Hadassah and Ginger

31 07 2008

Her name is Hadassah, and she is a beautiful cat!  I gave in to temptation and went back to the shelter and picked her up.  She is beautiful, long-haired with a full, almost bushy tail that she waves like a fox’s.  She hopped in my lap while I was working on the computer last night, and she slept with me a goodly portion of the night.  The kitten was exiled to a bathroom for wetting Neal’s bed and playing with everything that could make an annoying noise.  But Hadassah was a perfect lady.

She has been calm and accepting with the other cats, neither of which has returned her graceful sentiments.  Nutmeg covered herself in dishonor by running away from the kitten.  The kitten, Ginger, is a tiny holy terror, and I may regret rescuing her.  My parents have always claimed that I was bad at choosing cats.  This time, I chose the good one, and the kids chose the nutty animal that climbs everyone’s clothing and tries to pry up the air-conditioning vents so she can crawl down in the ducting.  Sheesh.


Cat adoption

30 07 2008

We surrendered Tutter to the Animal control people today.  Always very sad.  But we also picked up a little calico kitten about three months old.  The children have christened her Ginger, and Ginger is back in Neal’s room settling in with her litter box and kitten food.

I took the kitten into Neal’s work with me when I went to drop off his glasses.  He had claimed he wasn’t ready to adopt another cat yet. (You don’t want to feel like replacing an animal like a burnt out light bulb.)  But when I put that little kitten in his lap, he warmed up pretty quickly.  It pitoned its way up his shirt and perched precariously on his shoulder mewing in his ear.  When I left he told me to put the new kitty in his room.  The official excuse is so he can supervise its introduction to our remaining cat, Nutmeg, but I think we all know the truth of the matter.  My husband adores cats.

I was disappointed that the children chose the calico kitten.  There was a beautiful long-haired marmalade cat I wanted very badly.  She was a young mama whose kittens had already all been taken.  She was sweet and gentle, and very lovely.  I am sorely tempted to go back for her.  After all, Tutter was my companion.  He kept my feet warm in the winter.  When Neal was away, he guarded me.  Any time I got up in the night, he walked beside me wherever I went.  While my husband was snoring, Tutter got up with me for night nursing, nightmares, snack runs on the kitchen, and all nocturnal potty breaks.  I like to maintain this attitude that the cats are really Neal’s and only dwell in my house by sufferance, but I think I’m going to miss Tutter.  Now Neal has Nutmeg, always his favorite, the kids have Ginger and the parakeets Snowflake and Bluebell, Mike has his African aquatic frog, and I have… well, where’s my pet?

I didn’t really want a pet when I had a baby.  Babies are exhasting and take all your time and love and snuggles.  There is very little left over for a pet.  But now, my baby is going on three, and I could use something warm and affectionate to brush and pet and pamper.  Maybe I will go back for her.  How does Sheba sound for a name?  Or maybe Shadassa.

A good mommy moment-

28 07 2008

If you’ve ever lost your temper with your kids and felt rotten afterwards, you should go read this post:


Homemade Goodies and Doing Without- still dodging MSG

28 07 2008
Peach Jam

Peach Jam

Here’s proof that I have been domestically occupied today!  The peaches I bought at the fruit stand this morning were already molding this evening, so I rushed them into jars.  Three jars sugar free for my husband, three jars for me & the kids.  Hope it turns out well, because Neal hates the commercial sugar-free jams & jellies.

I’ve had a lot of good response to my blogs about MSG and food purity, so I thought I’d slip in an update.  We’ve been sticking to it, more or less, at home.  Found some new things out.  Wal-Mart and Sams have decided to cave in to consumer pressure and get all their store brand milk from dairys that don’t dose their cows with growth hormones.  The official line is still that the hormones don’t hurt us, although that’s not what I’ve seen in my research on the internet.  What I see is a lot of studies talking about how the chemicals formed in our gut after drinking this milk can irritate our bodies and lead to greatly advanced incidence of breast and colon cancer.  (Go figure.  If it causes the COW to make more milk, what does it do when it gets in my body?  It’s only common sense to imagine that it might try to fool my body into producing milk and lead to breast cancer.)

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is produced w/o growth hormones, but they do, apparently, use MSG-containing food additives (listed as natural flavor.)  I have contacted Ben & Jerry’s to ask them exactly what is in their natural flavor, and they have refused to answer my inquiries.  So we’re still eating Hagen-Dahz.

