Saturday, March 31, 2007


Three of Tim's groups competed in the Rocky Mountain Regional Harmony Sweepstakes competition tonight. (There were 7 total groups: a high school group, a college group, 3 of Tim's groups, Face--who Tim is a sub in, and Cross Examined--who Tim does vocal percussion on their recordings for.) Tim's groups were his new ones: Vocality, a vocal chamber ensemble that has classical/jazz/new music leanings; Plumbers of Rome, a 3-man eclectic, mildy comedic group that's performed and won awards before but not with the guys they took tonight; and Placental Armageddon, a hard rock "spinal tap done acappella" (and not dirty) group that is totally tongue-in-cheek but exists so Tim can experiment with rock music and with using technology to modify voices in live performance. None of these groups has been together longer than 8 weeks, some of them only for 3 weeks, all under Tim's direction and singing his music (arrangements and original songs).

And they did REALLY well. The Vocal Percussionist for Placental Armageddon won the vocal percussion award for the night. Pretty impressive since the group, in order to compete without "competing" had to intentionally disqualify themselves (5 of the 6 guys in the group were also competing in other groups that they wanted to win).

And Vocality won second place! They had no more than 10 minutes to show their stuff, and they sang a single song composed by Tim, called "9:15", for almost the whole ten minutes (if done right, the song lasts 9 minutes and 15 seconds). It's a song that pulls elements from pop, contemporary acappella, and the classical choral traditions, with lyrics based on the Bible. The group has seven or eight members, but tonight they sang with 5--4 guys and a girl.

And "9:15" won the Best Song award! This is an award I was hoping for, since that song will probably end up being part of Tim's thesis, and it goes on his resume, so it looks good that it's an award-winning song. Also, it makes him a legitimate "award-winning composer of vocal chamber music", since his other composition award was actually for an arrangment of a song--a parody no less--that he didn't even write the lyrics for. This will help him get a job later on.

So now Tim has been the artistic director of at least 4 award-winning vocal ensembles! And Vocality is the one that I was hoping would win this year--so I'm thrilled that they did. They're really good, new, and different.

After a day of being nervous, I can finally breathe.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cute kids, cool mall toy, etc.

Last night Dan found a headshot of Tim (8 1/2 x 11 color photo, head and shoulders). He immediately identified it as Daddy, and gave it a big hug. Then he took the picture to Tim's pillow and lay it right where Tim's head goes when he sleeps. Dan kissed the picture, tucked it in with Tim's blanket, and then looked at me and Tim, who were talking and watching, and put his little finger to his lips and said, "SHHHHHH!" I guess Daddy was sleeping.

It was really cute.

Dan just looked out the window and said, "Boo!" I looked out and IT'S SNOWING! I am very unhappy about that. And it was a nice warm day, too.

Today we went to the Mall because I wanted to check on something in Radio Shack and I decided malls and ADD kids don't mix. The mall is too good at distracting you. Daniel was even window shopping for SHOES! Everything we passed drew someone's attention, so it was impossible to keep everyone together and moving toward the store. And there's no place to sit down--not that I could anyway, with someone running off at any given second.

But, right outside the theater, we found this coolest thing ever. There was a large rectangular white mat taped to the floor--maybe 5x7' or 6x8'. I was never good at estimating distances like that. Anyway, above it on the ceiling was a high-tech big black box that was shining light onto this white mat. And when you walked on the mat, the stuff being projected onto it interacted with you!

So there was a black racetrack with cars projected onto the floor, and the cars couldn't get past where Caleb was standing, right across the track. So he started running around the track, and the cars raced with him. Then the image changed to a soccer game with a full-sized ball. When Anda kicked the "ball", it acted just like a real soccer ball, so the kids played soccer with each other. Air hockey, too. And pool. Then fireworks showed up around the edges of the mat, and whenever one of the kids stepped on one, it shot to the middle and exploded. And then a hen showed up in a nest with chicks running around, and the kids had to chase the chicks into the nest. They chased a pig around, too. And had to stomp on mean monkeys to save a cute bunny. And push a treasure chest to catch floating coins, which they could also push around, but stomp on the skeletons to break them so they wouldn't steal the coins. And then there was one game where you walked across, and wherever you walked, grass sprang up. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen at a mall. And totally free. We played with it twice for more than half an hour, despite the fact that I couldn't sit down. The kids came away all sweaty and wanted to go back right away.

