Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

The Squeaker, in the best tradition of our family, is a science geek. (I am so proud!) So it was with great excitement that we looked forward to last night's lunar eclipse. He already knows all about eclipses, thanks in part to Bill Nye, and I told him last night at bedtime that I would wake him up so he could see it.

The Husband and I experimented with taking a picture, but since we are not exactly professional photographers, this was the best we could get with our little digital camera:
This was taken at approximately 1:55 am this morning.

It took me like five minutes to wake him from his deep sleep. We were fortunately enough to have a clear sky last night, and The Squeaker had a perfect view of it from his bedroom window. I asked if he wanted to go outside to see more of it, but he said he wanted to go back to sleep instead.

If you missed the eclipse, do not be dismayed! There will be three others between now and next April.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Proud Parenting Moments

I've been doing a lot of spinning lately. The Squeaker thinks it's pretty cool to spin, too.





For each of these videos, I was working on carding/ spinning, but then had to leave the room for one reason or another.  When I came back, I discovered what you see in the video. (In the second one, The Shieldmaiden is complaining quite loudly that I left her in the high chair.)

Kids choose their own interests, of course, but few things have made me prouder as a parent than seeing my child take an interest in things I like. Especially since I have not been successful in getting the Squeaker to like Karate.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How I Really Feel About Gay Marriage

This post was originally an email I sent to a friend a few months ago. I decided the time has come for me to post it on my blog, with a few tweaks. Most of the time when I post controversial stuff on here, people just back away slowly, rolling their eyes and thinking to themselves, "Oh, that's just Beth. She does weird things like that." This time might be different, however.

I think it was 2006 or so when DOMA came up in congress for review. It ended up being tabled at the time, but at the encouragement of family members, I wrote a couple of senators. I didn't really know anything about the issue, then, and so the best argument I could come up with against gay marriage sounded very much like, "Um...because of....reasons. And stuff." I did feel a bit like a hypocrite for writing my representatives about something with such inarticulateness.

In a way, I'm almost glad that this issue is now so close to home, due to Judge Shelby's recent ruling, that I can't sit on the fence or avoid it any more, because it has forced me to really read a lot about it and examine the issue from multiple angles. I think I can say that I am now able to articulate real, reasonable concerns that make valid sense, instead of saying, "Um, 'cuz the Prophet says so."
To outline some, but not all, concerns simply and concisely:
1) Concern that by making homosexual unions legally equal to heterosexual unions, we will see a rise in genderless parenting. What do we know about genderless parenting? Not much. But we know a lot about fatherlessness, and it is not good. President Obama is trying to push for more men to become more involved with their children, but it's difficult to take him seriously if he has also pushed for legislation that basically makes male parents optional.

2) Concern that this move will increase third-party reproduction, which is a fairly new practice. We know very little about how the children created feel about the method of their conception. Reports like those found at anonymousus.org, an anonymous forum for donor-conceived people, should be cause for worry. Third-party reproduction is largely unregulated and fraught with legal wrangling. Gestational carriers and egg donors are particularly hard-hit, but sperm donors are not immune, either.

3) Concern that children are getting the short end of the stick. There is so much we don't know about how children who grow up with homosexual parents fare in later life. Studies that show they turn out equally as well or better have inherent flaws (small sample size, etc), and it is difficult for social scientists to obtain funding to study the issue in more depth because of its intensely political nature. I came across this article some time ago, written by a man raised by two women. If his story is to be believed, he did not exactly have an idyllic childhood.

4) This guy, Mark Regnerus, suggests ways in which broader culture could possibly change as a result of widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage. If we accept his research findings at face value, it doesn't paint a very good picture. But how are we to know whether we can accept it at face value without more data, which does not currently exist?

