Friday, July 18, 2008

Dogs and dinner rolls

On the whole, I have a pretty good dog. When we adopted him, he was 80 pounds of pull-you-down-the-street exuberance and needed some training and manners quick. He also had a tendancy to try and dominate everyone and everything. Thanks to the wonderful, knowledgeable people at Leerburg.com, he is mostly a good dog. He doesn't go into bedrooms, climb on furniture, dig holes or bark to excess. He has learned his place and lets my toddler use him as an armchair. She adores him (and he adores kids in general). What happened today was not his fault, but mine. I was stupid.

Tomorrow we are celebrating a family birthday. Since my sister-in-law is making her (splendid and wonderful) pulled pork, I volunteered to make rolls to put it on. I have a recipe for cornmeal dinner rolls that I think will go great with pulled pork. It involves cooking the cornmeal into a grits-like mush, letting it cool to lukewarm before adding the yeast and then making the dough, which of course has to rise twice. They are really yummy, but boy, they take a lot of time. The first rising went very well (I was happy because the first time I made these, I didn't let the mush cool enough and it killed theyeast, which meant no rising at all), I punched it down rolled it out, cut the rolls, place them on the cookie sheets and put them outside to rise again. With the air conditioning going, it's too cool inside for them to rise. After a while, I noticed they weren't rising on the grill (which was in the shade), so I moved the to the patio cahirs (in the sun). Today was a bit cooler than usual, and it was clouding up a bit, so I hoped the sun would get the proper rising going. Then I let my mind wander off into Sandra Boyton land to read to my toddler and had a massive brain fart. I let the dog out when he asked.

By the time I had my older daughter check on the rolls, about 30 minutes later, they were gone. Poof! And I have a dog with a very bad tummy ache. I'm keeping him outside (with plenty of water) because the vet said he could have diarrhea or vomiting and we just had the carpets cleaned. I am not scrubbing doggy diarrhea out of my newly cleaned carpets, even if the roll fiasco was my fault.

Dino Bones

Last week we all had a bit of cabin fever. There is only so much time I can spend waiting for the real estate agent to call and book a showing. We packed up, visited Fort Fetterman, then drove to Glenrock by the back roads and went to the dinosaur museum. They don't have much room, but nearly all the displays are real bones, not casts. All the real bones come from Wyoming, many from this south eastern corner and some from right outside Douglas and Glenrock. As just a walk through, it probably wouldn't be a very impressive tour--like I said, the don't have much room--but the volunteers who clean the bones that have been brought in are working right in the back room. One of them gave us a tour; the absolute most informative museum tour I've ever had. She knew how old all the bones were, could describe where they were found, how they wer prepared and brought in, then she showed us the work room where about six ladies were cleaning rock from around various bones. One of the dinosaurs they found, an aquatic one, might be a new species. That would be a huge deal in the anthropology community.

It's hard to remember, when things are so hot and dry, that most of Wyoming was covered by shallow ocean, and that this was so long ago that the rocky mountains didn't even exist. The landscape was completely different than it is today. It's one of those ancient facts I know, but don't quite comprehend. I wish I could rewind geological time and watch all of it happening. It's hard to wrap my head around 65 million years or more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sometimes, I have to say something

Occassionally in the morning, I watch the Today show. Lots of news and tidbits and the local weather report comes on pretty frequently, which is nice. Yesterday, they brought in a guest who had surveyed couples and determined that couples without kids are happier than those with kids.

Well.

They chatted about how taboo it is to say this and why it might be true, but I thought they were off the mark, not to mention, a little too careful not to offend anyone.

Can you imagine this information being passed on to kids? "Oh, we'd be happier without you honey." "We'll be happier when you're gone." As if American kids today don't feel unloved enough, this has to be dropped on them. And the reasons given, of course, are about money and time and romance.