I still hate the mall, but that thing was COOL! I didn't know they could make truly interactive virtual soccer.

(I know you all are going to say, "What, you've never seen one of those before?" Nope. I don't get out much. Since we left Utah in December, I've left the house less than a dozen times. It's just too much work, especially when there's no money to spend anyway.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Applying for Jobs

Wow. I don't know what happened to this post. It used to be a long diatribe about our adventures getting an e-application in to AZ literally at the last second. Now, it's nothing. Go figure.

Daniel is Funny

Daniel has one of those "pop up" toys that when you push the button, a character pops out of a box. His has 4 Sesame Street Characters on it, and Elmo's button doesn't make him sing like the other buttons do for their guys. So when Anda managed to make Elmo sing his song ("Lalalala, lalalala, Elmo's Song"), Dan was delighted. Then he insisted on pushing that button with his Elbow. I finally clued in and asked him, "Was that guy singing Elbow's Song?" Dan nodded vigorously.

Today he was wiggling and squirming and trying to get away when I was trying to change his diaper. I finally got frustrated and said, "I wish you wouldn't be rough with me when I'm changing your diaper because then I have to be rough with you or you get poop everywhere! What other choice do I have?" Dan looked at me and said, "Desitin?" (Indeed, his bum was sore. That's probably why he was trying to get away--being wiped hurt.)

Daniel has a little backstreet boys figurine that has black hair and a black goatee. He calls it "Daddy." One of his latest favorite games is to pull my shirt up, my panel on my pants down, and show "Daddy" to my bare tummy, which he now calls "Bady" (his word for "baby"). Won't he be surprised when the baby come out!

Dan likes to pummel my tummy with his fists and lean on it. No surprise, then, that when Anda and Dan are both standing in front of me (they always stand in the same place), the baby invariably wiggles into a position closer to Anda, who talks gently and sings to him, and away from where he's likely to get pushed around by Dan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Day of Near Disasters

If I had energy to run and scream, I would have done it all day. 8 1/2 months pregnant, and I still would.

First, Anda was really quiet while I was changing and dressing Dan, so I finally went in to my bathroom, where I had last seen her. She was pretending my lotion was soap and was giving Dan's car a bath. Dan's car is a remote-controlled car, with batteries in it. Anda had it submerged in a sinkful of water. Nothing happened, luckily, despite all those warnings not to submerge battery-powered things. And we never did have the remote for it, so no great loss except for the lotion.

Then we went for a walk and Dan kept trying to dash into the parking lot and streets around the church. I usually can run faster than he can....but I kept him really close to the me just in case.

When we got home, everything was quiet and the kids went to play trains and legos in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I should have come running because it was quiet. About fifteen minutes later, Dan walked up smelling like vitamin B with yellow froth all over his chin and and an orange mustache. I knew Tim had lost a vitamin that we searched and searched for in the kitchen, and I finally found it and put it up high so Dan wouldn't get it.

Dan can reach higher than I thought. I went into the kitchen to find out what had happened. Sure enough, the B vitamin was gone. Not only that, Dan had emptied a bottle of Creamy French Salad Dressing onto a plate. I'm guessing he ate the vitamin a bit at a time, dipping it in dressing as he went. At least he got most of it on a plate and ate a B vitamin (not dangerous, I think). So that was annoying and messy. And Dan's had a lot of energy since then....

Later I discovered he'd emptied the other half of the dressing bottle into the brand-new pitcher of Koolaid we made. So that had to go.

Everything was calm and supervised for a while. Then I realized I had to feed everyone. By the time my visiting teacher called half and hour later, all the kids were crying. I wasn't feeding fast enough. So I got everyone sandwiches and started making dinner.

Dan, as usual, stood up on a chair beside me to "help." I managed to rescue a bottle of multivitamins he managed to reach (note to self: put everything movable higher than 5 feet up)--I had to pull it out of the microwave. I also managed to rescue the seasoning packets that I got out for dinner before he tore them open and spilled spices everywhere.

