Sunday, August 31, 2008

What does it mean to be conservative?

It seems that the labels "conservative" and "liberal" are being thrown around a lot lately. One day I heard a young man at Wal-Mart ask his friend, "What does it mean to be conservative?" The first thought that popped into my head questioned his intelligence. Certainly we all know the definition of conservative and liberal, right-wing and left-wing. As the election season progresses I am forced to re-evaluate my beliefs about this subject.

Being a conservative means that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people believes that the people are intelligent enough, educated enough, and moral enough to govern their own actions. I think that true conservatives neither want, nor need, government intervention in most parts of their lives. I don't want the government to tell me how to live my life. I don't want the government to offer to improve my life. I don't want the government to step in and tell me which moral codes I need to meet. And I'm ok with the idea that if the government doesn't do those things for me, my neighbors might make different choices than I do. I'm ok with the possibility that I might create a mess that costs me everything. I'm ok without the government supplying me with a safety net to catch me when I fall.

I do think the function of government is to supply support for infrastructure (roads, bridges, and some technology). I think the national government is the perfect entity to coordinate a national defense. I think that there are a few offenses so heinous that there should be laws in place to prevent harm to innocents and provide recourse in the event someone commits those crimes. I do not think that most things short of murder and rape should be outlawed. I do think that the judicial branch of the government is incredibly important when it comes to interpreting laws and punishing criminals.

What I am opposed to is the belief that the government is responsible for the health and well-being of each citizen (and sometimes non-citizens). Medical decisions need to be left to doctors and their patients; the legislature should not be involved in any personal health decisions. Food choices should be left up to consumers; although I do believe that labeling laws are important. If the public is so stupid or irresponsible that they can't be trusted to make these choices for themselves then how in the world is a legislature composed of citizens from the same country going to do a better job of taking care of me than I do?

True conservatism is the belief that individuals bear responsibility for their own actions. Eastern philosophy has long held that the more laws you pass to regulate morality the less moral people become. When the people begin to rely on the government for everything they lose the ability to progress. America isn't losing her position in the world because we don't spend enough money on education. America's losing ranking because her people have forgotten that they are the government. Laws should be few and far between. Small differences of opinion require negotiation and tolerance. They do not require that a new law be written.

Whether the issue is running a business, educating our children, painting our houses, or defining a family - individuals need to decide how to proceed for themselves. Perceived harm vs. actual harm is a concept people need to revisit. Some people aren't nice, but if they're not evil (think rape, murder, burglary) then you just don't need to spend time with them. There are all sorts of ways to deal with adversity that don't involve the government at all.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to be with a group of women talking about homeschooling their children. My kids were still very young and I wasn't actually taking part in the discussion, but I am so glad that I did stay and listen. One of the mothers was talking about whether you need to make sure your homeschool is similar to what would be taught in a public school. Her argument was that while there are benchmarks we all need to meet, homeschool should not be like public school. It should be different and it should not be regulated by the government. Her reasoning- public schools are not producing a uniform, satisfactory product. Their benchmarks may be too low, and to bind yourself to them may keep you from achieving everything you should. "The government is not our saviour," was the end of her argument.

She is right. The government is not our saviour and to put all of our faith in it (when it's made up of people like us, whom we elect) is a recipe for disaster. Look at New Orleans. The government didn't get everyone out. There wasn't an adequate plan in place to cope with that magnitude of disaster. The conservative in me thinks that maybe, just maybe, individuals in the affected area should also be held accountable for how events played out during Hurricane Katrina.

So, to end my rambling post: Less is more. Remember the government truly is by the people, for the people and we are the people. The government is not our saviour.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin for Vice President

I grew up in a house where it was emphasized that not only were women equal to men- they were competitive with men. If a man could do a job then a woman could do it better. My mother was one of five women studying animal science at her university when she was an undergrad. One of five females in a large department taught only by men. She had a lot to prove. My adviser was also my father's adviser when he was an undergrad (or possibly the professor he worked under while obtaining his master's.. I get confused). Dr. Bull told me (also an animal science major) that there was a lot of competition in this field. There are not nearly as many jobs available as there are college freshmen majoring in animal science. He also told me that if you were the top of your field there would always be positions available to you. Mom never lacked for job offers (or higher education offers).

