Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bureaucrats vs. Bible Study in San Diego

My mom and her church small group ministry should be glad they don't live in San Diego. Holding regular meetings in someone's home to discuss Scripture and other religious topics without paying thousands of dollars to obtain a "religious assembly" permit apparently violates county regulations there. Rev. David Jones' weekly Bible study typically attracts about 15 people, less than many ladies' bunco or guys' poker nights. But after a fender bender between vehicles belonging to one of the members of the Bible study group and a visitor to a neighbor of Jones, some busybody called county officials to complain. A code enforcement officer was sent to grill Rev. Jones about the gatherings, after which the county issued a formal citation.

Doesn't San Diego county have more important things to worry about- say the $244 million shortfall in the county budget? Or are the two things related? Christians seem to make easy shakedown targets for Californian bureaucrats these days. The city of San Francisco is trying to levy a $15 million tax on the city's Catholic archdiocese on properties transferred from one administrative arm of the archdiocese to another.

The First Amendment should protect religious groups in these types of cases, but unfortunately activist judges have been chipping away at that protection for decades. And with the election of Barack Obama, I don't foresee the situation improving in that regard any time soon in the Federal judicial system.

Let's pray that the San Diego bureaucrats stop persecuting Rev. Jones and his Bible study group!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hats off to Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom

Last year on Memorial Day I was in the midst of first trimester morning (noon, and night) sickness so I neglected to post a thank you on this blog to all those brave men and women who gave their lives so the rest of us could be free. My apologies for not feeling up to giving a more public display of gratitude!

This year, I've decided to share the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn as my Memorial Day post. Emerson was writing about the battle of Concord in the Revolutionary War but his beautiful poem is a fitting tribute to all those brave Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free, --
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

6 Going on 16: Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

The other day I was walking through the park on our way home from the library with the kids when we passed two little girls who appeared to be practicing a cheerleading routine. They had bunches of flowers in their hands that they were waving around like pom-poms and they were doing high kicks, dance moves, and other cheerleader-type stuff. The two girls looked a bit younger than Miss Scarlet, who's 6 1/2. I would guess that they were 5ish. No parent/guardian was in the immediate vicinity.

What really bothered me about these two little girls was their provocative clothes and dance routine. I'm not a huge fan of midriff-baring spaghetti strap tanks and miniskirts even on teens but these were prepubescent children! And the sexualized routine just struck me as icky. Just because the Laker Girls dance like that does not mean kindergarten-age cheerleaders should, KWIM?

Miss Scarlet was fascinated, however. It struck me that if she were enrolled in a traditional school, this is what she might be learning at recess from her classmates.

I was reminded of this incident when I read a depressing article in the Rethinking Schools journal entitled "Six, Going on Sixteen". It was written by a veteran elementary schoolteacher who currently teaches a combined K/1 class. Here is what she describes happening in her classroom:

"I had 5-year-old girls vying for the attention of the 'coolest' 1st-grade boy. They would push to be near him at the sand table, and groan audibly if I didn't place them in his book group. Students in the class thought of each other as 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend.' Freeze dance and soul train, which are usually a big hit and lots of fun, had a new dimension as students danced out the social scenarios they had seen in music videos. Performer Chris Brown was the ultimate favorite, though 50 Cent and others were also on the scene. My 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds played out and talked about 'being in the club' and 'drinking Heineken.' They wrote about the music world in their journals and turned the block area into a radio station. Sometimes they used the hollow blocks to build a stage to perform on. Small cylindrical blocks were their microphones. This type of play was OK with me, except who was 'in' and who was 'out' was a constant social battle.

There was another aspect of this that negatively impacted our classroom community, and that was the idea of certain kids wearing the 'right' sneakers. This was among a group of boys, but the rest of the class was affected. It was something we had class meetings about, and tried to minimize the negative effects of, but it was a continuous struggle. One morning, as they walked up the stairs to our second-floor classroom, a kindergarten boy and a 1st-grade boy got in a pushing and hitting fight because the younger boy said he was wearing 'Carmelo Anthonys' and the older boy said, 'No, those are Jordans.' Another boy, whose mom refused to buy expensive sneakers, had repeated meltdowns (crying, throwing things, yelling) when other boys arrived at school with new sneakers, stylish shirts or outfits, or big plastic gold rings."

