Calling All Aggies!

The Beav is coming to visit later this week. I'll pick him up Friday and we'll spend the holiday with my aunt, uncle, and cousins before heading back to good ol' BCS for a few days. He will be attending baseball camp for most of that time, but I am planning on dragging him away from that for a little while to show him around. I have to do a really good job showing off A&M's assets because, unfortunately, my other brother is a t-sip and might try to persuade the young Beaver to go to that other university in Texas. For obvious reasons, this will not do.

So I need your help! If you had 24-48 hrs in which to show a fun loving 15-year-old sports fan of the male persuasion around campus and town, where would you go? Where would you eat? What are the must-sees?

Thanks and gig'em,

Getting Old

Growing up, I remember my mom looking at the paper or TV, finding out that some famous person died, and remarking about it. I would have no idea who she was talking about. Conway Twitty is one example that comes to mind.

Now, there are still famous people dying that I haven't heard of. However, more and more people that I have heard of are dying. Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett are two examples from last week (Michael Jackson doesn't count; he was well known to today's youth). I can imagine that many youngsters today don't know of them, and I don't really know of them from personal experience. Their peaks of fame came before my time, I just know of them. But I can picture the day not so far off when I say, "Oh, such and such person died," and little Junior will say, "Never heard of him."


Reading for a "Holiday"

Craig and I are planning a little mini-vacation this summer. Of course, being thrifty, I headed off to the library to pick up some guide books. I was in hurry so I didn't really look at them very before I got them, I just grabbed three and left.

When I got home, I realized that one of the books was geared more for British visitors to the area and didn't really have much information for me to glean. But I am still glad I picked it up. It is hilarious. The first third of the book has general information about visiting America. Here are a few of the more interesting sections:

Restroom or bathroom are common terms, toilet is acceptable. Few people recognize washroom, loo or WC...Facilities may be clean and well equipped or filthy...Public toilets are sporadically placed but well marked. Carry toilet paper.

I agree with them that the level of cleanliness in public bathrooms is quite varied, but almost all of them have toilet paper.

Bill denominations are $1, $2 (very rare), $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $1000 (rare) and $10,000 (rarer)....Coins include the copper 1-cent piece, 5-cent nickel, 10-cent dime, 25-cent quarter, 50-cent half dollar (rare) and an extremely rare Susan B. Anthony dollar.

Now I don't come across that many Susan B. Anthony dollar coins around but I would say they are seen more often than $1000 and $10,000 bills. Or maybe I am just going shopping with the wrong type of people.

Road Signs:

Traffic lights are red, yellow and green...A favourite (and highly illegal) trick is to jump the red light, that is, enter the intersection when the signal is yellow and about to turn red.

There emphasis on jump is amusing since I have never heard it called that. Have any of you ever heard someone says jump instead of run a red light?

On a similar note, their list of US driving terms is interesting too. They do a fair job of defining them but I have to wonder how often the terms boulevard stop, CNG, metering lights, rubbernecker, or sig-alert come up in the average tourists stay here. The general term use is a little better as I can see how they might need to now that chips are crisps, holiday is a public holiday (as opposed to a vacation) and downtown means a city center. But they were a few misses too. I've been able to survive in the US for quite some time even if I couldn't tell you that a raw bar was a section found in restaurants containing tasty bits which have been marinated but not cooked.

But if you ever have the change to pick up a non-American written travel guide I highly recommend it. Seeing yourself through others' eyes can be quite amusing.


Nourishing Beginnings: Part 1

I was talking with Craig yesterday about food and it got me thinking. The reason I first started doing "undercover hippie" things was because of nutrition. I found blogs because of their nutritional information and recipes but when I was there, I stumbled across lots of other hippie things to try out. So it struck me as odd that I've never really talked about my food philosophy. Maybe I've mentioned things here and there about how we don't do "low fat" or or how I like to soak grains and eat lots of beans, but I've never really summarized it. Perhaps that is because it has been changing so much but I still think I should try and put it down in words as much for my own sake as for anyone else's.

First off, I have to talk about Craig's involvement in all this. Craig is the best. He came into our marriage a better cook than many men but his dinners usually involved some sort of Campbell's soup. Soon I had completely taken over the kitchen and was trying to replace his cheesy casseroles with odd things like quinoa and lentils. Despite his eager willingness to try new things, I try to watch myself from kicking his opinions out. I want to cook things he enjoys eating even if that means compromising what I may want. After all, this is his home too. But between the two of us, we have found a good balance. If it wasn't for him reigning in some of my wilder ideas, who knows where we would be or what fad we would be following. And if wasn't for me, who knows what his average daily sodium intake would be.

