Saturday, December 27, 2008

my electricity usage

So I started at Mother Earth News and the article "Where does your electricity come from?"

Then I clicked on nifty feature to go to the EPA website.

I crunched data from my bills at the electric company to find these figures.

Now I need to work on reducing all these numbers! Interestingly, the site indicated that I use about half the electricity of an average household....

Read Date
(Click to View Bill)
Usage (kWh)Number
of Days
Per Day
Temp (°F)
4573513.06$65.09 00 38.312/3/2008 12:00:00 AM
7143023.80$101.72 00 48.410/29/2008 12:00:00 AM
10253133.06$150.80 00 62.59/29/2008 12:00:00 AM
7852927.07$116.79 00 66.98/29/2008 12:00:00 AM
8633127.84$127.48 00 72.47/31/2008 12:00:00 AM
7353123.71$100.15 00 67.46/30/2008 12:00:00 AM
4013013.37$57.15 00 545/30/2008 12:00:00 AM
4083013.60$58.06 00 47.84/30/2008 12:00:00 AM
4392716.26$62.04 00 33.33/31/2008 12:00:00 AM
6173418.15$84.96 00 25.33/4/2008 12:00:00 AM
5062818.07$70.67 00 24.21/30/2008 12:00:00 AM
6823022.73$90.59 00 26.21/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
6593319.97$87.63 00 35.812/3/2007 12:00:00 AM
7322826.14$96.73 00 55.210/31/2007 12:00:00 AM
7932828.32$104.32 00 62.410/3/2007 12:00:00 AM
11623335.21$150.29 00 67.79/5/2007 12:00:00 AM
12553535.86$162.80 00 71.28/3/2007 12:00:00 AM
8412830.04$121.14 00 66.46/29/2007 12:00:00 AM


What Are My Annual Emissions?
This is an estimate of the pounds of air pollutants caused by the electricity you use in your home or business during one year.


pounds of nitrogen oxides


pounds of sulfur dioxide


pounds of carbon dioxide

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Blue for Brrrrrrrr!

It started snowing here about 1 PM on Friday, and has finally stopped. We've had somewhere between 10 1/2 and 12" of snow, depending on where in my yard I measure. We haven't been out the driveway since 2 PM on Friday, though lots of fun has been had in the back yard. And, of course, the rabbits needed feeding and watering! The children were off from school on Friday and are hoping to be off tomorrow, but I think the crews will have enough time overnight to get the roads passable. Thank goodness I have a very good snowblower; I would NOT want to shovel this.

Monday, October 27, 2008

so, it's pathological to want to preserve the planet for our children, is it?

So Sharon Astyk was interviewed for the New York Times with regard to her blogs and books regarding how we might want to try to live in a post Peak Oil, climate changed world. Apparently, those who take their environmental and social responsibilities seriously are so threatening to The Establishment that mud must needs be slung at them, and labels affixed to them. Loony tune? Energy anorexic? I think not. Here's Peak Oil Blues's response to the subtly nasty and marginalizing article from the NYT. I particularly liked this sentence in the summarizing paragraphs:

"Articles like Kaufman’s are not merely dumb and sensational; they are carefully crafted not only to avoid the opportunity to educate one of the most consumptive nations on Earth, but, more importantly, to pathologize those who won’t spend."

Here, btw, is Sharon's response to the article.

Me? I'm working on it all. I have been bicycling a lot this fall, and as the weather has grown colder, I've added in more bus time as well. I've had the heat on exactly once so far, to bring the house up to 62 in the morning so the children can dress in something approximating comfort. I'd really like to have a bank of solar panels on my roof, so that I can run such luxuries as my downstairs freezer and dehumidifiers (though those need run only in summer). My needs are fairly simple, overall, and that's good, because my means are modest, too. And I, like Sharon, let my children play ball in the yard, while I work in the garden or hang out the wash or feed the rabbits. Reminds me a lot of when my brothers and I were little, actually - and we never felt deprived because of it.

Further from Peak Oil Blues - really, go read the whole thing -

This article is part of a new media genre that takes the serious worries of almost two-thirds of Americans, and creates a special brand of pathology designed to stigmatize, pathologize, trivialize, and marginalize their concerns.

What, are we a nation of ostriches now?

(cross-posted to

Monday, June 9, 2008

feels like summer here!

Hurray, I made it through to the end of my semester! I even did respectably on my final papers. I felt that one could have been better, but I think it was due in part to my inexperience and in part to my exhaustion - I could definitely have presented my ideas more effectively. But the professor had lots and LOTS of constructive criticism (thank you!) and I feel confident that next time I'll be better prepared for this kind of work.

The children will be out of school by the middle of next week! There's the usual flurry of picnics and parties and plays until then, which is always fun and even more fun for me now that I can breathe and enjoy it all. I confess that the last day of preschool (after seven years/four children there) will be very bittersweet for me. Kleenex and chocolate, please?

The weather has turned HOT here. It was about 92 this afternoon... which for here is hot even for mid-August! The pool next door was 70 degrees 48 hours ago and was 82 degrees this afternoon. Thank goodness for fantastic neighbors and standing invitations!

My vegetable seedlings are all in the garden now. I had trouble with a mouse in the basement which snacked on my first planting of flowers, broccoli and tomatoes, so my seedlings this year are smaller than usual as they had to be replanted. I do have some flower seedlings yet to plant, but they are SO far down the list of priorities right now. I direct sowed zucchini, cucumbers, and pumpkins so far. I have yet to sow corn, beans, and more flowers. I will hold off on sowing peas at this point until August, for a fall crop. It's just too late for spring peas now. *sigh* I spent more time than usual (actually, 'usual' is none, so that wasn't hard) on perennial beds this year. I transplanted several dozen columbines that I had direct sown in the front yard a few years back... they had grown there but never flourished. I hope they'll be happier where I moved them. I also moved the rest of the bulbs I thought I'd moved last fall but missed. I have yet to dig out what I want from the overgrown-with-violets back bed, before I cook it with plastic to kill off said violets. I want to rescue the Easter lilies, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths first.

