Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Friday, June 30, 2006

God provides!

Micah and I were thrilled last night, when we realized that our at-home side business income has already replaced my old full-time job income! (Not that my salary was huge or anything, since I worked at a non-profit;o) The absolute best part is that I used to spend 50-60 hours per week at work and commuting. Now I only spend a couple hours a day and the rest of my time is free to be a wife and homemaker! Six months ago, when we made the leap for me to be at home, I would have hardly believed this. Even when things seem to be impossible, God does provide!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

May I Sacrifice

The Linda Hirshman debacle has already been covered on several other blogs (As Linda so graciously enlightens us, "full time mothers, who are overwhelmingly represented among female bloggers, don’t like being told they had chosen inferior lives.") and I don't have an overwhelming desire to rehash old news. I'm not going to try to correct Linda's opinions about homemakers. Her mind is obviously made up. But I do have a few related thoughts to share. In other words, I've been ruminating and this is a good outlet!;o)

I believe that Ms. Hirshman comes from a worldview so foreign to mine, that argument with her is pointless. She will never comprehend (short of God changing her heart) why what I and many other women desire to do (put investing in our families and others FIRST before seeking public honor and success) has great eternal significance. She probably doesn't have a relationship with our Heavenly Father or give much consideration to the afterlife. Therefore she can only see significance in the here and now. Looking around, we see that success in the "here and now" seems fueled by money, power and having as large of a public impact with that money and power as possible. It's no wonder she feels that full-time wives and mothers and homemakers are wasting our lives. We are deliberately (or according to Ms. Hirshman, under the duress of public expectation) "limiting our influence". In fact, if we follow her logic from its underlying presuppositions, it makes perfect sense.

Where does Ms. Hirshman place her faith? Can't say. But my guess is, herself. She suscribes to a doctrine of autonomy:
(a) If I can reject the societal constraints that seek to hinder me, I can live my individual life to its fullest. (or, independence=good; dependence=bad)
(b) Living an autonomous life will not have detrimental effects on my personal relationships.

Props for Ms. Hirshman's idealism (or is it delusionism?). However, I am daily reminded that we do live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. I am one of them! None of us can find within ourselves the means to flourish independently of God and one another. I am not self-sufficient. And my choices can hurt others, even myself. I am a dependent being, and I have dependent beings relying on me, and no amount of "women's liberation" is going to change that.

1. If I choose to put a career above my personal relationships, I may have many colleagues. I may have clients. But I will be lonely, because I am using my waterbucket to tend many scruffy weeds with shallow roots, rather than watering the deep, permanent roots of my trees. Trees whose arms could provide shelter when it rains and refreshing shade from the heat.

2. If I have children, and pay someone else to raise them, they will miss out on the love and constancy and example that my care could give. And I will miss out on a deep and special relationship with them.

3. If I have a family, and refuse to make any sacrifices for them, they may be loathe to make any sacrifices for me. My children will not learn from me to make sacrifices for others.

4. If I am married, but view myself as independent from my husband, he may start envisioning his life independent of me.

5. If I have a house but consider all the work of taking care of it beneath my dignity and intelligence, I will not have a home. Visitors to my house will see only brick and mortar. They will not see life and personality spilling from every nook and cranny. They will not enjoy a sense of homeyness and hospitality when they step inside my door.

6. If my name is well-known by many, but my heart is well-known by none, then my greatest power to influence and impact others lies wasted.

7. If I am not willing to live my life as a sacrifice of love and service poured out to others, than I am not following in the example of Jesus Christ. He did not come to earth as a king. He did not seek fanfare or power or wealth. He came as a servant. One despised and scoffed at by men. He "wasted" his time on the "least of these". He wanted to show us that His love, for us and through us, is ultimately the only currency that will last forever.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Independence (aka loneliness)

Americans are more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life, researchers reported on Friday. [...]

People were not asked why they had fewer intimate ties, but Smith-Lovin said that part of the cause could be that Americans are working more, marrying later, having fewer children, and commuting longer distances.

