October 2008 Archives



4yo: "Poppy, can you lay down with me?"

"Of course, Pumpkin."

Seven minutes later...


"Yes, Pumpkin?"

"Not so lo-ong!"

"Sorry. You can say that nicely, you know."

"Well, you can sit on the floor if you want."

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Republicans deserve to lose


It must be late October in a year divisible by 4. Campaigns are becoming ever more shrill, cheap shot emails are filling my inbox and good friends are putting up hysterical Facebook posts about those they oppose politically. Like any good blogger, it's time to add my own $.02 to the mix.

I wanted to do one big post with all of my thoughts, but instead I find that I need to break it up. So first I'll deal with the principle that when one party controls all branches of government and proceeds to run the country into the ground, that party deserves to lose.

The candidate of the party who has inhabited the White House for the past eight years should not be elected, especially when this candidate agrees with all of the president's worst policies. In fact, one of the few areas where McCain disagrees with the president is that McCain favors embryonic stem cell research. He's actually worse than Bush on the one area where Bush has managed to make a few good decisions.

John McCain represents continuity with the current administration -- continuity with recklessness, irresponsibility, torture and abuse of executive power. All other things being equal, such a man does not deserve to govern.

Alas, all other things are not equal...

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Pray for a little boy

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My boss's 3 year old is having some trouble. First the doctors thought it might be a bone infection in his leg, but now they think it could be a tumor. He's been in the hospital all week for tests. Please pray for Will and his family!

UPDATE: It's a malignant tumor. He will be starting chemotherapy soon. Please pray for this family. I can't even imagine.

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Pray for my sister!

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by mama-Lu

This year on December 28th, my sister will make her final profession as a Carmelite with the Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. We are very happy for her and excited about visiting. Please keep her in your prayers are she prepares for this blessed event. (I should also add that Sister Mary Louise is a regular reader here so if you would like to leave a message that you are praying for her, she will see it.)

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"What's up with that?" Wednesday (II)


by Mama-Lu

What's up with Curtis Orchard? My sons love our local orchard and pumpkin patch. We spent a lovely afternoon there this week. The boys had fun feeding the goats (with food they had picked up off the ground,) driving the play train, and walking in the maze. After our friends left, we walked out and visited the pumpkin patch.

Back inside we looked around at all the nifty stuff to buy and watched the electric train. Finally we went to check out. I was not buying apples or pumpkins because I knew those were understandably expensive. It is harder to make a buck with a small family than a mega farm. All we wanted were donuts. However, I was a little shocked when I discovered that the price I expected for a dozen was actually the price for just six.

So I wonder, are they really charging a fair mark-up, or are they taking unsuspecting city slickers to the cleaners? Not that I begrudge anyone the right to make a buck -- and they do deliver a good time. I just wonder. I also wonder if they would be interested in carrying my pumpkin hat next year. :)

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The Musical Fruit

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by Mama-Lu

In these tight times, I recommend eating beans. They are nutritious and cheap, and can be delicious. They do have some side effects, but when you are with your family (which you have to be because you cannot afford to go out,) that is not so bad.

The trick to great beans is to start with dry beans. After attempting to cook dry beans many times, I had given up. They always came out tough! Then I read an article in Cook's Illustrated which gave me the secret ingredient -- salt. If you add a generous amount of salt to your soaking liquid, the bean skins will melt in your mouth. The other trick is to keep out acids (tomatoes) until the end.

To prepare my family's favorite black beans, simply boil 1 cup of cleaned beans in 6 cups of salted water (or broth) for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let them sit for about and hour. Return to medium heat, add a diced onion and cook for about 45 minutes. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. These beans, served over a simple rice pilaf, make a fabulous comfort food and a very cheap meal.

Happy Eating!

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Makeover Friday


(by Mama-Lu)

This summer I hope to take For the Family on the road to some craft fairs. For these events, I want to put together an Etsy wardrobe, 2 or 3 days worth of eye catching wear purchased from Etsy. I know it is a little early to start planning, but here is what I am eyeing right now:

While I'm at it, this is the "mini" for my Etsy shop:

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The Good, the Bad, and the Deranged


What I read during my lunch:

  • GOOD:

    Michael Pollan's letter to the next president:

    This, in brief, is the bad news: the food and agriculture policies you've inherited -- designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so -- are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute. The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation. The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken. Markets for alternative kinds of food -- organic, local, pasture-based, humane -- are thriving as never before. All this suggests that a political constituency for change is building and not only on the left: lately, conservative voices have also been raised in support of reform. Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer that "this is a conservative cause if ever there was one."