I guess if I had to give my food philosophy a name, it would be following the real food movement with some nourishing traditions ideas thrown in there.

I wish I could explain better what I mean by real, but I can't. Some people would define it as sustainable, local, and organic food, or say it is traditional food prepared in a traditional way like your grandmother would make. Others would define it by what it is not - it's not industrialized and processed food. But what I like about the concept of real food is that it doesn't need a fancy definition. If I take something and really think about it, I can normally decide fairly easily if I think it is a real food or not. Fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat are real food. But stop and think of Cheerios or Clif Bars - as much as I can theorize about whether they are healthy or not, they aren't real food. So I try and buy real food, or real ingredients, that I can use to make other real things.

My belief is that God knew what he was doing when he made both our bodies and food. He didn't have to make us depending on food for nutrition, and He didn't have to give us taste buds. He gave us food as a gift. He made food to be enjoyed. It seems like so much of what we hear about food is about trying to avoid the "bad" parts of food - the calories or the fat. And I don't just mean women's magazines or diet aid commercials. The American Heart Association says a healthy adult can safely have up to one egg a day. That makes it sound like eggs are something to be feared when in reality, they are an amazingly nutritious, and cheap, source of protein. (Here is where I might say something more about the AHA but I routinely spend their money so I won't.)

I try to avoid that "food is bad" mentality. I tend to think more about how I can get enough off all the nutrients, all the proteins and fiber and vitamins and minerals my body needs, in the amount of food I can eat. At that point it becomes obvious that I have to eat nutrient-dense food to do that. I can't get what I need if I fill myself up with empty food like white flours, sugars, and processed food. That wouldn't be being a good steward. I'll stick with the stuff God made, it works pretty well at nourishing my body.

But on the other side of that, I can't let healthy eating become an idol either. Whole grains, no matter how much you soak them, will not make me a better Christian. And I can't get so engrossed in nutrition that I begin to spend my time fretting over every little thing I come into contact with. That is where Craig comes in again. He encourages me to do the best I can with the resources I have, and to let the other stuff go. And I know I can trust his judgment so if he says stop worrying, I usually can. That about wraps up my food philosophy, later I'll talk more about what that actually means in our day to day life.


What you don't want to hear on the radio:

"Don't worry, tomorrow the high is only 101 so it is cooling off a bit."

Why do I live in a world where 101 is considered "cooling off?" Who decided we should bake move back here again? And where exactly is he right now?

My Kind of Movies

I have figured out a certain type of movies I like, but I don't think these movies fit into an existing genre, so I have invented my own. For lack of a more succinct term, I call it "movies about a dying way of life." It focuses on people who are part of a vocation or culture that they can see is giving way to changing times. Many of these movies might be called Westerns, but they're not of the Main Street showdown variety (although one movie in my genre has such a scene). It's just that, in the US, the West is the best example of a place that changed with the times, and took a lot of people with it. You could almost call this genre "Indian movies," as many, but not all, films in this genre deal with them. I can identify with these movies because I appreciate the romantic ideal of hardy people living in a sparsely populated, wide open, untouched land. While I appreciate the people depicted in these movies, it is clear that it was inevitable that their ways of life would disappear as time moved on and technology passed them by.

Here are some archetypical movies in the genre:
  • Dances with Wolves - disappearance of the Plains' Indian lifestyle
  • Open Range - disappearance of the open-range ranching lifestyle
  • Last of the Mohicans - end of a particular Indian tribe
  • Jeremiah Johnson - the end of the mountain man lifestyle
  • The Last Samurai - end of the samurai lifestyle; this one gives my genre some breadth
I'd be interested to know if a) you can think of any movies to add to my list, and b) if this genre already exists, and I'm not breaking new ground.



I have a confession. I figure I had better tell you know because between that last post and my (hopefully) upcoming posts this summer about cleaning, you will find out - I have an addiction to labeling.

I just love to labels things, anything, it doesn't even matter if it even needs a label. Yes, I can tell perfectly well by looking at a glass jar of popcorn that it holds popcorn, but I still made a label. Why not?

I come by this obsession naturally. My dad is a big labeler. And he taught me well. At home, I try to keep my labeling in check, and it helps that I don't have an actual label maker. I have to print out strips of paper with a cute font and laminate them with contact paper. It works well but takes a bit of time.

At work though, I have a fancy electronic label maker at my disposal. It's so quick and easy to use that when I go to check it out, I get so excited about all the labeling I am about to do. I was in charge of organizing the lab and I must say, I went a bit crazy. Every single cabinet was labeled with a number and a letter then items were also listed in a database I made that told you what number/letter to find that item under. But of course, I also labeled each cabinet with the items found inside for at-a-glance finding. Every tweezer and timer is labeled with its "owner's" initials. Every pipette is labeled with its purpose. I love it!