5) My biggest concern: the majority of advocates for gay rights do not answer the other concerns, instead countering that "It's mean not to let them marry," ie a focus on the desires and wants of the adults instead of a focus on the rights of children to be raised by their mother and father. The research is very clear that children in intact biological families fare the best. I don't believe it is prudent to say two men or two women are exactly the same, socially, as a man and a woman when it is clearly not the same. A secondary concern to this lies in the swarm of ad hominem attacks against those foolish enough to question popular opinion in public. "You must be a fundamentally horrible person with poor hygiene if you don't think the same way I do." I feel that these are legitimate concerns, and I don't appreciate that my concerns are being met with insults instead of actual dialogue.

On the other side of the coin, I believe very strongly that sex should be kept very firmly within marriage, because you should take legal and social responsibility for the person you are sleeping with. How to reconcile the happiness of a hypothetical couple, Peter and Curtis, with the human rights of children in their home, then, becomes my personal focus. Where is their mother? If they are from Peter's first marriage to a woman, how often do they get to see her? The Husband will tell you that being raised by divorced parents is no picnic, so that's already a big challenge they've got to deal with. If they are donor conceived, carried to term by a gestational carrier, what do they know about their biological mother's family? Do they have her medical history? Are they aware of half-siblings? How will they fare without an adult female mother-figure in the home? On a fundamental level, is it possible for two men to play the same role in a child's life as a mother-figure, biological or otherwise?

It is a labyrinth.

I've been looking for literature that addresses these topics to my satisfaction and have been unable to find any. My work with Head Start and those troubled teens did a whole lot to reinforce my belief in the intact biological family. I know a lot of families are dysfunctional, but there's a difference between acknowledging a failure to live up to the ideal and throwing the ideal completely out of the window. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

More Black Belt Stuff

It's been a couple of weeks, now, since my test. I could write a lot of philosophical stuff about what I learned from it and the nature of Martial Arts. There is much I could say about how obtaining my black belt in Karate has shown me how much I still have to learn in The Art. Black isn't the end by a long shot. It's like graduating from Martial Arts kindergarten.

The whole experience of preparing and testing for my Black Belt has been incorporated into my List of Amazing Things - experiences that have singularly changed me. Also on that list are the births of my children, my time in Egypt, getting married, receiving my endowments, etc etc. (Those are not in any particularly order.) Maybe it's wrong to say that those things "changed me," though, because fundamentally I am the same. But they've changed the way I see myself, and the way I see the world.

In the weeks since my test, I've been surprised to see how I feel the world has opened itself to me. I feel as though I really, honestly, could do anything I wanted. Running a marathon? Yeah, I bet I could do that. Running for public office? I wouldn't want to do that with a baby at home, but in the future, I could totally see myself in the state legislature. Having as many as eight children and homeschooling all of them while raising sheep and chickens? I know I would be great at it, and I would do it with flair.

That's why I think everyone should study the Martial Arts.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cloth Diapers: Almost-but-not-quite Three Years

I can't believe I've been doing this for so long. I started when I was trying to potty train The Squeaker (Now 4 3/4) and we've been using cloth for The Cookie and The Shieldmaiden for their whole lives. After three kids in as many years, my diapers have been through a lot. Last April I wrote how only one of them was showing signs of wear.

Yeah.

Since then, about 13 of them have officially bitten the dust, and more are definitely on their way out. A couple of the microfiber inserts have become so stiff they curl up and hold their shape when dry! I was feeling really sad about it for a while. Was I not treating them very well? Was there something different I could have done to make them last longer? Different detergent? More additives? Was it because I put the covers in the dryer when, strictly speaking, you are not really supposed to?

I aired my fears to another cloth diapering friend, who pointed out that with the level of use they've experienced, I should be proud that they've lasted this long. That was reassuring. The Shieldmaiden is, after all, the third kid to be using these. However, the reassurance didn't really solve my problem, which was that my diapers were crumbling into dust. It is possible to buy more, of course, but the whole point of cloth diapers is that you don't have to keep buying more, am I right?

Luckily, this same friend told me all about what she is doing with her baby: old-fashioned prefolds and flats, with wool covers. I was skeptical at first because it seemed really fiddly, and I won't lie - I'm kind of lazy.