Then I had to go downstairs to get noodles. I was gone only a few minutes (like 2) and when I started upstairs I heard a funny noise. Then I heard the kids yelling. So I rushed into the kitchen. There were flaming spice packets in the microwave! It was flashing and groaning, and Dan was standing on a chair in front of it smiling and staring and laughing while Caleb and Anda stood frozen in fear, calling to me. Apparently spice packets are foil-lined.

I yelled, snatched Dan and opened the microwave in one motion. By then Tim was upstairs (he always knows which yelling means "disaster"). And we all stood in the kitchen in shock, grateful that we caught it all in time and upset that we couldn't leave Dan alone for 2 minutes.

During dinner, Tim and I started naming other disasters waiting to happen: he's become curious about outlets again; the electric can opener usually is plugged in--and sitting close enough to the sink that Dan might try to wash it; knives get left on the counter often; etc. Obviously our childproofing (which has been sufficient for two kids) isn't enough for this kid. He's too curious and too mechanically-inclined. We already have to keep the front door locked just in case--he wanders out and takes himself for walks, and isn't reasonable enough to stay out of the street. We have to keep Tim's office closed because he gets into Tim's backpack and finds vitamins there, or he uses the computer or sound equipment, or digs into millions of other "no-no's" (homework; contracts for music performances; inkjet refill ink). The toaster oven stays unplugged because he likes to "cook" stuff (my antique school bell is in there now). My kitchen stuff is gradually drifting upward--but he's gradually learning how to climb on top of counters. I'm going to have to get cabinet locks for the upper cabinets, too--and that's really hard on someone with fibro who can't hold her arms up long enough to get them open. Guaranteed Dan would find a way in, and it would only be mommy-proof.

So, I thought I was okay. Dan was sitting next to me on a chair while I started writing this. Then the kids came up to put a video in the TV/VCR combo--and it didn't work. It worked an hour ago! I finally opened the door and looked inside. Lo and Behold--even with me sitting right beside him, he can get in trouble. Dan had shoved a pen into the VCR.

I don't have enough eyes to keep this kid safe. I could reason with Caleb and Anda. Not so with Dan. His curiosity is stronger than his reasoning skills.

What happens in six weeks when I'm nursing and Dan wanders out of the room?!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mommy's Job

Daniel managed somehow to go to bed at 4:30 am and get up at 7:30 am, so guess who else had to be awake? Not a happy night for me, since I went to bed having contractions and then couldn't sleep them off like I usually do.

So I went to Sacrament Meeting and then came home and went back to bed while everyone else was still at church (it's the only way I could guarantee I would get to go back to sleep). When the kids came home, I half-way woke up and lay there listening as Tim got dinner ready, got everyone's clothes changed, rescued Dan while he was running with scissors that someone else left accessible, mediated arguments, tried to corral everyone to the table and get them to eat, calmed Dan when he realized that I wasn't with them and tried to run out the door to go back to church to get me, etc.

My only thought was, "No wonder I'm always so tired!"

I hadn't realized being the mommy is so much work until I listened to someone else do it and thought, after the fact (I was still mostly sleeping), that person needs help, and not just because I've done it before. Because two hands, two ears, and two eyes aren't enough to really keep track of and pay attention to and nourish and raise three children. And soon there will be four.

I have two big concerns about the coming addition to our family: What on earth will I do if he's colicky (since Dan needs lots of holding still); and Is it possible to divide my care and attention that many ways at once? Can I carry on four conversations at once? And how did Mom do 7?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Update on Insomnia

We had come to the conclusion that it was all diet that caused Caleb to sleep or not, but I have reversed my decision on that.

Diet plays a role. Did you ever notice that almost everyone in the family (not mom--she doesn't struggle with ADD) has a home made milkshake before bed? There's a reason for that.

But diet isn't everything. I think playing outside really is at least as important--maybe moreso. The problem is, the diet thing has instant results. (We even joke around here that soda is a "fight in a can" because the sugar hit is so strong and so sudden that the kids start fighting literally within minutes of drinking soda.) The playing outside thing DOESN'T have instant results. It seems to be delayed 24 hours. That's what makes me think the key is the sunlight and not the exercise he gets playing outside. If Caleb gets plenty of sunlight today, tonight he still won't fall asleep easily, but tomorrow night he will go right to sleep. If he doesn't get sunlight tomorrow, though, the next night he'll have trouble. See?