I have spent the past few days preparing and posting for sale on Ebay listings for the Motherwear nursing clothes I've been accumulating over the years. ( Time was, these sold like mad, but the market even on Ebay seems to be in a slump. I am trying to figure out how to pull together financially for school next year, and freeing up capital is always a good first step. Finding a decent part-time job is on my list as well... NOT easy in this area and in this economy! Even if I weren't planning to take classes, I still couldn't work full-time, since I need to be here to meet the bus seven afternoons out of ten. Still, every little bit helps, and I'll figure it out eventually.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I can haz rough drafts!

I finished the first draft of my second final paper this evening. Both papers are presently 14 pages long. May I just say that I'm really looking forward to turning them in, and being finished with my semester? The classes were great, it was just difficult because all five of us kept getting strep, and boy howdy, it kicked my posterior. But I'm almost finished! And then I can start in on my page-long list of things that I've either been putting off, or have forbidden myself to start because I'd be too distracted. Like transplanting my bulbs... if I get started digging in my gardens, the rest of the world loses importance for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

we went to the circus!

My most excellent eldest brother was able to obtain tickets for us to go to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus today! "Us" was my four children, my Mom, and me. The circus was amazing. First, before the thing started, we got to go down onto the arena floor and look around. They had a few costumes there for the children to try on. The Chinese acrobats did juggling. The clowns brought children into the 'ring' for a tug of war. And an elephant came out!

The show itself was much MUCH different from when I saw it probably 30 years ago. Much higher tech, of course. The ringleader sang! Actually, he started us off by singing the National Anthem, which I really liked, of course. There was a clown who was his 'foil', and they had this running 'contest' about whose circus it really was. There were half a dozen elephants, there were horses with acrobats on their backs. There were frisbee playing dogs! (man, were they fast) There were Shetland ponies with goats riding on their backs. (honest!) And there were TIGERS. Wow. There were also trapeze artists (insane, the lot of 'em) and the acrobats came out again. There were folks doing stunty things on rings in the air or on ribbons hanging from the ceiling/rigging. There were motorcycles - six of them drove into a huge steel ball and drove around INSIDE of it... mind boggling. There was a motorcyclist who drove up a wire to the ceiling.

The children had a fantastic time. Thank you, Uncle Charlie! And thank you Grandma, without whom the day would have been MUCH more difficult for the Mommy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a John 3:16 parable to think about at Easter

Caution: overtly Christian content follows. If this might offend you, please go elsewhere. However, I will post it without a cut, because I feel strongly that the message is essential. This is not, to my knowledge, a 'true' story. Consider it a parable.

A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, the people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn't trying to sell many papers.

He walked up to a policeman and said, 'Mister, you wouldn't happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight, would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and it's awful cold in there for tonight. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.'

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, 'You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say John 3:16, and they will let you in.'

So he did. He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, 'John 3:16.'
The lady said, 'Come on in, Son.' She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace, and she went off.

The boy sat there for a while and thought to himself: John 3:16. I don't understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.
Later she came back and asked him, 'Are you hungry ?'

He said, 'Well, just a little. I haven't eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.'

The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn't eat any more. Then he thought to himself: John 3:16 Boy, I sure don't understand it but it sure makes a hungry boy full.

She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself: John 3:16 .. I sure don't understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean. You know, I've not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.

The lady came in and got him. She took him to a room, tucked him into a big old feather bed, pulled the covers up around his neck, kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he lay in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself: John 3:16 ...I don't understand it but it sure makes a tired boy rested.

The next morning the lady came back up and took him down again to that same big table full of food. After he ate, she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and picked up a big old Bible.

She sat down in front of him and looked into his young face.. 'Do you understand John 3:16? ' she asked gently.

He replied, 'No, Ma'am, I don't. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it.'

She opened the Bible to John 3:16 and began to explain to him about Jesus . Right there, in front of that big old fireplace, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought: John 3:16 -- don't understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.

You know, I have to confess I don't understand it either, how God was willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don't understand the agony of the Father and every angel in heaven as they watched Jesus suffer and die. I don't understand the intense love for ME that kept Jesus on the cross till the end. I don't understand it, but it sure does make life worth living.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Happy Easter, friends. Rejoice! He is risen!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

bloggery updatery

It's been a very intense couple of weeks. All is well - now - but I haven't kept up with much of anyone! As of 8 February, Younger Boy was coughing but didn't have strep. By Monday (11 Feb), he did have strep. Older Boy was presenting as if he were a couple of days behind Younger Boy, and Younger Girl spiked a 101+ temperature just after lunch. Having obtained prescriptions for all four of them, just in case, I started treatment for all four of them. (I also learned that the insurance that the Other Parent is required by the divorce agreement to provide for them was not going through, so I had to pay for the prescriptions) Everybody stayed home both Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday we had a snow day. Well, a slush day, really. We got about 5" of slush, then it rained, hard, the rest of the day. It took me two hours to get the slush off of the driveway, though I did manage to make the snowblower do the hardest part of the work. Then I got up onto a ladder to scoop slush and leaves out of my gutters. See, if my gutter over the porch overflows (instead of draining down the downspout) then water leaks into my basement. It's quite predictable. And, sure enough, there was a small puddle forming. So... out into the barely-not-freezing rain I went with my trusty stepladder, and scooped slushy slime out of the gutters. It was a real bear. The slushy snow on the roof slid down enough to make a snow-overhang (a la the Wonder Twins!) which I had to knock down before scooping out the gutter. The worst part, honestly, was the moving of the stepladder, as the paint shelf got full of water while I was up on the ladder, and every time I tilted it to move it, the paint shelf peed icy water all over me. Plus it's not easy to plant the ladder steadily into slushy snow on top of unevenly spread compost and leaf mulch. But I survived. I went inside and had a nice HOT shower.

