Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Funny. Still Scary.

I ran across this a month or so ago.  Watch it and weep.

Not that a disclaimer excuses much, but I think I read that this man has severe Hepatitis and often can't follow a coherent conversation.  The question is, WHY hasn't he resigned?!??  WHO thinks he should be able to vote on what to order for dinner, LET ALONE national legislation!!!!!

Only in America.  *sigh*

Happy 32nd to my Hubby today!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on Eating

I was telling my brother about Food, Inc the other night.  He's headed to Afghanistan in a couple days, and stocking up on DVDs and digital books and stuff.  My recommendation probably ensures that he *won't* watch it, but oh well...

He really doesn't care at this point what he eats.  If it "tastes better" then bring on the GMOs!  Of course, they're not genetically-modifying anything based on taste, it's for resistance to poisons, resistance to pests, tolerance of transport, etc.  His 16-month-old daughter gets organic, though!  :)  So even if he doesn't "care," he seems to "know." ;)

One of his comments was, "I have more important things to worry about" and variations thereof, which illustrated how low on the priority list "eating" really was (not that he doesn't think eating is important, just that beyond doing it, he doesn't think about it much).  That stuck with me, even after our conversation, and I've been pondering it.  Is what we eat important?  How we eat, with whom we eat, when and where?  How important are these things?  For the record, I'm not speaking of health and nutrition for once. :)

I think eating, and all the details ARE important.  We usually commemorate a birthday, a holiday, a wedding,  with special food - shared with special people.  The Old Testament devotes thousands of words of instruction regarding what to eat, what not to eat, and how to prepare food.  When the Israelites fled Egypt, they were to prepare a certain feast, make (and eat!) a different bread.  There are various "feasts" celebrated in the bible, also times of fasting.  Gluttony is condemned, and the sluggard goes  hungry.  Jesus Himself illustrated His sacrifice with elements of the Passover feast, and commanded we do  the same in remembrance.  Eating (and not) can (should?) even be an act of worship.

So, I think the questions surrounding "eating" are not slight.  I do think that food, and eating, bears thought and careful consideration, both in a health sense and in a spiritual one.  "...know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost..."  Eating is not (or should not be) separate from our relationships with people and with God.  What that looks like probably varies between individuals, but for me, it is raising or eating animals that live and die as close to the way God intended it as is possible.  It's choosing fruit and vegetables that are grown in Real Dirt under Real Sunlight with as few harmful (to my body, to God' earth) interventions as possible.  It's eating these things with the least amount of processing (God made potatoes, but not par-fried in trans-fat, coated with preservatives before freezing).

And these things DO take thought and time, and have importance. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Food, Inc.

Have you seen it?  It's a documentary on food production, and it's viewable free online through April 29 at pbs.  If you have a Netflix subscription you can watch it online there too.

I've heard it talked about and a friend advertised it's PBS broadcast on Facebook last week, and then a cousin mentioned he caught it and was wondering if I'd seen it.  I hadn't, but I arranged to.

It is a good intro to factory-food and it touches on many sides of the Eating Dilemma.

What I like:

Aside from a few clips that we've all seen (the downer-cow being prodded with a forklift to "qualify" to become part of our food supply), there was nothing crazily-over-the-top about the treatment of the animals or their environment.  Some might call that a criticism, but I think the regular run-of-the-mill nastiness is enough to make the point without distracting.

Joel Salatin is in it, and his methods/writing were the first reasonable exposure I had to the differences in organic vs. conventional food production.  I love his attitude towards his farm, his business, his animals, the industry, people...  It doesn't hurt that he's a Christian, and, I think, homeschooled his (now grown) children.  He makes a great point that cheap isn't necessarily good.  "Who wants to buy the cheapest car?"  In fact, "cheap" often means "very expensive" when you factor in the environmental costs, the medical/healthcare costs of an abused body, societal costs, and more. Many (most?) of the big crops are SUBSIDIZED.  Because we're paying for those via our taxes, the price tag at the grocery store can be smaller.  That doesn't make his $3/dozen eggs necessarily expensive (except that we still have to pay the IRS, even if we buy his produce).

As I said above, it touches on many facets of industrial food production, including the marketing/labeling, labor/illegal immigration, genetic modification, animal treatment, environment, nutrition, law/politics, farmer-supplier relationships, and more.