We’ve found a commercially produced bread that doesn’t contain MSG.  It’s marketed as Nature’s Own Organic.  They have a honey wheat and a 100% whole wheat.  We eat the honey wheat.  Thomas bagels (plain) also contain no MSG, though they have a few other interesting things.

Natural peanut butter has become more affordable & is available in several brands only a little more expensive than the partially hydrogenated trans fat kind.  We’re also eating a lot of Barilla Plus Pasta, which is high protein pasta, and much better for Neal’s diabetes.  I also notice that it is more filling, and my children eat less of it and stay full longer.

Cascade Farms, another brand available at Wally World, markets inexpensive MSG-free and organic cereal.  My kids loved their honey-nut-o’s, which Wal-Mart recently quit carrying.  But we also like Kashi’s cinnamon squares and strawberry flakes.  Also eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast.

I can’t find much support either way for the new “natural” nitrates found in celery powder or juice over the artificial nitrates usually present in lunch meat.  We’ve been eating some of the Oscar Meyer naturals.  They make a really good turkey and ham lunch meat.  Love the beef hot dogs, too, and they have very few odd chemicals compared to most hot dogs.  Oscar Meyer also makes a “natural” bacon that I have only had once.  It was delicious- everyone noticed how much better it was, but they don’t sell it around here.

For eating out, the best bet is still Wendy’s.  They’ve cut MSG entirely except on a very few menu items like their spicy chicken sandwich.  The food is cooked in non-hydrogenated oil, so even the french fries are trans fat free.  The chicken nuggets are quite possibly the only chicken nuggets available in the western world that DO NOT contain MSG.  Sadly, to taste buds used to McDonald’s, the food obviously doesn’t taste quite as good, and I only hope that enough people continue to eat there to make their policys worth while.

Many Food Lion store brand products do not contain MSG, where their name-brand counterparts do.  My favorite find so far was Food Lion chocolate chips, which are MSG-Free!

With food prices going up, how do we cope with trying to buy high quality food for six people?  One of the ways is by reducing variety.  There are fewer choices for lunch or breakfast.  I don’t try to provide exotic dinners most of the time, either.  I am slowly adding to my list of acceptable foods as I have time to read labels in the grocery store (challenging with the kids hanging off the cart).

Eating what they call whole foods is still the best way to lower cost and eat smart.  Buying rice, canned tomatos, frozen peas, sweet potatos, plain oatmeal, sugar, flour, oil, canned beans… none of these things cost very much.  Even dairy, which is rising, doesn’t cost as much as buying pre-prepared freezer dinners for six.  We’re also trying to use up our leftovers.  Eat more leftovers for lunch.  Use bits and scraps for soup and casseroles.

If this sounds like too much work, please remember that I’m a lazy cook.  I NEVER prepare anything that takes more than 30 minutes to make.  I make a lot of one-dish meals, too, with the veg, protein, and carbohydrates all in one place.  If the kids don’t like it, they get PB&J.  I guess, over the years, I have just become used to cooking, too.

An example is homemade biscuits verses biscuits snapped out of the can.  I keep my biscuit recipe card taped to the inside of my baking cabinet door.  That saves the time of looking it up.  My mom kept hers, a cut out from a flour bag, INSIDE the flour cannister!  Always available.  The baking powder, flour, salt cannister, and oil are all in the cabinet together.  The bowls are right above them.  The spatulas, measuring spoons, cutter, and rolling pin wrapped in its pastry cloth are in a drawer at my hip.  I can make biscuits almost as fast as you can snap them out of a can.  You throw five ingredients in a bowl, dump it on the cloth, roll, cut, and bake.  But it’s like everything- the first few times you do it it seems exhaustingly hard.  The next few times, it seems annoying.  After three months, you can whip them out without looking.  My grandmother’s mother raised eleven kids and made biscuits three times a day on a wood-burning stove.  I expect she could have done it blindfolded.

So I bake biscuits from scratch, pancakes, muffins, cakes, dumplings, and cookies when we have them, which isn’t often.  I also make homemade granola from time to time.  I don’t bake as often as I would purchase these foods from the store.  If you don’t have cookies unless you have time to make them, you eat a lot less cookies!  When you have to make foods from scratch, it’s amazing how your priorities change.  An apple really starts to seem like dessert.