When I got out of the shower, I went down to check the basement. My usual leak was leaking copiously, and I had to use the shop-vac to suck up the water. Then, half an hour or so later, when I went to check again, there was a new and different puddle forming. Seems that the back 2nd story gutter was overflowing as well, and the water was dripping into the basement window well! Once the window well got full, the water started to leak into the basement, right down the wall. Argh! So... I had to bail out the window well, while of course the roof is still peeing icy water onto my (freshly washed but nowhere near dry) head. Got the window well bailed out and found a sheet of plywood to make a lean-to over the window well.

Well, all of this took another hour or so. Meanwhile I have mostly-better children stuck inside, though thankfully they were SO good! and didn't get into any serious mischief. But it did mean that I didn't get any school work read.

Thursday was Valentine's Day, and everybody went to school (with valentines). I went to both of my classes, too, though we did NOT exchange valentines. (this was FINE with me, btw, as my classmates are generally young enough to be my offspring) Things were looking up all over. Then on Friday morning, as I was preparing to go to the gym, and thence to the library, I decided that Younger Girl's hair needed washing before school. I got her ready for her bath, and discovered that she was covered in Chicken Pox. Woo hoo. I whisked her off to the pediatrician to get it confirmed (and recorded in her file), which happened, and the lass at the reception desk told me that she'd figured out what was wrong with the insurance (the number had changed, presumably when the Other Parent was 'laid off'/sacked from his last position). I took that information to the pharmacy and had my payments refunded successfully. *whew* (did you know that chewable amoxicillin is three times as expensive as liquid?) So - we headed into vacation week with a poxy Younger Girl. She didn't have a horrible case - just one inside of her mouth, but it made her food sting and taste off - but she was restless and wanted to sleep with Mommy.

Grandma, bless her!!!, took the three older ones for overnights at her place, one at a time. Several of the children's friends invited the older two over to play, so that they weren't totally trapped here with their quarantined sister. I also was able to go visit the friend from whose children we'd caught the pox, so I got out a bit too. Things could have been EVER so much worse. I didn't have my usual class on Tuesday morning, because the University ran a Monday schedule on Tuesday (it's something to do with the hard sciences' lab scheduling requirements). That was a real bonus. Grandma also babysat on Tuesday night, here, so I could go to rehearsal. (usually the children go to the Other Parent's on Tuesdays, but it was vacation week, so the schedule was different) Rehearsal was fantastic, but I was barely able to squeak hoarsely afterward. When Bach writes a first soprano part, he means it!

On Wednesday at noon, the Other Parent came to take the children for his half of vacation week. The house was very quiet... for an hour or so. My best friend asked me to watch her two while she went to the dentist, and I gladly did so. While they were here, another good friend (from high school and college) came through town and stopped by for a visit. We discussed Latin (I'll make a separate post about my grad school conundrum) and knitting and children and stuff. It was a real treat to get to see her! Once everyone had left, I went out for a Girl Errand (involving hot wax, but I'll spare you the details) then came back to get BUSY on my school assignments.

With Anne's virtual company via IM over the weekend, I had done most of the assignment for my Thursday AM class - a translation of 29 lines of Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose from Middle English to comprehensible Modern English, with dictionary look-ups for 10 words and cross-references of two of those (and translations of the cross-references - other instances of the same word in other fourteenth century literature). I reviewed that assignment until I was satisfied it was as good as I could make it, then finished reading The Knight's Tale. It is LONG. It's also a fantastic allegory - very symmetrical, very stylistically shapely. That finished, I limped through ten chapters of Piers Plowman (in translation, but still, VERY dense) [I hadn't completed the previous week's reading; she's not that cruel!]. Then I slogged through an essay regarding the poem as a supplemental reading. I made notes from the assigned six chapters, as well as notes from the supplemental reading, because I was scheduled to team-lead the discussion for Thursday night's class. As it turned out, I was finished to my satisfaction after the AM class, around 3 PM, so I took a nap before the PM class. My partner went first, and addressed the material differently than I did. It worked really well. My turn also seemed to go well, though we ran out of time to discuss the supplemental reading and we'll get to that this coming Thursday.

When I got home, I was too wired to sleep. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to stay up until about 3 AM, just reading. (at least I'd had that nap, though) Got up mid-morning on Friday to snow - lots of snow - and stayed inside all day. Stayed up again reading way too late. Didn't venture out with the snowblower until late Saturday morning! It turned out fine, though - as soon as I blew the snow off (7" we got) it was bright enough that the driveway melted clean. *whew* I also went to the gym and did a full hour on the elliptical trainer. I was in bed by just after midnight on Saturday night, and got up for church today. There was a ladies' breakfast at 8 which I didn't know about/had forgotten about. I honestly don't know if I'd have gone even if I'd remembered. I was pretty tired.

The Old Dog was totally nutty this morning - having a serious anxiety attack. Wouldn't even eat her breakfast! I gave her the prescription the vet had sent home with us for that - it's Xanax, just like for people - but had to leave for church and was not able to observe her afterward. I did choose to come home right after church (instead of going to the gym again, which I'd wanted to do) and she had settled down enough to eat her kibbles. I don't know what set her off. Poor old girl. I spent the afternoon cleaning house, reading more Chaucer (the Miller's Tale this time, quite rude) and more Piers Plowman. I've finished Tuesday AM's assignment but still have Thursday AM's to finish (that'll be the Reeve's Tale) and the last three chapters of Piers Plowman for Thursday PM.

One delightful tidbit: I had bought a bookcase for my then-fiance to use when he moved his stuff here. Obviously he and his stuff are NOT here and are not COMING here, so I had this quite nice bookcase that I didn't need. I had put it up for sale on Craig's List, and it sold on Friday! I actually ended up about $15 ahead - woo hoo! The folks who came to pick it up were very brave in the snow.