What I didn't like:

The politics.  One guy (the founder of Stoneyfield Farm yogurt, I think) actually says (in a "too bad" sort of way), "We're not going to get rid of capitalism.  Certainly we're not going to get rid of it in the time that we need to arrest global warming and reverse the toxification of our air, our food, and our water.... And if we attempt to make the perfect the enemy of the good and to say, 'we're only gonna buy food from the most perfect system within a hundred miles of us' we're never gonna get there."  He adds that "business" is the source of all the pollution, all the things that are "destroying this world."

While I'm sure he regrets using the global warming excuse now, I couldn't believe that he was so "anti" capitalist, considering the comment right before that, was, "organic had been growing over 20% annually.  It's one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry."  Oh, and right after the anti-capitalism?  "Today, in 2008, we're not only the #3 yogurt brand in America, but we're among the most profitable."  Huh?  I thought he was against capitalism?  Or does he just blame it for all the environmental evils, and decided to play the game for the environment's sake.  So much for moral absolutes.

In one scene, on a nice, lush farm, a van pulls in and two super-smiling young men emerge, among others, and the lady of the farm asks, "help me figure out.. who are?  and ...where? are you from?" and they, still smiling too much, say, "We work for Wal-Mart."  She, "Oh.. okay..  Do you know that we don't go to Wal-Mart?  That we've never been?  Amazing, isn't it?"  They continue to smile, and the older man says, "and so we come to you."  She might've left it there, considering that it seems they are potential patrons of her farm products, but she says, "we just sort of started boycotting it years ago, and just kept riding in that boat..."

I don't like the "big = evil" assumption, although clearly some of the big ones (Monsanto, for one) could hardly be described otherwise.  I don't like the implication that desiring profit means that you have no morals whatsoever.  Of course businesses have to look at the bottom line.  What is with these types, do they think all our hard work should never amount to anything?  I don't see them begrudging Joel Salatin his $3/dozen.

They also follow one family in the grocery store, as they weigh pears and consider the price of broccoli, and are "forced" to consider the boxed, processed stuff as more affordable.  With some exceptions, you can eat very well, yet very frugally without succumbing to that idea.  Beans, rice, flour, butter, pasta, veggies and fruits in season...  Meat in small amounts, this is doable for most, if they take the time and learn to cook it.  A top of broccoli might not be much by way of a main dish, but cut up and added to a meal for flavor and nutrition, even in small amounts, is certainly a better choice than creamed corn.  Especially when you consider the price of the diabetes medication you'll need in a few years.

I am undecided yet on some issues.  The documentary portrays the stark difference between the "old" ways and the "new," contrasting the bushels per acre, the size of chickens and the speed of their growth, etc.  I'm not sure where they're going with this.  If my brother criticizes me for anything, it's that I'm always "against technology" in some fashion or another.  But seriously?  What should be done instead?  Should we go back to 10% of yield?  The benefits seem outweighed by the cost.  The cost being that a LOT of people won't be eating from that field.  And will they be eating at all?  Consider how many hours per day people once spent just to feed themselves and their families.  I'm willing to hear the debate about whether or not that is reasonable, but I'm not ready off the bat to advocate it.

Have you seen the film?  Did you learn anything you didn't know?  Did you like it?  Do you agree with my assessments?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

$1500 Rock Collection

Sounds a bit spendy, huh?

Especially for cheapskates like us.  But we did it.  We figure the benefits are worth it, and the girls have certainly put it to good use, sifting through and finding treasures of all kinds.  They sort similar ones into groups, rank individual rocks according to their "pretty" factor, put them in pockets, shoes, nooks and crannies. At such an investment, I'm trying not to vacuum any up, though I've had to remove a few from the Baby's mouth.

Would you like to see some of them?  An example of what has grabbed the attention and held the fascination of our kids all week?

Ok, but first, I should admit that while Hubby and I don't spend as much time handling and playing with the rocks, we do have a fairly high enjoyment factor associated with the collection:

Now my bladder begs the question, "Why didn't you do this last year when you were pregnant??!?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Garden Goals

While once I bought seed packets just because "oh, THIS looks tasty!" or "how fun this would be!" I now have to be a little more realistic in my planning.  There is certainly a lot that looks tasty, or fun, or neat or different, but if I go in all those directions, I'll have nothing to show for it at the end of the day (or season).