So, as I was listening to yesterdays news, and learning about McCain's choice of VP, my feelings were mixed. First, I'm thrilled to think there may be a woman in the White House. I'm even more thrilled to think that the woman elected may be an advocate of wise use of natural resources (vs. no use or overuse). It's a benefit even that this woman isn't a career politician. She's a real woman, like me. She's a business owner, a wife, and a mom. She's even the mom of a special needs kid. She is a lot like us (all the women in the 30- 40 year age bracket).

And therein lies my ambivalence. She's a mother of 5. One of them is less than a year old and has Down's Syndrome. When I think how much like the rest of us she is, I worry. I worry because her children will change so much while she's in office (if she's elected). I worry that the needs of a developmentally challenged toddler will be difficult to balance with the needs of a nation. I worry that her marriage will be strained by the demands of her job and her family. I worry about a host of issues that would affect me and my marriage if I were the woman running for office.

Is that fair? It did briefly cross my mind when I saw how young Obama's children are that he might be a little bit young to be President. However, I didn't have the myriad of concerns I feel when I think about Palin (Of course there's no way I'm voting for Obama either). I am disappointed in myself. Just because I choose to stay home with my children (and boy am I ever home with my children now) doesn't mean that other women need to do the same thing. I'm sure Palin has very good childcare (and probably more flexibility in her schedule than most working moms). I'm positive that she thought long and hard about the challenges running for public office would create for her family.

There's no reason to question her ability to balance family and work unless we're prepared to question Obama's ability to balance both as well. Why is it automatically assumed that women are the sex who need to accomodate everyone's needs? Isn't it possible that her husband could just as easily meet the children's needs while she's working as Michelle Obama can care for the Obama children? If I worked and my husband stayed home and cared for our lovely offspring would that make me less responsible as a mother? Would it make him less responsible as a husband? Heavy social prejudices raise questions in my own mind about how well this election will turn out. It should be interesting to see what the rest of the conservative moms have to say. Will it be possible for them to "forgive" this mother for being something that the rest of us don't even have the energy to aspire to? Or will the conservative women be able to embrace this woman, so like us and yet different, and really support her running for office?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What my mother didn't teach me

I spent all day today working on the house and fall cleaning. As I was discovering the joys of ammonia in a cleaning solution the recurring thought running through my mind was, why didn't my mother teach me how to clean house? Isn't that what mothers do? Teach their daughters how to keep house? Truly, who else do you learn these skills from? Everything I know about cleaning I learned from a college roomate, the mother of one of my 4-H kids, and our old next door neighbor.

In the years I've been a mother I've come to understand that there are two types of women, the stick mop women and the down on their knees scrubbing the floor type of women. The women in my family have always been the sponge and stick mop type of women. I never really understood the appeal of crawling around on your hands and knees while scrubbing the kitchen floor. Today (after meeting my new friend ammonia) I finally understand. It's really dirty down there. There's sticky stuff that resembles strawberry jam around the bottom of all the baseboards (and we have house cleaners come in every two weeks, I shudder to think what it would be like without them!!!). The table legs have deposits on them that resemble inkblots. Red Kool-Aid powder has coated everything (seriously, even on the plant shelves). I thought I was doing a fine job cleaning with my handy sponge mop, but I barely even touched the surface of the dirt. Why didn't my mom show me how to truly clean while I was a teenager and living at home?

Well, let me try to remember back.... hmm.... I remember Mom working a lot. She worked really physically hard every day at her job as a USDA, FSIS red meat inspector. We spent a lot of time doing the 4-H thing. Every Saturday morning we did the laundry, mopped the kitchen floor (with a sponge/stick mop), and vacuumed.