So now it's Sunday night. I brought the children home at just before 7, and my Mom and brother came over for cake so we could celebrate Older Girl's 8th birthday, which had been on Thursday. Mom gave her an amethyst necklace (since it's her birthstone) and I have her a bunch of necklace-making beads, some stretchy necklace making cord, and a storage case for the beads. I think she liked her presents! The cake was good, too. Unfortunately Older Girl is also a bit warm tonight - just over 99 - but she and I both hope she'll be able to go to school tomorrow. She has a field trip, and I have a court date to try to finalize my petition to have the children's surnames hyphenated. Therein lies a story, and I don't feel like telling it. *sigh* But the Other Parent is fighting tooth and nail, and it remains to be seen whether he managed to stay on this side of the truth in his sworn testimony or not.

Speaking of the Other Parent being himself, I had a good talking-to from a friend on Wednesday (the one involved with the use of hot wax). She's not a Christian - if anything, I think she's a Buddhist? - but/and she's very wise and quite spiritual. [I'm a pretty conservative Christian, by the way, and I subscribe to the teaching of Jesus that instructs us to "love one another as I have loved you". To my mind that leaves no room for rejecting other people based on them having different beliefs than I have {not to mention that I consider it unacceptable to reject others for other reasons either - we're all God's children, and He loves us all}. I believe what I believe; I hold only myself to my standards {and nobody else}; I seek to 'love others' as I've been told to do, and to respect them as well, to the best of my ability - which is sometimes quite good and other times not so much] I was telling her that I have been angry with the Other Parent for various infractions, and she asked me why I was angry. "He is what he is, and that's his deal, not yours. Why be angry that he is who he is? Why not just say instead, 'Oh, poor him, there he goes lying again. Poor thing!' rather than judging or condemning or being angry?" And drat it all, but she's got a really good point. I know I'm called to forgive. I have actually been struggling with that for a while of late; I kept thinking my anger was/is justified... and it could well be... but is it serving me to be angry? Am I serving the Lord being angry? I'm sure I'm not serving my children well by being angry with their [multiple expletives deleted] father. *sigh* Dang it's hard to be a decent human being sometimes, and to act like an adult. Pooh.

So - aside from my 'where do I go now with my graduate studies' question, I think that's everything I've been meaning to blog on. If you read this far, again I thank you! Please share some thoughts with me in return. It gets so lonely blogging into the ether with no concept of whether anyone actually reads it!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Academy of Ancient Music!

Mom and I went to a performance of theirs tonight up on campus. It was exquisite... sublime... glorious! And one of the violinists had on the most scrumptious dress to boot - sleeveless, green, shimmery. *sighs*

Here's what the UMass schedule website said:

Journey through time, and across the ocean, with one of the world's foremost period-instrument orchestras as it shines in a program that includes the music of Bach, Telemann and Handel. Brimming with enthusiasm, energy and dynamic expression, the esteemed Academy of Ancient Music performs with exquisite tonal quality and extreme virtuosity. Under the direction of harpsichord soloist Richard Egarr, the ensemble has been described as "still very much at the vanguard of the period-style movement it launched in concerts and recordings over 30 ears ago." Chicago Tribune

There's a photo of them as well: but alas, she's not wearing the green dress.

Friday, February 22, 2008

and just when I despaired while reading Piers Plowman...

...I came across this gem:

Ypocrysie is lykned to a lothelich dongehul - Hypocrisy is likened to a loathsome dunghill

Yeah, that about sums that up, dunnit? Knew there was a reason I truly do love to read this Middle English stuff!

Friday, February 15, 2008

the wisdom of dogs

- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

- When it's in your best interest -- practice obedience.

- Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

- Take naps and stretch before rising.

- Run, romp, and play daily.

- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

- Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

- On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

- On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

- When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

- No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout... run right back and make friends.

- Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

- Be loyal.

- Never pretend to be something you're not.

- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

a summary of my objections to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

This from

What's wrong with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

It’s usually looked upon as a positive means of holding countries accountable to protect children. But the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is so much more than that.

When the UNCRC was brought up for ratification in 1995, the core group of Senators in opposition concluded that this treaty marked a significant departure from the originally constituted relationship between state and child. They found, in fact, that it was literally incompatible with the right of parents to raise their children as well as a wholesale giveaway of U.S. sovereignty.

But why?

Widespread concerns about the UNCRC stem from the treaty’s repeated emphasis on one key principle used to guide all decisions affecting children: consideration of the “best interests of the child.” This principle underlies all of the rights found in the Convention.

Article 3 of the CRC provides that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

In other words, policies affecting children at all levels of society and government should have the child’s best interest as the primary concern.

The trouble occurs when this principle appears as a guiding principle for parents in article 18(1), which states that “Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.”

Who knows best?

The Convention’s emphasis on the “best interests” principle is a sharp break from American law.

In the 1993 case of Reno v. Flores, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the ‘best interests of the child’ is not the legal standard that governs parents’ or guardians’ exercise of their custody.” In the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granville, the Court struck down a grandparent visitation statute because decisions about the child were made “solely on the judge’s determination of the child’s best interests,” without regard to the wishes of the parent.

The Court’s decisions in Reno and Troxel reflect a fundamental tenet of American family law, which recognizes that parents typically act in the best interests of their children. Indeed, “United States case law is replete with examples of parents fighting for the best interests of their children,” ranging from a child’s right to an education to the right of personal injury compensation. Except in cases where a parent has been proven to be “unfit,” American law presumes that the parent is acting in the best interests of the child, and defers to that parent’s decision.

The UNCRC’s Brave New World

But the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child changes all of that. The treaty supplants this traditional presumption in favor of parents with a new presumption in favor of the state.

