her nose that might bite her finger should she continue picking it. I am told that A. stopped, with a very sad look on her face. This continued for a while, so my sister decided it was time to confess.

    "I was only teasing you because I wanted you to stop picking your nose."

    "Teasing," repeated A. Then she smiled. "You funny." And, after more thought, she points at herself. "I funny too!"


    23 June 2007: Now She Sits!
    Baby Q. now sits for 30 seconds. She likes to rock so much I thought she would never learn to sit, but apparently she changed her mind.


    22 June 2007: Precise Answers
    Dad: Did you throw that at her?

    E.: No.

    Dad: How did it get there?

    E.: I threw it.

    Apparently at her was the operative phrase here.


    4 June 2007: Q. is Going Places!
    Well, Baby Q. is crawling. Not well, mind you. Today was the very beginning, though, of what should rightfully be called crawling. She hasn't decided on the method to her madness, so getting from Bookcase to Coffee Table {where Mommy was} required a combination of tip-toe maneuvers, knee-jumping, rolls, and useless swimming motions. The point is not so much that she did well, for she is indeed a novice, but that she made the connection. She was at Point A and spied Point B, determined that Point B was where she desired to be, and took action. She solved her own problem. That place in the brain where it all comes together? That is the true beginning of crawling.


    3 June 2007: Literalism Overheard

    E. to Si: No, you cannot read my lips because there are no words on them!

    Vitamin D and Autism

    During E.'s infancy, I spent a substantial amount of time wondering if there was something seriously wrong with him. Sure, he had a rough start. But beyond this, he seemed incredibly slow. I am glad I didn't own What to Expect the First Year, because it would have only escalated my worries.

    E. smiled late. Both my girls smiled in their first month. E.'s two-month photo shows such a sad little face; he had not learned to smile yet. He never rolled over, and he sat alone late. At six months, it was still hard to get him to smile or laugh. At ten months of age, he surprised us. He stood up, and walked across the room. He began to crawl that same day, but only to get to the couch so that he could stand and walk again. I felt the weight lift from my shoulders. I finally felt sure that he was a perfectly normal child.

    What could cause such a thing? Was it just the Bad Beginning? Or was there more to this picture?

    The other day, I was reading an eleven-page web paper on the Vitamin D Theory of Autism. I learned that Vitamin D deficiency found in children with common rickets is associated with flabby muscles, decreased activity, and delayed motor development, which are also symptoms of autism. I learned that there is a condition, called Williams Syndrome, which has as a symptom excessive production of Vitamin D during early life. The personality of these children is strikingly opposite of children with autism: remarkable sociability, overfriendliness, empathy, and willingness to initiate social interaction.

    But my son doesn't have autism.

    However, I found myself wondering if he did have a Vitamin D deficiency during his first year. When I was pregnant {and this deficiency most certainly starts with the mother}, I worked in an office and was exhausted when I arrived home. I rarely went outside. Then, when E. was first born, we brought him home, but ended up with him back in the hospital NICU, and then we were quarantined after that. I kept him inside almost all of the time because I was told the sun was "bad" for babies {I forgot God declared his creation to be good}, and there wasn't anywhere to go anyhow.

    Anyone who knew our son in his first and second years of life would say that there is a world of difference. It is almost like he is a different person! So what happened? Well, we moved. It was June, and we had a backyard. He received a play pool for his birthday, and we spent hours in the sun that summer. By the end of the season, he had a dark tan and a new personality.

    Do I think Vitamin D Deficiency causes autism? No, but I think the article makes a number of interesting points. I think, if anything, the article convinced me that increasing an autistic child's sun exposure would be of great benefit to that child. And perhaps there are a few borderline-autistic, high-functioning types that are actually D-Deficient and able to be cured. But, more than anything, I became thankful for God's gift of the sun.

    03 June 2007

    May Darndest Things?

    I don't know where May went or why I never devised a Darndest Things post. It's not that we didn't have any moments, because we did. But they happened away from home, or at a time when I was unable to memorialize them. And so May slipped through my fingers and is gone.

    However, I want to take the time to record how I perceived May to be. After all, the Darndest Things is primarily a way for me to act as our family historian {and entertain the readers, of course}.

    E. Turns Five
    E. turned five near the end of the month. All the baby mannerisms are gone. He does not toddle anymore; he walks, runs, leaps. May truly began his boyhood. He broke something on accident, and it only happened because we had allowed him to do certain things that were so safe when he was two and so unsafe now. Not in the sense of his safety, but rather the safety of our things.

    This age is all about language development, and I am sure the coming months will be full of reports of what E. says. Five is surely the age where the difference between a child from a reading sort of family and a child from a TV-watching sort of family becomes more pronounced. E. has spent the month toying with new words he learns in the books we read. He thinks squat is hilarious. He pointed to a strawberry flower and said, "Mom, do you see that flower there? It pleases me." He now calls cars and trucks vehicles because he likes the sound of the word.

    A. is Two-And-One-Quarter
    A.'s hair is getting longer. I can almost pull it back out of her eyes. Or I would bother to try if she wasn't so stubborn about messing it up the second I finish. She has a certain air of silliness about her. She is definitely a goofball as far as children go. Have I ever mentioned she walks around with her hands over her eyes? She runs into things and cries, but always does it again. She has an overwhelming desire to sing Baby Baluga during sermons at church.

    A. insists on being held. Often. Some days, she is held more than the baby. Much more than the baby. I thought that perhaps this revealed some sort of defect in her or me or our parenting or something, but now I think this might just be how she is. Silly...and affectionate. Our little ray of sunshine, both dancing around and warming our home.