Hmmm.... maybe Mom taught me other important things. Cleaning's not the most fun thing I've ever learned and I sure wish I knew what I was doing before things got built up, but it's possible that the things Mom did teach me were more important and more relevant to our lives. She did teach me how to give shots (subcutaneous, intramuscular, and intrvaenous). She taught me how to turn transverse lambs so that we had one end or the other presenting for delivery instead of the back. She also taught me how to figure out which legs went with which triplet. She taught me how to divide perennials and how to start willow cuttings to make new trees. She taught me to saddle my own horse, and how to train a new horse to load in the trailer. She taught me everything I know about herding and handling critters, whether they're sheep, dogs, horses, or kids (the human variety as well as the goat variety). She taught me never to loose my cool during an emergency because that helps no one. She taught me that fences can be mended but trees won't survive a girdling (or to be precise, they won't survive if movement of water and nutrients through the phloem and xyleum is disrupted in a circle completely around the tree). She taught me that rainbows are light reflections through water drops and you see out of your eyes because of a complex arrangement of cones and reflectors (although I really wanted to know what the world would look like through someone else's eyes).

It is entirely possible that I am better off for having had to learn how to clean late in my life.

This shouldn't be happening

Ok, I thought (and anticipated) that if we were homeschooling the virus train would pass by our house. It made sense last fall that when school started Chris would start bringing home cold after cold after cold... but we've only been schooling for a week or so now and at least two of our kids have colds. Nasty, low grade fever, coughing, dripping, keeping us up at night colds. How did this happen? I did not make a place in my lesson planner for colds. Hmmm.... that reminds me, I need to find my lesson planner. I'm sure there are lots of wise organized things in there that I need, but I haven't seen it since sometime before fair.

I tried to get Chris to take a sick day today (because I'd like to lounge about drinking coffee and reading smut novels) but he's all for pressing on despite the cold (darn it!). What does it say about me that my six year old has a better work ethic than I do? He's really doing well with his math, but you sure couldn't tell that yesterday when Sam's teacher came to visit. It's really nice, before school starts for the year the Parkview teachers and their assistants go to everybody's house and pass out information packets. Sam thought it was pretty cool to meet his teacher in his own house. He even tried to show her his favorite toys... except that every 30 seconds Chris would run screaming through the living room, shouting, "I don't have enough blocks!!!! AAAAAAA!!!!!" It would have been much funnier if this were not the first time we met Mrs. Wells.

Chris just came out on the patio to talk with me about quail. He's very excited about the idea of hatching some eggs and releasing the quail into our pasture. I'm pretty excited about it too. If only incubators didn't start at $150 (for the ones without the automatic turner). I was picturing doing the egg project sometime next spring, but I don't know if I can live with Chris that long before I strangle him, so... we may need to move forward faster on this adventure. Does anyone have an incubator they'd like to loan (or rent) us?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And so it goes

It's been a struggle trying to do any schoolwork in the mornings because we eat breakfast about 8:00 and Grandma won't eat until 10:00. This wouldn't be an issue except that she sees no problem with feeding all the kids a second breakfast and getting all the dishes dirty for the second time each morning. It wasn't so bad over summer vacation because I could clean the kitchen once she was finished and then start lunch (although there were days I did not want to spend my whole freaking day in the kitchen!!!!). Now that we're into school it's much more of a problem because 1.) I don't want to spend my whole morning cleaning, and 2.) we do need to get some school lessons in between bouts of stuffing our faces.

Today we conquered the problem (at least mostly)! I let the kids get a quick snack when they woke up (not until 7:30 this morning!). They ate fun stuff like grapes, string cheese, and granola bars. It was highly nutritious. Then, while the little boys were watching cartoons I pulled Chris aside and had him do his math problems. Amazingly the boy blew through them in no time at all. I think he's going to have a bit of an aptitude for math (certainly not a gift from me). We were done with snack and math before 9:30 (plus wake up and stare at the wall time). Then when Grandma was ready for breakfast I fed the whole family. There was only one set of dirty dishes.