I am grateful to the people who prepare organic ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings for me though.  Trying to avoid MSG foods has really made me grateful for the convenience foods I can still buy.  Tomorrow, I’m hoping to make pickle relish out of those lovely cukes you saw on my counter in the picture- apparently all pickles and relish are laced with MSG.

Sigh.  I used to love sweet gherkins.

Summer reading, abortion’s effects on crime rates, two moral quandries, and something of a long tirade.

24 07 2008

I am at my in-laws surfing on their computer.  My mother and father-in-law are tied for #1 on my list of fabulous people right now.  They’ve taken all four of my little darlings to dinner and VBS three days in a row now.  And I am loving the freedom to just be myself, ALONE, for two and a half hours every evening.

The pleasure of this exercise is somewhat mitigated by my guilt.  I offer to go with them, but I think they know that deep down I don’t really want to.  And so they say no.  But then I wonder if they are saying no out of guilt, and I feel guilty for making them feel guilty, and after a while of riding this merry-go-round, I start to feel dizzy.  Guilt-induced malaise.  Nothing that can’t be cured by watching back to back MASH episodes and doing two hours of homeschool scheduling while eating M&M’s, of course.

I’ve been reading since I’ve been here.  (I’m sure this comes as a surprise to no one.)  Last time I came, I read “The Tipping Point.”  Very good book.  I like books like that.  It’s sort of scientific, so it makes me feel smart, but it’s written down to my level and is humorous.  It sort of entertains and swells my ego at the same time.  Feynman’s books are like that, too, and some of the bio-ethics and cloning books I’ve been reading lately.

So this time, I’ve read “Blink,” by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point), “Someday the Rabbi Will Leave,” by Harry Kemelman, “Freakonomics,” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and “Drink With the Devil” by Jack Higgins Clark.

Freakonomics fascinated me, and I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it from cover to cover.  One point he advances, and quite convincingly, is that Pro-Choice directly ushered in the decrease in violent crime experienced in recent years.   Yes, I agree with you- I had a violent knee-jerk reaction to this one.  I am Pro-Life, as I think nearly any mother who has gestated and birthed a precious little baby who went from “fetal tissue” to a real-live human being is.  But his numbers and arguments were horribly, terribly persuasive.

I quote: “Perhaps the most dramatic effect of legalized abortion, however, and one that would take years to reveal itself, was its[abortion’s] impact on crime.  In the early 1990’s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years- the years during which young men enter their criminal prime- the rate of crime began to fall.  What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of being criminals.   And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world.  Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.”  – “Freakonomics” p. 139, Levitt and Dubner, published by William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, hardback version.

I know this quote alone is enough to make pro-lifers scream in anguish.  And I agree with you!  It is cosmically, egregiously, horribly unfair to abort babies under the argument that they “may” become criminals, to deny couples the chance to adopt because the babies are at risk, or to continue a social policy of slaughter of the innocents to keep our streets safe.  So stop hyperventilating over there.

But I’m writing about this because, like nearly every action on this blasted planet, abortion may have had some unintended effects.  If you’re interested, please read the book for yourself.  He does a masterful job of showing, statistically, why efforts like stiffer prison terms or increasing the police force, although somewhat effective in lowering crime, would not be enough to account for the drop in violent crime we have experienced.  He also has some very interesting analysis for why the “broken windows” effect really wasn’t effective, and a number of other similar things.  Very thought provoking.  And challenging.  If what he says is true, what do we do about it?  How does it change our thinking about abortion?  How might it change our country’s policies if his theory becomes more generally accepted?  God help us all.

We have to start thinking about these things!  We can’t leave it to (suppressed snort) the politicians!  Is it right to grind up fetuses and inject the fetal tissue into wounds to promote quick healing?  What would happen to our population if people literally began cloning themselves and bearing the cloned children?  This is not a science fiction option, people!  Pay attention.  They have the ability to do this NOW.  In Japan, they are working out the kinks in artificial wombs.  At what point does genetic alteration of a fetus result in it not being human?  Should we make laws restricting how many children a sperm donor can father?  (Really- does over 100 sound OK to you?  Can you live with that?  How would the children feel?)