What about you? Are you a closet labeler? Or do you have another semi-embarrassing confession to make? Come on, it's fun!


More School Needed?

One thing I found noteworthy when I started studying international affairs was how often our bad education system came up. Plenty of articles talk about how the US' position in the world will change during this century, and most of them list our bad education system as one reason our dominance may erode. It seems like when I listen to domestic political debates about education, plenty of people argue, "Oh, our schools have problems, but they're not that bad." Of course, many of these people have ties to the public education system. But my point is that, in the field of international affairs, the fact that US schools are bad is not subject to debate.

A recent article in The Economist (by the way, I really wish I could find a video clip of this to insert here) talks about American kids being "underworked" compared to kids in other countries, in terms of hours per day and days per year of school, and cite this as a reason for our educational problems:
American children also have one of the shortest school days, six-and-a-half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. By contrast, the school week is 37 hours in Luxembourg, 44 in Belgium, 53 in Denmark and 60 in Sweden. On top of that, American children do only about an hour’s-worth of homework a day, a figure that stuns the Japanese and Chinese.
That Sweden number can't be true, can it? Anyway, the article lists some reasons why this is the case:
Powerful interest groups, most notably the teachers’ unions, but also the summer-camp industry, have a vested interest in the status quo. But reformers are also up against powerful cultural forces. One is sentimentality; the archetypical American child is Huckleberry Finn, who had little taste for formal education. Another is complacency. American parents have led grass-root protests against attempts to extend the school year into August or July, or to increase the amount of homework their little darlings have to do.
I can buy the idea that this is a problem, to some extent, especially the idea that kids forget a lot of stuff over the summer. That means they spend a lot of time catching up at the beginning of a new school year. However, I think that we should also look at what happens when kids are in school. A significant part of that 6.5 hours per day gets wasted on study hall, lame electives, and disciplinary issues. If the school day became more efficient, it may not need to be longer. On the other hand, the article brings up the problem of latchkey kids who get home before their parents do. This would be less of an issue if the school day was extended.

I'd be interested to read about how other countries do discipline. From my subbing experience, it seems like plenty of time is wasted trying to keep kids in line. I think a focus of the quality of a school day is more important than focusing on its length. If kids are wasting time and/or not learning, an extra hour or two per day won't change that.


Foreign Affairs Friday: Election/Revolution

Last week, as I eagerly anticipated the Iranian election, I surveyed the excitement for opposition candidate Moussavi and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if Ahmadinejad won, but everyone though the election was rigged?" That's what happened in Ukraine in 2004, leading to mass protests and the rise of a more democratic, pro-Western government. Protests also occurred in Moldova this year, as I recently wrote about, although lasting benefits have yet to arise there.

Well, my scenario is playing out in Iran right now. The benefit of having elections in an authoritarian regime is increased legitimacy for the government, at home and abroad, even if the elections aren't totally fair. The downside of having elections is that citizens might take them seriously, and expect to actually have a say in government. The Iranians aren't accepting what they see as a rigged election. Many US commentators have said that from a policy perspective, it wasn't going to matter who won the election. The Iranians appear to disagree.

Another factor that is present in Iran that may help the protestors is the split among the ruling elites. While the Ayatollah is behind Mahmoud, other big names, like Rafsanjani and Khatami, are behind Moussavi. When a regime stays united, like the Chinese were during Tiananmen in 1989, protests can be overcome, but when there are splits, as there were in Eastern bloc nations as the Soviet Union crumbled, then change is possible.

Here's hoping that we see some positive results from the events in Iran, not only for the US, but for the people in Iran. I don't think it would hurt things if Obama would express a little support for the protestors. I suppose he gets some credit, though, for the State Department's moves to keep Twitter open for the protestors.

Stellan Update

Just a few days ago I took down my Stellan banner because he seemed to be doing so much better. But now, he's not. Please pray.

Craig to the rescue!

Last night I was out at hg having a lovely time chatting with the other wives, you know, "fellowshipping." But at 9:30 when we started wrapping up and I go to leave, I realize I can't find my keys. I take everything out of my purse, but still couldn't find them. Looked around their kitchen, still couldn't find them. Hmm, maybe I just left them in the car. Except the car was locked and it was dark. So I look around the kitchen more and try not to panic. One of the husbands gets me a flashlight and I go out to the car again. There they are, in the ignition of my locked car.

Now to be honest, I didn't handle it very well. I even said a bad word. (Okay, I know most of you don't think "suck" is a bad word, but it has been ingrained in my head as a bad word since I was little so to me it's bad, and I said it anyway last night).