After math we had free time while the kids watched cartoons, colored, acted like general PITAs, and played with the dogs. About 11:00 I broke out the Sing, Spell, Read & Write box. Sam immediately came in from the yard and pulled up a chair. So... Sam is now finished with the 1st lesson and is getting very good at singing the A to Z Phonics Song. Chris zipped right through all of that as well (I think we're doing quite a bit of review before we get to new material, but I don't want to miss anything crucial). They both did the name writing worksheet and colored the A a apple page. It's kind of funny that I never did worry about what Sam and Jake were going to be doing while Chris was doing school. Now it seems that Jake is going to play in the yard and come sing songs when he hears music playing. Sam is going to jump right in and do the lessons with Chris. Perhaps I should invite Sam to work on math with us tomorrow (we were sneaky this morning so that Jake wouldn't come and play with our blocks).

I promised Chris that we could paint after lunch today and he's been talking about it ever since. He's a bit irked because I told him we're finger painting and he thinks that's for kindergardeners. He also thinks that it's not fun to get his fingers dirty. So... I feel his pain. I think it will be good for him to paint with his fingers and get a bit dirty (in the garage, not the house). He keeps coming in while I'm typing to argue about it so I think he may not get to use a brush all week. It just doesn't pay to argue with your mother :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chris has a plan

Chris has a plan. Chris always has a plan. It's as if he never quits planning for any and every eventuality. His newest plan is that he will alternate market goats and market lambs. This plan came about because I told him that we don't do market goats in Canyon County even though he saw one at the fair in Owyhee County. It doesn't seem to matter to him that we don't have a market goat option at our fair... Dana told him that he could show market goats at the Western Idaho Fair... well... she actually said that there were some kids doing so (showing market goats) and Chris interepreted that to mean that HE could show goats there.

Keep in mind that Chris is at least one year away from showing any sort of market animal. He's only six years old. Cloverbuds (4-Hers between the ages of 5 and 8) can only show small animals that weigh less than half what the cloverbuds weigh (which means that a pygmy goat is pushing it for our kids). I'm not even sure that he completely understands that someone is going to eat his market animal. He may think that going to the packing plant is a fun trip where you will end up helping to wrap presents. I keep trying to talk to him about the issue and determine what he really knows but he tends to weave imaginary stories into whatever you're talking about. Pretty soon I'm not sure if he's chosen a new absurd story line or if he really believes what he's saying. If you can talk to him long enough you'll recognize the made up stories because they always involve a mountain lion... at some point... perhaps several days into the story line.

I blame Grandpa Anderson. He did this to us. He also tends to weave absurd story lines into seemingly normal conversation. Usually his give away is much earlier in the story than Chris's. Possibly I'm a bit to blame too. Maybe all the times he asked silly questions and I got bored answering him may have had an adverse effect on his developing mind. "Mom, why are the clouds different shaps? Mom, why is that pumpkin orange? Mom, why is that cookie cutter leaf shaped? Mom, why is cheese called cheese?" You get the idea... I didn't want to scar his little psyche by being mean or rude, but I couldn't take all the questions all the time. You can only give so many rational answers in any given day (I think they're rationed or something). There are only so many times your answer can be, "to make little boys ask questions," Eventually you too would have begun answering with things like, "Because the moon is round, because trees like to wear different hats, because asphalt stinks, because the little green men live under dandelions," and my personal favorite.... "because the fairies don't like it when the rain gets in their shoes." Keep in mind that the answer never had anything to do with the question asked.

So maybe the difficulty in directing his thoughts down any one straight and narrow path is a genetic thing. His reading teacher last year was concerned that he couldn't seem to stay focused on any one task for as long as she wanted him to be attentive. I could tell that the conversation was headed towards talk of attention deficit disorder until his kindergarden teacher added her two cents. She had noticed that his attention was quite intense when you were doing what he wanted to do. When doing something he wasn't interested in... his mind was all over the place. The reading teacher also thought it was worth mentioning that he seemed to be all over the place (mentally). The child switches topics from one sentence the next. He doesn't prepare the listener by letting them know he's switching topics. She seemed very concerned. I can't imagine where he could have picked up any of these habits....