Now you need to ask yourself- if abortion really REALLY does keep crime down, and I mean seriously down, how would you feel about knowingly banning it?  Are you ready to make that ethical decision?  What would you do to temper it?  How would you deal with it, knowing, presciently, that the day of reckoning is not far off…

There ARE no safe choices any more!  That is something I am beginning to see.  If you make corn into ethanol for cheap, environmentally friendly fuel, the price of corn sky rockets.  Feed for chickens, hogs, and beef rises, driving food prices up.  (And endangering my husband’s job, thank you.)  More farmers switch from wheat to corn because it is profitable, and when famines turn up around the globe… the US has less surplus wheat to send and people starve that might have been fed.  So a good decision about fuel produces unintended starvation among impoverished children.

Here’s another wierd one: How the US directly influenced the Jewish Holocaust and then patted ourselves on the back for ending it!!!  I ran across this one in a eugenics book and couldn’t believe my eyes.  Eugenics is a big scientific word for animal breeding as applied to humans.  Everyone knows about animal breeding- you breed better livestock by mating the best to the best.  Then they have better offspring.  In mass, we humans have a moral objection to this.  We don’t like the idea of rating human beings as “good” or “bad” stock.  It gets into all kinds of nasty implications.  Who, after all, gets to decide what good or bad is?  Is a low IQ good or bad?  Malformity?  Skin color?  Height?  Sex?  Complexion?  Creativity?  We cringe, and rightfully so.  Every group of humans who has tried to apply eugenics to the human race has made a pig’s breakfast of it.

You simply can’t weigh the value of a person’s immortally created soul by how well formed their body is or by their racial characteristics.  HOWEVER, although we believe this en masse, in practice it turns out differently.  Each and every time a woman chooses a partner to have children with, she chooses the best partner she can find.  We constantly judge, when selecting a spouse, their height, skin color, IQ, skills, gifts, and talents.  We reject anything we judge as unworthy and try to choose the best we can for ourselves and our children.

This rather natural feeling becomes a little odd when we start talking about choosing a sperm donor, egg donor, or biological surrogate mother.  Can you see where this starts to cross the line to eugenics?  (The most popular sperm donors, it turns out, are tall men with athletic ability.  IQ has very little to do with it.)  It becomes much much worse when people start to talk about buying celebrity sperm on E-Bay (I don’t think you can do this yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me), or worse yet, talk about cloning someone from a tissue sample.

To bring this back to the Holocaust, eugenics was a popular topic in pre-World War Two America.  Books were written.  Scientists were lauded or condemned.  It was a hot, hot topic!  But there are two sides to eugenics- the propagation of desirable characteristics, and the culling of undesirable.  The culling manifested in America in forced sterilization of people committed to mental institutions or who had family histories of mental instability, which could be rather loosely defined.  There was also a great deal of racial prejudice not just against blacks, but against all sorts of racial “minorities” and other “undesirables.”

According to what I have read, Hitler was fascinated by the literature on eugenics.  It gave him a lovely scientific rational for some of his own prejudices and emotions, and led to a great blot in our history.  The shocking thing to me, was that we, in a way, caused the Holocaust with our ground-breaking work in eugenics and prejudices against undesirable elements, and then swept in with our armies and took credit for breaking the very thing we created.

Can anyone else see this, or am I only talking to myself?  No, we did not cremate Jews in America.  We only banned them from shops and businesses and drove them out of good neighborhoods and wouldn’t let them in our country clubs or through our emigration.  Now our favorite fictional villians are the Nazis, and you can almost hear the smugness with which we teach about WWII.

If an innocent belief in improving the human race or improving our fuel emissions can lead to such unintended consequences, is it really out of line to imagine that abortion might have a few unintended consequences of its own?

Malcolm Gladwell does an excellent job of divorcing himself from the ethical debate and presenting the facts for all to see.  The bible clearly states that killing a baby for your own selfish worship of your wealth, education, convenience and future position in life is an abomination to God.  All I am asking is for you to take five minutes and think about what the possible unintended consequences of an abortion ban might be, and to think about what we, the people, could do about it.  As Christians we are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.  Gentle enough to be horrified by the taking of innocent life, but wise enough to look at the act in context and not to view our relationships with other people overly simplistically.