But it had been having a rough couple of days and this was about to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The house was about 20 minutes outside of town and even if I got a ride back to my apartment, I couldn't get in to get the extra car key because the only key to the apartment was locked inside my car. That left two options: call AAA and wait for them to come unlock the car or have another one of the husbands, a police officer, attempt to break into our car. He said he could do it if he had the tools but as he didn't, he would be willing to try using a coat hanger. I choose option three: call Craig.

Now I knew he was too far away at the moment to actually do anything about it but I didn't really think either of my options sounded like it would get me home before 11pm and I was about to just sit down and cry on the floor (did I mentioned it had been a bad couple of days?) and I was hoping he would have an idea or at least prevent the crying.

No sooner than I had said "Craig, I locked the keys in the car" did he reply "Well, did you check the back window?" Of course, how could I forget the back window! Our car windows are by far the most annoying part of our vehicle (remember this?). Well, all except one is fixed now. But that one not only refuses to roll up and down when it is supposed to, but it randomly falls down. I say randomly but it isn't really. It happens - when it is snowing, when it is raining, and when I am driving alone on a dark road and can't possible stop to lift it up again. But last night, I was grateful. In less than 30 seconds, I was able to push it down, unlock the car, and retrieve my keys. Crisis averted. Sometimes having a quick thinking husband and a crappy car can be a useful combination.

PS ~ Now that I have told you the secret to breaking into our car, please don't come and steal it. You probably wouldn't want it if you had it.


One down, twelve to go.

Okay, I finally finished cleaning the kitchen! I started Saturday afternoon and it was only supposed to take one afternoon, but life did not work out that way. I told myself not to get distracted by other things once I started, but as you will soon read, it really couldn't have been helped.

First, I needed to empty the trash. I couldn't clean the fridge with a full trash can. But it leaked some incredible nasty brown fluid all over my floor. I still have no idea what it was since I didn't eat anything other than cereal and milk at home the whole week due to VBS. But ignoring the grossness of that (please ignore the grossness of that), I still had to clean the floor up. So I went to grab a few rags and my bottle of vinegar from under the bathroom sink but my rags were all wet. My sink was leaking and everything underneath it was soaked. I had to figure out how to turn the water off and clean up the bathroom.

Over an hour after I "started" cleaning the kitchen, my house looked like a complete wreck and I had accomplished nothing but taking out the trash.

It didn't really seem to get much better over the next couple of days:

I went to turn off the kitchen light but forgot I had a bowl of yogurt and granola in that hand and threw it all over the walls and floor I had just cleaned.

I went to transfer the cat food from the huge 20lbs bags we buy it in to the nice and easy to pour plastic container and instead poured about half of it on the floor, and I can't even count on our cat to clean it up. Zeeba does not eat things that have been on the floor. But ants do, and apparently they really like cat food. It's a good things I only missed a couple pieces on my cleanup search.

I went to buy cute containers to organize my spices but forgot the measurements and ended up buying ones I was 90% sure would fit, except they didn't. They were about 1/4" longer than the cabinets were deep.

The funnel slipped as I was making kefir and I flooded the counters with sugar water...I think you get the picture.

But four days later, my kitchen is clean, really really clean. My counters and floors have been thoroughly cleaned about four times in the last few days, my spices are organized in a simple but effective manner

my jars have tags
I freed up some space by moving the microwave to above the fridge so I have more room for things like making yogurt and kefir and I even fixed up a make shift centerpiece. But I have to tell ya, if each of my projects goes this poorly, I don't think I'm going to make it very far down my list.


My Bus Commute by the Numbers

In a week of bus trips, here's what I've experienced:
  • Crazy people: 2
  • Crazy people that prompted me to call police: 1
  • Women with more kids than they could handle: 3
  • Number of kids under age 6 one woman had: 5
  • Rainstorms I narrowly avoided having to walk through: 3
  • Missed buses: 0 (so far)
  • Rides offered by old male passersby: 1 (I declined)
  • Percentage of my transit costs the government will pick up: 100
  • Books completed: 1
  • Asian men with poor English skills trying to make complicated trips: 1 (I tried to help)
  • Time it would take to drive to work: 7 minutes
  • Time it takes on bus: 35 minutes


Gone like a freight train

Well, A&M President Murano resigned. The official meeting should take place in about an hour, but she beat them to the punch when she announced her resignation yesterday.

A friend got the text when we were all out to lunch after church. I've been reading the headlines about what was going on but didn't really obsess over it. I liked Gates, he was great. I didn't like Murano, and nobody else really seemed to either. Now that she is gone, perhaps they will retract that stupid rule saying we have to keep our thermostats at 75 all summer to save energy.

