Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Can Englanders really be this....

...stupid? Naive? Afraid to be real leaders, mentors, teachers, or parents to their children?

Students in an England town will be allowed to curse during class, including while speaking to their teachers, up to 5 times per class period. After the fifth time, they will be "spoken to". For those students who choose not to swear during class, "praise cards" will be sent home.

I personally hail this response to this decision:

But Conservative member of parliament Ann Widdecombe said the policy was based on “Alice in Wonderland reasoning,” the Daily Mail reported. “What next? Do we allow people to speed five times or burgle five times? You don't improve something by allowing it, you improve something by discouraging it,” Widdecombe was quoted as saying.

You know, I'd like to be able to skip paying my taxes for 5 years before being prosecuted, maybe be able to shoplift 5 items of clothing before getting arrested.Ooh, a good one would be to be allowed to skip jury duty 5 times before getting a warrant for my arrest put out! Yeah, I definitely think that last one should be allowed, for sure.

Give me a break. The people who came up with this must be severely behind in their pop culture intelligence. Anyone who has ever seen any movie about a teacher or adult who makes radical changes in their students (most recently, Coach Carter) knows that it is not done by coddling, lowering expectations, or not giving kids enough credit (anyone want to give these administrators Morgan Freeman's number?). Treat kids like they are capable of rising to high expectations, and they'll do it.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

NFP Resources

A commenter on another post asked for some resources (which, by the way, Becca, your comments humble me. Thank you for you kind and lovely words).

Here is a comparison of the different methods of Natural Family Planning.

Here is a page listing some excellent books dealing with NFP (most are Catholic resources, but one book, Open Embrace, is written by a Protestant couple). If you scroll to the bottom, you will also find a list of websites for each method of NFP.

God bless you in your journey!

To Curious....I'm spilling my guts.

A commenter left a question for me in one of my comment boxes, and I thought I'd address it in a new post.

Just curious, because I'd really like to know. I'm almost 30 and living in the Northeast, and I can barely pay the rent. I am married, but DH won't even think about children until we can do the one-income thing, which considering that he makes $40k and rent is $10k, will be never.

Where do you live in CA that you can afford seven kids and one income, plus vacations and other perks, by age 27?

I wish I could do that. Honest. Not being sarcastic or snarky here, at all, so please don't take the wrong way


Well, Curious, first of all I don't have 7 kids. Geez, the thought of being pregnant 7 times in 8 years of marriage is enough to make me go take a nap right now! I have 4 kids, with our 5th being due to arrive in December.

And yes, I'm 27, but Gorgeous Redhead is 34.

Secondly, and here is where we are getting into REALLY personal territory, it isn't like Gorgeous Redhead and I are rolling in the dough by any means. If any of you out there live in CA or know remotely what it is like to live here, you will know that our mortgages and rents are astronomical, beyond what the places are even worth. GR and I rent a home and will in no way be in a position to buy one anytime soon. In our area, the median price for a home around 1500 sq. feet is $305,000. Curious, you mentioned your rent is $10k. I figured it out, ours is exaclty (until the terms of our lease are renegotiated at least) $10,800.

G.R. makes... well let's just say not anywhere close to what the median income is for our area. And yes, Curious, it is less than what you stated your income is. He works a full-time job and goes to school full time towards getting his Masters and credential in school counseling (our light at the end of the tunnel). School counselors generally start at about $50,000 per year, and hopefully that will be the case for us in about 2-3 years.

Let me tell you, we don't have the easy life. I very, VERY rarely buy new clothes for the kids. Most of the readers here have heard me talk about my love for garage sales, and I frequent the thrift shops as well as have generous friends and family from whom the hand-me-downs come freely (which I reciprocate in return). The year I had really stylish clothes was the year one of my closest friends lost some weight and I got her fat clothes. Sigh.... but seriously, I was extremely thankful!

We shop at discount stores. I don't think we have purchased anything from the mall that wasn't the result of a gift certificate given for a birthday in years. The grocery store we frequent is the one where it looks like a wharehouse and you bag your own stuff, which for some reason seems to be the secret to knocking at least a dollar off each product (which is the same stuff in regular grocery stores anyway). Yes, being pregnant, it's a pain in the...stomach to bag my own stuff and haul it into the trunk by myself, but it is worth it to me to be able to shop freely without stressing out over spending too much money.

We don't have the mongo cable package most people have. Our cable bill is exactly $13.42, and we get channels 2-27. I get my Alias and Veronica Mars (which I highly recommned you watch, by the way), and G.R. gets his ESPN. The times we truly suffer is when the NBA decides to throw some Kings games on TNT, but other than that, we are happy.