Gardening has two purposes, when it comes down to it.  First, to give us healthy food, and second, to save money.  Of course there is the enjoyment part, the teaching the children, and many other things.  But the first two dictate where our goals are going to be.

I've identified things I use often, and things that I either a) spend money on frequently or b) would like to have more often, but the price is too high.

Of course one of those things is tomatoes.  I try to freeze peeled, diced tomatoes in quart ziploc bags for use in chili, spaghetti, lasagna, etc through the year.  I LOVE having organic, TASTY tomatoes that aren't full of stems. :)  Also, since we don't limit this to a certain kind of tomato, most of the 'dices' cook down enough that the kids don't leave them in their bowls when they're done with dinner!  I've recently run out of our homegrown stash, and have resorted to gallon cans from Costco.  The difference is quite noticeable.

What I haven't done before, but would like to if there are enough tomatoes, is to freeze or can pureĆ©/sauce.  I usually buy that in a big can, but the BPA-rich lining in those cans has me wishing for something different.

Another tomato idea that I just ran across is to dehydrate and grind them into powder, to use in lieu of tomato paste.  I usually buy organic tomato paste, but again, the can isn't organic.  I don't have a good enough dehydrator to make this a reasonable goal, but we'll see what happens.

We use a lot of frozen organic green beans.  If I could freeze my own, that would cut down on the grocery bill.  Picking them at just the right stage/size will be a challenge, as will actually getting the harvest put away in a timely fashion!  Beans can't sit around as easily as tomatoes.

We REALLY like diced green chilis in the little can.  And they are horrifically expensive.  I portion a can out into ice cube trays for individual servings, but Hubby thinks one can is a good condiment for a can of tuna (or anything else, too).  That can bust our budget very quickly, so I don't buy them much (and may or may not resort to hiding them in the pantry if I do...).  I'd like to grow a lot of these, roast them in the oven, peel, dice, and freeze.  Unlimited diced green chilis?!?  What's not to like!

A couple years ago I managed to chop and blanch a lot of carrots for the freezer.  They went into soups so wonderfully, and have such a better taste than store-bought.  I'd like to do that again.

I wouldn't mind having dried herbs on hand.. but I probably would spend more per year on plants (that die over the winter for lack of tlc) than I would on jars of the herb.

What drives your gardening decisions?  Do you like to preserve the harvest some way?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby Eats

Our littlest beauty is now 8 months old.  It's hard to imagine, really!  It always is, though...  I'm amazed that though she was almost our lightest baby at birth (8 lbs even), she quickly gained and outpaced even her 100th+ percentile sisters (interestingly, Organique was our heaviest at birth, but definitely the 'skinniest' from a few months old).  She has been holding at 22 lbs this past month or so, which is good, since her rear-facing infant carseat has a 22-lb weight limit.  So glad we went with that brand...!

A few months ago I began to give thought to what we might need to start feeding her.  Her cousin, at a day older, has been eating solids since Christmas or before!

We followed the Nourishing Traditions suggestions for baby food with Organique, which was the yoke from a barely-boiled egg and some sea salt from 4 months, often some (raw!) grass-fed beef liver, bananas from 6 months, and then other vegetables and meats towards 9 months.

This baby hasn't exactly seemed under-nourished, so I haven't been in much of a hurry to introduce solids, though we're fairly regular with feeding her just recently.

We have done the egg yolk, though not daily.  I drizzle some melted coconut oil with the egg, and use RealSalt.  Hubby ate all the liver from the last cow we bought, and I haven't been highly motivated to find more.  I've fed her avocado lately, sometimes mixed with banana, and the same oil and salt.  Which kinda cracks me up, considering I probably once thought adding fat and salt to baby food was a horrific idea.

Reasons we do it this way?