The Batt was amusing this morning though, on the second page was a big picture of Mike McKinney and Elsa Murano hugging at the 2008 Convecation. This is the first and probably only time I will be able to say this but "Well done, Batt."

Although as soon as I started reading what was on the page, I wanted to take back my props. They compiled student reactions found on Twitter and Facebook. I won't give my opinions on the journalistic integrity of that, but I will say that only one of the eleven reactions was in favor of her leaving. The reactions they did include range from A&M is racist and sexist and despite her intelligence and accomplishments she couldn't possibly have succeeded to self-proclaimed conspiracy theories about how Perry is behind it all. I'm not so sure how representative of the University population they are, though, because of all the faculty, staff, and students I've talked to, I've yet to talk to one person in favor of her. The opinions range from against her to apathetic.

But it's just another piece of evidence supporting our theory - whatever the Batt says, believe the opposition and you'll be right.

So what do y'all think. Sad day, good riddance, or who cares?


Have I got a deal for you*

*said with Larry the cucumber's voice.

Remember back at the beginning of April, I finally splurged and bought some new camis from Shade? What, you don't remember that? Oh, well, go read this (or just believe me).

Anyway, I was raving excessively talking about them to my mom a while back and she told me I had to post the information on my blog because she wouldn't remember the company information (there seems to be something wrong with that, but I'm not sure exactly what?) All that just to say, I've been meaning to write this for a while but hadn't ever gotten around to it. Which is a shame because they are great.

I bought four and it isn't enough. They are so well made. In fact, they felt so substantial when I got them that I was worried they would be too hot. But they are made for layering so while they aren't see through or cheaply made, they are still light and comfortable. You can really believe me on that as I wear one almost every day - in Texas - in the summer - where it is really really hot.

And they are made to be modest. I have a long torso but I never have to worry about these not being long enough. I wear them under sweaters with necklines too low, blouses with fabric too shear, and shirts with hems to high.

I'm actually going to buy more, plus a few t-shirts. I made a skirt and got another one from a thrift store. They are both nice and summer-y but I need solid color t-shirts to go with them. I was at the mall last weekend and thought I would check The Gap, maybe then I wouldn't have to wait for mail to bring my shade stuff. Bad idea. Gap wanted to charge me $18.50 for a little white t-shirt. And it was poorly made - I put my hand in it and it was see through! I'll stick with Shade. I can get them for $10-11 and they often have coupon codes for free shipping or a couple dollars off on their blog.

So now that I have fully convinced you that I love this company (and you should too), here is where the deal comes in. I recently got an email from Shade offering my friends (that would be you) a special deal. I can send you an email for a free cami. You just have to sign up for the weekly email and pay shipping. If you get the cami then decide that it isn't a company you are interested in, just unsubscribe. Easy peasy right?

Now, for full disclosure I want to say that this isn't a blog sponsor thing. This blog isn't really big enough for that. Shade just sent me an email, they don't even know I have a blog. But I will get a coupon for $10 off my next purchase if I can get 5 of y'all signed up on the email list. Which is great for me too.

So if you want to try this, just leave a comment (make sure I have your email somehow, or I won't be able to email the deal to you). Or if you don't want to leave a comment, you could email me at brcbanter @ googlegroups . com


My week

  • 5 days of regular 9-5 work
  • 5 nights of 5:30-8:45 VBS
  • 38 first graders
  • 3 teachers (and a couple teen helpers)
  • 3 songs including hand motions repeated and repeated and repeated until they are ingrained in your psyche
  • Approximately 1.5 hours spent trying to get 38 first graders to form and/or stay in a line
  • Approximately 100 minutes anxiously watching one particular child with hemophilia run around, get pelted with foam noodles and hose rockets, and play tug-of-war during recreation
  • 3 Relay races
  • 5 Repetitions of the Pledges of Allegiance to the United States of America, the Christian Flag and the Bible.
  • One teacher blindly mouthing the words to the Pledge to the Christian Flag and the Bible in a incredible sad attempt to lead first graders on day 1 (okay, maybe day 2 as well, but I did know it by day 3. Come on, it has been years since I have been in Awanas. I don't remember the Christian Flag one and I have never even heard of the Pledge to the Bible)
  • One stealing incident
  • One lying incident - to cover up stealing incident
  • One spilled kool-aid incident (that we had only one was in itself a miracle)
  • The phrase "We do not put our hands around other people's throats"
  • The phrase "Armpit farts are not allowed in church"
  • The phrase "Hurry up in the bathroom girls, we need to make it to crafts on time" followed by the phrase "I'm pooping!"
  • One giant kangaroo
  • Plethora of small children who scream bloody murder non-stop whenever giant Kangaroo is within eyesight
  • Plethora of small children who forgot all about forming a line and decide they need hugs whenever giant Kangaroo is within eyesight
  • Numerous mean stares directed towards giant Kangaroo in an attempt to telepathically send him away
  • 5 snacks and 4 "dinners" of VBS food including but not limited to chili cheese dogs, kool-aid, macaroni and cheese, pizza, cupcakes, chicken nuggets, cookies, popsicles, and candy.
  • 2 vegetables - No, not per night, two vegetables the entire week.
  • The result - one completely worn out 24-year old with a stomach-ache who is going to go home, sit and enjoy the quiet while eating every fruit and vegetable in her fridge before retiring early to her soft and comfy bed
  • The payoff - Memories of 30 minutes of quiet first graders sitting around a circle listening to the ABCs of how to become a christian, listening to their ideas of how to serve others, listening to them tell how Jesus called the disciples "John and Steve" to follow him, listening to them go from singing Taylor Swift songs in the hallway on the first day to singing "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" on the last day and being given more hugs than I can count before the run off the last time - makes it all worthwhile!