If, as Christians, we had done a better job of helping, healing, reassuring, and supporting unwillingly pregnant women, possibly Roe vs. Wade might never have happened.  For so long the attitude towards an unwed mother was so condemning.  The girls had to hide.  They were shuffled out of sight.  It was only a small, small step to shuffling the baby out of sight rather than the mother.  And it wasn’t the sinners who were condemning the girls- it was the Christians.  They thought they were doing a good thing by providing an incentive to wait until marriage, and maybe they were, but the law of unintended consequences was in that mess, too.

I do not have a great wrap-up ending for this.  I am too grieved in my heart.  There are so few simple answers in our complex society.  The earth is so full of people, we can hardly sneeze without affecting each other.  The only things I can think to do are to pray, to really think, and to love without measure or limit everyone I can.  Every sin we commit against each other is a lack of thought, a lack of love, or a lack of spiritual insight given by God to help our feeble human understanding of each other.  And maybe that’s a pretty good ending right there.

Will be out for a while!

21 07 2008

We’re leaving for my in-law’s tomorrow morning.  We’ll be there a week for VBS at their church and general visiting.  So I won’t be posting much.

I’m very itchy- I think maybe I had a mild allergic reaction to the yellow-jacket stings.

I just finished writing a three-page detailed plot outline for a book I want Neal and I to write together.  If he doesn’t read it while I’m gone, he’s going to be in trouble when I get home!  We’ve been working on this plot since Patrick was a tiny baby, and I’ve done a good deal of pre-writing work.  Picked out the time period, the location, lots of character names… Neal helped me work out the plot.  I’ve written three or four trial chapters, only one of which I think we’ll use, and I’m ready to go.  Let’s get this puppy rolling, right?  I really wish I could publish excerpts on this blog.  Any one who’s interested can email me, and I’ll send you some of what I’m working on.  Michael P. has seen one of my old beginnings, but I have an all-new beginning for it.  Much better, I think.

See ya in a week!

Yellow Jackets

19 07 2008

Setting up for Mike’s birthday party, and I just got swarmed by yellow jackets.  The bible got it wrong- the enmity isn’t between me and snakes.  Snakes keep their distance.  It’s the insect world that’s getting ground under my heel.

Last month it was cockroaches keeping me awake crawling in my hair.  Then it was spiders (I still have one hanging out in the window with it’s big fat black body.  When you knock a spider off it’s web and you can hear it hit the floor, that spider is too big.)  Now yellow jackets.

It’s been a while since I was stung.  It’s easy to forget how much they hurt.  The first one hit the back of my leg and I jerked and hollered.  I thought at first it was a biting fly.  Then one stung my hand and I looked up and realized what was happening.  Screamed at Donal to run, which he sensibly did.  We flew for the back door and it was locked.  Both gates out of the back yard are generally chained to keep the little ones in, so we thought we were trapped.  Donal started turning on the hose to try to hose them off of me, because they were crawling on my clothes.  Then I noticed the patio gate was unchained and we made for the front yard.

As we ran, I felt a sting on my head, reached up and realized I couldn’t knock the wasp off because it was tangled in my hair.  This was the point at which I panicked and started screaming. I unclipped my hair and flipped it upside down and D shoved me in the sprinkler and I got stung again on the leg and was knocking them off my shorts and screaming like a maniac when the cavalry (Neal) arrived.  He went through all my hair and got me inside and stripped.  He stomped on my clothes and did a more thorough search of my hair for me.  I love my husband.  Donal definitely deserves a lot of credit, too, for some excellent crisis thinking with turning on the sprinkler and pushing me into it when I started freaking out.

Now Neal is outside nuking the nest with some sort of poison. Birthday plans may have to be moved inside, which is a pity.  Neal made a zip-line for M’s Go Diego Go! party.  We had planned a snake pit challenge, a big black spider to fight (constructed out of lawn and leaf bags and some wire), a tracking challenge, and two animals to rescue.  Unfortunately the zip line and two of the challenges are right beside the wasp nest.

(Neal just sprayed the spider in my window with wasp killer and I am averting my eyes from it’s death throes.  At least, I hope they are death throes.  There’s a smaller, but very similar spider in the window too.  A male?  Were they planning on starting a little spider civilization in my bedroom window?  Um… NOT.)

I came out of this much better than Neal did the time he was transplanting an azalea and punched his shovel right through the yellow jacket nest.  He was a mess.  I’m just a little ouchy.  Waaa!