Friday, August 22, 2008

God is in the bread

Sometime during the month of December last year I gave up buying bread at the grocery store. It wasn't that I was dissatisfied with store bought bread or anything... I looked at my grocery reciept and added up my bread purchases. They totaled somewhere around $60... for 6 people to eat for a month. That seemed a bit expensive to me. Adam Smith, the father of economics, was a Scot. My Grandmother Canfield (who lives with me) is a proud descendent of Clan Dunlop. I think it's something in the blood. We just can't help nickel and diming everything. So at any rate, that seemed like too much money to blow on something as basic as bread and my bread baking saga was begun.

In February my resolve was starting to weaken... maybe the time spent baking is worth more than $60? So.... I made a new resolution and gave up buying bread for all of Lent. All 40 days of Lent. And now the saga had religious overtones (and undertones) and I started thinking as I was baking (and kneading, and mixing). And I realized that there is a simple truth our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew... God is in the bread.

Everything you ever need to know about God is present, visible, quantifiable, and easy to understand. The flour alone is flat, it lacks life. Without yeast, oil and heat, the flour is nothing more than flour. It has no greater purpose. With the addition of yeast the flour expands... fementaion begins and something wonderful is in the making. Oil makes the dough pliable and pleasant to handle. Heat brings the whole project to completion.

Alone we are like the flour, there's really not much to us. With God we are on our way to becoming something wonderful. Jesus is the oil... He died in order to give us eternal life, He smoothed the path so that our way would be easier. The holy spirit is like the heat. It helps the yeast and the oil work to change us from flour to bread.

Bread is forgiving. If you let it rise too long, that's ok. Punch it down, reshape it and keep going. The end product may not be exactly what you were envisioning when you started, but it's still good. If your oven temperature isn't perfect, that's ok too. Bread can cook at lots of different temperatures... again, the end result may not be what you were expecting... but it will still be good.

When life gets stressful and hectic I sometimes feel that it would be better to just buy the darned bread (Amy's dad told me that if I have a good recipe for french bread I really needed to get out more). Who in this country makes all their own bread for goodness sake? I would not be telling the truth if I let you think I haven't bought any bread at all since last December... but I have bought fewer than 10 loaves since then. When I give up and buy the bread, strangely, life doesn't really get easier. I always think as I 'm buying it that not having to make bread will free up part of my day... but I couldn't tell you where those saved minutes go.

What I have learned from buying bread is that it allows me to live life at a faster pace. I've learned through the sacrifice of Lent (when I would NOT buy bread) that slower is often better. While baking I have to plan to take slow time during the day to mix, knead, and bake. I also tend to use that slow time to think about life, about my children, my husband, and my faith. If I don't take time to bake, I frequently don't take time to pray either. And that makes all the difference. Life just seems to be better when I bake. God is in the bread.

A day off...

Today I discovered something cool about homeschool. You can make up your own holidays. It's true, if you want to declare every Friday a holiday so that you can enjoy a three day weekend every week... you can! So, as principal, CEO, CFO, and Head of Human Resources... I declare a four day school week. Every week. Until I get bored with it.

You would not believe the fun filled and exciting things that can be accomplished with your free time once the four day school week is instituted. For instance, you could use that day to go to the fair, take a hike, explore a local museum, donate hours to charity and good works.... or you could spend the time working in the yard and cleaning house like we did today. It was great fun. Who knew that Murphy's oil soap would make my kitchen cabinets at least two shades lighter? I had no idea they had that much build up. It was sort of like washing a wall and finding the cement blocks were actually hand hewn granite. The wonder of it all still boggles my mind. Next week... the drapes get cleaned!!! Ooooh, the excitement of it all...

Tomorrow is the Anderson Family Reunion (or Picnic, I'm not sure which). We're all going to gather at the park in Meridian and do who knows what for who knows how long. It worries me a little... Dave was asked to bring "lots of water balloons." I don't think that bodes well for the more conservative people in our group (me). It's bound to be a great time and the food's always good when everybody brings potluck.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Late night musings...