It was probably Nourishing Traditions that first informed me of much of this, and I've done more reading since then, of course.  First, we know Mama's milk is best for Baby.  What is in mother's milk?  Lots of fat, for one.  Protein.  Lactose is the main carbohydrate, and it's important enzyme-counterpart, lactase.  Lactase does the job of breaking down the milk sugar, lactose (people with lactose intolerance can often drink raw cow's milk - where the lactase is still alive and functional).  If we assume Baby's digestive tract is geared for these nutrients, but little else (which we know is true), super-processed cereals begin to look less and less like a good "first food."  Grains are notorious allergens these days, anyways.  Ever heard someone suggest putting cereal in Baby's bottle to "help them sleep through the night" at a young age?  It's no wonder it might; taxing the immature digestive tract with complex carbohydrates and proteins that they aren't ready to break down yet?  That's a harsh sleep aid.  I suppose a fever, or virus, might put a strain on Baby too, but we wouldn't recommend that!  For us, while it's certainly a convenient and conventional option, we're not using cereals or grains just yet.  The liver is recommended for it's iron (and raw is full of those handy enzymes), and banana happens to be high in amylase - the enzyme to break down the banana's own carbohydrate.  Ta-da!  I think that's why bananas turn dark so quickly is their active enzymes.  Keep in mind, however, that a little jar of bananas, with a cute baby on the label, is NOT the same thing.  If it's in a jar (or any other shelf-stable packaging), it's been cooked to death.  And enzymes keel over somewhere near 120˚-130˚, far less than the 240˚ or so at which the canned goods are processed.  The avocado we are feeding her is also alive, of course, and the coconut oil is "virgin, unrefined" - processed without heat or harsh solvents/chemicals.  I think the salt is dead.  Or unalive.  :)  But the salt is important to brain development!  Even if it's dead/unalive. ;)

Well, without liver on hand, I got to thinking about the whole iron thing.  My baby sure doesn't seem like she's got any deficiencies in her diet, but all baby cereals/formulas/snacks advertise "iron fortified!" on them.  Can I feed her spinach?  Meat?  I remember pediatricians recommending iron supplements for babies who were exclusively breastfed.  I thought I should google for more information.  I found some information on kellymom, which was interesting.  The whole "iron at six months!" thing turns out not to be popular because babies tend to need iron at six months.  No, that would make too much sense!  It's more like:  Formula babies need more iron.  Breastmilk has less iron than formula.  Therefore, breastfed babies must REALLY need more iron.  Yet,
Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores. [...] researchers concluded that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 7 months (and were not give iron supplements or iron-fortified cereals) had significantly higher hemoglobin levels at one year than breastfed babies who received solid foods earlier than seven months. The researchers found no cases of anemia within the first year in babies breastfed exclusively for seven months and concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for seven months reduces the risk of anemia.
(emphasis mine)
All iron is not created equal.  That in breastmilk is absorbed at four to twenty-plus times the rate of formula's iron.  Also, apparently bad bacteria need iron.  Giving baby iron via supplements, drops, formula, cereal, etc provides a lot of iron to bacteria, while there are specialized proteins in Mama's milk that keep the iron from those critters. (oh, how I wish I knew some of this when Big Sister was little...)

Obviously there are babies that might need extra iron - premature infants, for one, and those who actually test anemic.  I would first choose naturally high-iron foods before considering something iron "fortified." 

There are some high-iron foods listed at the link.  And yes, spinach is on there. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010


Have you been planning your garden yet?  Ha ha ha..

I must be the slowest wanna-be "gardener" on the planet this year.  I've "planned" a bit.  And finally, mid-April, got around to ordering my seeds.

I went with Territorial again this year, and am happy with them.  I was a little worried that my late ordering might find them out of seeds, but everything came!  They upped their shipping a bit, to $7.50 per order, and since I really only needed about 4 packets of seeds, that was tripping me up.  I got a friend to go in with me on the ordering, so we split the shipping and it was more reasonable.  We also ordered up a size for two packages of carrots, and split the cost of that as well.

What did I get?  I really went all out.

I bought my favorite Purple Haze Carrots.
Also some Parano Carrots, which are new and I haven't tried.
Some Kentucky Blue Pole Beans.
And some weird Red Noodle Beans - which are red, and stay that way even when cooked, and are around 18 inches in length - the bean, not the plant.

Yep, carrots and beans, that's it.  I plan to put the carrots in my deep Square Foot Box, and maybe make a teepee style bean hut for the girls to play in.  Plus beans elsewhere, I suppose.

There is more I'd like to start from seed, but the way Organique is these days, there's NO WAY I'm doing that indoors.  So the hybrids from the greenhouse will have to do.