    I have a post kicking around in my head on Michael Pollan as one of the most prominent and effective opponents of materialism. Someday I'll find the time to write it.


    John Zmirak on Archbishop Chaput's Render Unto Caesar

    Having elsewhere published a thoughtful review of Archbishop Chaput's book that was mostly positive, Zmirak returns with sharper criticism. The title of his piece -- "Surrender Not Unto Caesar--Resisting Catholic Liberalism" gives you a hint of what he's getting at, but Zmirak is not throwing bombs here:

    In America, by our Constitution as it has been authoritatively interpreted, the State is now relentlessly secular. In practice, it is rigorously relativistic. Altering either of these settled facts in American life would be unthinkably hard. Therefore, any Christian engaged in public life must seek to shrink the sphere of the State, and reduce its functions to their bare, libertarian minimum--in order to leave some room for the practice of Christian life. The bishops' predecessors realized this, when they tapped the meager resources of impoverished immigrants to build an entire, nationwide system of alternative Catholic schools. Instead of trying vainly to Romanize the (then vigorously if vaguely Protestant) schools, they built their own. A very American response to such a problem--and also a deeply Catholic one. Homeschoolers today follow in the footsteps of Abp. "Dagger" John Hughes.

    The Church is officially committed to localism, rather than centralism. Catholic teaching on subsidiarity asserts that no problem should be taken up by the State which can be resolved by private action, and that no local matter should be referred to central authorities unless local institutions are hopelessly inadequate--as they are, for instance, to guard the border against foreign invasion, or prosecute interstate crimes. Empower the federal government to control (as it now does, with bishops' approval) education, social services, health care and retirement benefits, and you guarantee that each of these vital areas of life will be directed according to non-Christian or anti-Christian principles

    After tracing the dissolution of America's once formidable "institutional culture" -- a collapse which had long been stirring, became visible with JFK's embodiment of Catholics' conformity to mainstream American culture and finally exploded with the backlash against Humanae Vitae -- Zmirak notes that the Church's loss of institutional authority has led American Catholics "to depend for what voice she has on the charisma of isolated individuals, such as Mother Angelica, Fr. Joseph Fessio, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Fr. George Rutler" -- admittedly a formidable line-up, but no substitute for being formed in the faith by a family, parish, indeed an entire sub-culture steeped in Catholicism.

    Here is where he gets back to Chaput and here is where the article breaks down a bit (hence the "goodish" tag). He makes some useful comments on the temptation of Catholic liberalism to short-sell justice in favor of mercy, but nowhere does he connect this "sentimental liberalism" with Archbishop Chaput except saying that this is a "problem" with chaput's book.

  • BAD:

    A psychotherapist diagnoses John McCain as suffering from brain damage and PTSD without ever having met him.

    I feel compelled to issue a double disclaimer -- I hold no brief for John McCain and feel incapable of voting for either him or Barack Obama in good conscience and I also really, really like American Conservative.

    That said, come on, now:

    As we explore explanations for some of Senator McCain's actions, it is important to bear in mind that any professional who would render a definitive diagnosis on an individual he has not interviewed or tested is prostituting his credentials


    That said, I believe it is highly likely that John McCain suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    With the tanking economy effectively handing Barry O the presidency, is this really necessary?


    Hanna Rosin on "transgendered" children and their enabler parents.