Who wants to jump on the independence bandwagon??? As for me, no thanks...I'll keep "sacrificing myself" in order to maintain my "risky", interdependent familial and friendship relationships;o)

They didn't want to know me

One further point on the topic of daycare. As a worker, I could hardly believe the number of parents who would barely greet me during drop-off or pick-up. They didn't know my name. They didn't try to find out anything about me whatsoever. And here I was, caring for their children for the majority of their waking hours! Could it be that they didn't want to know me, because that would hinder their pretending that I didn't exist as the major influence in their child's life? Was it a form of denial?

Don't just listen to me...

Want to read what other current or former daycare workers have to say?

After reading some of these descriptions, I feel that my personal experiences were relatively good!

My Daycare Experience

Note: The following is long, but I wanted to give a detailed picture!

I was never enrolled in a daycare facility as a child. However, I have worked in two of them, and so have had the opportunity observe this method of raising children firsthand. For those who have never spent a full day in a center as an adult, I thought this might prove enlightening. With this piece, I am focusing primarily on the preschool ages.

Daycares are highly regulated, so much of the director's and workers' days are spent making sure that the center is in compliance. This website gives the regulations for the state of Texas. Of particular interest are the state minimum requirements for child/worker ratios:

Maximum number of children assigned to one caregiver in each specified age group:
0 - 11 months: 4
12 - 17 months: 5
18 - 23 months: 9
2 years: 11
3 years: 15
4 years: 18
5 years: 22
6-8 years: 26
9 - 12 years: 26

Maximum number of children assigned to two caregivers in each specified age group:
0 - 11 months: 10
12 - 17 months: 13
18 - 23 months: 18
2 years (24 months): 22
3 years: 30
4 years: 35
5 years: 35
6 - 8 years: 35
9 - 12 years: 35

It's worth noting that almost no daycare center is going to reach above these minimum standards. In most daycares, the existing workers are already being paid very low wages, and the owner is not going to add more employees to the payroll than are determined necessary by the state.

The workers must meet the basic care requirements for each child. These include feeding at regular intervals (every 2-3 hours), diapering or toileting as needed (for a room with ten babies, this likely means upwards of 50 diaper changes a day to be handled by two workers), and providing care and supervision during regularly scheduled playtimes and naptimes. Throughout the day, the workers must maintain a sanitary environment. The children and the room(s) must be kept clean. For instance, the diaper-changing table is supposed to be wiped and sanitized after EVERY changing (again, often 50+ times).

In addition to caregiving, the workers are responsible for keeping records for each child detailing (but not limited to) the following information:

(1) Times the child slept;
(2) Times and amount of food consumed;
(3) Times of diaper changes (for babies and toddlers)
(4) Child's general mood for the day; and
(5) A brief summary of the activities in which the child participated.
(6) Minor accident reports (ie, minor scratches or bites from other children)

The Texas regulations require that the caregivers give individual attention (ie, talk with, play with, hold babies and toddlers) to each child to the extent possible. However, in my experience, the above duties often precede and leave very little room for this "less essential" care.

What my mother personally encountered as a daycare observer:

Daycare Center #1: This was probably a low-mid scale chain type center. My sisters' and my ballet teacher rented one of the rooms for a period of time while her studio was being constructed. So my mother had a few hours every week while she waited for us during our lessons to become oriented to the daycare scene. She told me that if the parents could see what she regularly saw, they would be shocked. The children were essentially caged in rooms with screaming and bellowing workers. When the parents arrived, however, the workers become as sweet as honey. My mom could not believe the level of play-acting. These women would have had a career in theatre if they ever decided to leave childcare.

What I personally encountered as a daycare worker:

Daycare Center #2:

My employee status: Summer job as a college student. I worked primarily with toddlers.

This was a mid-scale center. The family demographic was middle to upper-middle class. The worker demographic was mostly low-income, high-school/GED educated, although a few other employees besides me were in the process of attaining their degrees. Thankfully, there was little screaming or bellowing (from the workers. The children screamed and bellowed frequently). Each room had a camera, so that the parent could watch their child on video from his or her desk. However, the camera was often the source of frustration for the worker trying to restrain a child from hitting or biting another child. If we so much as laid a hand on a child, even to protect his classmates, we could be sure that the director would come sailing into the room demanding that we be more careful. "The parent could be watching!"

