29 February 2008

Preparing for the Birthday Party

This year's theme for A.'s birthday party is butterflies. I use the term theme loosely. We are not the types to go overboard. Most of the money we put into a birthday party is for food.

I do not buy goodie bags for the little cousins.

I do not plan games.

I am the ultimate Boring Mom.

However, we have parties, and everyone seems to enjoy them fine.

When we have a situation like this week, where the party was a bit over a week after the actual birthday, I try to keep that birthday feel going a bit. Especially when the children are three and under. It is hard for them to understand the whole birthday thing in the first place.

So here are some of the preparations we've undergone this week:

Supplies shopping: No surprise here, I'm sure, but I wish I had {1} chosen a theme earlier so that I could watch for sales and {2} watched sales on hot dogs and other food items as well. Thankfully, the hot dogs {excepting the gluten-free, etc. variety} were on sale already, even if buns and ice cream were not. I don't, by the way, buy all the fancy plates with matching napkins and everything. We do plain, picking a couple colors that go well together. But we do go all out for the dessert plates. Aren't they so pretty?

Preparing food: Not everything needs to be last minute. We soaked beans for chili last night, and they will cook all day today so that we only need to reheat it on Saturday for lunch. Last night, I made the cookie base for the cake {which is really a glorified GFCF cookie, and I'll share details later}. I also made candy butterflies to go on top as a decoration. The cake/cookie will be decorated first thing Saturday morning, but I'll premake the glaze, icing, etc. so that it's a quick job. Normally, I decorate a cake the night before, but this cake is topped with fruit, and I'm afraid some of it will brown overnight.

Preparing decorations: All week, the kids have been working on coloring butterflies. I simply googled "free butterfly coloring pages" and ended up with a wealth of butterflies! I printed out eight or nine on cardstock, and the kids have been using our spring colors marker collection to make them look nice. E., being our resident Big Kid, got to cut them out. On Saturday morning, when we decorate the island in the kitchen for the party {our tradition}, we will tape those butterflies to a cheap spring-green plastic tablecloth and they will be beautiful!

Cleaning up: The unexpected cleanup for this party was the back patio, which was completely and utterly trashed by a storm we had last weekend. I've been putting off cleaning it until today out of fear that the weather {or children} might mess it up again! The kids and I are ready to tackle the project together during Q.'s morning nap!

So...that's it for the boring report. I will try to do a better one when I post, with photos, all the details of a birthday party safe for kids on special diets.

28 February 2008

Putting Technology in its Place

During the Economics in One Lesson discussion {which isn't officially over because I really do intend to carry on to the finish one of these days}, I got sidetracked by Hazlitt's uncompromising embrace of technology. It seemed to me that he thought technology could do no wrong. It was at that time that I raised the issue of analyzing technology based on its impact on the heart and soul of a man.

Well, now we have a new weapon in the family arsenal: Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by the one and only Neil Postman. I am on page 40 and I am already in love.

Postman is making the argument that technology doesn't just make small changes, but rather large ones. Namely, technology changes the entire culture, including the way the culture thinks about itself. I can't say his approach is necessarily spiritual in nature, but culture is definitely intertwined with spirituality, and so I think I have a lot to learn from Postman, even in the area of how technology changes spirituality.

Postman writes,
[I]t is inescapable that every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not.
I thought about discussing whether or not our society had "negotiated intelligently" with technology or not, but I have decided to make this personal. Have you, have I, negotiated intelligently with technology?

Postman gives many examples of technology's backfiring, so to speak. What I mean is, instances in which technology was invented for a specific purpose, and yet ended up completely undermining that purpose. One of his more poignant examples is the clock, which was, he says, invented to provide precision to a monastery's rituals of devotion. But the result was otherwise:
The paradox, the surprise, and the wonder are that the clock was invented by men who wanted to devote themselves more rigorously to God; it ended as the technology of greatest use to men who wished to devote themselves to the accumulation of money. In the eternal struggle between God and Mammon, the clock quite unpredictably favored the latter.
A more recent example would be, in my opinion, the cellular phone. To be perfectly honest, I find nothing more annoying than the telephone in general. I rely heavily on facial expression and body language when I talk to people, and the phone is a great struggle for me unless I am talking to a very old friend. Moreover, cell phones add an additional hurdle to conversation by making the audio less clear. I struggle to hear the other person if one of us is on a cell phone.

But this is not my objection to cell phones.

When we think about the cell phone, we can imagine what went through the head of the inventor. He probably thought that they would be of great use in emergencies {and they are}. He probably thought that they would help parents keep better track of their kids {which is, in my opinion, an illusion at best}. He probably thought it would make us more efficient {which is does...somewhat}. After all, we can drive and call at the same and and so, presumably, not have calls to make when we are actually together.

But I say that what the inventor thought would bring us together has actually driven us apart.

Take, for instance, that lovely cultural ritual we call The Date. When Si and I are out and about, it doesn't seem to matter the age of the couple, one or both of them spend at least part of their time on the phone. The cell phone, in other words, means that while we can be present with another who is far away, we can be entirely absent from the person right in front of us. The cell phone takes us away, and often rips us from important conversations, its noisy ring demanding our attention.

What to do?

I certainly don't have the answer for you. Si and I have decided to take the good and refuse the bad. We, therefore, do not have cell phones. We have little tiny phones, and they look just like cell phones, but that is not the name we have given them. Saying you have a cell phone signals to folks that they might be able to call you. And they can't. Not really. We don't have a real plan, just a simple, pay-as-you-go sort of plan. We often call these phones our Emergency Phones. We leave the numbers with my parents when they watch our children. We call each other if something bad happens on the road.

But other than that, these phones are silent.

I can't say that this is prescriptive. This is simply how we put that technology in its place.

Essentially, we make it a tool. It is allowed to help us, but it is not allowed to intrude upon or dictate our lives.

Do you have a technology that you have put in its place? Or one that you think you need to put in its place?

27 February 2008

The HIB Vaccine and Type I Diabetes

To those of you who've been asking {ahem...Kimbrah...}, yes, I really do intend to carry on with the Childhood Illnesses Up Close series. I took some time off, I suppose, because I was tired of researching disease. If you are interested, you can read about tetanus, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, and HIB {which is really the cause of some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and other illnesses}.

Upcoming in the next month or so will be chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella. It'll be quite the roundup, I suppose. A rash of posts.

Bad pun.

Anyhow, I've been reading a wonderful new book, a book I would highly suggest to any parent out there {like me} who has children with autistm, asthma, ADHD, or allergies, even cerebral {neurological} allergies like my son's:

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics:
Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies:
The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders

I expected a lot out of this book, and I haven't been disappointed yet. Tonight, however, I read a few pieces of information on the HIB vaccine that, frankly, surprised me. I had not learned this in my initial research. Here are a couple quotes from the book:
Several studies that had just been completed strongly implicated the HIB vaccination as one cause of juvenile-onset, or Type-I, diabetes. That is the type of the disease that is not triggered by obesity, but by a failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin. Anju found, in fact, that the risk of children developing diabetes after receiving the HIB vaccination was even higher than the risk of their developing the disease itself, which can usually be effectively treated with a course of antibiotics. Studies indicated that the HIB vaccination may cause approximately two thousand to four thousand new cases of Type 1 diabetes every year. Advocates of the HIB vaccine dispute this perspective. However, doubts about the HIB vaccine may account for the fact that approximately one in every twenty pediatricians now refuses to give the vaccination to his or her own children. {p. 133}
The most fascinating point there? Let me restate it. It is more likely that a child will get diabetes from the HIB vaccine than that, remaining unvaccinated, he will actually become seriously ill from the bacteria itself.


But apparently the diabetes issue might go beyond the HIB vaccine:
In one study, conducted in New Zealand, researchers documented a 60 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes in children that began in 1998, when the country began vaccinating children for hepatitis B. A similar study in Finland showed a 64 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes that began when the HIB vaccination was introduced.