    Apparently the growing trend is for parents to allow their children to live as the opposite sex, even giving them drugs that block the onset of puberty:

    It took the gay-rights movement 30 years to shift from the Stonewall riots to gay marriage; now its transgender wing, long considered the most subversive, is striving for suburban normalcy too. The change is fuel‑ed mostly by a community of parents who, like many parents of this generation, are open to letting even preschool children define their own needs. Faced with skeptical neighbors and school officials, parents at the conference discussed how to use the kind of quasi-therapeutic language that, these days, inspires deference: tell the school the child has a "medical condition" or a "hormonal imbalance" that can be treated later, suggested a conference speaker, Kim Pearson; using terms like gender-­identity disorder or birth defect would be going too far, she advised. The point was to take the situation out of the realm of deep pathology or mental illness, while at the same time separating it from voluntary behavior, and to put it into the idiom of garden-variety "challenge." As one father told me, "Between all the kids with language problems and learning disabilities and peanut allergies, the school doesn't know who to worry about first."

    A recent medical innovation holds out the promise that this might be the first generation of transsexuals who can live inconspicuously. About three years ago, physicians in the U.S. started treating transgender children with puberty blockers, drugs originally intended to halt precocious puberty. The blockers put teens in a state of suspended development. They prevent boys from growing facial and body hair and an Adam's apple, or developing a deep voice or any of the other physical characteristics that a male-to-female transsexual would later spend tens of thousands of dollars to reverse. They allow girls to grow taller, and prevent them from getting breasts or a period.

    The whole article is pretty shocking and disturbing. I don't mean to be insensitive, and I'm sure parents who have to deal with this have it rough, but letting your 6 year old decide their own sex is too much.

That's all folks!

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"What's up with that?" Wednesday

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I do not want to be an angry blogger. For that reason, I am going to limit my complaints, rants, and general grousing to Wednesdays. [Ed. note: Here's where I mention that Mama-Lu will be contributing thrice weekly.] Today, children's pajamas. Doesn't sound like a problem, does it? First, I received sticker shock. If I can buy sweats for $10, why not pajamas? Then, I was surprised by the slim lack of choices.

Being in a crafty, thrifty mood, I said, "That's ok. I'll make my own." Off to the fabric store I went. There I found a pattern on sale and started looking for fabric. Here is where I hit a brick wall. The store had about 8 different kinds of flame resistant fabric (naturally mostly girly) and they cost 12 dollars a yard! (Also they were all made in Taiwan, but I'll save that for another Wednesday.) It seems that the federally required flame resistant fabric is not easy or cheap to make.

So, do children really need to be in flame resistant pajamas? I don't know anything about the history of this law or the research to support it (if there is any.) Yet, I feel compelled to buy flame resistant pajamas for my children. Part of me rationally says that it probably doesn't matter, but another part of me sees a child going up in smoke. I do not want to buy into this law, but I cannot escape the guilt it imposes. Let's just hope I can resolve my internal conflict before Matthew notices that his pajama pants keep getting shorter.

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Man v. Nature


What I learned while trimming trees on Columbus day.

  • Sitting on top of a 6 foot ladder holding a 15 foot saw pole is not when you want a wasp to attack your face. (Sub lesson: 31 is still young enough to jump off a ladder to evade a wasp without breaking anything.)
  • Sitting on the same 6 foot ladder holding the same pole next to a 6 foot privacy fence while a pit bull jumps up and down trying to attack your face is strangely exciting.
  • It's possible to get 30 mosquito bites (not an exaggeration -- Mama-Lu thinks I'm guessing on the low side) on your back without really noticing them.
  • Your wife will not be pleased if you drop a 20 foot branch on top of the last producing plant in her garden (jalapeno).
  • Work gloves will not prevent you from getting a blister from sawing down several hundred pounds worth of rogue branches.

But hey, next year well have plenty of firewood!

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"You got a genius baby over here!"

A boy from across the street said that to me after having a conversation with Matthew about how to process walnuts. I was not surprised. Even as a newborn, Matthew was alert, strong and already "talking," though he never cooed like some babies -- he litigated. I have always known that Matthew has a good mind, fierce independence, and tremendous enthusiasm for life.

As a baby, Charlie's astounding physical ability soon set him apart. Walking by 9 months was a feat in itself, but watching him push himself up to a standing position without holding onto anything at 8 months was, to me, even more shocking. Now it's not surprising to see him pull off with grace things that make other mothers tremble.

Then along came Tony. His great talent seemed to be sleeping. When he began crawling at 6 months it was a surprise, but not terribly remarkable after Charlie. But once he became mobile, I began to see that he has a great talent for solving his own problems.