According to Geraldine van Bueren, an international scholar who assisted in the drafting of the CRC, the language of “best interests provides decision and policy makers with the authority to substitute their own decisions for either the child’s or the parents’, providing it is based on considerations of the best interests of the child.”

So instead of placing the burden of proof on the government to prove that a parent is unfit, the Convention places the burden of proof on – yes, parents. Any parent who claims that other interests might just be more important than the state’s characterization of the “best interest” of the child could end up battling the state to protect their rights as a parent.

Friday, February 8, 2008

geekiness and a bit of whinging

Further to my post of 23 January, the Other Parent alleges that he's "too busy" to look through "all the hard drives" he allegedly has scattered about to find the digital photos he so blithely assured me that he has. I thanked him warmly for his honesty, since it's so much better not to have unreasonable expectations - now I simply won't expect that he'll do what he said he would, despite having what looks like loads of time on his hands, being unemployed and all. Did he 'get' the irony? Does it matter?

Classes are going very well (at least from my perspective!) and I'm having a lot of fun. I must confess that I think I'd prefer simply to read texts and discuss their contents, rather than to read them with an eye to a certain point. Huh? The class which was advertised in the course description as "Middle English Literature" is, apparently, "Virtue and Vice in Medieval Literature". Yeah, whatever. I'm still getting to read Aquinas and Langland and Mannyng. I did find it interesting that the professor is the organizer of not one but two sessions on "Virtue and Vice" topics at the conference at Kalamazoo. Coincidence? I rather doubt it. Still, I give her full points for resourcefulness. If I were in her position, I'm sure I'd seek to consolidate all of my efforts, too.

Kalamazoo... I really want to go! It's Thursday through Sunday of Mothers Day weekend. I'm supposed to have the children that weekend, of course.... Is Mothers Day intended for bonding with my pumpkins, or is it meant for me to enjoy according to my usually-suppressed preferences? Could I go but come back for Sunday? What will my mother think? Herr Doktor Professor is going... giving a paper... obviously Frau Doktor Professorin is going as well. Two of my friends from Leeds in 2006 are on the list as participants. My brother might be going, but he hasn't decided yet. *harrumph* I do have that ticket on SouthWest that I need to use. And Anne's in Michigan - so's Laura - so many decisions. And not least among these is whether to allow the Other Parent that extra time with them!

Tuesday was a bit of a drag. It was POURING. I parked at preschool and hoofed it toward campus, but gave up less than halfway there and waited for a bus. When I got to class, I put my gloves on the heater (just like they do at preschool) to dry and resisted the temptation to do the same with my soggy sneakers. I stayed out of puddles, but the rain was coming down so hard that my feet ended up drenched anyway. Thank goodness I'd arranged with Meg for her to pick me up after class to go to the gym! In class was interesting - we touched just briefly on Boethius, which wasn't assigned until Thursday. What I knew of him, I knew only because I'm an incurable geek and have been listening to Modern Scholar series lectures including "Masterpieces of Medieval Literature" - or maybe it was "Odyssey of the West part III, the Middle Ages", but anyway, Boethius and his fall from grace in late Imperial Rome and his writing of the Consolation of Philosophy while imprisoned awaiting a gruesome death (along with his entire family) had been covered in a series I'd just finished. Whew!

After our workout, Meg dropped me in the center of town (the rain having stopped) and I got a gorgeous chocolate chip brownie at the Black Sheep, and sat down to read Chaucer's translation of Boethius from Latin to Middle English. I must say that it was painful enough that I thought once or twice that I'd probably rather have just read it in Latin. This, bear in mind, despite the fact that I last studied Latin when I was 17.

Later that afternoon, things turned really sucky. Turns out that just because I had a signed contract with my cell phone provider, that didn't mean that my obligation to them actually ended when the contract said it did. So, long story short, despite my disputing the validity of the cancellation fee from my switching providers, they want $260 by February 21st, or they send me to collections. I am just furious. Well, that and I don't have $260 to spare before the 21st! Moreover, their finance department won't set up a payment schedule. They only do that for continuing accounts, not cancelled accounts. I will refrain from public invective here, but I do have on my (very long) to-do list a detailed and outraged letter to their CEO, detailing the shady manner in which I found myself obligated to them without my consent or knowledge.

Not surprisingly, this delightful discovery put a bit of a damper on my spirits - so much so that I was sorely tempted to blow off rehearsal on Tuesday night. I didn't, of course, knowing that if I just sucked it up for a while, the music would revitalize me. It did, mostly. We started in sectional rehearsals first, and the altos (bless them) seemed to have the lionesses' share of the sectional director's attention. Me? I pulled out my Riverside Chaucer and worked on Fortune. I must say again that the glossary in the back of the Riverside Chaucer is, IMHO, spotty at best. It includes translations of words that are obviously cognates, in some cases differing from Modern English by only one character, while omitting totally unrecognizable words. The University of Michigan "lookups" function on their website is often not userfriendly. I found myself rather frustrated rather quickly. I overcame that by just inserting the untranslated word into my pencil-written attempt at translation and pressing on. The singing was definitely good for me.

Wednesday morning I had to get up early-ish, despite the children not being home, because the dog had an appointment at the vet. She's 11 now, and suffers from anxiety (as well as being generally neurotic) and, apparently, arthritis. We got out only bearably over budget, but with three prescriptions to fill at Wal-Mart. That said, thank goodness for Wal-Mart's pharmacy! I filled all three for less than one had been at the vet's. Seriously, though... Prozac and Xanax for a dog? Oh well. I do love the old bitch, and rather prefer her happy and content rather than flipping out and digging out under the fence. My road is a highly traveled 'shortcut', and the 30 mph speed limit is cheerfully ignored by 95% of the drivers.