Researchers in America have linked the aluminum that is added to vaccinations to the rise in incidence of Type 1 diabetes that has occured among American children. {p. 173}

So...why not do my own research? Well, I did. But just a little. I headed over to PubMed to check around, and I found a very interested report. It's from a 1999 British Medical Journal:
We initiated and funded a collaborative study with Tuomilehto on the effect of the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine on type 1 diabetes and found that the data support a causal relation {paper submitted for publication}. Furthermore, the potential risk of the vaccine exceeds the potential benefit.
Now, our family does not to make these sorts of decisions based on pragmatism, but I can't say that isn't interesting.

26 February 2008

GFCF Meal Plan for Feb 25-Mar 3

I promised Kimbrah a while back that I would get her a GFCF weekly plan for one of her readers. And then I got distracted by Obamarama and forgot! This is my attempt to make it up to her.

This is the actual plan for this week. The meals are a little strange when compared with our usual simple fare. The morning sickness has definitely changed our eating. I can't bear many soups, even though we were eating five different soups a week earlier this winter!

A couple tips for GFCF newbies: always check labels. I don't just cook from scratch for fun. Most canned foods are no-nos for our family. Our two oldest kids aren't just GFCF. They are also soy-free and off of almost all artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors. This is a necessity for health and sensitivity reasons. Condiments will be especially difficult at times. Also, you must check labels every time. Recipes can change, and there might not be any notice. Checking labels is the number one way of protecting your kids.

Also, if you begin to go GFCF, see an improvement in your child, and then see a decline a week or two later, you might want to check for an additional food allergy rather than assuming that GFCF doesn't help. Many children with GFCF allergies are also allergic to soy and/or corn because those proteins are very similar in structure to gluten and casien. A lot of GFCF foods contain these two substitutes. Cooking from scratch will allow you to use amaranth, teff, rice, and other grains that have different proteins. Blood tests are great, but many of us figured this out using elimination diets, and you can, too! Talk to your doctor if you need help. A nurse at our doctor's office was able to advise us with the trials of elimination.

So, here we go. I will give breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch, as a rule, is leftovers from the night before. I always make enough to recycle! This saves me tons of time. Breakfast is almost always the same thing, too. {Especially right now. I am desperate for my co-op order, but have to wait another two weeks!} Don't expect variety from me--we are creatures of habit around here.

Monday, February 25
Breakfast: GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes {original recipe by Sue Gregg, but I grind everything in a coffee maker first because I don't like chunky pancakes!}
Lunch: Baja Fresh, compliments of my mom {Baja Fresh is not certified GFCF, but I find my children handle their rice, beans, corn chips, etc. just fine}
Dinner: GFCF pizza dough {there is a good recipe here, and another is here} topped with Trader Joe's pizza sauce, sheep's milk pecorino romano cheese, red onion, red bell pepper, and nitrite/nitrate free chicken sausage

Note: Sheep's milk contains casein, but a different sort than cow's milk. Very sensitive children {or children just beginning to eliminate casein} should eat the pizza without cheese.

Tuesday, February 26
Breakfast: GFCF Corn Cakes
Lunch: Leftover pizza
Dinner: Taco night. 1.25 lb. ground beef topped with homemade taco seasoning mix plus 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 100% corn {treated with lime} tortillas lightly fried in olive oil, typical toppings like lettuce, tomato, avocado and cheese {goat cheese for the babes}, also vegetarian refried beans {yes, from a can} and no rice because everyone snubbed it last time!

Wednesday, February 27
Breakfast: GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover tacos and beans
Dinner: Homemade meat spagetti sauce, over brown rice noodles for the kids and regular noodles for the rest, breadsticks {made with some leftover pizza dough from Monday), and salad (topped with homemade cilantro vinegrette for the sensitive kids}

Thursday, February 28
Breakfast: GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover spagetti and salad
Dinner: Savory Cabbage and Pork Soup {from p. 22 of Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook}, substituting nitrite/nitrate free 100% meat sausage for the pork...makes it easier for babies to chew!

Friday, February 29
Breakfast: GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover cabbage soup
Dinner: Hamburgers {without buns for GFCF...and make sure those patties are 100% meat with no gluten fillers!}, homefries {this can be as easy as slicing up some potatoes and frying them in a skillet, or covering them lightly with olive oil and GFCF seasoning salt and baking them in the oven}, and salad {don't forget to check those dressing labels for the wee ones}

Saturday, March 1
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and apple slices
Lunch: A.'s birthday party...homemade chili, salad, hot dogs {no buns for GFCF, plus the sensitive kids are getting special all meat, certified GFCF, nitrite/nitrate free dogs}, GFCF chips {Mission tortilla chips are usually a safe bet}, GFCF cake, and raspberry 100% fruit sorbet
Dinner: Leftover birthday food

Sunday, March 2
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and orange slices
Lunch: Clean the fridge of all the tiny leftover containers!
Dinner: Our tradition, breakfast for dinner, fried eggs, country fried potatoes, etc.

Monday, March 3
Breakfast: GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh takeout, treated by Mom, our Monday tradition
Dinner: Turkey Stirfry Stew from Nourishing Traditions using the one soy sauce my kids can tolerate...San-J Brand Organic Wheat-free Tamari Soy Sauce that is naturally fermented.

One final note...
If you really want to go GFCF, I suggest that you sit down and look at what you usually feed your kids. Pick your favorite ten recipes, and figure out what you can substitute. For instance, replace that Cambell's MSG-filled chicken broth with a quart of organic free-range chicken broth with no preservatives other than salt! Replace wheat with a gluten-free grain, or pretend your family is on the Atkins diet and take the starch out altogether. Serve potatoes or rice instead of bread as a side dish.

If you are going to do GFCF long term, your mantra must be substitute, substitute, substitute. You really can make your old food in a new way and accomodate your family's taste and style of eating in the process.

25 February 2008

The Emergency GFCF Birthday Cake

Baby Q. had a birthday bash that was beyond simple. Besides the fact that I hadn't really perfected a gluten-free/casien-free cake recipe {which really must also be soy-free and free of all artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors...now you see why it is difficult}, I was also in the peak of my morning sickness. This doesn't exactly incline me towards cooking.

So anyhow, eventually we sent out an evite and said we were having an evening, no-frills birthday gathering. There had been murmurings amongst family members about our neglected third child, you see. So the cake was inevitable.

And here she is:

Okay, so let's talk recipes and decorating.

Those are real flower petals on the cake, by the way. The older children had gone for a walk with their great-grandfather and came home with handfuls of purple flowers. This was helpful for an emergency cake!

First, the cake.

This cake is from the back of the Ener-G Foods box of pure tapioca flour. It is actually a decent recipe, modified by yours truly:

Tapioca White Cake
4 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup olive oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract {make yourself a month ahead using potato vodka and vanilla beans}
1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 level cups tapioca flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Set aside. In large bowl, mix oil and sugar together. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks. In medium bowl, sift together baking powder, baking soda and tapioca flour. Thoroughly mix dry mixture into oil mixture. Fold in whipped egg whites.

This is equivalent to one box of cake mix, so think accordingly when baking it. For the cake in the photo, I baked it in two 9-inch rounds at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Like all cakes, make sure a tester comes out clean before removing from oven.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes before turning out on a rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

So now we are on to the frosting! But I'm going to give you the recipe for the frosting I now use, not the frosting in the photo. I wasn't happy with that frosting. The kids had a reaction and it turned out that the shortening I used had traces of soy. Kimbrah introduced me to a far superior shortening, and I now suggest it for all frostings.

A note about frostings: the recipe adds vanilla extract. This, naturally, makes vanilla flavored frosting. If you would like a different flavor, add a different extract. If you would like a different color, add food coloring. If your child is allergic, there are natural colorings available. I do not have a favorite yet, but when I do, I will announce it! If you want brown, like I used as an accent color on the cake pictured above, just pull some of the vanilla frosting and add unsweetened cocoa powder until you get the color you like. It'll taste like chocolate frosting. I do have a chocolate frosting recipe, but I wouldn't suggest it for accent colors because it is labor-intensive. For accents, just add the cocoa powder to a reserved portion of the white to save you time!