What about you?  Do you have some garden plans?  Have you ordered/bought seeds?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Apricot Tree Ablossom

The only real "tree" on the property, small and kinda worthless in ways, never fails to give us such beauty (if not food).  It's in bloom, the past day or two..

See the honeybee?  A wonderful sign.  Welcome, Spring.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Picking Up Chicks

We do it every spring, and this year is no different.

We ordered 50 Meat Mutants (a.k.a. "Cornish Cross Broilers"), and they arrived Tuesday.  We went to the feed store and had to wade through foreigners who wanted boxes full, but hadn't placed an order ahead of time.  Thankfully the peeping chaos didn't keep me from finding my own 50. :)

That was Tuesday, and we've lost two.  One to a tight-fisted toddler (we all cried) and one to who-knows-what.

They're housed in the same setup we used last year... a small pickup bedliner raised up a few feet off the ground, and covered with our plastic-covered hoophouse.  In the bedliner we have wood shavings, and of course water, feed, heat.

The feed store saw my grimaces the last couple years, and this year stocked small (five-lb) bags of UNmedicated starter.  They were $3 apiece, but I bought a couple, because though I had ordered some organic starter from Azure Standard (they must've heard my laments, too!), it wouldn't be here until Friday.  The organic starter was just under $30/50 lb bag (so even a bit cheaper than the small bags of unmedicated), and I ordered one of those, and two bags of grower (lower protein) at the same price, to "finish them off" before processing.  Buying enough to make them truly organic would've been truly expensive, so we figure to feed them the bad stuff in the middle of their lives.

The feed info, from Azure's website:

Corn & Soy Free!
Product of Oregon.
Ingredients: Organic Peas, Organic Triticale, Organic Wheat, Organic Crab Meal, Organic Fish Meal, Organic Barly, Calcium corbonate, Organic Poultry Nutri-Balancer, Enzyme.
Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein    19.10%
Crude Fat            5.60%
Crude Fiber        4.80%
Calcium               2.31%
Phosphorus       0.99%
Salt added          0.58%
Sodium               0.26%
Energy              1,309  Kcal/LB
Vitamin A         4452  IU/LB
Vitamin D         1608  IU/LB
Vitamin E         50    IU/LB
Choline           1639  IU/LB
Biotin               62.1  MCG/LB
Manganese    184.4  IU/LB
Zinc                  99.1  IU/LB
Copper            15.63  IU/LB
Selenium (added)    0.3  IU/LB
Lysine             1.07%
Arginine           0.95%

Like you, my eyes mostly glaze over with all the %s and units and such, but did you see that ingredient list?  Yummy!  I'm very excited.  No genetically modified grains, or super-estrogen soy.  I was excited to feed this to the little critters.  When I opened it up, I was even more excited.  It looked like... food.  I know, amazing!  There are whole grains and powder, even bright green bits of peas.  I sprinkled some of this over their other uniform, beige crumbles, and they really preferred the organic stuff.

They're still cute, and I took a few photos of Little Artist holding a chick, but inadvertently put my camera on full manual settings... which I'm not yet fluent with (indeed, I'm not observant enough to even notice), and the photos did NOT turn out.  Some of them would've been so cute, too...  *sigh*

We have a few turkeys and a Dumb Duck coming next month!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Yesterday I experienced something completely incredible, sad, touching, amazing, and holy.  I don't know if there's a whole lot else I could describe with that combination of words, but this certainly meets the criteria.

I have often imagined that those blurry black-and-white ultrasound photos are the "fingerprints of God."  The swirly sonar lines, the outline of a living, created, person... it's always so amazing, even if I do have concerns about subjecting babies to a barrage of ultrasonic waves. :)

Also, I have never experienced a miscarriage, or the heartbreaking grief that accompanies such loss.

That's the back story.

Yesterday was a rough day, from an early morning departure (from a messy, messy home to a crazy, crazy library book sale, and errands), to several hours trying to tend the kids while trying to combine some complicated patterns to help my midwife with her wedding dress (notice I said 'trying' on both counts).  A couple hours into it, a couple stopped by her place to 'pick up some stuff' for a moment.  My midwife disappeared for a while, longer than a moment, then passed through the room a few times.  Another friend and I were busy with the pattern, and took little notice until she interrupted our study to show us something.