Foreign Affairs Friday: Cuban Spies

Stratfor has a story about the State Department employees who spent 30 years spying for Cuba. The story compares the Myers to Ana Montes, another spy for Cuba who was caught in 2001. In both cases, ideology was the motivator, as opposed to money or ego, which are other common motivators. What the hell these people saw in Cuba that they thought was so desirable is beyond me.

Power Line has a story about the rabid leftist views of Mr. Myers. Apparently, this raised no red flags among his colleagues or investigators. According to Stratfor:
[H]e was cleared for access to Top Secret material in 1985 and Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI) in 1999 — 20 years after he was recruited by the Cubans. Apparently the agents and investigators who conducted his background investigations did not dig deeply enough uncover the warning signs of his radical beliefs, or the people they interviewed knowingly withheld such information.
While it is horrible that this guy and his wife got away with what they were doing for so long, their arrest is better late than never.



-Here is an anti-homeschooling article that has been shredded to pieces all over the blog world. I won't get into actually refuting it myself, not only because it's already been done but because the article is really too asinine to bother doing so. If that is a compilation of the best arguments against homeschooling, I'm not too worried. But my point in linking to it is that it is obvious this man has no clue what the purpose of a school should be, but scarily, I don't think he is atypical in that.

-Barack Obama is the first president to be included in Forbes' 100 most powerful celebrity list. Perhaps that is because, until Barack Obama, we haven't considered our presidents to be "celebrities." Political official and world leader, yes; celebrity, no.

-Professor Theophilus talks about Tattooing and why we do (or don't) follow specific Old Testament principles. It's a concept I think few understand and his logic is so good, I'm willing to forget he hails from tu. (Sidenote: the article kept making me think of Anne's quote "What do you think a mother would feel like if she found her child tattooed over with a baking powder advertisement?")


Too Many Signs

Today is the big Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, where I happen to be at the moment. You may recognize one of the candidates, Terry McAuliffe, who was a Clinton crony back in the day. Humorously, this ultimate Washington insider is trying to run as a Richmond outsider. It doesn't look like he'll win, which makes me happy.

Anyway, I have seen a lot of campaign signs, and I think McAuliffe has the most. Often, his people will put a bunch of them in the same spot on a roadside. Check out this site for an egregious example.

From a strategic standpoint, what is the point of this? I understand candidates want to get their names out there, but come on. I figure there are two types of people; those who know about an upcoming election, and who's running, and those that don't. I'd expect the former to be more likely to vote. Campaign signs impact the latter group more, I would think, but will they show up at the polls? Maybe if there was a presidential election, people would go vote for that, and then when they get to the governor spot on the ballot, say, "Hey, I know that name! I'll vote for him." But I don't really see how signs translate to votes.

My main theory is that a lot of signs suggest a lot of support for that candidate. People see that and think, "Hhmmm, a lot of people like that guy. I'll consider voting for him." But that would seem to only work if you saw the signs in a lot of people's yards, because that means that family endorses that candidate. When 20 signs are dropped on a roadside, it's different. In fact, it seems like more of a turn-off. But I guess we'll find out tonight how the signs worked for McAuliffe.


Summertime Schedule

I added a new feature of the right sidebar. It is a to-do list for the summer. I don't think I will actually accomplish all that but if I even get half of that done, I will count these next ten weeks as a success.

The craft things are all projects I have been wanting to do for a while but have let go since this spring semester was so busy.