Also because of the cameras, the director wanted to make sure that the room appeared tidy at all times. Therefore, each room was severely deficient in toys and activities, and we spent an inordinate amount of time scooping up each plaything as soon as a child dropped it. I cannot tell you how incredibly BORED those poor children were. It's no wonder that the more assertive ones in the bunch resorted to territorial aggresion, biting and kicking and pushing the other kids, to keep them away from their favored toys. There just weren't enough interesting things to go around.

The entire focus at this center was how things would appear to the childrens' parents. So we had pointless "craft activities" everyday with our 18 mo. olds, which consisted of them watching me and the other worker cut out shapes and glue them on paper. We simply did not have time to help each child accomplish the project themselves.

This center dealt with the workers' lack-of-time issue with Mr. Roving TV and Barney Video. We got our turn with the TV right before lunch, and this was the workers' chance to frantically try to catch up with diaper changes and the childrens' daily reports.

I won't even get into how disgusting the childrens' food was. But I guess it must have met with the Texas State Nutrition and Food Service Guidelines!

In our room, we had the meanest little 18-mo old boy imaginable mixed with some sweet-tempered, sensitive children. He was always trying to bully them. We did the best we could to keep him away from the other children, but that usually meant sticking him in the corner with most of the toys to himself while we tried to entertain the others with the leftovers. Watching him was nearly a full-time job in itself. I felt really bad the few times that he managed to hurt others before we could intervene. One time he bit a little girl so hard that she started to bleed profusely. To our dismay, a couple of our "sweet boys" began to imitate Mean Boy and push the other children around. So much for positive socialization!

Towards late afternoon, many of our children became grouchy and whiny. They were tired of being bored and they were tired of being "socialized." (How do we adults feel if we NEVER get a moment of downtime to ourselves?) About this time, some of the children would always try to go pull their pillows and blankets out of their cubbies and curl up by themselves in a corner. But we were not allowed to let them do this. We had to try to keep them actively involved with the group. How would it look to the parents if we didn't?

Daycare Center#3:

Employee Status: Substitute preschool teacher. I worked with babies-4 year olds.

This was more of a high-scale center. It cost well over $1,000 /mo. per child, so our parents were generally well-off professionals. The center advertised that it's teachers possessed at least a BA degree, however this was not true of the baby and toddler teachers. The focus of this center, as described on their website, is education:

All children are born geniuses. The challenge is to keep them that way through stimulating and challenging intellectual activities with the main emphasis on fun. The brain grows and develops more in the first six years of life than at any other time, our aim is to capture this motivation and develop it for the future.

In order to accomplish this goal, the center had the children (except for the babies) rotate from classroom to classroom throughout the day, each room having a different educational focus. There was the Physical Education / Active Playroom which doubled as the nap room, the computer room, the "Home Room" (with dolls and toy dishes and other "playing house" type toys), the music room (with toy instruments), the craft room, the eating room, etc. Sounds good in theory. However, we did spend a TON of time transporting groups of children from room to room every 30-45 minutes and there were significant issues with crowd control. At least it helped the boredom problem, although it did not exactly foster long attention spans.

Since this center focused on education, the full-time "teachers" were supposed to prepare lessons and activities for the sessions in each room. The poor women did their best. However, lack of time, the rigors of crowd control, and the necessities of their other duties often interefered.

As in the other center, we had a large "time" problem. As workers, we did not have enough time to give to each child, especially the less demanding ones. Demanding, misbehaving children or children needing attention to their physical needs took the bulk of our time.

To their credit, this facility did not use a TV to babysit the children. They also took pride in the fact that children were being exposed to quality culture, such as classical music during naptimes.

Interestingly, even a nice center such as this one could not afford to pay cushy salaries. The baby workers were paid less than the other teachers. As a result, they were less educated. The workers in the babies' room did not even fully speak English. I often wondered how the babies were expected to learn to understand and speak excellent English when their full-time caregivers did not.