The couple had stopped by for some hard-to-find herbs, fearing an early miscarriage.  The cramping had stopped earlier, but they came all the same.  And then, during her visit, she miscarried.  My midwife held in her hands a ziploc bag with about a half cup of clean, clear tap water inside.  In the water was the most beautiful, incredible, amazing creation.  The baby was tiny, so tiny.  Not even an inch long.  She estimated it to be 5 or 6 weeks.  It had fingers.  Tiny, perfect fingers, on a hand not 1/8th of an inch across.

In the midst of my awe was such sadness for the couple's loss.  I don't know anything about them, whether they already had children or this was the next in a series of heartbreaks, but I don't think it matters.  He or she was their baby, and that isn't dependent upon family demography.

And that baby was so precious, so beautiful.

I've seen pictures, of course, in fact, earlier my girls were looking at a book from their shelf about just such things.  There was a little diagram of a human baby at various stages of development alongside those of a rabbit and lizard, as though to illustrate how similar the three are.  Um, no.  What I saw was not similar.  This, I felt, bore the image of the Creator Himself, and His holiness.  His fingerprints, but so much more.  His handiwork.  His workmanship.  His image.  It was truly breathtaking.

And in the midst of my harried day, where I questioned my wisdom to even leave the house, God brought such Wonder to my eyes.

I thank Him, and I pray for the mama and daddy, that God would visit them too.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Oh. My. Gosh.

I WISH this was as unbelievable as it seems.

Thanks, DHM.

Oops I Did It Again

I hated it last time I did it.  And it didn't get any better the second time around.  Could I set up Facebook to alert me, since I can't seem to remember it on my own?

What miserable thing did I do again?

Well, it all started innocently enough (doesn't it always?)...

Hubby got paid on Wednesday, and I planned, as usual these days, to head into town for groceries and errands in the evening, when it's quiet and mellow and I can park close to the door.  However, he got home later than usual, and Baby had spent three nights wailing for a 2-hour block, and I was really tired.  I decided to delay the whole thing for a day, and set out Thursday night instead.

Big Mistake.  Thursday was April first.  The first day of the month.  And, let me tell you, the sheer quantity of shoppers the night of the first is enough to keep me away.  It's akin to the Saturday Shopping, which I avoid with all my might.  Now, brace yourself, because I'm about to reveal my Evil, Conservative Hatemonger side...  The quality of people packing the stores is notable as well.  Please don't misunderstand; I'm not trying to say they're of less value in the sight of God, or in an eternal sense, or even necessarily in ability or opportunity.    What kind of quality am I talking about, then?  I wish I could say.  I guess it's the quality of hopelessness, or of laziness, or at the very least, a resignation (sometimes satisfied) to let someone else carry their weight.  Maybe because they know no better, or think life somehow owes them for perceived injustice.  Put a group like that together, and it's noticeable.  And, I'm not even saying that all of them were of this notable quality.  But a lot of these were shopping last night.

Mixed in to all this is the knowledge that there but for the grace of God go I.  I can imagine, if things got really bad for us, that we might seek out food stamps (or 'benefits cards' as they are nowadays).  But I dearly hope it would be a last resort, after I'd quit smoking and sold my name-brand purse and shoes [in case you're new here, I don't smoke or have name-brand purses or shoes].  And THEN, I'd buy dry beans from the bulk food section, butter and cottage cheese on sale.  Oh wait.  I DID buy dry beans from the bulk food section, and butter and cottage cheese on sale!  Yeah, that was my cart.  As opposed to the two trendy gals in front of me who had a couple-dozen jars of baby food, an equal number of giant Arizona Tea cans, and untold goodies like frozen Drumstick ice cream things, Nutrigrain bars, canned- and boxed-everything.  I was saddened by the way they were teaching a young baby to eat (not the baby food, but the example they set), and indignant that I was financing it.  And then shame entered in, realizing that while I might not be asking my neighbors to feed my family, I was still doing it to an extent, considering our effective tax rate is less than zero, after this year's tax refund.  Forced insurance, but of course.  We've been doing forced Welfare in this country for some time now.  And then more indignation, on behalf of my husband's boss, and the owner of the small company that built his business from scratch, then bought and merged another business into it.  What did he do to deserve punishment?  Punish him too much, and we and others like us will suffer.  Bless him, and we are blessed.