The cleaning is based on SimplyMom's Spring Cleaning for Normal People. I said earlier that I don't believe in spring cleaning. Well, the nice weather is gone and I can't possible even consider going outside in the Texas heat between 6am and 8pm unless I absolutely have to, cleaning and organizing doesn't sound so bad. Summer cleaning here I come.

Whether the canning gets done will ultimately depend on our farmer's market and its selection. Craig and I tried canning for the first time last weekend making a batch of peach jam. The half jar I ended up left with was quite good but I only got two pints stored away so I will have to make more. And the tomatoes I have gotten so far from the market have been quite tasty so I think I will be heading back for more to can when I have a chance. If anything else pops up there that I can use in my water bath (fruit and tomatoes only - no veggies :-( I might add that to the list as well.

Of course, all of these projects will have to wait until next weekend because this week is VBS! Everyday I will go directly from work to a class full of first graders, just waiting to bombard me with questions and suck every drop of energy from my body before leaving me to crawl home at 9pm, sleep and repeat. I can't wait!


Foreign Affairs Friday: Not Dead Yet

In early April, protests in Moldova erupted over the results of that country's election, which kept the Communist party in power. Protesters believed that there were electoral shenanigans, and that the Communists are responsible for Moldova's failure to join in the economic growth and freedom seen in the rest of Eastern Europe since the fall of the USSR (Freedom House profile here). These protests made heavy use of Twitter for publicity and communication.

I have a bit of interest in this situation, because we have had a worker from Moldova come help out during the last few years. It is the poor economic situation there that motivated him to come to the US. I am also interested in seeing freedom and democracy spread.

However, it looked like little would come from the protests. Russia backs the Communist government, and it was not likely that anyone, such as Romania, would take a stand against Russia for Moldova's stake. So after a couple days, the protests died down, although some violence was required.

Now, however, the new Moldovan parliament has been unable to elect a president, so new elections will be needed. It looks like these elections will take place in a 2-3 months. Here's hoping that the spirit of the protesters will be carried into the voting booth, and change will come to Moldova.


Yet Another Example of Government Waste

Is it really necessary for city governments to hire consultants to find employees for them? For example, my city spent $25,000 to get help finding a police chief. It seems like there would be a lot of interest in that type of job, and applicants would be plentiful. Then, put a committee of cops, citizens, and a couple of city council members together to evaluate the applicants. But no, they had to hire a consultant. And what did that get them? A chief that is leaving after one year. But it's OK; the city will get a 50% discount on the search for their next chief.

Twenty Years After Tiananmen

Here's a look back at the events of 20 years ago today.


Fires That Cause Genealogical Anguish

1. 1921 fire that destroyed the 1890 Census. Most of my ancestors got here in the 1860's or 1870's, so that Census would have provided good information on many of my immigrant relatives. This fire led to the creation of the National Archives to protect documents like these.

2. 1973 fire that destroyed 80% of records of Army soldiers discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960. That time period, of course, includes both World Wars. This affects three of my ancestors.

On a related note, I am told that a family member had a box of old photos and documents that was ruined in a flood. This causes me the most anguish, because I don't know what was even in the box and I have few old photos of that branch of the family. Aargh.


"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galations 6:9

That is my verse for the first part of June. I haven't been talking about them all but I felt the need to delve into this one a bit more.

I didn't know what verse to pick when I went to Beth's post but I thought I would read through some of the comments and see if one spoke to me (to be honest, that is how I pick my verses most of the time, that sounds really lazy of me but the other woman always have great verses!)This was the very first verse and I knew it was for me.

Weary. Doesn't everyone have seasons in life where they just feel weary. I'm in one right now. It's tempting to just want to take a nap from life, to pull the proverbial golden string, waking up six months from now with all my problems sorted out. But that won't work. Not only because I'm not a bear so hibernation poses some physical problems, but because I know God wants me right here right now in the very place that he put me. And I know He put me here.

Sometimes you get weary because you are dealing with consequences of your sins. And sometimes you get weary because you are dealing with the consequences of other people's sins. You're somewhere you were never meant to be and you just want out. Well, God can use your weariness to bring you back to him so that you let him get you out.

But other times, you aren't in a bad place because anyone (you or someone else) put you there, your just there, weary, because life is hard. That is what I am in right now. I know I am doing good. I don't mean I'm perfect, but I know that there are a couple things weighing me down right now and in all of those circumstances, I am right with God. I know my heart is with His, I know that I am, at least for this very second, in His will.

Other's may see me and think, well "she's just not doing this, or that is why this is working out, or "she just needs to be content with her circumstances" but I know that God knows the real me and that the real me is "doing good". I'm like Job, wondering where his blessing went and why he isn't reaping the rewards he might have thought were coming.