During the days I spent at this center, I never understood how we were expected to effectively discipline misbehaving children. Most of the teachers just bumped the problem child to another room for a few minutes. Sometimes this helped, sometimes it didn't.

Each daycare shared one glaring problem: In spite of our best efforts (or lack thereof in the case of some), we were not mom (or dad, for that matter!). We had records of each child's food allergies and medical conditions, and eventually we learned about their different personalities. But we did not have an intimate knowledge of the child. We cared about them all, but we did not have a burning passion for each one's individual welfare. How could we? We were so busy with regulations and parents and crowd control and the necessities of basic care. We could not say to a child: "You are mine, and I love you!" Because, perhaps the very next week or month, that child would be traded to another teacher who would not know him from the next. And then another. And another (Turnover in daycare centers is very high!).

I remember looking at a baby's smile and thinking, "how could a parent bear missing this?" This, meaning their child's entire life, except for a couple of hours every evening. Hours when both parent and child have already been exausted and spent from the day, and are not quite themselves. I remember a little girl who used to call me "Mommy." Baby, I'm not your mommy. I wish you could know what it's like to have a mommy who has time to bake cookies with you and take you grocery shopping and let you help dust the furniture and who will laugh when you want to put seventeen ribbons in her hair.

Real life. That's another thing these babies miss out on. They live artificial lives, with parental simulations standing in for Mom and Dad, who have real lives and values to consistently model over a period of years; real care to give based on what the child truly needs at the moment rather than state regulations; hugs spilling from true love.

It is not my intention to bash parents who have their children in daycare. But I do want to provide a clear picture of what daycare is. I honestly believe that if you are a half-decent parent, your child will benefit from any measures you can take to limit the time he has to spend in the daycare environment. Even the most well-intentioned institution cannot replace you in your child's life.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I thought nobody was visiting me anymore...

...but then I remembered that I had turned on my comment moderation last week when my internet crisis prompted an involuntary blog-fast:op I am relieved to know that my rather frequent absences of late have not run people off...everybody, anyway... ;o) Thanks, ya'll (or "you guys", for the benefit of my midwestern and northern readers), for sticking around!

That reminds me (*Warning: lengthy random musings to follow*) ...Micah and I were having a discussion yesterday about accents. I asked him if he thought I have a midwestern accent (thanks to being raised by parents from Ohio), or if any of the "southern belle" speech patterns you'll encounter with all these poofy-haired women down here who wear titanic pieces of jewelry and Mary Kay makeup have rubbed off on me. (Yes. I'm stereotyping. And it is accurate. Just visit a tearoom in Texas for lunch, or go to a ladies function at a church...preferably a Baptist one.) Micah answered me: "I think you have a small tinge of southern. You say 'y'all'!" I contended that my use of "y'all" is not exclusive. I also say "you guys" on a regular basis.

After a bit of consideration, I determined that "y'all" becomes most dominant in my speech when I am talking to the Southern Belle types, but "you guys" generally takes over when I am around members of either of our families (except for my sisters, who are similiarly or more southern-ified than I am). What do you know. Environment matters.

A few other ways in which growing up in Texas has corrupted me: I was raised to refer to coke and similiar fizzy drinks as "pop". That lasted until high school, when I worked at the afore-mentioned tearoom. Then I had to learn to say "soda" or those poor big-haired ladies wouldn't know what I was talking about. But that was better than referring to ALL types of soda as "coke", as many Texans do, for no good reason that I can think of. I guess it doesn't really matter anyway, since I don't drink the stuff anymore;o)

Texas habits almost caused me to die in an Ohio grocery store parking lot. You Texas, when there's a crossing area designated by yellow lines for the purpose of ushering people from the car section of the parking lot to the building, you can safely assume that people will slow down or stop for you if they see you starting across (considering that you have given them adequate space and time to do so). In other states it don't work that way! I discovered this when I almost got run over (more than once) by Buckeye State drivers who appeared to speed up when they saw me crossing ahead of them. I guess that up north, it is the pedestrian's duty to yield to the driver. Because, after all, the pedestrian already HAS his or her parking is the unfortunate driver who is still unsure that they will be so lucky. A little hot-rodding is understandable in a delicate situation like that!