All of my boys are very bright and they challenge me to keep up with them every day. However, I think the title "genius" will have to go to Tony, who recently said his first word. Granted, saying one word at 9 months is not miraculous. It was his choice of words: "Mama."

Yes, I got a genius baby over here!

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What did I do to deserve this?

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I try to be a good man. I love my wife and boys. I take care of them as best as I can, though I've done some things I'm not proud of, and I'll admit I'm lazy as a dog. I'm a lover of comfort and I could work much harder than I do, but my heart is in the right place (somewhere behind my ribs, I think). And it's true, when I was in high school I scalped Cubs tickets, but it's not my fault, my sister totally made me. She would buy all these tickets to games she couldn't go to, and she would give them to me to sell and I hated doing it, but she let me keep half the profits, but even then I was sometimes too terrified of the police to even charge face value, so I'd walk down Clark Street and dump them as soon as I could, usually before I even got to Byron, so you see it's not something that could be held against me. Anyway, I went to lots and lots of games, and we're talking about the early 90s here when the Cubs were truly pathetic, but still I cheered them on and I never ever booed and I was totally on the other side of the bleachers when the three-row battle royale fistfight broke out on 70s night when security tried to bounce the moron who dumped beer on the (Mets?) left fielder. And it's true I would sometimes get intoxicated yuppies to pay me to eat fistsful of jalapenos, but COME ON, THEY WERE DRUNK A-HOLES OUT HANDING OUT $20 BILLS, any enterprising young teenager would have done the same, especially when he needed to make up the loss on "scalping" tickets to his sister, not that she would have broken my legs or taken away my lunch money, but I had teenage pride.

But all of that is besides the point. I've been a loyal fan my whole life and I'm even bringing my boys up to be loyal Cubbie fans. They all have Cubs hats they love to wear and they have a Cubbie flag on the door to their bedroom and if they keep their room clean for the whole month of October they'll get the red Wrigley Field sign painted on their wall and I took Matthew to see the Peoria Chiefs play and told him all about Ryne Sandberg and now he wants to play for the Cubbies when he grows up and it's so totally not my fault that he thinks I used to play for the Cubbies -- I told him I played baseball in high school in Chicago and he knows the Cubbies play in Chicago and he put 2 and 2 together but unfortunately he came up with 5 and I've tried to tell him I played for the Lincoln Park Lions, not the Cubbies, but he forgets and it's kinda cute, but when he tells people I totally correct him so they don't think I really used to play for the Cubs (because they would obviously think it's true, right?).

Anyway, the point is that I'm a decent fellow who's been a loyal Cubbie fan as long as I can remember going back to the game I went to as a little guy when Ron Cey (RON CEY) hit two home runs and I cheered and cheered and it was the greatest thing in the world and I've stuck by them my whole life unlike those fair weather yuppies who just go to the game to get hammered and try to hook up with blondes and puke all over the bleachers and swear at the umps even when there's kids sitting right behind them.

And don't get me wrong, it's wonderful that we've made the playoffs two years in a row, which is something I couldn't imagine happening growing up when I would faithfully and loyally watch the Cubs get ground into the dirt every year, but I lovd them always and never ever gave up.

But why oh why is it that we have to get so totally and completely embarrassed in the playoffs? Why can't our lineup, better than I ever imagined a lineup could be when I was cheering on Rey Sanchez, Jose Vizcaino and Luis Gonzalez (before he started juicing or sacrificing to pagan gods or whatever it was he did that turned him from a scrawny scrappy little dude into a 40 homer guy), do anything against... CHAD FREAKING BILLINGSWORTH, and who the freak is he and how can he make Soriano, Lee and Ramirez look like total chumps and what are we paying those guys for anyway and what is up with Fukudome -- why can't we hit the Asian jackpot like every other freaking team?

Anyway, what I'm really trying to say is that I've shed tears over this team. More tears than any self-respecting man should shed over the doings of other grown men who wear striped pants, but I shed them because I care, and honestly I'll keep caring, but why oh why can't we put up a decent fight? Is that so much to ask?

What did I do to deserve this?

(Cross-posted to my facebook account)

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2008 is the previous archive.

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