Feeling Enlightened

I recently blogged about problems with Neighbor Girl and how I told her to go home one day. Since school has started, we see her much less. But when she is here, the problems, especially with Jenny, continue. Sunday evening, just before dinner, my 6 year old is once again in tears; it was her turn to pick the game, but NG wouldn’t let her.

I made it clear to Katie and NG that dinner was in 10 minutes and NG was to go home at that time. She likes to stay for dinner, but I think the rule will be “not on school nights.”

At dinner, I discussed the girls’ treatment of Jenny. “When was the last time Jenny got to pick a game?” I asked.

“We never get to pick. NG always picks,” explained Katie, unhappily.

“What are we going to do about this?” I asked. I’m not surprised that this is happening. I’m only surprised that my daughter isn’t complaining about it. I have had to realize that she is too nice to put up a fight. Her sense of politeness is overruling her sense of justice.

All the kids, even the boys, suggested a “House Rules” list, written down, that they could refer to. My kids know the house rules. They want the power that comes with pointing to a written rule and telling someone else they have to obey it.

So I typed up some house rules and then asked the kids for their ideas, some of which matched mine:

“Share and take turns.”

“No name calling.”

“Clean up when you are done playing.”

Some of their ideas, I never would have thought of:

“Clear your own dishes from the table.” (Apparently, NG makes the girls clear her stuff.)

“Close the door behind you.” Now that the colder weather is approaching, I have been on the kids’ cases about leaving the door open. The field mice will be seeking warmer lodging.

The boys wanted “Leave the boys alone” but I already had a rule “No excluding others.” I suggested “Ask before joining ongoing activities” and said that they could ask for 10 minutes before having to include them. Most of the time, the girls don’t want to play, they want to harass. If they have to ask to join in, and then wait 10 minutes, they will likely move on to other games.

Most interesting: while I was listing generic rules that apply to everybody (“Do what you MUST do FIRST. Play comes after work.”), the kids were thinking exclusively in terms of NG.

We’ll see how this goes.

Unless the house is on fire

What time was it? Perhaps 4 am.

I am vaguely aware of my bedroom door opening. I hear, “Mommy?” It’s Katie. I am so far down in the depths of slumber that I don’t answer.

Again, “Mommy?” She doesn’t sound hurt, frightened, sick. I know what she wants. I’m still silent, but I am also more awake now.

A third time, “Mommy?” I realize she just won’t go away without a response. I manage to garble out a muffled, “Huh?”

“I had a bad dream. Can I sleep on your floor?” Years ago, she would repeat this request every.single.night. We finally told her she always had permission to sleep on our floor, using our decorative shams as pillows, as long as she came in without waking us up. And so she did, often bringing Jenny in tow. But sometime, I don’t know when exactly – 6 months ago perhaps – her nighttime game of musical beds tapered off and stopped.

Since Bill left, I expected her to start up again, but she held off until the last week or two. Apparently, she has forgotten the do not disturb rule.

It amuses me when people ask about how old babies are before they sleep through the night. In the last 3 months, each of my children, except for Billy, has disturbed me at least once in the middle of the night.

This is probably another one of those things that people with grown children assure me I will miss one day. I’m not buying it.

Only because Margaret asked

The other day my mom told me that George Will had written a column about why we should get out of Afghanistan. I couldn’t do more than glance at it. I love George Will and respect his opinion, and so I can’t bear to read his reasons why my husband is wasting his time right now and why my family is suffering for nothing.

I guess with the recent 9-11 anniversary, the whole issue is on the minds of many.

The ever wonderful Minnesota Mom emails me:

Love to you all. I am offering up my Mass today for your family. How is Bill doing? I just read that there was another outbreak in Afghanistan which made me wonder, why are we there? Forgive the dumb question, but really? Do they want us there? Are we winning?

I know you’ll have an opinion.

First of all, I know there are many of you who are praying for my husband and me and my family. I thank you all. It helps us, truly.

Secondly, Margaret knows me well. I almost always have an opinion. I have a vague recollection of not having an opinion once. It’s not a common experience.

So I respond:

Why are we there? Are we winning hearts and minds? Are we making a difference? Should we make a difference? Should we care about these people a world away? Do they want us there? Should we stay or should we go?

I can’t answer all of these with any political correctness.

And I don’t know how other wives or mothers feel. I speak only for myself.

We have a poor country whose only hope for survival is to grow poppies and sell them to the world to support its drug habit. We have a country with a government too weak to keep out corruption or evil influences that would use the land to harbor, train and support terrorists and their structure. We have a country that went backwards in development and made educated women quit their professional jobs to wear burkas against their will and stay at home.

From a social justice standpoint, is it not the obligation of the strong to help and defend the weak? Are the rich not to help the poor? Do we stop ministering to the downtrodden because THEY have lost hope? Is it not possible to teach people how to better their lives, and at the very least make a difference in one person’s life for one day? To fill a hungry belly for just today, to put shoes on one child’s feet, to show them the promise of the future by embodying all that is good in the world for one day?