I think it's because, unlike blood sugar, the levels of melatonin in the body aren't affected instantly. The sunlight gets absorbed and then the body takes some time to process it, create the melatonin, and then have that melatonin affect the sleep cycles. Enough sunlight though (like enough that Caleb gets a little tan) has a longer-lasting affect than just one day.

It's complicated. There's a balance between the diet (he has to eat not only the right thing before bed, but the right amount--not too much or too little), the sunlight, the exercise, the pre-bedtime stimulation levels, etc. In other words, it's not a simple problem.

And I still have to take into account the usual sleep disrupters for kids--is he in pain, is he sleeping in something uncomfortable (like jeans), is he scared from something, etc.? Plus, his body, like mine, seems to go through cycles where things are better and things are worse, and there's nothing I can do to change that. We can work with in, but we cannot erase it.

Lately more than once I have read/been told about a philosophy with ADD that treats it not as a "disorder" but rather as a "difference" that ought to be embraced and adapted to. The idea (a noble one) is that we don't tell people who suffer from ADD that they are "broken" or have a "disability," but instead we focus on the strengths innate to ADD--creativity, the ability to think outside the box, the ability to come up with quick answers, etc. We should embrace these things and not medicate them away, but learn to adapt where we might fall short, just like everyone else in the world has to.

Jorge's mom (a school psychologist, no less) and Tim's brother go for this. The website someone posted in the comments of my previous posting on ADD really focused on this. It is the idea presented in "Driven to Distraction" and the one that makes Dr. Amen unfavorable to a lot of psychologists who are opposed to labeling children "broken". And there is great merit to the idea. Shouldn't we be teaching people to love who they are and live with both their strengths and weaknesses?

But it buys into the idea that the world functions on polarity: Either we medicate a child into a stupor OR we don't medicate them at all and try to teach them to adapt. This seems completely unfair to the child. Why does it have to be one or the other? Of course we embrace the talents and creativity that ADD brings. And why not also medicate the handicaps away and make life as easy as possible? I don't think it's about drugging people to make them like everyone else. I think it's about providing the right amount of the right medication (or amino acids, or whatever the Spirit instructs) to allow people to USE the talents that may come with ADD, and also the talents that came as gifts to allow them to add to the world and accomplish their missions in life. What good is having a thousand brilliant ideas if they are trapped in a brain that cannot let them out, develop them, and release them into the world?

I realize people say, "You can learn how to get them out." But I have seen the difference between learning how to get them out and still having to struggle with it and suddenly being free to not have to worry about getting them out. It's not about not "liking my brain." It's about liberation for people born in a prison.

Life is hard enough. Shouldn't we use every tool available to us to make it as easy as possible?

"educational" materials

We found some "unworked" workbooks for the kids at the thrift store and bought them for school. Anda is working through a first grade book. The other book was fourth grade. I bought it because the concepts were just right for Caleb (plurals, possessives, brainstorming, etc), but the execution is just a little too hard. The activities ask him to do more than one task at a time (find the word from the definition AND change it to plural before you fill in the blank). So we went back and bought him a third grade "daily language practice" book, which seems to be just on his level: he has to think about it a little every once in a while, but he still gets the answers right without getting distressed. Caleb is like me--he flourishes when it's easy, but won't try if there's a risk of doing it wrong. So we have to sneak new concepts in instead of outright challenging him. Even with the third grade book, I actually have to TEACH him something before each activity. It's just one sentence worth of teaching that he can grasp quickly and instantly instead of a whole complex lecture, which he rarely follows through to the end (in both of us, is this ADD, or just temprament?).

Anyway, we've noticed that whoever writes all these exercises has about half a brain. Like asking the kids to do two tasks at once. I learned a long time ago, when I started teaching, that students should be "tested" on only one skill at a time or they don't have the ability to actually grasp the skill. For example, they should EITHER be asked to spell the word correctly OR place it in the right place on the map, but not both. Even in vocabulary, which I did require them to do both spelling and definitions for, I regret not doing it a step at a time: "Write down each of these words and spell it correctly. Now go back and write the definitions." At least I never checked the spellings of the definitions. I got that right, at least.

Not only is the more general educational philosophy consistently wrong, there are other problems with the exercises. For example, one page asked Anda to identify which words had the short i sound in them. They didn't provide the words, just pictures of the items. One of them was a boat--or is that a ship? You see the problem?