And to be honest, sometimes I just want to be a toddler and yell "It's not fair" and "but, why!" and sit on my butt and throw a temper tantrum until I get what I want.

But then Holy Spirit kicks in and I remember what I know:

I know that He is God.

I know that I am not.

I know that He loves me and wants the best for me.

I know that He has a plan.

I know that while he invites me to talk to him about anything or even to cry out to him and ask him why, it really isn't my place to have to know why. If he chooses to tell me, now or sometime in the future, what his reasons for all this is, that would be great, if not, that will have to do.

I know that I will eventually reap a harvest. I don't want to be obedient to God because I think I get something out of it but to a certain extant, we as humans can't help that. But the reward I am working for shouldn't be earthly, it needs to be heavenly.

And I love how this verse doesn't say "Don't be weary - because that means you are discontent" or "Don't be weary - because that means you aren't trusting God," no, it's an encouragement, "Don't be weary - God's got something good for you if you can just hang on!"

So for now, I'll be waiting.


One Man's Trash

I am not above salvaging household items from in or near the dumpster. In the past, I've found a table, a grill, a vacuum cleaner, a TV, and a lamp at various apartment complexes I've lived in. This weekend, we spotted this:

Specifically, I'm referring to the white cabinet. When we saw it sitting there, I said, "Hey, let's get that." MacKenzie was skeptical, but I convinced her to come check it out with me, and she found it acceptable. We especially like the doors on this one, because they hide our movie collection. Not that there's anything wrong with our collection (other than all the chick flicks). We just like to have it tucked away.

For comparison, here's the old TV stand. I didn't take a good photo before we switched them out, so this old one is all you get.

P.S. I found another vacuum today, but it's huge, so I'll probably have MacKenzie put it on Freecycle, as I did with the TV when the pawn shops rejected it (because it was too old). Look at me, keeping stuff out of the landfill.


May-day Grocery Emergency Challenge: The End

I finished! I had to buy a loaf of bread mid-week but that was it so I finished the month at $77.99. That is $122.01 under my normal budget. I did so much better than I was expecting and I think we ate well. I also tried a number of new recipes that we ended up really liking so all in all I would say it was a smashing success! My biggest concern is that I would have to overspend the next month to make up for it but we went shopping today for the next week and I was right about where I normally am so I don't think that will be a problem. I'll definitely be trying to repeat this challenge once or twice a year.

So do you want to know what my plans for the extra money are? Well, do you remember my fermentation failure? I'm ready to try it again but this time I am going to get a little help. I put in an order for some cultures I've been coveting from Cultures for Health. I was planning on just getting the water kefir kit but since I did so well with the challenge that I splurged and bought the vili yogurt starter too. They arrived on Saturday and I started them up.

The yogurt seems super easy and I am really excited about being able to make my own, without even having to use a yogurt maker or crockpot.

The kefir is something I've been wanting for a while. Kefir is a beverage made by fermenting milk with Kefir grains. Kefir grains aren't really a grain but a mother structure of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Like I said, Kefir is a traditionally fermented milk product that is thicker than milk, thinner than yogurt. You can buy it at the grocery store but just like most commercial yogurts, it is choke-full of thickeners, flavor additives and sugar. Make it yourself and you can avoid that.

Hopefully I will like it as I think it will be a easy source of good probiotics.I've heard it can help with eczema which would be great and mine is difficult to deal with.*

I didn't actually get the normal milk kefir grains but instead went the water kefir route. The grains are a little different and allow you to ferment water turning it into kefir lemonade, homemade ginger beer or fruity kefir juice, depending on what you add to it. The fermentation naturally adds carbonation in addition to probiotic benefits so the end result is supposed to be tasty and nutritious. (My grains came dried and take a few days to rejuvenate so you'll have to wait a few days to know what I think they taste like.)

I choose water kefir instead of milk because I already eat my fill of dairy products with yogurt and milk and I need another way to stay hydrated. With my heart condition, it is important that I don't get dehydrated but it is really hard to do that in Texas. Ten minutes outside and I am feeling woozy. But water is boring, juice is sugary and hot tea is not appealing when it is in the 90s. (Yah, I made it to June without complaining about the weather, I am very proud of myself). There are so many fun options to try with water kefir that I hope I can keep my palate entertained. I'll start with the easier things, like lemonade, but I really want to try ginger beer.

*On a eczema side note, mine has gotten better as my diet has improved and it actually completely disappeared a few months back when I was off sugar for Lent and drinking raw milk, but right after that we took a trip and I started being lax about sugar and milk and it came back. So I don't know exactly why but at least it gives me hope. I'll be working on narrowing down the reason this summer, but if it was the milk, the kefir might help.