This recipe is based on the Wilton icing recipe, but I try to specify the exact ingredients we use for our sensitive children.

Basic GFCF White Frosting
1 cup Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening
1 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract
1 lb. box powdered {confectioner's} sugar
2 Tb. water

In large bowl, cream shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add water and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. Note: If it is too dry, add more water, a tiny bit at a time!

23 February 2008

A Day for A.

Yesterday was A.'s third birthday. Did you know? And she is three. She will hold up her three fingers and declare it to the world, which is new for her. She never did that about two. And she began answering the phone saying hello! just in time for all the birthday phone calls.

A lot of moms I know spend their children's birthdays recounting the story of that child's labor and delivery. This is something I don't do. Can't do. Because I have C-sections, the deliveries aren't as dramatic. They don't get as seared into the brain.

But I think each child comes with a life-affirming story. For E., it was when he ended up hospitalized for nine days as a brand new newborn and we were terrified that we might lose him. For Q., who has escaped many of life's hard knocks, it was probably the food poisoning that made her so weak she spent days lying limply in my arms.

But A.'s story long precedes delivery, which is why I think it deserves to be told. This world treats the life of an unborn child so cheaply, and yet there is a reason I hold it so dear.

In between E. and A., I had a miscarriage. And then it took a number of months after that to become pregnant again. A week after my positive test, I began to again show signs of another miscarriage. We called the doctor. I had had a blood test the day before, but I was so early in the pregnancy that I hadn't even seen him yet!

He told us to come in and see his nurse practitioner. She patiently explained to me that I was having all the classic signs of a miscarriage. She called the lab, and they said my hormone counts were too low. She figured the baby was already dead, and she told me they wanted to do a D&C so that they could examine why I would have two miscarriages.

I guess two in a row is considered a little more unusual.

We went home, devastated.

I remember sobbing in Si's arms. And then I turned to him and said, "I don't know what it is, but I still feel pregnant."

What does a mom do in this situation? Go forward with the surgery? Thankfully, we didn't have to wait long to have help with the decision.

The doctor called. The lab had made a mistake. One hormone was too low, but my cumulative levels were high enough. He told us to drive down quickly and catch the ultrasound technician before she left for the evening.

We dropped E. at my parents and raced to the office. We were rushed into the ultrasound room.

And soon we saw her. A little tiny peanut shape with that strong beating heart. She was, if I remember correctly, six weeks old.

I knew it! I had known it! She was there, and they had wanted to take her out! I was horrified at the thought.

It wasn't easy to bring her forth into the world. I was on bedrest for almost the entire pregnancy. I had to take hormone pills that made me so sick I could hardly move. I spent months cooking meals I couldn't eat.

A later ultrasound offered a bit of explanation: perhaps she was a twin, they said. One survived, they said. Or at least that is what it looks like, they said.

So here she is. Our little survivor. And three years old. Still our sunshine. Still such a blessing to everyone around her. Still the best thing that ever happened to her brother, though he will probably never admit it.

But sometimes, when I really think about it, I am amazed not just at who she is, but that she is here at all.

22 February 2008

Obamarama 2008: Final Analysis and Response

Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves intocomplete dependence on a tyrant
has made our generation understand that
to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom.
F.A. Hayek

So I spent this week drowning myself in Obama research. I am embarrassed to say that I have never researched a candidate to this degree before. I have always relied on others to do so for me. And after this experience, I inclined to do much more independent research, but concerning candidates I would actually consider voting for.

Of course, Obama now has such a cult following that I don't consider this process to be a complete waste of time, though I must say that I discovered no surprises. My original predictions stand {antifamily, Fabian, socialist, etc.}, but they are no longer knee-jerk reactions, intuitive in nature.

I am now able to speak intelligently to someone who supports Obama.

What Obama has going for him is charisma, coupled with the fact that Hillary Clinton is completely unlikeable. I have to admit that there is a part of me that thinks that if a socialist must be President, I would much rather listen to Obama's voice for four years than Clinton's!

Obama has, as most of you know, been accused of plagiarism in recent days. All of those dazzling speeches full of vapid rhetoric apparently belong to someone else. Clinton seems to believe that Obama's recent speech was very similar to one given by Deval Patrick. But farther back than that, John Edward's wife was remarking on the similarities between what Edwards was saying 2004 and what Obama is saying now.

Well, if Obama sounds like Edwards, it's because they have had the same speech writer.

Okay. So why am I getting into this? Why is it important?

I only want to point out that we shouldn't believe what we hear. We shouldn't sit there, soaking up a speech the way groupies soak up a famous band's Top-40 song. It's just not wise.

The best way to find out how a politician will rule in the future is to see how they have already ruled.

So check voting records.

As a secondary source, check position papers. Even though these papers, like speeches, are not written by the candidates themselves, they should be revealing where a candidate actually stands on the issues.

This election is looking more and more like Baskin Robbins to me. You know. Choose your socialist flavor. And really, they aren't all that different. Especially the two Democratic nominees. Those primaries are all about personality, likeability, and Balkanizing issues like man v. woman and black v. white.

Don't believe me? Well, in my defense, I just spent all morning doing my own comparative analysis of the 2005-present voting records of both of the junior senators. Clinton and Obama aren't all that different.

At all.

I used the VoteSmart system, which means I had to print out the records and manually compare them, as well as making sure I crossed out duplicate entries {a bill might appear, for instance, in both a budget category and an immigration category}. I'm going to report my numbers, as long as you have grace for the fact that this was done by a real person {me} and not a machine. Meaning my numbers could be slightly off.

Okay. So I found that there were 258 votes cast from 2005-present. In only 27 instances were the votes of Clinton and Obama different. This means they vary only 10.5% of the time. Now, 10.5% might seem a bit high to some of you, so let me clarify.

I said the votes differ. This includes all the times when one of them showed up and voted and the other didn't show, or at least didn't vote.

So, allow me to tinker with the numbers a bit to make a point. There were only eight times that one voted yes and the other voted no. So this means that they only both voted in 239 instances. Of these 239 instances, they differ 3.3% of the time.

Which brings me back to my point that this Clinton/Obama voting drama is all about the drama. They are not very different at all, except that Obama is slightly more liberal.

And he also votes less. But I digress.

The Christian's Response

We all know that Christians suffer when there are dictatorships, totalitarian regimes, socialist/communist governments, and the like. The less freedom there is, the less likely that anyone is free, including the Christian. Moreover, all of these forms of government are based upon conformity.

And Christians have never been that good at conforming to this world.

Well, the Bible, having all the answers, has an answer for this one, too:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
{I Timothy 2:1-2}
We pray that the candidates allow the LORD to be their God. We pray for ourselves, that they will not interfere with our desire to lead godly, peaceful lives. We vote, yes. But voting doesn't change the nation. It is important, and it matters, and God has granted us a participatory government, but it doesn't change the nation.

Change comes from the inside out, from the smallest places to the bigger. It begins in my family, in my neighborhood, and so on.

It begins, most importantly, in the heart devoted not to pluralism, or tolerance, or any other cool catchphrase of the day, but to Christ the Lord.

21 February 2008

Obamarama 2008: Call to Renewal Keynote Address

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:1-5

Two nights ago, I told Si I am never doing a series like this again. I'm getting a headache obsessing over all of this. Really, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse. A horse named socialism, communism, fascism, whatever. All three social constructs are pretty intertwined, and all of them intersect in Obama.

Who, by the way, had the most liberal voting record in 2007. That's right. He got a higher score than Hillary Clinton. Harry Reid. Even good old Ted Kennedy.

And the more liberal one is, the more socialist one is. By definition. As F.A. Hayek wrote in his preface to the 1956 edition of The Road to Serfdom, it is unfortunate that, in America, the term liberal
often means very nearly the opposite of [its meaning in Britain]. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that "liberal" has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium.