I never, ever, ever buy books. The library is one of my best friends.

We have 2 cars, both incredibly used to the point that we thank God everyday they start (particularly with G.R.'s car, which I don't think is worth even $500). Actually, my van isn't that bad for being 9 years old. I don't want to complain about it at all because everytime I do something goes wrong that next week. My van is great! Perfect in fact! I really, really would not even like a new one at all! I love my van (can she hear me?).

We budget each of our needs. Yeah, there are times we go over and have to rearrange the money from our gas column into the grocery column. And yes, there are times when our discipline goes out the window and we put something on the evil credit card. But I'd say we don't go out of control too much.

When we go to the movies, the kids know it is a really big treat! I think the last time we went as a family was for The Incredibles (since we go so rarely, we make sure that the movie we see is theater-worthy). Our receation time is well chosen, since we have a limited budget for it. But we still get to do a lot (but "a lot" may be a relative term if compared with others). We go out to eat every once in a while. When we do get fast-food, we only get the things from the dollar menu, not the big meal deals (my kids also know that they should be jumping for joy when they actually get a Happy Meal, but they probably should be doing that even if the Happy Meals weren't so few and far between). G.R. and I get a date night and a babysitter every so often. All of it is budgeted in very carefully.

And to be honest, we do not do it all on our own. The kids have health insurance through the state, we get low-income breaks through the phone company, the energy company, and through the city. And...OK...humbling myself here, two of the kids are on the WIC program through the federal government.

As for me, well I know moms who have their hair and nails done regularly, have their Starbucks regularly, get their craft supplies regularly, or whatever. Maybe that's why I like to read and watch TV so much, because they are relatively inexpensive to do. But I'm OK with that. I get my hair cut 2-3 times a year, and yes I do sometimes wish I had the means to be able to look and feel fabulous 365 days a year. But the fact of the matter is that I don't, and I get over it.

So, why lay all this bare for the world to know? Because I think it is important to realize that living on one income, even if it is a low one, isn't impossible. Yes, it is hard, yes it involves some sacrifices, and yes it can be humbling at times. It means having to deny oursleves a little...a lot.

For example, this vacation we just took, I'm not sure what you had in your head that it was, but it was one day at the beach, in which we drove home very late at night to avoid paying for a hotel, and then got up early the next morning for 2 nights in Reno (which if you've ever been there you'd know the hotels are extremely cheap because they want you to spend your money gambling). We saved up a bit for it, and yes we went into the credit card a bit. I personally hate going into debt, but this was going to be the only 3 days off G.R. was going to get off ALL YEAR due to some job circumstances, and I didn't want to deny him some time away. We came home the third day, and then had a very lazy Sunday before work and school began again.

So, we didn't splurge on the hotel at the beach, we didn't go to every tourist attraction we could've, and we didn't go away for a very long time. However, we did what we could with what we had. And I could go off and complain about what we didn't do, or I could decide to be thankful for what I got and let it be a source of refreshment. I chose the latter.

As for the low-income and government help we recieve, that has been a source of stress for us. We've gone back and forth between two mentalities: the first being that no one should have any aid and should completely, 100% support themselves. The second mentality is one that was pointed out to me by a friend, and that is that the aid that is out there for low-income families is there for people like us, people who have a job and a family, who work very hard at their jobs that just happen to be on the lower-end of the pay-scale. The problem is that government aid is now looked upon as being there for moochers, for lazy, irresponsible people. But this aid was long ago set up specifically for hard-working people who have jobs and just need a little advantage. Some would say we should not have kids at all until we can completely do it all ourselves, and to be honest, I can see that point of view. We have had that point of view at different times throughout our marriage. But then we also realize that one day, after my G.R. gets his masters and we are in a higher financial bracket, we won't need it anymore. It isn't like we are seeking to receive this permanently. We aren't trying to milk the system. And, as humbling as it may be, I've accepted that this is one of the ways God provides.

To be honest, most people probably wouldn't choose my life. I have a friend who works part time while her husband works full time, and she is bluntly honest about the fact that it is because he wants his $100 a month digital cable and they like at least a two week vacation every year. She says, "I know I could do what you do and we'd be fine, but I have chosen not to." And that's really what it all comes down to for me. I have chosen this life and we have chosen the sacrifices. So, if I choose to live this way, who am I to complain about it, right?