    We call her the Thumb Junkie. She is addicted to thumb sucking. We are trying to break her of it and forbid it except for sleeping and church {keeps her quiet during sermons!}. But, like her societal druggie counterpart, she sneaks it. Sometimes, I hold her and fend off the hand as it reaches for her face, and she shakes as if in withdrawals. I reach for coffee on a hard days. She reaches for her thumb. This is definitely a drug-of-choice for her.

    Q. is Four Months
    People always comment on how contented Q. is, and I often say, "She is always like this," not to brag, but simply because she is. Q. and I stay together quite a lot. While the others are out running wildly through the sprinklers or tumbling down the slide in the yard, Q. and I are cuddling in my rocking chair. I have to steal the free minutes when I can or I miss them entirely and regret it by day's end.

    Q. has learned to roll around the room to reach her toys. She always has a smile for anyone who takes the time to chat with her. She giggles with A. She watches E. intently, and it is obvious she admires him very much. She gets into moods where she has a lot to say. She is very ticklish. She sleeps on her side, and always wakes up with a stuffed animal in her arms, held tightly to her chest, no matter how far said stuffed animal was from her when we put her down for bed.

    We've received a lot of comments about Q. having "wise eyes" or having an "air of wisdom" about her, and we always find this interesting since her name means wise.

    All Three Together
    I watched all three children lay on the baby's mat the other morning. A. had a magazine she was thumbing through. E. was carelessly flying a toy plane in the air. Q. was watching the other two, all smiles and laughter. And I made a mental note to savor that moment, the peace and happiness of it all, the sheer simplicity of life, so abundant in our home.

    02 June 2007

    Time For Another Toys R Us Rant

    Almost every June, we do something I absolutely despise doing: We visit Toys R Us. Last year, I was a bit more constructive in that I invented my own imaginary children's store in my post. This year, my entire post is devoted to complaining. That's it. This is my annual Toys R Us complaint. If you don't like complaining, now is the time to pick an off-ramp from the sidebar.

    Well, almost the time. I do want to say what I said last year as a disclaimer, which is that we truly appreciate the reason we go to Toys R Us in the first place, which is to say we are grateful for the gift cards our children receive for their birthdays. And we are thankful for what we are able to use these gift cards to purchase. Last year, after a frustrating shopping experience, we came home with a great toy box that I still love.

    But, tell me, why must shopping at Toys R Us be so terribly painful? It's not that we are ungrateful, it's that we always leave the store with unpleasant feelings, generally a combination of disgust and frustration.

    Disgust? Why, yes. Oh, last year I was disgusted at the selection. I don't like the excessive marketing to children, the desire to use my child as a billboard. But here I mean literal disgust. As in the store is not clean. As in, ew. It is an older building, but it's more than that. The floors are dirty. An area I shopped in had smashed crackers and spilled chlorine {pool supplies} all over the floor.

    I had made the mistake of wearing open-toed shoes, which added to the experience.

    And then we tried to return a gift our son had received for his birthday, swim trunks and a matching shirt. They were a boys' size five. He wears a 4T, especially in swim trunks because we surely don't want them falling off! The shirt was just long.

    So we decide to divide and conquer. Si takes the boy and the returnable items with the receipt to "Customer Service," while I take the toddler and the baby and begin searching for a bubble gun for the boy and life vest for the toddler {who had her own giftcard left from her birthday in February}. Si comes back and informs me that they will not accept the shirt because the tags are missing.

    Where are the tags? I don't know. They certainly weren't there when E. received the gift. Maybe they fell off and were thrown away with the gift wrap? I don't know. I never saw them. But I did see the gift receipt. The shirt's information is right there on the gift receipt with the information for the shorts that they did allow us to return.

    So Si goes back to "Customer Service." He points out that the numbers for the shirt are right there. Will they please take the shirt back? No, of course they will not. Items have to be returned with original packaging, and sans tags does not qualify. Besides, it has obviously been laundered, they inform him. How do they know this? Apparently, there is some sort of strange discoloration on the {tie-dyed!} tag that has the washing instructions printed on it, and this allows the "Customer Service" employee to know that we already washed the shirt.

    Of course we washed it. After all, it doesn't fit. And it matches the shorts that didn't fit, that we didn't wash, and took back as well. But apparently any logic skills aren't required for the "Customer Service" job. Who in the world washes one half of a matching set of clothes that don't even fit before trying to take them back? Please tell me what kind of person would do this!

    So instead of spending more time in that unbearable place, we decided to keep the shirt. After all, he will grow into it. Of course, since he doesn't really have enough clothes, it would have been nice to have something that fits him now.

    Besides the return situation being a source of frustration, actually finding the items we desired to purchase was irritating as well. The bubble gun was easy enough. But then we wanted a kickboard to help teach E. to swim. It was hard, but not impossible, to find one that didn't have annoying marketing all over it. Everything was Spiderman, a PG-13 movie marketed to 5-year-olds!

    And then there was the life vest for the toddler who, incidentally, is a girl. I won't even tell the whole story. It is sufficient to say that our sweet little girl is now the proud owner of a red and black and yellow Power Rangers Mystic Force toddler life vest. It is ugly, but it'll do the job just fine.

    So there it is. Another annual trip to Toys R Us over. I feel a bit better now. I really thought that if I didn't write all of this I might be driven to distraction for the remainder of the evening. Now I can relax in peace. Well, I could if the toddler would quit throwing fits in her crib. But that is another story.

    And, by the way, we tried the bubble gun before bedtime. It was really cool.