Wednesday night found me still working on Fortune in anticipation of Thursday morning's class. Thank goodness I'd already done the readings for Thursday night's class! Anne turned up on IM, and we slogged at it together. Mostly I slogged and she opined on my slogging, but it was somewhat less wretched than slogging solo. It was midnight before I got to bed, and after having tossed and turned until 3 the previous night, I was Not Happy when the alarm went off on Thursday morning. I was so tired I thought I was going to puke, and it just got worse when I remembered that it was Thursday, which meant that I was going to be on the go until about 10 that night.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the new fridge came Thursday morning! Despite not having called the night before as advertised, Sears did call at about 8:15 and say that they'd be there in about 15 minutes. They arrived right at 8:30, took out the old fridge, (16 years old and had been moved six times - two of those being over 1,000 miles) and brought in the new one. It fit!!! It's taller than the old one but fit - barely. We are very pleased with it. Nevertheless, once the thing was in place, I had to jam all the refrigerated food back into it (though I did just consign the frozen goods to the outside freezer). The net result was that I was late getting out of the house, parked at preschool, and hoofed it toward campus. I don't run, as a rule - the Navy required it of me for long enough, thankyouverymuch. I certainly don't run uphill with a backpack. Furthermore, it was snowing/freezing raining, though lightly. In places the sidewalk was just too slippery to run. I ended up 10 minutes late for class and was Not Happy. Furthermore, we spent the entire class on the Boethius. I wound up extremely frustrated - I'd stayed up way too late preparing for something we didn't even cover, plus what we did cover was tricky. The assignment was way too long for me to have attempted a translation of it, anyway... but I found myself in a bit of a fix. I chose these classes because I knew they'd be challenging, but now I'm frustrated because I'm a spoiled brat who never really had to work very hard as an undergrad, and if I did have to work hard, the work came together fairly easily. Now I'm busting my brains open and still struggling. Gah. The night class was much less frustrating, though I did yawn quite a bit. Still, I find myself asking more questions than I'm answering, which worries me. Am I not smart/clever/bright/insightful enough for this work? Do I just not have
enough background, or at least not the same background as the other students? They seemed to be getting it. *insert inferiority complex here* Anyway, we had to speak up and choose which class we wanted for our turn at initiating the discussion. I chose the two Thursdays of school vacation weeks, since I know the children will be going to the Other Parent's house on Wednesday at noon of those weeks, and that'll give me enough prep time. I hope.

Returning to my frustration with the glossary, I schlepped to Northampton yesterday to see if my friend Mike's scoop on the used bookstore's Chaucer selection might yield a suitable glossary. It didn't. Neither did Barnes & Noble have it, nor did either of the bookshops in town. I could order it, but it was over 20 bucks even used at Amazon. Fortunately, I recovered use of my senses and discovered that there were circulating copies available at two of the five colleges. I went to Amherst College today and checked one out. I do love both interlibrary loan and the Five College library sharing deal!

Younger Boy has been coughing, and since he had pneumonia last summer, I took him in for a look-see this morning. It's just a cough - not strep (which is going through his kindergarten), not pneumonia, just a cough. Still, he's very fussy tonight, and has been waking partway up and crying. I have him in my bed now and will probably just let him stay there overnight. Much kinder/gentler than either one of us having to traverse the stairs in the wee hours if he stirs again.

I think that's everything I can think of. Thanks for reading this far! Please humor me by leaving a comment. Surely there's something in all this that you have an opinion on?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

my birthday! I love my birthday

Today has been LOVERLY! It started out with lots of berfday wishes from my CTF brothers and sisters :D

I went to bed early last night. I woke up this morning cuddled up with a Pint Size Princess - well rested!
I took said princess to preschool after the other three were on the bus, then went for my first day of classes. Today was Canterbury Tales - woo hoo!

After class, my Mom picked me up on campus (some things NEVER change!) and we went to lunch where 7 of my friends joined us, at Applebees. (yes, I had chocolate - though a nice grilled chicken caesar salad, too).
After lunch, I picked up my princess and we bought a book for my class at the book store, and a Cadbury Cream Egg for her at the stationers, went to the grocery store, then Barnes and Noble, where I picked up a mug with a gift cert from my brother. The mug is yellow with pink tulips on it - I'm READY for some tulips!

When we got home, the last two of my window quilts was installed - yea! The OP came to pick up the princess (boo!) but then I took a nice long hot bath.

I met Mom for dinner per our usual Tuesday night date, then went to rehearsal. It was FABULOUS!!! The music is just exquisite, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE singing it. After the break the entire 180 voice chorus sang Happy Birthday to me - I blushed, but the sound was glorious.

Once rehearsal was over, I went out for more chocolate with friends - three Mikes and a Ruth. She was goggling that we were essentially all Michaels - very funny. And now I'm home!!!

Note: the photo is from my birthday LAST year - but it's what I could find.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Christian Defense of Harry Potter

This came from my friend Strider Elfstone, who's an Episcopal minister and the mom of three young children.

This is written from an explictly Christian point of view, but it is not saying that you have to be a Christian to read Harry Potter. It IS saying that the argument to which the writer is responding is not an adequate one for Christian critics. I think it's one of the best-thought- out defenses of HP I've seen.

The Helpful Discovery of Dirt in Potter's Field
by A.M. Hutchens

I recently read yet another Christian complaint about Harry Potter. The critic's thesis was that Joanna Rowling is a "contemporary transgressive artist par excellence," who holds lightly to the canons of Judeo-Christian morality and of traditional children's literature in the west, the Potter tales being a catalog of rule-breaking, disobedience, lying, vengeance-taking, and whatnot, its final installation containing the revelation of the Snape-Dumbledore murder-suicide pact that insinuates euthanasia into the minds of children--not to mention that all of this is done in a pagan context by witches and wizards, no less.

My reaction was--yes--but did he miss something? Like the Point of it All?

One wonders just what kind of literature a person like this can read. Must everything be reduced to black and white, not only with unwelcome details smoothed over, but with tools that, by neutralizing elements the critic prefers not to see in his desire to define the work by the ones he finds obnoxious, guts it and renders invisible the message of the whole?