For me, I have chosen to be a stay-at-home-mom. I don't hate women who work and have families by any means, nor do I feel they are "wrong" or "sinful" for choosing to do so. But, from the time I was young there were always two things I really, really wanted to do with my life: 1. Have a large family and 2. Be a stay-at-home-mom. I'll admit, I desperately wanted these things beause they were completely opposite from what I had growing up. And my childhood experiences have made me who am I today and have strongly influenced the choices I have made. Do I spite others who make different choices? No. I have never understood the mentality SOME have towards me (and other at-home moms) that because I have chosen this life, that I consider those who choose differently from me to be wrong or bad. I don't. But I have to go with my gut, my heart, my mind. And this life, as hard and humbling as it may be at times, feels right. It feels good. I'm at peace with it.

Now, I will say this. I have read on the subject of finances and budgeting a lot, and a lot of what I think doesn't some from my own head, but from some very wise people. There are a couple of them whom I swear by. I Love Larry Burkett, and I frequent the website he refers people to. There is even a section with a budget calculator, where you plug in what you make and then it gives you a pretty good budget to live on. And there are many, many different articles about budgeting throughout their library section, and there's even a "What Mom Really Makes Calculator". I also love Suze Orman's books, particularly. I also love the Flylady's mentality on simplicity and finances, even though she is against yard sales. Sigh, I guess not everyone is perfect.

In the end, I really feel I am living the life God wants me to. I can honestly say that I've grown so much in the areas of financial responsibility, humility, and compassion for the less fortunate. Because I have been given so much from generous people, I find it so much easier to give when I have something extra. When G.R. and I do take a vacation, or have a luxury of some kind, it is never taken for granted.

We all have our crosses in life. Some have health problems. Some people don't have a lot of friends. Some have a lot of past abuse to heal from. God has shown G.R. and I that this life and its struggles is our path to holiness. I don't want to say the word "poverty", because that image brings thoughts of the children in Africa who truly have little, and I don't want to even remotely compare my life to the dire circumstances others in other countries must face. But I feel God has asked me and my family to learn to live without excess, to deny ourselves a bit, to sacrifice for something we really want (lots of kids and an at-home mom). And I think God wants us to live our life this way and let others know that it can be done. Nothing is impossible with God.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Best short joke

Nominated as the best short joke this year . .

A three-year-old boy was examining his testicles while taking a bath.

"Mom", he asked, "are these my brains?"

"Not yet," she replied.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

If loving him is wrong, then I don't wanna be right...

OK, in many of your eyes I may have just ventured into the realm of being a bad Catholic by my latest choice of reading, but I have to admit that I have been captured. I finally succumbed to the pleading of my book club and to my own curiosity and began to read....the Harry Potter books. I. Love. Them. I flew through the first three. I loved them so much I forced Gorgeous Redhead to listen to me read the beginning of the 4th one to him in the car on our vacation. He. Loved. It. in fact, while I was at the movies last night, he actually finished the 4th book by himself! He stayed up 'til 2AM reading it! And if any of you know Gorgeous Redhead, you will know that him reading any book not having to do with some kind of religious, theological, or philosophical matter is HIGHLY unusual. He cowers away from fiction. He HATES to read.

There. I've said it. I just find the stories and characters incredibly compelling. And as far as the witchcraft stuff goes, if any child (which I wouldn't even recommend these books to kids under 12 anyway) reads this stuff and begins to try to make it a part of his reality, then he probably should be banned from reading ANY book because he obvious has a warped sense of fiction vs reality. The stuff in this book is so obviously fantasy and out-of-this-world. Kind of in the same way Star Wars, the Oz books, or the Neverending Story is. I kind of felt this way after seeing the movies, but now I really feel this way after reading the books.

Phew. Glad to get that off my chest.

Monday, August 22, 2005

10 Things I Learned While On Vacation with My Family

10. No matter where you go, your kids will still want to eat at McDonalds.

9. While other tourists may think it is so cute when your kid breaks free of your hand and climbs up onto a slot machine and tries to play, the security guard won't.

8. Give the kids plastic cups with lids and straws and they won't spill once; give them their drinks in a fancy restaurant glass and they will spill twice in 10 minutes.

7. The child who is deathly afraid of the bathtub will somehow find the Pacific Ocean to be warm and inviting.

6. Your kids will have fun anywhere there is a glass elevator.

5. Other tourists on vacation standing in line for the bathroom have no sympathy for a pregnant lady and a 2 year old, both hopping around with crossed legs.

4. While in airlines, train stations or bus depots, don't use your stoller to carry your kids; use them to carry your luggage. Employees in these places could care less about lost luggage, but they most certainly care about straggling kids getting in their way. They will bend over backwards making sure you don't lose your kids.