This means I am the true liberal, I suppose. Standing {along with many others} for freedom and liberty and independence and maturity and responsiblity...etcetera.

Moving ever onward...

So I'm tired of beating the socialist horse here. Every issue has the same response: Obama's positions are unConstitutional, inappropriate {especially for the Executive Branch}, and socialistic. They will tear apart families and so inevitably tear apart the country built from families.

And so on.

Today, I'm going to try and look at Obama's most famous speech thus far, the Call to Renewal Speech, given on June 28, 2006. One op-ed said this is the most important speech on religion and politics since President Kennedy declared his independence from the Vatican. Maybe this will give a bit of insight into Obama's "faith" and how integrated it is into his soul.

Politicians are usually a bit fractured, and I don't just mean Democrats.

The Intersection of Religion and Abortion

In response to something Alan Keyes had said, Obama says near the beginning of his speech:
Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, he was saying, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

And so what would my supporters have me say? How should I respond? Should I say that a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? Should I say that Mr. Keyes, who is a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?

Unwilling to go there, I answered with what has come to be the typically liberal response in such debates - namely, I said that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can't impose my own religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.
Later on, he says:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Now, that was a lot of words, so let's try to boil it down to the major points:

  1. Alan Keyes points out the conflict of faith in Obama saying he is a Christian while supporting the murder of the unborn.
  2. Obama responds by explaining he has no right to impose his religious views on other people.
  3. Obama explains democracy to us, that it requires us to "translate" our concerns into universal values.
  4. Democracy requires that all proposals be subject to reason.
  5. My point: Implied here is that there are no reasons to oppose abortion other than religious reasons, that standing in opposition to abortion is, to some extent irrational or intellectually untenable. Also, Obama, who if elected would vow to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, doesn't even attempt to use the Constitution's basic language which, in the 10th Amendment, reveals that the Federal Government has no power over social issues like abortion and that each state is responsible for its own moral governance. This would have gotten him out of a lot of trouble!
  6. Politics, Obama tells us, is based on compromise.
  7. My point:Obama's God is powerless to stand in a "pluralistic" democracy.
All of this is quite interesting to me when I consider that, to Obama, abortion is actually not a religious issue at all. It is, in fact, a tool for freeing women from the responsibilities of family life. Abortion, coupled with Preschool for All, has the power to make Woman a Man.

But let me not get sidetracked. My point here is this: Obama claims to be a Christian, of this there is no doubt. In the speech, he talks about his conversion experience. However, he cannot be expected to rule as a Christian. I have heard the argument made that a Christian should vote for Obama because he himself is a Christian.

Now, there are many nice Christians out there that would make terrible Presidents, but that is beside the point.

Obama has made it clear that pluralism, rather than religion is where is alliances lie. He will not be tied down to Christianity in how he makes decisions, and anytime he signs a law that stands in opposition to the faith he professes, he will pull out the Diversity Card. He will say he is representing all the people, not just Christians, and so he is obligated to sign immoral legislation.

But what if Lincoln had said that the only arguments made against slavery were religious ones? That abolishing slavery didn't stand up to logic, and beside, plurality demanded its acceptance?

This is ridiculous to us because we understand intuitively that the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, these are not mere arbitrary religious edicts. Instead, they are revelations of a created order. The world works best when governments submit themselves to these revealed laws. When murder and stealing are legal {in the form of abortion and redistribution of wealth through the medium of the IRS}, families break apart, greed and class envy and selfishness are encouraged, and the fabric of society begins to unravel.

Moreover, the "separation of church and state" that Obama insists on hiding behind when discussing the abortion issue, as well as many other moral issues, was never intended to be about morality. It was basically a declaration that the government would {1} not institute a State denomination and {2} wouldn't get involved in petty {or important, for that matter} denominational differences.

This was never saying that the government couldn't uphold basic levels of morality that were in keeping with the observed created order. Obama is right. He can't impose his religious views on others. But, in the world of the Founders, this didn't mean he couldn't stand up against abortion, infanticide, genocide, and the other horrors of the day. It meant he couldn't force every citizen to attend church or engage in religious rituals like communion or baptism.


I just had an aha moment as I am sitting here typing.

I get it.

Obama's religion is not transcendent. This is why it doesn't apply to a "pluralistic" society. His religion is true for him. Not true for all. And I'm not even sure he thinks his faith rests on any reason or logic whatsoever, after reading his words.

There is a sense in which I do appreciate his speech. After all, he is the first socialist politician in a long time to not fully sideline serious Christians. But there is another sense in which he is actually more dangerous by doing this.

You see, instead of separating Christians from the culture as many politicians before him, he is actually attempting to separate religion from the Christian.

20 February 2008

Obamarama 2008: Government Schools

The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism.
But under the name of ‘liberalism’
they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program…

--Norman Thomas
(Six-Time Socialist Candidate for President)

I am writing this assuming that you, Dear Reader, have been around Afterthoughts for a while. There is too much context that goes into a discussion on education, something I have neither the time nor inclination to recreate for the purpose of this post. If you need some context, or just a brief context refresher course, allow me to give you a few links.

-Why We Homeschool is perhaps my most comprehensive post concerning our family's spiritual reasons for homeschooling. For us, homeschooling is primarily a religious act, though please note that our religion encompasses all of life, and so we are not make a sacred/secular dichotomy when we say this.

-My comments in Why We Homeschool further explain that we are not jaded public school students. However, one reason why it was easy for me to embrace homeschooing was that I realized that every formative educational experience that I can remember having took place within a family or church environment.

-Why We Don't Charter School {Part V} was a discussion on homeschooling as a political act, an economic act, an act of liberty. I explained the socialistic nature of government schools in general, and how far we have come from the days of Davy Crockett and respect for the Rule of Law. Government education, when funded at the federal level, is technically unconstitutional.

There are more links, but these are the best sources of context for this current discussion.

There are many different educational approaches covered in Obama's Position Paper on K-12 Education. I will not be able to discuss all of it. I believe lots of it isn't much of Anything New. However, I will bring up what I believe to be the biggest weaknesses, one positive, and the looming threats to homeschoolers.

Zero to Five Education

Yesterday, I discussed socialism's undermining of the nuclear family. As we see here, everything is connected.

How young should a child leave home? How young should a child be when they are forsaken by their parents for many hours every day? How does a family remain intact when every activity necessarily separates their lives emotionally, geographically, and socially? These are just a few questions I have when the idea of preschool is raised.

Obama's plan for this area can be boiled down to this: he will pour lots of federal money into early childhood education, and he will encourage every state to replicate Illinois' Preschool for All program.

Many folks will point out that Preschool for All, like many Universal Preschool proposals, are voluntary. All I can say is so is kindergarten. And yet, we are the only family I know of that chooses to opt out. And, actually, we feel quite obligated to do kindergarten at home. In our area, the only socially accepable reason to keep a child out of kindergarten is if you have a boy who is immature. And even then it is expected that he will begin his schooling in kindergarten, only a year later than his peers.

So my prediction is that Preschool for All will become what it says: preschool for every child. Or, more accurately, children leaving home at younger and younger ages. The separation of the family. The elimination of any potential Shema-like relationship with even our youngest members.

And I think we mustn't be fooled. Though many politicians claim there is research supporting these sorts of programs, I have yet to read an actual study. {If you know of one, please email me a link.} This is really an attempt to legitimize daycare. To keep women unencumbered by their children so that they can go into the "real world" like a man does.

Obama's paper says:
Though parents remain the first teachers for our children, an increasing number of infants and toddlers spend significant parts of their day with caretakers other than their parents.
Two observations: {1} Is anyone else disturbed that the children are referred to as "our" children instead of the parents' children? This was how Hitler referred to children when he outlawed homeschooling in the Reich. {2} Obama is failing to deal with the root issue. The problem here is not the lack of preschool, but that parents are parting with their children in the first place. Reasons vary. Selfishness and economic hardship are probably the top two.