The Rowling fantasy, for those who are able to see it, is a very typical moral tale of the Judeo-Christian west: it is the story (I have said elsewhere that this is the only real Story there is) of the hidden prince born in troubled obscurity, who finds it in himself to love good and oppose evil, and who, aided by a rather motley lot of companions, destroys at the forfeit of his life the kingdom of the Evil One, finally coming into his own and living happily ever after. It is the story of the Gospel; it is our story. To love it is to love the story of Christ and his church. Harry Potter is an imperfect Christ, to be sure, but what reasonable person would confuse the thing itself with its image?

Here, however, was someone who thinks that since the principal characters are in many ways flawed, the piece should be kept away from Christian children instead of given them for edification. Christians are apparently supposed to be people for whom everything is a monochromatic moral tale, and who operate on the maxim that people are what they read. But this is only true of fools, and one cannot account for the actions or opinions of fools.

Christian children who are old enough to read Harry Potter are old enough to understand the imperfections of heroes, and judge the flaws of literary characters, if they have been given the standards by which to render the judgments. Shall we train their instincts to flee imperfect human beings rather than love and embrace them--not for the imperfection, but in spite of it--in hope of redemption, both of their imperfect selves and those they embrace? If we train them to flee, those who castigate our faith for making people who hate first themselves, and then by extension, others, are quite correct about our faith, but wrong in thinking it Christian.

These children are also old enough to understand that murder/suicide pacts are the sort of things that can be entered by pagans with noble and admirable ends in mind, but which Christians know are sinful--they are old enough to understand what is splendid even in the virtutes paganorum, and to think of Dumbledore and Snape accordingly. If Dumbledore's creator thinks of him as a man of homosexual orientation, why does that mean Christians are obliged to belittle his excellences- -particularly if he lives, as he is depicted, a chaste and celibate life? In that case might homosexuals be justified in saying we train our children to hate the sinner along with what we allege to be the sin? If we did, and they did, they would be right about our faith, but wrong in thinking it Christian.

One wonders what critics like this do with Odysseus, with David or Solomon, with Simon Peter, with Hamlet, Lear, or, Bunyan's Christian, for that matter. Or the Bible. The Christian literary tradition, because it is grounded in the perfection of God, the primordial goodness of creation, and a redemptive teleology, does not require perfection of its heroes, only perfectibility, and--this is critical--the ability to represent Christ, whether by authorial intention or not.

Given what we are shown of our Lord in the Gospels, I strongly suspect if he were accurately depicted by friendly and sympathetic eyes in accounts that did not have the status of holy scripture, and without the overlay of piety, we would see a good, but flawed, perhaps deeply and fatally flawed, man. He would not in fact have the imperfections we would lay to his account, but he would be far from measuring up to our expectations for a perfect man. He would not be prudent enough, respectful enough, humble enough, patient enough, pious enough, obedient enough, considerate enough, or kind enough to be God Incarnate (and only rarely are we visited by the capacity to admit that we secretly attribute the same flaws to God himself).

Even though we would notice prodigies of all these virtues in him, we would also see evidence of their lack in certain instances--of inconsistency. We would see his tragic end on the cross as heroic, perhaps, but it would not surprise us, given certain qualities we had observed--connected , perhaps, with persisting questions about the moral uprightness of his parentage. It is for this reason he can be represented to us, while imperfectly, in stories of imperfect heroes; it is why these stories lead back to him. It is because we are what we are, and Almighty God has regarded our low estate.

The Evangel, in fact, is always mediated to us through imperfect heroes, or heroes we may easily assume share our imperfections, handsome princes though they may be. It is no coincidence the keys to the Kingdom were delivered to the most robustly flawed of all Christ's disciples. This is why we are uncomfortable with the attempt to create perfect heroes. For one thing, we can't do it, so the attempt makes for bad literature, and for another, for some reason characters sanitized to our standards never look like the Lord.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Field trip

I had the pleasure today of going on a field trip with my Older Boy. He's in 4th grade. We went to the greenhouses and art museum at Smith College. The greenhouses were amazing, as always. We saw orchids, a rubber tree, banana tree (without fruit, alas), coffee tree, cocoa (cacao?) tree (with fruit - mmmmm!), and loads of other plants. I learned that it was a Smith College botanist who manipulated Black Eyed Susans (rudbeckia) into Gloriosa daisies, then sold the new plants to Burpee. How 'bout that.

The art museum, on the other hand... well, I've always known that I don't 'get' art, for the most part. That was certainly true today. I looked at everything past the Greek ceramic works and thought, 'What a bunch of crap!' If you tell me something is a book, I expect it to be a book. Or at least to be a rectangle - or have words - but hinged acrylic octagons with abstract designs? Sorry, no can believe that qualifies as a book. I just kept quiet.

My older girl lobbied for staying after school today to go sledding, so I said yes. I remember sledding on that same hill, and it was great. The snow isn't great for sledding just now. In fact, two of my four came home as muddy as they were wet. That did allow for laundering the snow clothes, taking baths, and having hot chocolate.

Four of the books I put up for sale on Amazon have sold, including a quasi-antique that sold for $25! Also, 4 pairs of curtains that I'd put up on Craigslist for sale have sold. Since the window quilts are up, I don't need the curtains or the curtain rods, so I get them out of the house in exchange for some cash, and the folks who've bought them get a good deal. That's my opinion, by the way, but one hopes that they wouldn't have bought them if they didn't think them a good deal as well.

Rehearsal last night was fantastic. The sectional rehearsal was weird, I have to say: we sang so SLOWLY that I kept getting ahead of the beat, the accompanist played just our notes, so I had no reference from the men's parts or the accompaniment, and the altos (despite outnumbering the first sopranos almost 2:1) mumbled hesitantly. After the break, though, when the men rejoined us, things started cooking with gas. It was exquisite! Sublime! All the reasons I get out of bed in the morning!