Many times she also missed answers because she didn't know what the picture was supposed to be a picture of. So there's an arrow pointing at a man's face. Is that "face" or "nose" or "lips" or "mouth" or "teeth"? Is that group of people "people" or is it "family"? Another page said, "Color the cat with just one bat." Anda read the sentence okay. She couldn't find the right cat in the picture--it was wearing a batting cap and baseball uniform and looked like a dog to her. Clearly the exercise didn't test what it was supposed to. There were "cause and effect" pictures she couldn't figure out, too. A boy in one picture is crying. Anda looked at it and matched it to one of a boy opening a present. "Why would he be crying?" I asked. "Because he can't fit that fire truck into the box," she said. Obviously, the narrative she was perceiving in the illustration was different from the one I perceived. Different, but equally valid.

I wonder how many truly intelligent kids miss questions in school because they didn't see the picture the way the teacher did. Did they miss the ship? Or was it the boat?

Caleb's "daily language" book had some laughably serious errors. One question said, and I quote, "Circle the words that have the same 'e' sound as in 'read'." The choices were teeth, tent, chief, and bell. As Caleb pointed out, is that "read" as in "I can read" or "read" as in "I read that book yesterday"? The choices don't give us any clue. Whoever wrote that clearly couldn't read, or maybe they just hadn't read what they wrote.

Makes me think I should get a degree in writing worksheets or something. For all the errors in educational theory and application, it finally occurred to me that perhaps creating educational materials ISN'T instinctive to most teachers. Maybe I should become an educational 'writer'. From what I've seen, there's a desperate need for competence in that field.

The whole thing makes home schooling seem reasonable, doesn't it? At least nobody here told Anda she was "wrong" or refused to give her a good grade for perceiving something different. Who knows--maybe I was the one that was wrong? Or perhaps neither of us was. But certainly I wouldn't want anyone to dampen her enthusiasm and instinct for learning because we don't see things the same way. That would be a tragedy. And I suspect it happens all the time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nibble Nibble Little Mouse

This morning I woke up to the sounds of something knocking on my back wall--up on the second floor. So I followed the sound into the bathroom and opened the bathroom window. I pretty much terrified the woodpecker that was hanging there making holes in my house. I hope I scared it bad enough that it doesn't come back. I don't need MORE holes in my house.

Last night, Daniel was "writing" in my journal with me, making little tiny words. He even holds his pen like an adult. Dan may not talk, but he "gets" how things are done--systems, physical motions, etc. So he knows when Mommy writes, she holds her pen just so and makes little tiny angular and circular motions, so he does too. When he got done, I said, "Can you write your name on it?" He looked at me, clearly not understanding. So I said, "Can you write Daniel?" His expression changed to one that said, "are you sure you want me to?" Then he slowly put the pen to his head and drew all over the top of his head and on his cheek. I guess he "wrote Daniel." I had to laugh.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Life Becomes Like a Story

Life sometimes has all the twists and turns of a story. Not a nice story in this case, but definitely sensational.

Previously, I wrote about 4 teens who killed one girl's mom and I asked, "Why didn't the kids know better?" Well, to add layers of complexity to the story, the news reported today that the girl was being abused by her alcoholic mother. The way they talk about it, it sounds like typical teenage behavior (crying in the bathroom, planning social revenge, etc) that got really carried away. The girl needed to be rescued, her boyfriend wanted to save her. They messed up. Not that it excuses anyone--just adds complexity to the story. FURTHER (and this is the part that got the novelist in my waked up), the friends of the actual murderer report that sometimes he liked to be called Darius instead of Bryan, and that Darius dressed more preppy than Bryan, and was bad at video games that Bryan excelled at, and HATED to be called Bryan, and Darius was violent and unpredictable, while Bryan was sweet and thoughtful and lovable.