Why Afghanistan? Well, from there arose the center of attacks against the US. If we leave, they will simply reestablish their bases. The Taliban is still there. They are fighting and waiting for us to go. They won’t stop until they are decimated. That, unfortunately, means death, for us and for them and for civilians who harbor them and for civilians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. War is awful. Better our soldiers (less than 600, I believe, since 2001 – most of the soldiers have died in Iraq, not Afghanistan, although that is changing**) than our civilians.

From there is the supply of most of the world’s opium. Drug use is a serious problem in this country and in others. Drug addiction destroys people, lives and families. We can and should fight a two-front war: prevent drug use by educating people and prevent drug use by making the supply scarce and expensive.

Do they want us there? It depends. If you like making easy money from poppies, NO. If you like the Taliban, NO. If you fear the Taliban and know that if you are friendly to US Troops they will kill you and your family, then it may be difficult to welcome US involvement.

What should we do? I don’t know. We can’t save the whole world, and certainly not all at once. I am glad I do not have to make these decisions.

All I know is this: if 5 or 10 or 20 or 40 years from now, Afghanistan is a better place due to our involvement, then I will believe that my husband’s sacrifice (whether that is simply missing his family for 6 months or if it ultimately takes a limb or his life) and my family’s suffering will not have been in vain. If we walk away, and Afghanistan goes back to the way it was in 2001, then this was all for nothing. The 600 dead, lost for no good reason. My children’s pain at having no father, even if temporary, will be for naught. We would have done better to have simply dropped a few bombs a la Bill Clinton and left it at that.

We have had no more attacks on our soil because we have been keeping them engaged elsewhere. Where should we fight them? Afghanistan? Iraq? New York City? Or should we let them win? Do you want your daughters or granddaughters wearing burkas? Would you like your children or your grandchildren to see the cathedrals of Europe? Would you like to see the cathedral of Notre Dame turned into a mosque? Europe is the frontline for the cultural battles and they are seeing a fair number of deadly attacks on civilians as well. If Europe collapses, then the new frontline is HERE. We won’t leave our country a better place for future generations if we can not respond to this fight now. We may not think this is a holy war…but they do.

So that’s my two cents.

I like to bounce my thoughts off my husband because he usually provides a different angle on issues and helps me hone or alter my opinion. Unfortunately, I don’t have that option right now, so these thoughts, which he will read long after most of you, are unshaped by his experiences and opinions.

At the conclusion of my rant, I asked Margaret if I just shouldn’t turn the email into a blog, and she thought yes, because she would like to hear other people’s thoughts. So, let us know how you feel. Should we stay or should we go?

** As of September 10th, there have been 746 deaths in Afghanistan and 4,343 related to Iraq.

Photo downloads

I had to get a shot of Mary before those last two top teeth come in. She has a cute gap up there, but her canines have erupted. The gap will be closing soon. Her eyes are looking pretty green here.

This is the final product of those “Army guy” cookies. I realized when I boxed them that I had not decorated a single cookie. Some were obviously decorated by a four year old. They are all cute.

Not satisfied with plain white clone troopers, Billy took magic marker and customized these guys. I have more of his artwork that I must scan and post. He is hysterical. Maybe he’ll make comic books some day.

Bill’s brother came down last weekend and right after he walked in the door, he said, “First of all, do you have any chores for me?” Need I say that he has leaped into first place on my favorite people list for this month? Here he is, reading to all the kids.

He also took my van in to get a new tire – a four hour ordeal. Thank goodness it wasn’t I and six kids sitting there. He’s a good guy, and I’m very grateful for his help.
And he’s single. If you know any intelligent, Catholic girls who LOVE the Big Apple, let me know! (And since he reads my blog: I’m there for you, bro.)

Adventures at the Post Office

I had some packages to send, so I packed up the four younger kids and went to the post office. The older boys stayed home, both because they wanted to, and because I actually don’t mind not taking them. Although they are well behaved and helpful with the littlest ones, traveling with only four kids makes me feel a bit less conspicuous.

But no matter about that. Today I met Lydia.

Lydia looked to be about four years old. And, unlike my four year old BOY, has no qualms about talking to strangers. And asking them lots and lots of questions.

My entourage arrived at the doors of the post office just ahead of Lydia and her mother. Apparently she had never seen such a sight and she asked her mother, “Why does she have three children and a baby?” Lydia’s mortified mother attempted to shush her with a hand gesture, so Lydia turned to me and repeated the question.

I smiled, and said I had these children because God gave them to me.

And then we got in line, about 6th or 7th back, with Lydia and her mother right behind. I hurriedly filled out two customs forms for my overseas boxes and addressed a third envelope to my husband while Lydia’s mom scribbled on her things. Lydia sat on the floor with my children and showed off her electronic alphabet toy. And we all inched forward every so often, the kids pushing the stack of boxes along.