There was another development, too, that kind of pushed me a little over the edge. Poor little Cookie has been battling rashes on his little bum for a long time. It's because of the ammonia buildup - apparently it's because of the polyester fibers they are made of. One day he woke up with a particularly bad one, and I felt as though the choice to switch had been made for me. I knitted up a couple of diaper covers (So. Much. Knitting.) and ordered some good, high-quality prefolds, and we've been trying it out for a couple of days now.

The real test came last night when I put The Cookie to bed last night in a prefold with a wool soaker. It did not leak! The prefold was even still dry in spots. The soaker was just the tiniest bit damp but not smelly. And no rashes! The verdict? I think this system will work just fine.

In fact, as much as I love and work with wool and natural fibers, it's a little embarrassing that I didn't make the switch sooner.

Pictures to follow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Another Exhausting Sunday

Phew.

This blog is in response to a request made by my cousin.

I've mentioned before how I don't really like the process of actually going to church. I don't like getting dressed up, getting kids ready, or having to sit in uncomfortable chairs for long periods of time. I'm the secretary in our ward's primary presidency, which means I have responsibilities and stuff. I don't feel like I'm particularly good at it, but that doesn't make it any less exhausting. In fact, out of the many callings I've had over the years, beginning with Beehive President when I was 13, I don't feel like I've been particularly good at any of them.

As one internet commenter I once read so snarkily put it, "The boring nature of Sacrament Meeting is proof that the Mormons have a bad product." Well, I'm not going to dispute that Sacrament Meeting can be boring. I've been to some really awful Sacrament Meetings in my day. But I don't find that the quality of the Mormons' "product" is based on the level of excitement found in our meetings. I expect if we wanted them to be exciting, we'd have light shows and get a rock band to play our hymns instead of an organist. I know that's the direction some churches have gone, but that's just not our style.

So, if I dislike the church part of my Church, why do I still put forth effort to count myself as a member? Two reasons.

Reason #1: I don't really go for myself, any more. I go for other people. I do the work that my calling requires (although, as I said, I could definitely be better at it.). Before I had this calling, I would substitute for primary or nursery classes as often as I could, sometimes 2 weeks out of every month! The religious community fills a very important social function, and that community relies on individuals to keep it running by building each other up, helping each other. By going to church I can see people's faces and get to know them, and they can see my face and get to know me. Then when someone needs a casserole or something the Relief Society president knows she can call me.

Reason #2: This is the true Church, so what else matters? Sometimes, in my life that revolves around knitting and karate and cloth diapers and gardening and endless laundry, even I forget that I am, in fact, a world traveler. I've been to and lived in several different countries, met all kinds of people, and have made in-depth studies of other belief systems. While I believe truth can be found anywhere, I think the Mormons are the only ones that have The Truth, with capitals. If Sacrament Meeting is a little boring sometimes, so what? That's not all there is to Mormonism.

We Mormons are not perfect people, and the people who run this Church are just regular folks like me who are just trying to do as best we can. Part of that "doing the best we can" part means going to Church on Sunday, even when it's not "fun."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ordaining Women: My Two Cents

I'm going to try to keep this short.

There has been a firestorm of dialogue surrounding the Church in the last few weeks. First people up in arms about "modesty as rape culture," and it has been in the news that the Ordain Women people will be demonstrating to gain entrance into Priesthood Session at General Conference.

I will tell you what I think. A lot of people are picking apart modesty and throwing criticism at the Church for what I refer to simply as "The Priesthood Issue" while overlooking the fact that Mormonism is a lonely voice in the fight against pornography, as an example.

And lemme tell you something about pornography: it's ugly, demeaning to women, and an exploitative industry by its very nature. And yet lots of people - yes, even within the church - rush to defend it. "It's not that bad. It's unreasonable to expect men not to partake." Meaning, of course that it's all about men's "needs." I hope I don't have to go into detail in explaining what a chauvinistic worldview that endorses. 

It is ridiculous to me that so many people are getting worked up over female ordination and modesty (gasp!) when actual rape culture exists in the world. (Stuebenville, OH wasn't that long ago.) Priorities, priorities.

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