If Obama wants to build a better America, he should formulate policies that support God's design for family. This would include building an American in which families can spend more time together, not less. Where children remain at home for more years, not fewer. Where the pressures on families are lessened, not increased. Preschool, especially cheap or free preschool, is supposed to make us feel better about leaving our children. But I don't think we should be leaving them at all.

"Support" for Parents with Young Children

Obama's paper says:
Proven benefits of these types of programs include improved women's prenatal health, a reduction in childhood injuries, fewer unintended pregnancies, increased involvement of fathers and increased maternal employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children's school readiness.
Before I analyze the parts I highlighted in the above sentence, I find it important to note that I do not think Obama is all bad. I do not think he is a evil man with evil intentions. What I do think is that is worldview is completely different from that of traditional Christianity. His programs, therefore, seek "benefits" that I do not consider benefits.

In the above sentence, I highlighted the idea that Obama's parent education would benefit sociey by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and increasing the level of maternal employment. We are not told how Obama's plan would reduce pregnancy, but my guess, after reading many of his statements, is that abortion would be considered a useful tool in accomplishing this goal. Also, since "maternal employment" is beneficial, we see how this form of education dovetails nicely with the Preschool for All program.

In essence, all of the early education for the family is focused on separating the members from one another. We encourage women to have fewer children, get a job, and leave the children the do have with a state employee who is trained to encourage those children to grow up...and do the same.

Money, Money

At this point, a lot of the plan goes into the financial aspects of training and recruiting teachers. There will be lots of government money flowing not just into the schools, but into the teachers themselves. They will be given scholarships. They will be given higher pay. And even higher pay if they work in schools that no one wants to work in.

To some extent, I can't say that this is a bad idea. One of the reasons there are so few men employed by the schools is due to the low pay. There is no way for a man to fully provide for his family at the lower end of the payscale. If a man becomes a teacher while he is single, he might be able to move up the ranks a bit before taking a wife and bearing children. But a man in his early thirties would be highly unlikely to consider a move into the education industry.

I suppose I consider this important for two reasons: {1} Even though I didn't have one of those ideal teachers in my experience, the type that you remember for the rest of your life {or so they say}, I can say with certainty that every male teacher I had but two outshined every single female teacher. Part of this might have been from their inherent ability to better control the classroom. My other guess was that they were more logical in their explanations of the subjects--I only remember being confused when under the instruction of female teachers.

Granted, this is completely subjective, but There You Go.

The number {2} reason is so much more imporant: In a world where men are vilified daily, and where women are encouraged to scorn them, there isn't much better method for combatting such hateful ideology than to have good male teachers in the schools.

This includes Christian schools, who could also stand to pay their teachers more.

Science and Math

Obama's plan wants to increase American competency in science and math. For instance,
Obama will also support state efforts to make science education a priority at the pre-K level.
The Obama campaign is making a huge assumption: starting earlier necessarily leads to greater competency. But many would say the opposite is true. RAND Corporation, for example, has a paper on their website discussing the benefits of delaying kindergarten altogether. These benefits reportedly do not fade over time, and are greater for disadvantaged children.

Delaying kindergarten is associated with higher math scores. The RAND paper goes on, however, to explain the real reasons our society does what it does:
While delaying kindergarten has a positive cognitive effect for all children, it can also have a negative economic effect on families by imposing additional childcare costs for families whose children are forced to stay out of school for another year.
So the delay benefits the children, but not the mothers, who are encouraged to work rather than raise children. Therefore, we will sacrifice math scores in the name of cheap childcare.

It is my personal belief that math and science are best saved for a more mature mind. This is based on a number of research papers I have read, none of which I have time to explain here. My purpose in stating this is only to point out that the Obama point of view is not the only point of view, nor is it necessarily even an accurate point of view.

School-family Contracts

The Obama plan says:
The Obama plan will encourage schools and parents to work together to establish a school-family contract laying out expectations for student attendance, behavior, and homework.
{1} This undermines the father as head of his home. Now he must work with the school in setting expectations for his own child. Of course, this is a benefit of homeschooling, but most children are public schooled. Here is another instance of the destruction of traditional family structures. {2} Ask this family how they feel about giving the schools this level of control. In essence, the schools killed their child.

Josiah Says

Si emailed me a little sentence from Obama's website concerning education:
From the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is their teacher.
I have already told you that, in my own experience, this statement is false. But I thought Si's observations, trying to analyze this statement through a biblical lense, was very astute:
What about personal initiative? Parental influence is foundation, right? {Deut. 6:7-9 gives parents full rights and responsibilities to educate children; Prov. 9:10 speaks of true understanding; Prov. 1 is an education from father to son.}
Taken to its logical conclusion, I would say that the State is attempting to replace the father in many areas. Education is only one.

And, by the way, this started with Bush the "Republican conservative," not Obama.

Where is the Homeschool?

My biggest concern after reading this paper is that homeschooling doesn't fit. This paper basically spells out the implementing of an educational system that has no room for parent-directed education that takes place in the more poetic environment of the home. There is no room for the child who would benefit from delaying math until eight, or even ten years of age.

And that concerns me. Folks who believe in the public school system have occasionally said that homeschoolers are abandoning the public schools. That they will fail if we are not there.

When I see a worldview that views education through the lens of an institution, I get concerned.

Very concerned.

Undermining the Rule of Law

The Constitution makes no room for the President to be involved in the education of individual children. The Founders would be appalled. We need a President who recognizes God's design for society--a President who begins not by referring to "our children," as if children were community property, but by referring to "your children" and "my children," children who belong to a family.

I will leave you with a couple quotes from Ron Paul, who is the biggest contrast to the above that I can think of:
The federal government does not own our children. Yet we act as if it does by letting it decide when, how, and what our children will learn. {source}
Returning control of education to parents is the centerpiece of my education agenda...I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. I also believe that, as long as No Child Left Behind remains law, it must include the protections for home schoolers included in sec. 9506 {enshrining home schoolers’ rights} and 9527 {guaranteeing no national curriculum}.

Federal monies must never be used to undermine the rights of homeschooling parents. I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to encourage a culture of educational freedom throughout the nation. {source}

19 February 2008

Obamarama 2008: Obama and the Eradication of the Traditional Family

The family is the association established by nature
for the supply of man's everyday wants.


I don't pretend to really understand why socialism tends to require the devastation of the nuclear family. We see this is many dystopian novels, most notably in 1984 and Brave New World. But I had expected that when I first read them. After all, they are about the disaster of government control.

What I found fascinating is that this destruction of the family is often found, in glowing description, in perhaps the earliest story of its kind, Thomas More's Utopia. Granted, it doesn't sound so bad when More portrays it all in such a positive light, but it is there nonetheless. "Families" are not organized in the manner that God intended {according to blood}, but rather in a way that is convenient for the community as a whole. Food is eaten in community and children are raised in community, and there don't seem to be expectations that children would be tied to their particular parents or whatnot.

My only guess is that socialism elevates the State above all else. {Remember I said that it, in essence, declares itself to be God?} The family sometimes gets in the way of the State. This is, for instance, why Germany persecutes their homeschoolers. They do not want children to have a greater allegiance to family or religion because this is not in the State's best interests.

Another guess is that family is deeply tied to private property, something else that Marxism stands against. After all, sons, or at least first-born sons, have the traditional priviledge of inheriting their father's estate, and also perhaps caring for their father's widow and/or remaining minor children. This intrudes upon the State's desire to {1} own and control all property, and {2} own and control all people, especially the "needy."

The Communist Manifesto doesn't acknowledge God. It doesn't believe that the family was the first form of culture created by the LORD, and therefore the unit from which all larger culture is derived. Instead, it necessitates the eradication of the family structure that God created in Genesis. It also, by the way, calls for the elimination of religion. The State, again, doesn't want any competing interests.