So now we've crossed the threshold from "star crossed idiot lovers" and even from "possibly a misguided attempt at self-defense in the face of abuse" into the realm of "legal ramifications of multiple personality disorder", which I think is now called "Dissociative Disorder" or something like that even thought they used to be separate disorders. So now, as a writer, I am intensely interested in how this all plays out. This is a common ploy in novels, and a moral ambiguity pop psychologists and psych students talk about (how do you punish one person and not the other when they inhabit the same body? and besides, is MPD real or not anyway?). I'm interested to see the realities of it in a real case in a real court. I imagine they will try to deny that it exists or say that the kid is making it up to try to get out of things, since he (Bryan) seems aware of what he did as "Darius". On the other hand, it wasn't he who claimed MPD--it was his friends in high school who mentioned it in interviews with reporters, presumably not prompted for sensationalistic reasons, but you never know.

In other storylike news, Tim emailed me last night asking if I had ever heard of Nelson Literary Agency. I have. Kristin Nelson was the first agent I was really interested in working with, and I queried her in the first round of queries when I thought my novel was perfect but it wasn't. She was the only one of those first 8 queries who asked to see sample pages, and then she rejected it. (I had made 3 blunders: the novel was 100,000 words too long, I misidentified the genre, and the first 30 pages--which since have been rewritten into about 7--were really poorly written). Anyway, it turns out that one of the guys that Tim is working with fairly heavily now, singing with him in TWO groups, is the husband of the assistant to Kristin Nelson. The two husbands were talking about what their wives did as they drove home from a moosebutter show (Frozen Dead Guy Days!), and my novel came up, and the conclusion was that I should send it to Nelson Lit. If only I hadn't already!

Anyway, I immediately realized that sometime in the near future, I will have to interact with this couple socially. Tim saw it as a great opportunity--a chance to meet someone in my field and learn more. He, of course, is right. I saw it as potential torture--I have to face someone who read my book and thought it was crap (which is was at that point, but I had no idea). Not only that, I have spent two years making myself look valid in the eyes of women who DON'T value being a stay-at-home mom by saying that I write novels for fun. Even without publishing them, this gives me validity in people's eyes. I'm not "doing nothing." I can't use that excuse when I meet this couple. They might see it as stalking, which new authors ALWAYS seem to do to people who work at agencies (you'd be surprised how many new authors carry sample pages of their work everywhere and force it on anyone in the industry, even passing the pages under bathroom stalls. Embarrassing).

I said, "Maybe it just won't come up and we can just be friends as real people and ignore this." Tim said, "Mark (the husband) will bring it up. If he doesn't, I will." He laughed because I am so timid and lacking confidence, despite the act I put on. Normally I love meeting new couples and making friends....but this time I'm already embarrassed in advance. And we haven't even set up a time to get together socially yet! Maybe if I hurry and finish my NEXT book, I can move on before I meet them.

So this, too, is like a story. More of a sit-com than a twisted murder mystery though.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Knowing Right from Wrong

Several news stories in our area lately have struck me as very distressing--for reasons other than those mentioned by the press.

The first: A group of 8th grade girls got together and took pictures of themselves nude. Then they emailed the pics to their boyfriend's cell phones at school. The boys emailed the pics to their friends, and so on, until, 24 hours later, the pictures showed up in California--all the way from Castle Rock, Colorado. The police were called in because all of the junior high kids involved (like half the school) had committed felonies: the were trafficking in Child Porn. The kids were unaware that even if you produce child porn of yourself, it is a felony. Officials are promising not to arrest half the student body on felony charges, but they are distressed. Rightly so. One of the mothers of a student who wasn't involved made the comment, "They're kids. They don't know the difference between right and wrong. Someone needs to explain to these kids that it's not just the forwarding that was wrong--they shouldn't have been taking pictures of themselves nude in the first place." That was a heavy paraphrase, and I might have jammed the comments of two people into one mother's mouth.

The second: A teenager killed his girlfriend's mother, at the girlfriend's request and with the knowledge of one of their friends. Then the kids lived with the decomposing body in the house for a month before an anonymous tip led the police to the house. (The kids tried to get rid of the body but botched the job multiple times). This is not the most distressing thing. A few days after the arrests of the kids (age 15, 16, and 17), another kid, the best friend of the murderer, was also arrested (he's 18), just a few days after he received a notable citizenship award of some kind from the county or state. When police questioned him about what he knew, he was completely honest and told them everything, including that he had tried to help them dispose of the body and that he knew about it for weeks but never turned them in. He was even in a forensic science class at the school and could tell, fairly accurately, how long the body had been decomposing before his friend came to him for help getting rid of it. He is upset that he was arrested and the bail set so high that he won't be able to get out of prison to go back to school and graduate (it apparently hasn't occurred to him that the administration probably won't let him go back anyway). He is shocked and appalled that he is being included in the arrests when he cooperated completely with police. He doesn't think he did anything wrong. When people asked him, "Why didn't you call the police the day you found out?" he said he was young and inexperienced and didn't know what to do--so he naturally helped bury and dig up a dead woman more than once. He honestly seems perplexed--and didn't know that what he did was SO wrong. Just a little confusion anyone as inexperienced as he might have in the same situation.