I think the reasons are a great deal deeper and more dangerous. Throughout the past 90 years or so, a creeping attitude of gratification and selfishness has insinuated itself into American society. People feel they should have things because they "deserve" them. unfortunately, most of the things adults feel like they deserve are expensive. They take money. The nicer car, the boat, the renovated kitchen (with granite countertops), the bigger house, the better restaurants, all of it requires mucho dinero. The things that perhaps don't require all that money require time. Many require both. What is the point of the boat if you never have tiem to take it out on the lake?

Amazingly enough, kids take money and time as well. The estimate on the Today show was that raising a child from birth to age 17 required about $275,000. For each kid. After all, kids are truly another mouth to feed, they require clothing, going out gets more expensive, as does going to the movies and kids want things. they aren't innocent or immune from the "I deserve it" attitude. By the time they're in intermediate school, they have a strong desire to acquire, just like Mom and Dad. Kids are expensive. And boy, are they time consuming. Sorry, parents, but you can't just flop on the couch with a book because the baby, or the toddler, or the teenager (or anything in between) needs you NOW.

Right there is where modern society and thinking had chosen the parents over the child. The child is now a burden. He or she is not a gift, not "arrows in the quiver" as the Bible puts it, but a drain on money and time and energy. Why, kids might interfere with your love life. This attitude has been realized and cultivate since the 1920's (at least). It fuel the spread of contraception because now, couples would finally be free from the fear of children.

Couples today are happier without kids because they have bought into the the twin attitudes they they deserve to get what they want when they want it and that kids are only going to stand in the way of that. Many people don't even realize they've been tainted, they simply decide to stop at one or maybe two, but God forbid they have four, or five, or *gasp* more. The disservice this does to our children is immense. They pick up on attitudes. They detect the undercurrents of people's feelings more accurately than most adults. They know when they are not wanted. They also know, intrinsically, within their soul, which is aware from conception, that they should not be unwanted but cherished. They know they are being cheated.

The long term result of this used to show up in our parent-teacher conferences. The student wasn't performing well, or wasn't performing as well as Mom and Dad wanted. How could be fix them? What could the school do to correct this problem. There are strategies and thing a school can do, yes, but more importantly, they parents need to remember that they should love unconditionally. This life they helped bring forth is something important and precious and the safeguarding and raising of it should be a primary concern.

A word here to the kids who are reading. Unconditional love from a parent does not mean giving you whatever you want. It doesn't mean being your friend. It means loving you enough to keep you safe, even when you think it will ruin your life. Think of it this way. I'd be a pretty poor parent if I let my toddler play with a knife, or drink pesticide. My toddler may really want to play with that knife. It's shiney and interesting. She will probably throw a tantrum when I tell her "no." None of this changes the fact that a loving parent will not let her play with the knife. For the same reason, I won't let my teen go to a party where there is no adult supervision (and where I don't know the adults supervising). She may really want to go. That party is going to be fun. She may stomp around the house, tell me she hates me, and not speak to me for days. None of that will be pleasant. But the potential for her to get hurt there is just as high as the potential for my toddler hurting herself with a knife. Either way, I'd be a poor parent to let it happen.

At some point, not too very far in the future, my teen will be on her own, at college, and she will be the one making that kind of choice for herself. The hope is that she will make a good choice. A healthy one. Those type of choices can only come when a child has a strong set of parents who have set limits, endured tantrums, and still reminded their child that they love him or her, warts and all.

That kind of parenting doesn't sit well with the "I deserve it and and now" attitude. It doesn't sit well with the "Kids are a burden and will take ll your time, money and energy" attitude. In a country where the vast majority of citizen identify themselves as Christians, though, there is something else that should be more important. We are called to see children as a blessing, the greatest gift God can give us. We are called to lay down our lives for others, not in some dramatic moment, but daily, hourly, for others. We are called to serve with a service that is love. That kind of love is not the physical love of the body (lust), not the love of friends, which says "I love you until you betray me", but with the love that says, "I will do what is best for you even when you do not want what is best for you. I will do what it takes to show you the way to Heaven."

It's hard. Never think it is easy. Never think those pervasive attitudes poisoning our society will skip some people. They don't. They affect me. They affect my family. We have to be aware of them. We have to fight them. If not, the human race will continue to self-destruct.