Tuesday, April 28, 2009

File This Under "D" for "Duh"

Last month, the elite media heavily publicized the finding by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that 10% of Americans have left the Catholic Church after having been raised Catholic. Those ex-Catholics are fairly evenly split between those who are now Protestant and those who are now unaffiliated with any faith (only a small percentage have converted to non-Christian faiths). An article in today's Christian Science Monitor goes into detail about why survey participants reported leaving Catholicism:
"When asked to explain in their own words the main reason for leaving the Catholic Church, about half cite a disagreement with the church's religious or moral beliefs. For those now unaffiliated, about half were unhappy about birth control, 56 percent about teachings on abortion and homosexuality, and 40 percent about the treatment of women."
Yep, those are the 3 issues where Catholic doctrine most prominently differs from the "anything goes" mentality pushed by secular modern culture. While a number of the mainline Protestant denominations have chosen to abandon the traditional Biblical teachings on these issues in the name of "modernization", the Vatican has thus far resisted the pressure to do so.

As St. Paul preached to the Galatians almost 2,000 years ago:
"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:10-12)
The CSM article mentions in passing the fact that most people who switch affiliation do so prior to the age of 24, but the Pew Forum website goes into more detail. Nearly half (48%) leave Catholicism prior to the age of 18. An additional 30% leave between 18 and 23.

To me, this statistic shows the failure of families, parish CCD programs, and Catholic schools to properly catechize Catholic youth as to the reasoning behind Catholic doctrine. I've discussed this issue at length here and here. If we want young Catholics to "follow the narrow way" and resist the siren song of moral relativism, we need to do more than simply tell them the rules. Catholics of whatever age are far more likely to obey if they understand *WHY* the Church teaches X, Y, or Z. It's far easier to dismiss simple appeals to clerical authority than it is to dismiss a reasoned argument in support of Church doctrine.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One More Reason to Feel Old

Rusty's speech therapist has given me a packet of various oral motor and vocabulary exercises for daily practice at home. One page in particular he's been having all kinds of difficulty with. It's a part/whole analogies exercise, which is not the easiest concept for a 3 year old to grasp to begin with. However, he does okay on a different analogies exercise in the packet that has clothing and body parts on it (e.g. "toes are part of ____" matched to a picture of a foot).

On the page Rusty has been struggling with there are pictures of 5 items: a cathode ray television set with rabbit ears, a car, a pocket watch, a film camera, and a typewriter. Here are the questions:
  1. "A ribbon is on a _____"
  2. "A windshield is on a ____"
  3. "Film is in a _____"
  4. "Minutes are on a ____"
  5. "A screen is on a _____"
The only one Rusty can answer is #2. He's familiar with watches and television sets, but the ones in our home don't look much like the pictures on the page. And I don't think he has any conception whatsoever of film cameras and typewriters, LOL! I suspect for him they'll be like an 8 track tape player and a telegraph machine would be for folks my age- something we've heard about but never actually used.

Friday, April 24, 2009

HALO Breast Cancer Pap Test Featured on Rachael Ray TV-Show

New Non-Invasive Breast Cancer Screening Test

As I am in my 30’s, I am at getting to the stage in my life where female acquaintances my age are starting to be diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, two of them sadly recently lost their battles with the disease). But I am still too young to undergo routine mammograms. I know that earlier detection of breast cancer leads to a better long-term prognosis, and that is important not just for myself but for my family. I have 3 young children who depend on me and God willing, I want to be there for them.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link for a new non-invasive breast cancer screening test. It's called the HALO Pap Test for the Breast. It takes about 5 minutes and costs about $100 (not yet covered by most insurers). Unfortunately, there are not yet any doctors in my area who offer the test, but I wrote a letter to my OB-GYN practice requesting that they offer it to patients like me who want it.

Please be aware that I have no affiliation with the manufacturer or any other sort of financial interest in the product- I
just wanted to get the word out to other women who might be interested.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Catholics Called to Take Action on Climate Change

Via the link the commenter on my post the other day left promoting the "Meatless Mondays" campaign, I eventually wound up discovering a website for a group called the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. It was launched yesterday to call Catholics to "make a serious commitment" to all of the following:

"PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God's creation and for the poor and vulnerable;

LEARN about and educate others on the moral dimensions of climate change;

ASSESS our participation-as individuals and organizations-in contributing to climate change (i.e. consumption and conservation);

ACT to change our choices and behaviors contributing to climate change and;

ADVOCATE Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact the poor and vulnerable."

As a Catholic, I do feel a moral obligation to try my best to be a good steward of God's creation. If we wait to take action until the debate over global warming has been settled it may very well be too late.