We see the abolition of the family in a speech given by Obama on 1.22.08, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In the tradition of Margaret Sanger before him, who almost single-handedly brought about the legalization of birth control in our country, which quickly brought about the ultimate form of birth control {abortion}, Obama rightly interprets Roe v. Wade to be about more than abortion. It is part of a larger movement to organize society in a certain way. It makes the statement that women can be like men. You see, since the primary difference between men and women is that women can bear children and nurse them, killing the baby in the womb eliminates differences. A woman's life no longer has to stop for children, it no longer has to consider anyone but the Self. Which serves the purposes of the State. If the Self has great allegiances to family and faith, the State is annoyed by this.

Obama says:
But we also know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman's right to choose; it's about equality. It's about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. And so to truly honor that decision, we need to update the social contract so that women can free themselves, and their children, from violent relationships; so that a mom can stay home with a sick child without getting a pink slip; so that she can go to work knowing that there's affordable, quality childcare for her children; and so that the American dream is within reach for every family in this country.
This is the elimination of the family spelled out. First, we do away with gender distinctions and gender roles. We kill our babies when they are in our way. Women work, and children are raised, not by mothers and fathers, but by State-subsidized employees. Perhaps the children attend public school before heading to their federally-funded after-school care for the remainder of the day. Men are often demonized in this context. If mentioned at all, they are irresponsible, "dead-beat," or violent, which is really a way of dismissing them from the entire conversation. After all, encouraging women to see men in a positive light would be counterproductive; it would encourage marriage and family.

It is interesting to me that Obama is himself the head of a nuclear family when what he believes is obviously in direct contradiction to such an arrangement. What is the American family to Obama? It certainly doesn't include men. His statement is primarily focused on the woman who has the power to tear down her house with her own hands.

If the woman goes the way of the socialist-enlightened self, there will be no family.

18 February 2008

Obamarama 2008: Obama's American Dream

We all want progress.
But progress means getting nearer to the place
where you want to be.
And if you have taken a wrong turning,
then to go forward
does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road,
progress means doing an about-turn
and walking back to the right road;
and in that case
the man who turns back soonest
is the most progressive man.
-C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Happy President's Day, and welcome to Obamarama 2008. This is a week-long romp through the real content available concerning Barak Hussein Obama's positions, beliefs, convictions, and whatnot. I am utilizing various sources: speeches, voting record, statements posted on official website, etc. All the while I've been doing the research, I'm looking for words that have real, defined meaning.

Words like progress, change, and unity are favorites for politicians because they can be twisted any which way.

So what do you think of when you consider the so-called American Dream? House, white-picket fence, 1.8 kids and 2 dogs? Two-car garage? Lots of stuff filling the rooms of that house? What is it?

For me, the American Dream, if I'm going to call it that, exists in the world of ideas. It's not about stuff, because stuff changes over time. What is valuable to one generation can be useless to the next. So if I'm going to consider a transcendent American Dream, it needs to be ideas.

A great starting point is the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life? My right to live. My neighbor's right to live. And my unborn child's right to live. Liberty? Freedom from government intervention when I speak political speech, when I worship my God, when I vote, when I buy a gun, when I meet with others. Pursuit of happiness? The only thing guaranteed is the pursuit. My government and my neighbor do not owe me success in my ventures. Some of us may be more successful than others due to our talents, giftings, and work ethic, and that is okay with me.

One person's fortune is, after all, not my misfortune.

So this is the bare-bones outline of the American Dream as I see it. Transcendent. Fairly true to the Founder's intentions as I understand them.

Obama's definition is different from mine.

In a press release on 12.19.07, the Obama Campaign declared:
Barack Obama's comprehensive plan to help working families reclaim the American Dream will:

* Provide a middle class tax cut of $500 for 150 million working Americans - $1,000 per working family - and eliminate the income tax for 7 million seniors making less than $50,000 per year.

* Address the challenge of balancing work and family by guaranteeing workers paid sick days, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act {FMLA}, supporting paid FMLA, and doubling funding for after-school programs.

* Help Americans buy and keep their homes - including a tax credit to help more than 10 million American homeowners pay their mortgages, with an average of $500 in savings.

* Protect American families by reforming bankruptcy laws, predatory credit card policies, and abusive payday lending practices.

* Reduce health care costs by $2,500 for a typical family.

* Strengthen retirement security by automatically enrolling workers in portable retirement accounts and providing additional incentives for Americans to save.

* Put the cost of college in reach by providing a $4,000 refundable tax credit available at the time of enrollment, and create a Community College Partnership Program to strengthen this vital resource for American students.

* Ease the financial hardship of rising home heating costs by releasing a portion of the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to stabilize prices and funding and expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Let's break this down a bit:

  1. Tax relief for the poor. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but the problem is what else he wants to do. Letting them (Us? I wonder how he defines "poor." We often qualify...) keep their own money isn't enough. Because...
  2. He's going to guarantee that we get sick days off paid, plus he's going to pay for the after-school care for our kids. One thing to ask ourselves is where the money will come from. Sick days are great, but let us not forget that our employer pays for them. Essentially, the employer pays us not to work. It is wonderful when an employer can be so generous. But how much liberty is involved (and how much generosity, which much necessarily be free) when such things are compulsory? On the other hand, our fellow taxpayers will foot the bill, paying to care for our children while we work. So we won't pay much in taxes, but taxes will pay a lot for us!
  3. Help us buy and keep our homes. He'll give us a tax credit, but I'm concerned by the language. It implies that everyone should own a home. I agree this is ideal. But some folks don't own homes because they've been irresponsible. Or because they live somewhere where the school districts have so pushed up the cost of living that they would have to relocate in order to afford a home of their own. This is a complicated issue. And the more the government has gotten involved, the more complicated it has become.
  4. He will protect us by reforming bankruptcy laws. Would this make it easier for us to go bankrupt? Easier for us to bow out on our debts? Refusing to pay a person we owe is sinful behavior. Is Obama saying he will encourage this? And though he's going get rid of "abusive lending practices," I have yet to hear him {or anyone else} comment on how he would encourage the elimination of a debt-based economy {which is completely unbiblical, by the way}.
  5. He'll reduce our health care costs by $2500 per year on average. Will he do this by stealing that money from someone richer than us and using those stolen dollars to pay for our health care? Or will he force our employers, already suffering under the heavy government hand, to try and come up with all of the money for health care? And has anyone noticed that the more "guaranteed" health care is, the higher the cost becomes? And I wonder how many jobs will be lost when employers have to come up with all this extra money?
  6. He's gonna require us to get an IRA. This sounds to me like Big Brother is going to help us be more responsible by making decisions for us. We can start an IRA now, of course. We have that right. Anyone in this country already has the freedom to go and start saving for retirement today. Right now. The difference is that the Obama Plan will try to make it mandatory. We will be able to opt-out of the program, from my understanding.
  7. He's going to "put the cost of college within reach"...by giving us money, of course. He'll give us a tax credit. Around $4000 actually. And most of us "poor" don't pay that much in taxes, so this is actually taking someone else's money and giving it to us. It's kind of like getting paid to go to school instead of getting a job. Makes me itch for a master's degree.
  8. He's even going to pay for the cost of heating our homes in the winter! We will be warm and toasty all winter long, and it's free to us! Some rich guy out there somewhere will pay for it for us, and it doesn't matter because we deserve a cut of that guy's wealth. After all, he's just lucky.

My belief is that the Obama campaign, like many other campaigns, appeals to sinful vices, most notably class envy. I will go into greater detail on this later in the week. Well, I will if I remember to! I have pregnancy brain fog, so bear with me...or send me nagging emails.

Obama passes the Fabian test on this one. What's a Fabian exactly? Well, Wikipedia gives a pretty accurate definition:
The Fabian Society is a British socialist intellectual movement, whose purpose is to advance the socialist cause by gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary means.
I've quoted Griffin before:
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.
What we have to understand here, before we go on, is that communism and socialism have the same end goals. Yes, I would say the former is superior to the latter because of its nonviolent nature, but that is where the distinctions end. The goals of communism and socialism are the centrality and superiority of the state. This is why statism, as I call it, is in direct conflict with Christianity. When everything and everyone exists and moves and has its being with the permission of the State, when all things flow through and come from the State, the State has declared itself, for all practical purposes, God.