Third story: (This is not local). A mother in Salt Lake appeared in court and asked the judge to let the murderer of her son go because she had forgiven him. This noble request was listened to by the judge, but she decided to sentence him according to the law, since the murderer chased someone into a back yard and fired into a crowd gathered there. It struck me as a gang-related thing, although they didn't mention it. They did mention that the murderer was penitent and in tears at his sentencing. And that he was violating his parole when he committed the murder. Was it noble to forgive? Yes. Does that mean we release murderers back into society with no punishment so they can go kill someone else's kids? NO. In the guise of being Christlike and choosing right, this mother was as confused as the junior high kids in Castle Rock.

Fourth story: Some dad last summer took his family boating. For fun, he put his two-year-old in an adult life jacket, set him on an adult-sized tube, and pulled him around a lake behind a speeding boat. They never even found the poor kid's body. The judge who sentenced the (very sad) father said, "You should have known better." He should have.

Fifth story: A guy showed up at an apartment to buy pot and found the couple there giving drugs to their kid. The drug buyer had the sense to turn them in to the police, despite the fact that he discovered the abuse when he was committing a crime himself. The parents are in jail.

Sixth story: An 18 year old from Parker, CO, gave birth in her car last fall. Her roommates, several months later, smelled something funny in the dorms and found the baby's body in the closet. The girl-mom is in jail for murder and seems perplexed by the whole situation.

Seventh story: Police showed up at an apartment in MI and found a woman living there with the dead body of her roommate lying on the floor in the living room. The roommate had been dead over a week--and the woman had never called the police even though she didn't kill her roommate. She had some excuse the paper didn't cite.

There are more stories--all too distressing to repeat.

Call it what you like--there is clearly a problem in our society right now with people identfying what's right and wrong. Whether they do wrong in the guise of being charitable, or just to give their boyfriend's kicks, or to "nobly" free their girlfriends from abusive situations, they all chose WRONG. And were completely unaware of it somehow. The only person in any story who had any sense at all was a drug addict!

What's distressing to me is that people should know better, on all of these. Even kids. 14 year olds may be stupid (we all know they are), but they still should be able to discern between basic rights and wrongs. Of course they're confused about the details, but they should get the big things, like "You don't kill people and if someone else does, you tell a grownup" and "Posing nude is stupid". We baptise kids at age 8, after all, because it's old enough to distinguish right from wrong. So why are all these kids (and adults) so confused? These are only a few examples I've seen in the news lately--kids (like 9-21 year olds) killing their siblings, friends, parents, children, etc; parents abusing or killing their children; parents giving their kids drugs and alcohol, etc.

I'm not sure why they don't get it. I suspect it is the result of multiple things--these kids are the second or even third generation raised in day cares (without a mother at home even at the crossroads), their major adult influence comes from the media (TV, radio, movies, teen mags, online, nintendo, etc) and other nutty kids, and people aren't allowed to discuss definitive right and wrong anymore for fear of offending someone--so if they don't get told at home, they probably won't get told at church or school either. Probably lots of other things. And this generation, that can't tell what's right and wrong--they're our future. Scary thought.

Naturally, this isn't as widespread as it probably seems. These stories make the national news because they are still shocking, which means they aren't SO common. Gang killings; kidnap, rape and murder of adult women; burglary; carjackings; unwed parents (especially teens); etc, DON'T make the news anymore except in the local papers--these things are too common. People don't care to hear unless it is particularly grisly or unique for some reason. So the fact that kids killing people makes the national news means it's still shocking--we aren't accustomed to hearing it, so it doesn't happen as much as it appears. But it shouldn't be happening at all, and the stories are becoming more and more common. It's a scary trend.