I also believe it's important for the Church to make its voice heard on this issue to make sure that any proposed government action does not conflict with Catholic doctrine. There are many environmental activists who would like to see family size limited in the name of "saving the planet". Catholics need to ensure that the focus is on reducing consumption through simpler and more sustainable living rather than fewer births.

Let's lead by example that families do not have to be small to be "green"!

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Green is Your Diet?

I'm currently reading an excellent new book entitled Go Green, Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Diet by Kate Geagan, RD. I had known that a "flexitarian" diet has a much lower impact on the Earth than the typical American way of eating (of course, a vegetarian one is even more eco-friendly but I'm not ready to give up animal proteins entirely just yet). As a Christian, I feel a responsibility to try to be a good steward of God's creation. I also want to take good care of the gift of the body He gave me and make the most of the financial resources He has been generous enough to put at our family's disposal. There are so many families in our area who are hurting in this recession and demand for our local food pantry is up 50% from last year :-( If reducing our meat consumption frees up money in our budget to help feed the hungry, that's a sacrifice I believe Jesus would have us make.

Anyways, while I had a general sense that eating a plant-based diet with meat "as a condiment" was the way to go, reading Go Green, Get Lean has been a real eye-opener. I had no idea that the average American diet creates more per-person CO2 emissions than the typical amount Americans drive. Or that the food system consumes nearly 20% of all petroleum burned annually in the U.S. Red meat alone accounts for 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions from food in the average American household. Every 1 kilogram of beef consumed (~8 quarter-pound servings) has the same CO2 emissions as driving the typical European car for 155 miles. If Americans were to substitute 1 lb. of bread per month for 1 lb. of beef each year, that would save energy equivalent to 120 million barrels of oil!

Eating a "flexitarian" diet rather than a meat-heavy one also makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. 1 lb. of porterhouse steak contains 388 calories vs. a mere 94 for 1 lb. of tofu. Not only does obesity raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems but it's also bad for the environment. A study done by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported on CNN today found that the increase in obesity in the U.K. from the 1970 to today accounts for 270 million metric tons annually of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Yikes!

Regardless of one's views on the "hot button" issue of climate change, I believe we should be erring on the side of caution. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but if we wait to take action until the debate over global warming is resolved it very well might be too late. Reducing our meat consumption, especially red meat, is an easy and inexpensive way to lower our carbon footprint.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our next car (at least we hope!)

I'm not much of a car aficionado, but I am officially in love with the Tesla Model S electric sedan prototype. One of DH's friends from grad school works for Tesla and invited us to come down to their showroom in Menlo Park to check it out last weekend.

The car is super stylish and HUGE! Tesla claims it seats 7; I'm not sure about that but it would easily seat 6. It's supposed to go 300 miles on one charge and re-charge in 45 minutes.

Depending on what happens with DH's job situation, we're seriously considering buying one when it comes on the market in 2011. It'd cost almost triple what we paid for our current car, but we've shared a single economy car for the entire 10 years we've been married. And it's not like we're buying a BMW or Lexus- the premium is for the green technology. We don't wear designer clothes or fancy jewelery, go on exotic vacations, own pricey electronics, etc. I think one splurge on a car that will also help the environment is justifiable at this point, assuming we can spare the cash.

Right now because of the turmoil in DH's industry, we've built our emergency fund up to a higher-than-normal level. We want to make sure that we'd be okay if he were to be laid off and had to endure a lengthy job search. But if the outlook starts looking more rosy, then we could put a portion of that cash towards the purchase of a second car.

DH's friend has promised to arrange a test drive for us soon and possibly even a tour of their manufacturing plant.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Smiling on the Outside and Screaming on the Inside

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a meeting this morning with the school district's special education program regarding services for our DS, "Rusty". What an incredibly frustrating experience it was!

I knew going in that the district is financially strapped and was not going to want to pay for services if they could at all avoid it. The hospital speech therapist he's been seeing had warned me that he might not qualify at this point. So I was not surprised to hear that he did not meet the criteria for speech and language impairment as set forth in the CA Ed Code. It's a stringent standard- the child has to score below the 7th percentile for his/her chronological age on two or more standardized tests of speech & language development. While I believe that this is overly strict, nothing would be gained by arguing the point with the district special ed personnel. Their job is to follow state law, not to write it.

What frustrated me was not that the district determined that Rusty did not meet their eligibility criteria for special education, but that the evaluation revealed a significant discrepancy between where he is in terms of his language capabilities and where he really ought to be.

On the non-verbal portions of the IQ test, he scored well above average- and this was very likely an underestimate because he got bored partway through the block design subtest and decided in typical 3 year old fashion that he'd much rather stack the blocks than copy the design that the evaluator had made. At home, I've seen him copy complex tangram patterns that are designed for kids several years older than him.