And let me remind you that we have never been a socialist country {unless you count the Jamestown failure}. Is this what Obama means when he uses the word change? As most other countries in the world are fleeing their socialist failures, will Obama take down the road to the almost-total government control found in socialism?

Tomorrow, we'll talk about how Obama's speech on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade embodies some of the foundational points made in Marx's Communist Manifesto.

16 February 2008

Tics: There and Back Again {Part V}

I know you all think I'm a baby for crying about this, but I was simply overwhelmed. I had spent a lot of time {as in years} figuring out a way for us to eat nutritious food as inexpensively as possible. To find out that most of my cooking was {1} contributing to the problem and {2} not going to work anymore sent me over the edge.

Like I always do when I hit a breaking point, I cry off and on for about 24 hours, and then I am fine. Si is always bewildered by this behavior, but it works for me.

After this, I became Mama On A Mission. And I've been on a mission ever since.

First, I experimented. Was it really wheat? Um...most emphatically yes. Feed him a slice a bread, and watch him lose control. Take him back off, and again he is fine. Of course, he was still off of all artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. He was still off of all cow's milk products, though he does fine with goat, sheep, etc. This kid's food is the epitome of pure. On a given day, if he is having tics, I can trace it to some food he was fed that had a label I wasn't completely confident about.

I don't know if this is permanent. Will he outgrow it? Or will he need to watch his food for the rest of his life? I don't know, but my hunch is that I need to pray he finds a wife that loves cooking and isn't afraid of alternative grains.

One of the best books I have read during this time is a cookbook, actually, and yet so much more than a cookbook. It is, in fact, my new best friend and we spend a lot of time together throughout the week. Care to meet her?

Nourishing Traditions:
The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition
and the Diet Dictocrats

The first quarter or so of this "cookbook" is actually more of a primer on nutrition based on research done on native diets, long-lived people groups, etc. It was fascinating, to say the least. This book was a great match for me because I learned a few tricks to enhance the nutrition of foods we already eat. It also has a quick reference page that teaches a person how to use alternative grains in almost any recipe within the book.

My son doesn't eat wheat. Actually, none of us really do because I cook the same thing for all of us. But he is learning to eat teff, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, tapioca, and arrowroot.

I have also determined that this situation is not a simple wheat allergy, but all gluten. This means barley, rye, and most oats are also off-limits. While testing E. for gluten issues, I also tested A. Turns out, A.'s tummy trouble, compulsive thumb sucking, and certain other strange behaviors also quickly evaporated on a gluten-free, casein-free diet!

While on our trip to Nashville, it became clear that both E. and A. are also quite sensitive to soy {which is one of the major allergens in this world}. I had been watching for it thanks to this book:

Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder

It's inspiring, and it also has helped our own family. Now my nephew, who was born with birth defects and has had need for ABA therapy due to serious behavior issues is a different person! My sister says that going GFCF has given her family their life back.

So, this is now our life. We eat at home, I cook from scratch, and E. is completely free of tics. And, as and aside, I thought I'd mention that E. and A. both had mysterious mild yet chronic tummy aches that have also disappeared.

All of this was done...

Without drugs.

Without expensive tests.

Without preschool.

So I have some final thoughts for parents whose children have strange problems. I am not anti-medicine. I believe doctoring, like other trades, has its place. If I break my arm, I want to see a doctor, not a nutritionist. However, modern medicine has a view of the person that is, in my opinion, quite myopic. This is why parents must read and learn and think through a child's problem. No one knows that child better than you.

Also, don't be afraid of finding a different venue for checking out your child. For instance, if the doctor wants to put the child under to perform an EEG, sometimes a similar test can be done while awake by a biofeedback technician. If you are concerned about a brain tumor, talk with your optometrist first. Ours dilated our son's eyes and checked for a number of signs of tumors and neurological distress.

Get creative. A nutritionist, an optometrist, a dentist {teeth can reveal a lot about a person's general health}--all have a different perspective and can help you develop a picture of the whole child and where various problems or contributing factors might lie.

All of this began, for us, in a single day. Here we are now, a year and a half later, and we are practically normal {except for our eating habits}, and so much wiser.

God has answered our prayers. Our son is healthy, strong, functioning, and growing.

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV

15 February 2008

Obamarama Next Week!

C'mon. I couldn't resist such a title. You know you think it's funny. So what is Obamarama, exactly? Well, it's not nearly as silly as it sounds. It's a challenge, actually, to all my brilliant and thinking readers out there.

Let me explain.

I have a knee-jerk rejection of Obama. I fully admit this. He's a Democrat, and though I feel the urge to cut up my own party's card {does anyone really have a card?}, I am adamantly not a Democrat. Yes, this starts with the abortion issue. But really, it flows through my entire view on government's place in the world.

My instincts tell me that Obama is a traditional Democrat Fabian, definitely a socialist, but perhaps actually a communist at heart? It's hard to tell with a guy who has mastered the part of dispensing meaningless soundbites.

And I don't just make that last statement to slight the guy. I mean I literally listen to his speeches {well, excerpts courtesy of the media} and there are very few words that have actual, defined meaning. He speaks sentence after sentence that can be interpreted any which way. He rarely discusses policy {outside of the war}, and when he does it is in a vague manner.

Of course, most politicians do this. If someone else were the media's darling, I'd be picking on them.

So here's my challenge:

  1. Do some research. Let's make it fun and pull our collective intellectual resources. Si has already started on this, and I invite you all to join us. Go through his website. Examine his YouTube speeches. Read transcripts of speeches. Most importantly, try and find his voting record. Look for real facts and concrete evidence. Being "for change" and "unity" is not real because, to my knowledge, he has never given a substantial definition of what he actually means by this. Look for the real deal.
  2. Analyze it. Not everything will be easy to pin down using the Bible, but I highly suggest that your analysis be focused on either defending or attacking Obama's position using Scripture. Remember, Scripture is useful for everything. This includes figuring out economics or solving our educational woes. By the way, this doesn't mean you have to write a ten-page paper. You could just say something like, "He voted for x, which seems in conflict with the Bible in verse y:z." Make sense?
  3. Email me your findings. One finding, a page of findings, whatever you like. I want to spend most of next week posting on Obama's actual positions. I will post not just what I think, but what you readers think. I will quote you, as long as you cite your sources.

I've been getting lots of emails spreading lies about Obama, that he is openly Muslim, that he swore in on the Koran, that sort of thing. These things are not true. However, my gut instinct is that there are plenty of intelligent and spiritual reasons not to vote for him. But let's find out {together} if I'm right or wrong.

14 February 2008

Why We Homeschool

Ack. I am cringing at my own title. Talking about homeschooling can be such a sensitive issue. In my experience {which is admittedly tiny}, folks that choose not to homeschool often feel judged by the fact that we homeschool. And this is without discussing our reasons. I have just observed folks {close friends excepted} get defensive.

And I think it might be because they have met a judgmental homeschooling family out there somewhere. Or maybe they heard that homeschoolers judge nonhomeschoolers. Or maybe they are struggling with the issue of homeschooling, and when we say we homeschool, that touches a sore spot with them.

I say this when really what I want to say is that the purpose of this post is not to judge. It is to explain. Someone dared to ask, after all. And actually I was asked last week as well, by someone else. This post is really a cutting-and-pasting from an email to someone who asked.

My desire for this post is that it {1} helps any readers understand why we do what we do and {2} inspires others to think through why they do what they do. This doesn't mean we all have to come to the same conclusion. In fact, a lot of our decisions are based on how we define education, what we see as the primary purposes of education, and so on. And not everyone defines it the same way. If we differ at the definitions, we will probably differ in our conclusions, and I don't really see that as a reason to break fellowship.