I am reminded of my mission. I didn't report the two murders that were confessed to me--I was under obligation NOT to, since the murders were confessed to me when I was a minister (I even checked with a general authority to be sure, though). But I also went to a Regional Conference where the General Authority in attendance talked for a long time about how people can lose so much of truth through sin that they even lose the light of Christ and, therefore, have no way to choose between right and wrong. The sad thing is that this is happening to younger and younger children--so that kids who are just past baptizing age can have sinned so much that they no longer have the light of Christ. Also our society as a whole seems to be losing the light of Christ, so to speak, so that this can be allowed to happen. If it takes a village to raise a child, and these are the children we are raising, what are we thinking?! Obviously Satan is deceiving people who even have the light of Christ still, though--like the family that thought they were choosing right by forgiving and asking a murderer to go free. (Perhaps I am too judgmental--perhaps it was right for them to make the request for reasons I don't understand....)

I don't know how to solve the problem. But it sure makes me determined to have family home evening, read the scriptures with my kids, teach them, take them to church, and do what the Lord has advised, or they have no chance. Society isn't getting any better, and I can't trust anyone else to teach my kids right and wrong.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Product Review

Editorial note: It was actually a Remington Precision 200, model 8017. I don't know if the rest of Remington's line are as bad...

We realized finally that we HAD to buy a buzzer so that we could have haircuts with longer-than-1/2 inch-buzzer-attachments. Caleb can't sit still long enough to cut a traditional scissors cut on the top, and his hair is so straight that it doesn't look good. So we took a Christmas gift card to Wal-mart and bought the cheapest buzzer they had in stock, the Remington Pro. $12.74.

We read the instructions, went down into the bathroom, got Caleb comfortable with a promise of a "fast haircut" and turned on the buzzer. ZZZZZZZZZZZ. It worked so far. Fit on the 1" attachment. ZZZZZZZZZZzzz. Put it to Caleb's hair. ZZZZZZZZZrrrrttt.

Despite the claims on the package that it is one of the most powerful buzzers out there, it couldn't even vibrate in Caleb's hair.

So back to the instructions. It said take short, slow strokes. Okay.

Fifteen minutes later, the back was buzzed with the 3/4" attachment, and it looked like I had hacked at it with scissors, and Caleb was growing restless and extremely frustrated because the buzzer kept pulling his hair. Hard. Finally he said, "How long will this take?"

"Um," said I, realizing "short, slow strokes" would take an hour and then he would look like Anda had cut his hair with playdoh scissors.

I got out the old old standby Wahl buzzer mom gave us years ago that has cut Tim's thick hair without problems for five years.

MIRACLE! The buzzer attachments fit on the old Wahl clippers, which still work fine but were just missing the long attachments. So quick as a wink, fit the 3/4" attachment on, and then the 1/2" for the sides and back. Haircut done in 10 minutes flat. It was shorter than Caleb wanted because the Remington with the 1" attachment wouldn't cut his hair at all, but next time we'll just go straight to the Wahl and use the 1" attachment, and all will be as Caleb wants it to be.

Remington Pro 8017: Crap. Don't buy one unless you happen to have an ancient Wahl buzzer and need the set of combs for $12.74. They fit.

Mom said to always buy Dog buzzers--they have more guts and can actually cut people hair. Like the old Osters. We have one of those, too--it also doesn't have long attachments. Remington won't cut hair. It even just pulled Daniel's hair--and there's not that much to get hung up on.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fetal Psychological Development

Around our house, we assume the spirit in a baby is a functioning, living, adult spirit from conception. This affects our treatment of our babies, both before and after birth, as we try our best to be nice to them--even to the unborn.

This article, which is ten years old, was very interesting on that point. Apparently scientists have been saying for some time that if you try to force your child to develop better or faster, you may actually be harming them.

It's a very pop-sci article, without real evidence from the studies, but fun to read nonetheless.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What's an ex for?

The kids were fascinated when I told them you can spell out the names of the letters of the alphabet, like aitch (H).

So today, for school, I told them about prefixes and suffixes and we talked through a few examples. I was reviewing the prefixes we'd discussed, and I said, "'Ill' and 'un' mean 'not', oh, and 'ex', spelled E-X, means 'used to be but isn't anymore'."

Anda chimed in, "It also means dig here for buried treasure!"