On the verbal portions of the IQ test, however, he scored about 3/4 of a standard deviation below the mean. This is considered within the normal range, but to me it raised a big red flag. Typically, verbal IQ and non-verbal IQ differ by less than 2/3 of a standard deviation, and for Rusty's scores the difference was nearly two standard deviations (or more if he indeed underperformed on the block design subtest). DH, Miss Scarlet, and I all tested within the gifted range and normally there's a high correlation between parental/child IQ scores and also between siblings' IQ scores.

On the speech and language assessment, there were also wide discrepancies between the various subtests. Rusty scored above average for a subtest that was primarily a memory exercise (repeating complex sentences spoken by the evaluator). On most of the others, he was somewhat below average. And on a few, he was quite a bit below average.

It is so clear to me that Rusty does, in fact, have some sort of speech and language impairment. If he had low scores across the board and came from a family who also tended to score low, then there would not be much cause for concern. But he's got certain scores that are well above average and he comes from a very high-scoring family. I'm positive his high baseline is masking the disability, because it causes him to score within the normal range even with the impairment.

Fortunately, we do have insurance that provides coverage for speech therapy so we can continue getting Rusty the help he needs. But what if we didn't? Our therapist charges a whopping $1400/month for one session per week. There's no way we could afford that kind of expense if we were responsible for the full cost.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All We Care About is Talking, Talking Only Me & You

I haven't talked all that much about our DS, whom I call "Rusty" for the purposes of this blog. We suspect he's what's known as "twice exceptional"- both intellectually gifted and disabled. In Rusty's case, he has speech and language delay. Although I've got serious reservations about getting involved with the government-run schools, tomorrow we've got a meeting with the district special education program to discuss an Individual Education Plan.

Our oldest, Miss Scarlet, has always been very advanced verbally. At 14 months, she answered my parents' first names when asked the question "who is that?" At 16 months, she knew color names including secondary ones (in fact, her first color word was "purple"). At 18 months, she knew all the letters and their sounds and was speaking in phrases of 3-5 words or longer. By 2 1/2, she was speaking more or less fluently, albeit with certain immature pronunciations (e.g. "f" instead of "th"). Now at age 6, she has a more sophisticated vocabulary than a sizable percentage of adults.

When Rusty had slower language development than his big sister I was not initially all that concerned. He was more advanced in certain other areas than Miss Scarlet had been at the same age. When he was 12 months, he could build a stack 6 blocks high. He excelled at puzzles, and at 2 1/2 figured out how to play a DVD without help (a two-step process). As he clearly was bright, I just figured we had the stereotypical mechanically inclined boy and verbal girl.

As he got older, however, I began to worry about his speech, particularly his articulation. Even though I spent all day with him, I had difficulty understanding much of what he was saying. He would say a whole long phrase and I might be able to figure out a single word. People who saw him less frequently like DH and other relatives basically found his speech unintelligible. I hoped he might just need some more time to develop, but eventually my mom goaded me into having a formal evaluation by a speech therapist. He was diagnosed as having articulation disorder with receptive and expressive language delay.

Between June of last year when Rusty had the evaluation and when he got off the waiting list for therapy at the end of September, his speech did improve quite a bit. But he still was behind what was typical for his age. He saw the therapist twice per week until our baby was born in January, and has been going once per week since we resumed therapy in February. Our health insurance covers 30 sessions per year plus another 30 with authorization, but we're still responsible for a $30/session co-pay. Fortunately, my parents have been generous enough to reimburse us for the co-pays thus far. But now that he's 3 and old enough to be covered under special education, we'd like to try to get the district to provide speech therapy.

I'm hoping that he'll continue the progress he's been making in therapy and outgrow the need for it before he reaches kindergarten age. If not, the district does supposedly offer an independent study program, which might be a possibility if there aren't too many strings attached (yeah, right).

This afternoon, I came across an intriguing book entitled The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late by Thomas Sowell, an economist at Stanford's Hoover Institution and the parent of a late-talking child. As I was reading the reviews, I recognized my child in what they were describing:
  • analytical
  • musical
  • strong-willed and stubborn
  • slow to toilet train
  • loves puzzles, blocks, and Legos
  • loving and affectionate but sometimes aloof
  • concentrates on some tasks & ignores requests/directives to perform other tasks
  • can work almost every tool and gadget in the house
  • relatives who are tech geeks and/or musicians
I've requested the book from the inter-library loan program. I'm curious to see what Dr. Sowell has to say in it. From the reviews, it appears that he takes a skeptical view of speech therapy. We've found that to be helpful with Rusty, and I'm not going to discontinue it based on the opinions of a single author. But I'm hopeful that the Einstein Syndrome book will help me better understand my little Mr. Mechanical.