Also, elsewhere, talking to strangers in stores is often seen as...well...strange--perhaps even suspicious. Not here! I went grocery shopping yesterday, and at least 4 fellow shoppers engaged me in conversation. I am still getting used to this again, after living in "less-talkative" places for a number of years. It's taking some time to lose the whole "lower-your-eyes-and-act-like-you-don't-see-the-person-beside-you" stance.

No: I don't wear cowgirl hats or boots or giant belt buckles. I couldn't really care less about football. I only listen to country music when I'm in a certain mood (and Micah's not around...he can't stand the stuff!). There are no cacti or tumbleweeds or oil wells in my front yard (for those of you who may have been misinformed by this impression previously). Not all Texans have guns. And I would say that the big-haired ladies are a minority. But it's still a unique experience to live in a place where spirit and courtesy run high, the barbeque and Mexican cuisine are FANTASTIC, and Christian and conservative societal influences haven't yet been completely eradicated. So, though I may be accused of that abominable Texas pride...I have to say that I'm glad to live in the greatest state (in my humble opinion) in our wonderful nation! Fireants and hurricanes and sweltering heat notwithstanding.

***I'm not trying to knock Ohio--I was born there, much of my family lives there, and I met my wonderful husband there--or any other state. But my partiality towards Texas is rather undeniable. I can only admit it and hope that you will pardon my prejudice:op

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm about to die!!! that statement might be just a wee bit melodramatic:op But I am seriously considering having a good screeching fit.

Due to a mistake on our internet company's part, we have been moved back in the que to get our high-speed back on Friday (instead of yesterday, when we were originally told we would have it). I realize that I am probably acting like a spoiled brat to be complaining about having to use dial-up service, however, our current side-business is highly dependent on the internet. Tasks that take me 45 min-1 hr with high-speed have been taking me entire mornings and afternoons this week with dial-up. It just feels like such a waste of time! And it leaves me a lot less time (and inclination) to do things like read and ponder issues and write and post blog entries...not to mention keep up with the house and cooking and grocery shop and chase after the dog. In short, the well-being of our entire household depends partially on the speed of our technology. Wow, that sounds so nerdy...and pathetic:op

Alright, fine. Enough venting. Stiff upper lip. I'm sure the blogging world can survive without me for a couple more days, and I hope to return soon with the new appreciation for my blessings that deprivation for a period confers:o)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Have a great weekend!

Well, between internet problems and blogger problems, my attempts to post recently have been a major production! We're temporarily on a (veeerrrryyy slooooowwww) dial-up connection until our high-speed gets up again on Tuesday. I probably won't try to post anything more until then. I still have a lot to write about and comments to respond to. Thanks to my readers, once again, for taking your valuable time to read and share your thoughts! I hope that everyone has a WONDERFUL weekend! (Good luck to me and anyone else in the south, trying to find fun things to do that don't require much 1000-degree-outside exposure:o)

"It won't hurt you..." (Oh really?)

The redefinition of marriage is not a simple issue. It's not a matter of, "c'mon...let homosexuals 'participate' in won't affect you!" Consider the following, from a news article in World Magazine:

Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress and a go-to guy for liberals grappling with civil rights, said legal same-sex marriage would set church and state on "a collision course," triggering "a sea change in American law . . . [that] will reverberate across the legal and religious landscape in some ways that are totally unpredictable." George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley termed the clash "a coming storm."

Among other scholars weighing in: Georgetown University law professor and gay-rights activist Chai Feldblum, University of Maryland law professor Robin Wilson, and Douglas Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University. Messrs. Turley and Stern, as well as Ms. Feldblum, support gay marriage. Ms. Wilson is undecided and Mr. Kmiec is opposed.