And I think that was my longest disclaimer ever. He he he.

Okay. So why do we homeschool? Why in the world do we do what we do? Why am I torturing myself right now, trying to read a child's biography of General Custer aloud while doubled-over with nausea caused by Number Four?

Well, there are a few reasons, and they all sort of go together:

  1. The Shema {Deuteronomy 6} This is where God explains that the Israelites are to teach their children about Him while they sit in their homes, while they walk by the way, when they lie down, and when they rise up. It is later explained that this will protect the Israelites from forgetting the LORD and what He has done for them. While we understand that this was something specific to the Israelites on the one hand, we also believe it is a basic principle to consider when we want to accomplish certain goals. Goals like not forgetting the LORD and passing down the legacy of faith through the generations. To us, this looks like a family lifestyle. We feel that homeschooling best allows for us to try and do this--pass our faith to our children by living alongside them and conversing with them. Even though every single subject and conversation isn't theological, we are able to think about everything Christianly with them, something we couldn't train their minds to do if we were separate from them, especially for the majority of the day.

  2. The Biblical Definition of Knowledge {Proverbs 1:7} The Bible says that knowledge begins with the fear of the LORD. In chapter 9 of Proverbs, I think it is said a little differently, something like the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One brings understanding. We believe that all education, because it deals with the soul, is inherently religious. And since the parents are directed in the Bible to be the primary source of religious training for the children, we are most comfortable with homeschooling.

  3. The Child is the Parent's Responsibility This isn't something I have a specific Bible verse for, just a general principle we see in Scripture. The parents, rather than the church or the school, are the ones held accountable by God for how the child is raised. The parents are to raise him, discipline him, instruct him, discover and nurture his bent, etc. Because of this, we choose to homeschool. We feel that it allows us a measure of control that is appropriate to the level of responsibility God has given to us. To some extent, I guess we would say that we think we are simply doing our job as we understand our job to be defined.
There are many other benefits to homeschooling {keeping them safe, getting to know them better, having a flexible schedule, knowing that their teacher loves them, spending more time together as a family, doing ministry during the day, not having to worry about the food allergies, etc., etc.}. We choose to say that these are benefits we enjoy, but not the reason why we do things.

By the way, this doesn't mean that we think that children can only learn from their parents. We just choose for parents to be the primary source of instruction, especially the younger the child is. But we have friends and family with gifts and talents that we fully intend to tap into as our children grow {if they are willing to share}. We read books, and use them as our teachers. We are not opposed to hiring private tutors for specific subjects {music, science, whatever is necessary}. We just choose for our home {rather than an institution} to be the center of our educational project.

Finally, might I add resources. There have been a couple books that helped us flesh out these reasons. The first was When You Rise Up by RC Sproul, Jr. I don't agree with his entire ministry, but the book was very impactful. However, we weren't impressed with the academic side. He seemed to minimize learning disabilities or illiteracy because the children were still "learning about the LORD," and we thought those parents were doing their children a great disservice to not deal with those issues! So when we read the first two or three chapters of Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, we were thrilled to find kindred spirits: folks that truly wanted a Christian education that was also rigorous academically! You might find these books interesting if you are wanting to explore more extensive thinking on why to homeschool.

13 February 2008

Poetry and Science Holding Hands

It's been many years now since we first decided to homeschool our children. Our reasons are different now than they were then. I didn't realize this until fairly recently when a fellow homeschooling mom asked me what got us started on homeschooling. She didn't ask, "Why do you homeschool?" She asked why we got started in the first place. And I had a moment of revelation, realizing that sometimes we continue to do the Same Thing for Very Different Reasons.

Once upon a time our reasons for homeschooling were what I would call reactive. This doesn't make them wrong, but just different than they are now. At the time we saw the overall quality {there were exceptions, of course} of elementary education majors at our university {yes, some of them hated reading and didn't have a clue as to the names of the classics}, and we cringed. We saw public school students in our area with a frown on their face when they discussed anything even slightly academic, and we cringed. We witnessed said public school students grow up to be young adults who could not carry a thought, speak in a complete sentence, or read a book for independent learning and enjoyment, and we cringed.

We did not want this for our family. Not for ourselves. Not for our children.

We didn't know much about how we would do it all. I can't say we had any goals at the time, other than to not turn out like the general population.

See what I mean by reactive?

Slowly, over the years, we have come up with qualities we desire to see within our school, virtues we hope to cultivate, ideas we want to develop, subjects we wish to conquer, etc. In other words, we are now proactive.

We have real goals.

And one of those goals is wonder. Or perhaps some would call it delight.

This is actually very different from the focus on entertainment we see in some public schools. In entertainment, the point is to keep their attention or to make them laugh. Moreover, I think an entertainment focus means that the self is the center of it all. The self exists to be served by everything external to it.

In entertainment-driven education, the self is god.

This is not the same as wonder. In wonder, the self is very tiny, and it stands, hopefully in humility, before a large and awesome Creator. The self realizes that it knows very little, but that it was created to learn and grow, and it delights in learning because this is its purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This purpose begins on earth, glorifying Him and delighting in who He is and what He has made.

James Taylor would call this initial act of wonder and delight Poetic Knowledge. It is something that happens spontaneously. I would add that it usually happens when the soul is left in a bit of solitude, uninterrupted by the noise of the world. Taylor writes:
[S]ince modern philosophies have emerged that no longer regard knowing the truth as natural, or even possible, where what was recognized as self-evident is replaced with a system of doubt, under such conditions, Pieper says, learning is now perceived exclusively as work, rather than an act of leisure. In other words, the modern idea of learning is dominated by the ratio, and the simplex intuitus acts of the mind are dismissed as irrelevant under a scientific idea of knowledge. There are no "givens" nor can "inspiration" be taken seriously as valid knowledge--all is mental work and the student, more and more, becomes the intellectual laborer. Leisure and poetic knowledge suffocate under the weight of this new scientific philosophy where the way is opened for the school and all its operations to function quite comfortably with imagery analogous to a factory where products are produced for a marketplace.

In contrast to the modern perception of the knower as laborer, is the poetic nature of the human being. And the poetic mode at this level easily merges with a philosophy not yet ruled by methods of academic procedures...


Certainly, no one can seriously imagine someone working hard and being proud of the difficulty encountered in falling in love; or of the great effort needed to listen to beautiful music; or of an honorable endurance required to watch an evening's setting sun. When difficulty becomes meritorious is when one will give one's life for the beloved, or will go to great sacrifice to conserve a life that includes beautiful music and the sight of setting suns; but that is only because one has first loved {known} these things in leisure, experienced the rest, the union, and as a consequence, always yearns to return to them.
So at this point, we must wonder about the "expert." Modern education is quite the cult of the expert. And we all know experts work hard to master their subject. Does knowing in depth stand in contrast to poetic knowledge? Will it kill the soul? These questions naturally arise, I think, from this line of thinking.

Thankfully, Taylor clears it up for us:
Of course, there is real effort required at some point in learning, and often great effort is required to learn something well. But this is a situation that arises after the experience of wonder--if it arises at all--and the exertion for this kind of learning is usually in the student on the way to becoming a specialist or expert. And, even in the case of the specialist, the true scientist for example, there would always be the memory of the original love of the thing about which he first wondered. Consider again Pasteur, Fabre, and the Faraday in this light. They all retained the initial vision of the beginner, the amateur, the one who loves.
We can often see this sort of thing in the master craftsman as well. My son loves to build things and tear things apart and fix them. If he became good--even excellent--at this, would he loves these things any less? No! In fact, I would say that perhaps he would love them more because he knows and understands them more intimately. Moreover, because his knowledge is driven by love there is a chance it wouldn't feel like work.

At least not like grueling, distasteful work.

So the depth of the knowledge, the science, if you will, doesn't dehumanize the learner if it is built on the foundation of the poetic, of love.

So to my children I say: may you always have the heart of the amateur, even when you have the skill of the master.