As you can probably tell, I have rediscovered my blog. It's an odd thing to have a blog just hanging out somewhere in cyberspace and never visiting it. For a while we didn't have the computer hooked up to a phone line ... it lives in a black hole on our patio where the phone signal doesn't like to go. Finally when I decided for sure we are going to homeschool we got satellite internet (which I love). Then it took me a few months to remember what kind of things I used to do when I had internet access. So here I am. Two years later.

Initially today I looked up the blog because Chris is so opposed to writing that it seemed like a good idea to practice some of what I'm preaching. Then I started reading everyone else's blogs and realized that while the computer's been disconnected I lost touch with a lot of people. Now it feels like I've fallen behind. Behind what, I'm not certain.

We're finishing fair season here in the Treasure Valley. The Western Idaho Fair will be finished this Saturday. I promised Chris we could go to the rabbit show, but today I remembered that there's an Anderson family reunion in Meridian on Saturday. Hmmm.... which is more important? Family reunion? Promise to a six year old? How do I convince him he'd rather spend time with his family? We all know that come Saturday morning our family will be in Meridian and not at the fair, but Chris is going to carry a grudge for a long time. Next spring he'll be talking about something and at some point I'll hear, "You remember when you said we could go to the rabbit show? You know, the one at the Bestern Idaho Fair? And then you wouldn't go to the fair..."

Parenting is hard. Some times you have to change the plan midway through whatever is going on. I know that consistency is important and we certainly try to be consistent. Some days it's harder than others. I have such a fear of school this year. This is unlike anything we've ever done before, and yet it's supposed to be so much like everything that's gone before. It's a strange and uncomfortable paradox. What if my son doesn't learn well from me? What if I forget to teach him something important that six year olds NEED to know? What if I strangle him because he won't SIT DOWN and complete his handwriting homework? What if I think he's gifted and truly he's struggling and falling behind? What if the clean laundry becomes dislodged during an earthquake and we're all buried beneath the clean socks that don't have mates?

A few pictures to update my neglected blog...

The top picture is Jake in the puppy pool this spring (more coming in October!), the middle picture is my very sexy husband, Dave, who truly was posing for the camera (I can't get him to take a serious picture), and the bottom picture of all three boys taken late this spring (they're all quite different now!).

Our Journey Begins...

Yesterday we began our homeschooling adventure. It was a few days earlier than I had planned to start school. Sam's preschool begins September 2nd and I thought it would be nice and neat if Chris started school the same day. However, the school bus drove past our house yesterday morning and it seems school is in session ... everywhere.

Handwriting practice was our first challenge of the day. How do you spell Anderson when you are a six year old boy with the attention span of a gnat? Really, are the "r" and "s" truly necessary? Anderon would be a nice last name wouldn't it? Failing to recieve approval for that surname it was suggested that perhaps we'd rather be Andeeson's instead. Today we finally have all the letters in all the right places. Chris thinks we should do all our writing on the computer so he doesn't have to use his pencil and think about how to hold it. Can I send him back to public school yet? It's only their second day.... he can't have missed too much.

Reading and math are going well. I really like the Math U See curriculum. It's so very logical and if you don't get it when you write the problem you'll figure it out by the time you've built the problem using the blocks. Very logical, very easy. The little boys like the reading raceway. They keep trying to drive the little cling cars on the track instead of doing the work to advance your vehicle to the next space. Chris gets a little upset at them, but for the most part it's a good time for everybody.

It's a little weird to break for lunch and then take the time to cook, clean up, and do a little grocery shopping in the middle of the school day. Chris likes to come back out before dinner (we're using our enclosed patio as a school room, it's also my sewing room) and work on his special interest for the day (otherwise known as his current obsession). Currently he's learing about the different states (because he's fixated on license plates at he moment). Luckily we got a good deal on a set of maps at Costco, so we have a nice large map of the United States.

We're still doing "school light" since I really didn't want to start until after Labor Day. I think it's a good thing Chris pushed me to start early since I've found a few kinks that we needed to work out. If my official start date had passed, the time taken away from lessons would have bothered me much more. We are spending a lot more time on the mechanics of school (do you know how hard it is to find the paper with a dotted line in the middle) than I had anticipated.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room