Alllll the time I spend waiting in line and watching this sad circus gets me thinking and refining my policies.  Which, of course, I can do very little about, but it makes me feel better.  I wrote before how I think there should be some limitations to what food stamps cover, and of course I'm all for drug-testing any (every?) one on the taxpayer's dole.  I'm also not terribly familiar with the qualification standards; I assume there is an income limit, perhaps limits on assets.  How about set some lifestyle limits?  Sure, we'll buy you some groceries.  Do you have cable tv?  Satellite?  Okay, that reduces your monthly "benefit" by $40 (or whatever).  How about high-speed internet?  A Netflix subscription?  How about subscriptions to hobby/interest magazines?  Do you have a cell phone AND a land line?  How much do you pay per month for unlimited texting?  Do you own any ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles, boats, campers?

These are the things I'd ask myself and do away with BEFORE asking my neighbor for her money.  Otherwise I'm basically asking her to finance these luxuries.  And how wrong is that?

Too, take away these things from a family, and they might find some time to read (imagine that).  Or, better yet, find a creative way to make some money to carry them up.  Their minds might be opened to the bigger picture, that asking, expecting, the community to feed them (or provide transportation, replace their windows with something more energy-efficient, watch their children, etc) is a weakness of character.  And more importantly, that such a weakness can be strengthened, in many cases!  They may run across something that suggests there is more to life than taking what you can before you die.  And wouldn't that change the world?

I know it'd change my poorly-scheduled evening grocery shopping.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Education Standards

Yesterday I got an email from HSLDA, alerting me to the continued effort of most of the states (48, plus DC and some territories) to join and form Common Core Standards for education.  America has long stood head and shoulders above most of the world in innovation and excellence, and in fact, many of our great men of history were decidedly UN-conventional when it came to how they were educated.

They are taking public comment through tomorrow (not sure why HSLDA just put out the email yesterday?!?), and I took their feedback survey and wrote my thoughts in their comment box...

I will copy and paste it to my state governor as well.  If you have the time, please read up on the standards, research nationalized standards in general, and leave your own thoughts in their feedback form.  A word of caution: they have a 'save and continue later' option, which asks for your email and promises to send a link to you for completion, but when I did that yesterday, no link or email ever came. I began again today and completed it.

I wrote:

I am against any list of "Common Core Standards" for education, whether imposed top-down from the national Department of Education or built between the states. The end result is the same. The New America Foundation recently discussed this as part of it's PreK-3rd paper, entitled "A Next Social Contract for the Primary Years of Education." "As part of a broader move towards common, national educational standards, a Next Social Contract for education must establish clearly articulated standards for what children should know and be able to do by the end of third grade" [emphasis mine]. They seek "to create a seamless PreK-3rd system that starts at age 3...." While the Common Core Standards might not overtly state the same goals, they are, in fact, a huge step towards those goals. Common Core Standards may purport to give freedom of choice as to curricula, it is not unreasonable to think they could be used as a step in the direction of national curriculum as well. Richard Mitchell, in The Gift of Fire, points to differences between "schooling" (vocational skills which are useful in a utilitarian sense) and "education," and he writes: "It is power over the inner world, the ability to know and judge the self and to do something about it. It is not, therefore, the same as whatever it is that gives us power over the outer world, the stubborn public world of Nature and Necessity. The two powers neither preclude each other nor include each other. In any mind, either may exist alone, both may exist, and, of course, in any mind, both may be absent. "The two powers are not exactly equal counterparts, however, for the power over the inner world can make judgment of the power over the outer world. By the latter, we can do something; by the former, we can decide whether we should do what we can do." I think this is important, and impossible to establish via a cookie-cutter approach to schools. Any parent, or teacher, understands that there are unique differences in individual learning styles, abilities, and development between children. Growing the same crop in the same way at the same time would not work in both Montana and Florida, and we should realize that our children are far more complex than vegetables. Lastly, common standards attempt to ensure that an individual be fully educated so America can compete in a global marketplace. This may be a noble, and even appropriate goal for a nation, but it sadly ignores that people are worth far more than what they offer an economy. Government seeks to shape students into good workers and good tax payers; conformity. But conformity to the goals of a government (even 48 agreeing state governments) does not equal education, nor is it always (or even often) in the best interests of the person.

Feel free to use any ideas from my note, and leave your own in the comments as well.