My joy from the rehearsal was somewhat mitigated when I heard the three messages my oldest girl had left on my cell phone. "I miss you so much, Mommy. I can't wait until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally come home. Please call me as soon as you get this message," and the like. It was 9:45 by the time I heard the messages, but I did call. The Other Parent did not answer - I rang twice and let it ring all the way into voice mail both times. I tried again once I got home (there was another message from her here) and he'd shut the phone off. Now, habitually he declines to answer the phone if I call while he has the children. Ordinarily it's just annoying - especially since he also fails to listen to any voice mails I leave. Last night, though, I was really hacked. The children had been gone since I put them on the bus on Friday morning, and I really missed them already.

Their behavior today reminded me why I discontinued allowing them to spend more than the court ordered 8 nights per month at the Other Parent's house. They have been rude, surly, aggressive, mean to each other, and extremely naughty about listening. Older Boy has been teasing/chasing/tackling/harassing Older Girl to the point of tears. Older Girl has been screeching and whining. I also learned that they are routinely awakened almost an hour before I awaken them - Older Boy tells me that it's so they have time to take showers and play PlayStation. I find all this just fascinating, especially in light of their tardy arrival at school this morning. Showers? Yeah, hygiene is important, but they're LITTLE! Bathe them at night, for Pete's sake, like the rest of the world! And PlayStation before school? Don't EVEN get me started.

The greenhouses today reminded me how very excited I am for spring. I do so love growing things - and here I use growing both as a verb and as an adjective! The photos today are from last year's bulbs - I have since dug out all of the bulbs and moved them, so that I will have room to plant three new rose bushes in that space.

I was up too late last night, but I was up sorting the digital photos all jammed together in "My Pictures". They are now sorted by year, from 2000 to the present, and in some cases into subfolders by year as well. I discovered that I have no pictures at all between July 2003 and October 2005, which lacuna is explained by the wanton destruction of the hard drive of my late lamented computer at the hands of the Other Parent, when he hurled said hard drive onto the concrete garage floor (a professional data recovery company told me he'd actually bent the hard drive). He has previously alleged that he has copies of any pictures lost in that destruction, so I have emailed a request for copies of same. I won't be holding my breath. However, I'm very happy to have such digital images as I have, and to have them in some semblance of order now. That means that I can put pictures up with much greater ease!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Hurray, I put all of the books that I want to let go (sniff!) up for sale on Amazon. Three of them sold in the past 24 hours!

I also put all of the thermal and lined curtains up for sale at Craigslist, and I have a person coming by in the next hour or so who wants a bunch of them. Yippee! Trading excess stuff for cash always makes me happy.

Mom and I are going to take the children to see Music Man on Thursday night. A local community theater group is performing it, including several friends of the family. Last year it was Beauty and the Beast, and we had a ball.

I am registered for my two classes now. Yippee! My first class is next Tuesday, which is also my birthday.

Tomorrow I won't get to the gym, because I am going with my oldest son's class on a field trip. I think we're going to the art museum at Smith College. Can you tell that I don't really care where we go, as long as I'm with one or more of my children?

I spent at least an hour yesterday going through my score in preparation for rehearsal tonight. We're scheduled to rehearse the Gloria/Et In Terra Pax, and that's my FAVORITE part of the entire mass! (well, not of the mass as a concept, but of this particular mass) I am so excited. I know it almost note-perfect, but there were a few hiccupy spots that I had to bang out on the piano.

I'm very curious to see my next gas bill. I've just had window quilts installed. (that's why all my old curtains are up for sale on Craigslist) The very first morning they were in, when I opened the quilt on the back door, there was ice on the inside of the windows of the door. I'd like to think that means that the cold air was staying on the far side of the quilt! On the other hand, it's been dang cold here - single digits at night - so I'm withholding judgment on the ultimate effect on my gas bill. One thing I'm sure will help is the quilt now covering the attic fan. Here's hoping - being green and being thrifty are two of my best things!

Oh, that's Sheba up top there. The entry just looked too plain without a picture!

Monday, January 21, 2008

a new blog!

How shall I begin to overcome my reticence to put anything about myself out into virtual space? With a plunge, I guess, and I'll just hope the water isn't too icy. Gosh, I can play with colors... and fonts... but not, apparently, upload a photo. Fun for another day, perhaps?

Ok, a few things about me, I guess.

I love my children! Since I have only nine months left before my baby goes to kindergarten, I want to spend lots of time this year playing.

I love to knit. I have a pretty good stash of scarves and blankets and baby blankets going, and I'll be doing at least one craft fair this year. Fun + fiber + craft fair might actually = selling some of these beauties!

I love to garden. I have several large garden beds. One of them is in dire need of having its supporting 2x12's replaced come spring. I think I'd like to try using composite this time. Once the side boards have been replaced, I can put the fence back up around it. NO dogs or children allowed in the garden! Don't even ask me about the time the children trampled the corn, ok? Another garden needs serious plant management. I put violets in there - on purpose - I didn't listen to my mother. Now I need to dig out the bulbs, and if I can find them, the asparagus crowns, then probably just solarize the bed. The violets have to GO.

I love to sing. Right now I'm in rehearsals for Bach's Mass in B Minor with the Hampshire Choral Society. I'm just giddy about it - Bach is my FAVORITE!

And I love medieval studies. I'm signing up for two graduate courses this semester, Medieval English Literature and Canterbury Tales. I haven't been in the classroom since December 2005, but I'm not too worried. It's going to be GREAT!

Now - projects for the short term. I need to put the thermal lined curtains up for sale on Craig's List. I want to prepare eBay listings for all of the Motherwear clothing I'm ready to let go. And I am going to consider seriously offering fudge for sale next fall between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ooh, and I think I manage to upload a picture!