Thus, the Becket Fund's panel could hardly be said to have an anti-gay-marriage bias. And yet its findings on the questions at hand showed same-sex marriage sharply curtailing, and in some cases wiping out, the religious freedom of its opponents in spheres ranging from taxation, charitable giving, housing, public accommodation, and employment to licensure, professional practice, education, and equal access.

That's because the term marriage and its legal emanations echo throughout the canons of American law, Mr. Picarello said. "Once you change the definition of marriage, you don't change one law, you change thousands of laws."

The following segment from the same article outlines the ways in which the redefinition of marriage would negate the rights of people who are opposed because of religious reasons:

The broad legalization of same-sex marriage would place local, state, and federal governments on a collision course with religious institutions that adhere to a Judeo-Christian ethic. A group of First Amendment scholars—several of whom support, or are at least neutral on, the issue of gay marriage—predicts a hail of religious liberty litigation in four broad categories.


After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, Boston Catholic Charities exited the adoption business rather than cede to state demands that it place children with same-sex couples. If same-sex marriage is legalized, professional licenses might also be denied to psychological clinics, social workers, marriage and family counselors, and others who believe same-sex relationships are "objectively disordered."

Tax Exemption and Government Benefits

Religious groups could find themselves suffering along with the Boy Scouts, as access to public facilities is stripped away. Gay-rights litigators will likely challenge groups' federal tax-exempt status, charging that such an exemption "subsidizes discrimination."

Conflicts Between Civil Rights Law and Religious Freedom

Among the possibilities: Religious employers who refuse to hire or retain employees in same-sex marriages can expect to be sued on the basis of "marital status discrimination." Religious colleges that refuse admission to same-sex couples could face civil lawsuits and loss of accreditation. In Massachusetts, Catholic colleges already are examining whether they must provide married student housing to legally married gay couples.

Freedom of Speech

Principles used by courts in deciding workplace sexual harassment cases will likely migrate to suppress an expression of anti-same-sex-marriage views by religious groups and people. The attorney general of New Jersey recently backed officials at William Patterson University after a non-faculty employee objected to receiving a mass e-mail inviting people to see gay-themed movies. The school disciplined the employee for having engaged in harassment because of her use of a single word, "perversions," to describe the content of the films.

—Source: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty —

I believe it's been almost a year since I've posted anything on this topic, which is becoming more relevant than ever. In light of the recent vote in the Senate, the issue has been on my mind again. My position remains the same as what I wrote in July of 2005:

Legal Marriage: It's Not About Your "Special Relationship"
Why traditional Marriage Matters

Friday, June 02, 2006

Single Home-owning Gals Revisted

Candice Z. Watter's article "Single Female Seeking Homeownership" sparked a lot of controversy in women's circles. Apparently, Mrs. Watters is fully aware of the fray that resulted from her piece, because she's written a follow-up article. While I'm not sure if I agree with every bit of her theology, I think her points are very interesting and worthy of consideration. I definitely see a contradiction between the stated desires and decisions made by many women my age. This disconnect was especially evident within my girl's circle at college. More on that later! For now, here's a particularly insightful thought from Watters:

Marriage is not something you acquire; like a degree, or a job, or even a home. It's something you enter, with great humility and self-sacrifice. It requires selflessness, interdependence and the ultimate commitment. How do you prepare for such a thing? You don't do it by becoming as independent as possible. Still that seems to be the mantra of many Christian single women today.

Popping on... say: I have really enjoyed reading your responses on my last couple of posts! I hope to respond to some of the comments in more detail soon. I also have TONS of posts floating around in my head, percolating until I get a chance to sit down and type them out! Funny thing. When it rains, it pours. Sometimes I just can't think of a thing I feel like writing about. But on days like today, I would be writing for the next five hours if I could.

Right now I am working off of a to-do list, trying to see how much of it I can get done before the weekend officially starts. Writing out a to-do list for myself is REALLY helping me to stay focused and motivated. It also gives me an opportunity to show Micah what I'm working on, and to ask him what he would like me to do for him. It's helping me keep my priorities in order. I used to make lists all the time, and for some reason had gotten out of the habit. But I'm back now, baby, with new and improved productivity!;o)