3. The potty-training child will be immaculately clean and accident-free while on vacation, but will pee her pants three times within the hour of arriving home. This is due to 1) the fact that the child wants to check out the incredibly-more-interesting-bathrooms every place she goes and 2) the potty-training child really is aiming to drive her parents crazy.

2. When asked about the highlight of the trip, the children will respond that their favorite activity was swimming in the hotel swimming pool. So in the future, save your money and take them to the local Motel 6 by the freeway, which also is conveniently located next to a McDonalds.

1. While the natural thought is that moms truly get no vacation because they are still "working" taking care of the kids and planning out the details of the trip, this actually is a myth because the kids completely ignore mom due to the total fascination with having dad around for 24 hours non-stop. So in reality, for mothers, vacations are not only a break, but also payback.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

From 0 to 200 in 4 seconds

A couple had been debating the purchase of a new auto for weeks. He wanted a new truck. She wanted a fast little sports-like car so she could zip through traffic around town.

He would probably have settled on any beat up old truck, but everything she seemed to like was way out of their price range.

"Look!" she said. "I want something that goes from 0 to 200 in 4 seconds or less. And my birthday is coming up. You could surprise me."

For her birthday, he bought her a brand new bathroom scale.

Services will be at Downing funeral home on Monday the 12th, due to the condition of his body, this will be a closed casket service.

Please send your donations to the Think-Before-You-Say-Things-To-Your-Wife Foundation, Dallas, Texas.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Susan Torres' family reveals mystical experience

The Torres family has revealed some spiritual, mystical details of their experience keeping Susan alive in order to save her unborn child. It's a beautiful testimony. Here's some of my favorite excerpts:

The words that both Sonny and Jason believe they heard, before the life-affirming story of Susan ever reached the ears of a journalist or a newsman, are the following:

“You and others will tell the world of a fight to save a precious life, not to change hardened hearts, but to give hope to those who believe, so that they know that there is more than what they see and hear. Let them come and see for themselves.

I can vouch that this is what the Torres story did for me!

When Sonny was asked why he thought that the story of Susan had gained such widespread attention he responded: “I guess, and I kind of hope it is, that people are really tired of seeing nothing but Terri Schiavo stuff, they’re really tired of reading about Laci Peterson and her baby just being thrown away. And it’s nice to see somebody that’s going the other direction.”

Karen concurred: “I would say that the Holy Spirit decided that this world needed the story of someone fighting for a little human life. And also, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are kind…kinder than people give them credit for.”

Definitely a message that needs to be out there more- HOPE!

He also challenged those who have callously spoken out against Jason’s decision to keep his wife alive, to come to see the newborn baby. On the radio the day before, Sonny said, he’d heard someone saying that Catholics need to get it into their heads that life doesn’t begin until birth. “Susan was three months early,” he said, “and there’s a lot of abortions that are done on kids her size. All you have to do is stand and look at that incubator…life starts a lot earlier than birth. I just invite them…I’ll show them myself.”

And now, my favorite part of the article:

She continued, “I tell my children, now do you understand why you must go to Church on Sunday’s and keep your spiritual life in order? You can’t get it in good order in the middle of something like this. Faith is the only thing that gets you through.”

To help contribute to the funds to offset the million dollar medical bill the Torres family will face, please go here.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Holy Spirit...

Come Holy Spirit,
Replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation.
Replace the turbulence within us with a sacred calm.
Replace the anxiety within us with a quiet confidence.
Replace the fear within us with a strong faith.
Replace the bitterness within us with the sweetness of grace.
Replace the darkness within us with a gentle light.
Replace the coldness within us with a loving warmth.
Replace the night within us with your light.
Replace the winter within us with your spring.
Straighten our crookedness.
Fill our emptiness.
Dull the edge of our pride.
Sharpen the edge of our humility.
Light the fires of our love.
Quench the flames of our lust.
Let us see ourselves as you see us,
That we may see you as you have promised,
And be fortunate according to your word,
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

-from Marian Helpers, Stockbridge, MA.

The submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.-Cardinal Mercier

Off for a while...

Tonight is my daughter's dance ministry performance. She is doing 2 dances; one to the song "Awesome God" and one to the song "This is the Air I Breathe". What I love the most is that the girls sing the songs as they dance; it truly is a prayer. Praise Him with dance!

We also will have family coming to visit and I have many meetings for things I am involved in. Then we get ready for the kids to start school, and we will be taking a short vacation to the beach and also to Reno. So, I will hopefully pop in, but if not, I will probably be more present after the kids have gotten back into school (the 22nd).

So, God Bless to everyone this month, and remember Veronica Mars! You know, the results of my poll have just inspired me to be a little more persistent on it! And all you non-interested folk would just hope I'd drop it...