These types of narratives just reinforce our decision to homeschool. The homeschooled kids of my acquaintance don't exhibit this type of pseudosophistication. The little girls dress their age rather than looking like mini-streetwalkers. If there's dancing, it's typically something like the Hokey Pokey or ballet.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Things have been kind of crazy around here in the past couple of weeks. After a 7 month job search, DH was finally able to land a great new position. He loved his old one but his employer had gone through 7 rounds of layoffs with more rumored to be on the way. Not to mention that since the company had accepted TARP funds, they Are now bound by the Congressional rules limiting the size of his year-end bonus.

I understand anger over the AIG situation but what the average American doesn't understand is that in the financial industry, a bonus isn't really a "bonus" (i.e.. a one-time reward for unusually good performance that only a handful of folks at the company receive). It's actually more like a sales commission- an expected bit of deferred compensation to make up for the relatively low base salary. You hit or exceed your target numbers, you get your bonus. To put it into perspective, the base salary at DH's new job is more than twice what his current base is., though the total estimated comp is only somewhat more than his 2007 total comp. The only reason that Wall St. firms can get away with paying their employees a relatively low base salary is because of the bonuses. When Congress arbitrarily restricts bonuses to 1/3 of the base, anyone who can find another position is almost certainly going to leave. Those are typically the best performers, like my DH. He made his employer a ton of money last year and the first part of this one even with the bear market. He had absolutely *NOTHING* to do with the mortgage mess- why punish him for mistakes other people made?

Getting off my soapbox and back to my main point. Now that DH has accepted this new position, we've decided to take the plunge and buy our first home. It's kind of sad that it's taken us until the age of 33 (for DH) and 32 (for me) and over a decade of marriage to get to this point. My parents were only 27 and 23 & newlyweds when they bought their first place. Granted that was a teeny 2BR ~1000 sq ft starter home and we're looking at 4 to 5 BR homes that tend to be in the ~1800-2400 sq ft range. And the towns we're considering are nicer than Campbell, the suburb of San Jose where my parents first lived. But we're probably going to be spending triple or even quadruple the inflation-adjusted cost of my parents' first house. That's even with the recent declines in the housing market.

I'm finding the househunting process exciting but a bit overwhelming. Fortunately it's not the frenzy of a couple years ago. More properties seem to be coming on MLS than are going off and there are a LOT of reductions in the listing price.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Proof That I've Been on WAY Too Many Road Trips...

The next time I drive cross-country, I've got half a mind to take I-90/I-94 and hit the northwest & northern Great Plains states. I've done the I-80 and the I-70/I-15 routes in the past. DH did the I-40 route once but Miss Scarlet was a baby at the time so we decided it would be best for me & her to fly rather than go in the U-Haul.

I have visited 36 states (72%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ban on Communion Wine: Prudent or Paranoid?

Today was a big day for our family as it was Miss Scarlet's First Communion and Princess P.'s baptism. We did both on the same day since most of our family does not live in the area. My parents, both of my brothers, DH's parents, and his sister came. The only one who was not able to make it was DH's brother, who is finishing up his last semester at college and scrambling to try to find a post-graduation job (it's a tough, tough market out there for this year's seniors!)

Anyways, at the First Communion Mass the priest read a letter from Archbishop Niederauer stating that because of the outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu in the archdiocese the parish was not to offer the Eucharist under the species of the Blood. Miss Scarlet was happy to hear that, as she'd tried the unconsecrated wine at the rehearsal & hadn't liked it. But it just struck me as a bit overly cautious given that the total number of probable cases our county has reported so far is two.

Our parish could've just given the kids receiving their First Communion the Blood and not the rest of those attending the Mass. The schools in our town are all open, and that IMHO is a more likely method of transmission than the Communion cup.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cool Site to Check "Walkability" of Addresses

Now that we've had a 3rd child, the townhouse we're currently renting is getting a bit cramped. Also, the dip in home prices is making buying our own place a more attainable goal than it was a few years ago. So I was checking out the real estate section on to see what they had listed. I noticed the listings included a "walkability" score. Our current home is rated "somewhat walkable" with a score of 58 out of 100.

I love the concept, though I would quibble over the details of the algorithm. The biggest flaw IMHO is that it's missing one of the most important places to which I would ideally like to walk: church. When DH was in grad school and we lived in student housing we used to walk to church every Sunday. Unfortunately, our current parish is 2.6 mi away from our home, which is farther than I care to walk with the kids on a regular basis. I couldn't care less whether there's a bar within walking distance (one of the categories that *IS* listed) but it would be very nice not to have to drive to Mass every week.