Finally we were next in line, but Jenny continued to push the boxes past the “wait” area. I said, “Stop.” Lydia thought I was calling her name, and she thought “Stop” a rather odd name, so she questioned me about it. I explained that Jenny was pushing the box too far, so Lydia turned her attention to the box.

“Where is the box going?”


“What’s in the box?”


“Why are you sending cookies?”

I told her that my husband, their Daddy, was in Afghanistan, and that they had made these cookies for him. I’m sure she has no idea what or where Afghanistan is, but I see no point in answering four-year-olds with vague “you wouldn’t understand” responses. They’ll just keep asking anyway.

She asked if Bill was a cook. I guess cooks like cookies more than anybody. Makes sense to me.

She asked if Mary was a boy or a girl.

She continued to express her amazement at how many children I had. She wanted to know if they all had the same parents. I think Lydia’s mother just about died with that question.

She wanted to know why I wouldn’t let them sprawl all over the floor where people were trying to walk.

The questions continued even after the next available postmistress began weighing my mail. It was a small office, so there was no escaping her interrogation.

Finally, finally, the ordeal was over. I paid and we left. Lydia’s poor mother had tried to hush her several times, and I had smiled and told her it was okay. She is four. I have been asked the same things, and worse, by people 5 and 10 and 15 times her age, ones old enough to know better.

And it wasn’t Lydia I minded. It was the dozen or more other people in the room, who were thrilled that the little girl was asking the very questions that were in their own minds, who made me very grateful to see the door. Really, when I collected my receipt and the baby and turned around from the counter, I felt like I was center stage and under a hot spotlight.

So much for being inconspicuous.

Exactly my Point

Mother says doctors refused to treat infant because of U.K. health rules

Sorry, the government rules have established a cutoff date of 23 weeks gestation. Too bad for your baby.

A prime example of why the government should not be involved in medical decisions. This is a life or death situation, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think government involvement won’t bite us in our rears sooner or later.

And what makes me so very very mad, is that gestational dates are highly inaccurate, especially when you are establishing cutoff dates and refusing care because the baby’s estimated gestation is two days shy of the date at which you would provide care.

They treated her like it was a miscarriage.

This is murder, folks. No easy way around it. Refusing treatment to a baby showing signs of hope (the baby lived for two hours). We are sliding down that slope.

Liars make me angry, too

Rep. Wilson shouts to Obama during speech: ‘You lie’

Since I didn’t listen to the speech, I cannot form an opinion about how I personally would feel had I been a member of Congress. Having at least once opened my big fat mouth inappropriately in a public scenario, I can empathize with Rep. Wilson. That doesn’t make it right. But…

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told CNN affiliate WIS-TV in Columbia that he, too, was disappointed.

The president’s combative tone did not justify a member of Congress shouting out, ‘You lie,’ ” said Graham. “Our nation’s president deserves to be treated with respect. It was an inappropriate remark, and I am glad an apology has been made.”

So, the President had a combative tone? I’m really not sure if I wouldn’t be applauding Rep. Wilson had I been there. I’m all for politeness, but we’ve got a president who is saddling us with massive debt and using the power of the federal government to make some significant changes in the daily lives of us all. This is not wrangling over which pork project gets funding or whether or not to get involved in a foreign conflict. This is a life or death situation for each and every American. Your health care should not be dictated by a government body. Is that not obvious?

There were times in our nation’s history that our representatives battled it out: in legislative assemblies, in churches, in homes, on the streets. The years leading up to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were extremely volatile and interrupting someone’s speech with a negative interjection was commonplace. Rules of decency have not changed.

Is health care on the same plane as the fight for independence or the claim to the right to own slaves? If you are an unborn child, the answer is yes. If you are an elderly person, the answer is yes. If you have a life threatening illness, the answer is yes. If you’d like to get your prescription filled in less than an hour, the answer is yes. If you are a doctor who does not want to perform abortions, the answer is yes. If you are a nurse who does not want to have to inform patient after patient that their care has been denied, the answer is yes. If you are a pharmacist who does not want to fill a prescription for the morning after pill because it is against your religion, the answer is yes. If you are happy with your current insurance, the answer is yes. If you don’t want to pay more taxes, the answer is yes. If you don’t want your taxes dollars paying for things which are against your religion, the answer is yes.

I am not saying that Rep. Wilson acted properly. I am saying that if things continue down the road to socialized medicine, the time for politeness will soon be at an end.

Toddler Convicted of Torturing Soldiers

We’re decorating cookies to send to Bill. He’ll eat one and then share the others, since he’s working hard to maintain his girlish figure.

Anyway, these cookies are supposed to look like Army guys. The Army’s black beret has a blue flash in the center. This is what my table looked like last night before we ran out of black frosting and started working on licorice mouths.

I detained all the little soldiers in a holding cell last night. They were on the kitchen counter waiting for their noses and cheeks. But Mary got to them first.

Chocolate chips eyes were plucked and apparently eaten. Mouths ripped off. I’m quite certain this is against State Department protocol. At least there was no evidence of water boarding.

I’m going State’s evidence. I had no idea things would get this out of hand.