Monday, October 17, 2016

One Step at a Time

As I grow older, but am still very young
I take tiny steps forward,
But I'm nowhere near done

I can see more clearly, love more dearly,
But still so easily
Break down and blow up

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 16

T.P. Creech (aka "hubby")

I'm back again with another Live Trax review.  This one is a favorite of mine.

DMB Live Trax Volume 16
06.26.2000

Sunday, July 17, 2016

People Are Human

If there's one thing I've been thinking of more than usual lately, it's the sad and strange fact that all of us are human. We hold some people up to higher standards for whatever reason (pastors, politicians, police, etc.) However, even those most austere and auspicious, are still only people. People with sin. People with personalities and passions. People with ideology and false theology and tendencies and past experiences and misinformation.

Isn't it a beautiful and strange thing?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Golden Handcuffs

One problem in our society today, is the "golden handcuffs" phenomenon. I'm sure you've heard of it before, assuming that it applied only to the very wealthy. In reality, I feel that the golden handcuffs apply to way more people in modern society than we might think. Essentially, what the term means, is that you've gotten used to living a certain lifestyle, which requires a certain income, and you can't see any way to make significant lifestyle changes so you are therefore "trapped" in your job indefinitely, unable to make career choices as you might otherwise.

Why is this big deal? And why do I slap the label "religion" on this post?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My Own Racism

Unfortunately, I think the problem of racism won't completely go away, until we acknowledge the subtle forms of racism that take place everyday. Yes, there are big issues, but people tend to ignore the big issues. They assume the severe cases of racism are just a "bad apple" here or there and neglect to address their own, more subtle brand of racism.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Pro Everyone's Choice

I've seen a few disturbing things from supposedly "Pro-choice" people lately. Mainly, their arguments are completely invalid, but they are looking for every excuse in the book. Here are two examples:

  1. The first example comes from an article circulating around Facebook. I have no idea why the article was even circulating because it was completely illogical. Basically, the article was from a doctor who said abortion should be legal and then went on to describe a very sad miscarriage of a 20 week old baby that wasn't initiated by any doctor, but couldn't be stopped. Here's the thing, that particular situation doesn't meet any requirements at all of the pro-life vs. "pro-choice" debate. Yes, doctors use the term abortion for miscarriage, so technically my own medical records list an abortion (spontaneous). Spontaneous means that the baby was coming and couldn't be stopped (and in my case had already passed away). So, yes, "spontaneous abortions" will still happen because you can't save a baby's life if it's not in God's plan to do so. That's an absolutely ridiculous argument. I believe this doctor was attempting to nitpick over the "medical necessity" clause that most pro-lifers actually agree with, when in reality, he couldn't even find an example from his own experience to use. The truth is that only 7% of those who had abortions (according to a Planned Parenthood affiliated survey) were due to a perceived risk of the mother or baby's health (according to doctors the true "medical necessity" number is likely closer to 1%). 
  2. Next, I was reading something else a pro-lifer had posted to their Facebook page (not inflammatory at all, just talking about how important it is to consider all life valuable). And a comment on there was "what about a woman who is raped?" Again, playing on emotions here. Most pro-lifers also make exceptions for women who are raped. However, according to the same Planned Parenthood affiliated survey, less than 0.5% reported that as a reason for having an abortion, and again, I think almost all pro-lifers agree that exceptions should be made for women in those situations.
So what's the final breakdown of numbers according to the 2004 study? Over 92% of women reported that "social" or "other" factors contributed to their abortions. "Other" included mainly such things as being financially unable to afford another child, "not being ready", or other personal career and family goals.

So here's the thing, I have two kids of my own, and they do make life more difficult. They also make my life abundantly more precious. They've taught me more in about 6 years than a dozen self help books that I could have tried to read. I'm sure that living with the guilt, shame, and stress of an abortion isn't easy either. Rather than making abortion socially acceptable and the "common" thing to do, why don't we make parenting skills classes, affordable daycare, and maternity leave the more "common" things. Why do we discount the life of a child simply because we can't see him or her? 

I am absolutely pro-choice, but not in the way you think. I am a huge proponent of allowing and encouraging women to make the difficult choice. To close their legs and say "No." If it's sex with someone you wouldn't want to raise a child with, don't do it. If you aren't old enough to raise a child, don't do it. If you just don't think you're quite ready for a child yet, but you might be, then use double protection until you're definitely ready. And no, you will never be ready for the changes that come with a child, but the thing that most women don't understand is that you can't take away the consequences of your decisions so easily. 

One final note, for those that say that my viewpoint contributes to the overpopulation of the world, or keeping people in the cycle of poverty. There are ways to prevent pregnancy, and those ways absolutely should be utilized to the full extent of their ability. There are also plenty of people unable to have children, and who would love to adopt, so if you truly can't raise a child, let someone adopt them. I have a heart that breaks for a woman who finds herself in a situation where she doesn't feel she can care for any more children, but there are other options, and other resources. Abortion does not have to be the only answer, and it certainly shouldn't be the first.

 Oh, and if you are so concerned about the population of the world, the real way to fix that is to create multiple civil wars or genocide across the world, and I don't see anyone "fighting" for those rights.

Sources: Planned Parenthood Study

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

A Community Feel

I've noticed a lot of churches and towns try really hard at building community. The towns or areas of town throw community block parties, or host festivals. The churches have sermons on reaching out to new people and making them feel comfortable. You may have even tried to have community yourself by following a list of ideas and then trying to replicate that process over and over until you can build community.

However, I've noticed in my life, none of that has really seemed to work in the past. When I went to a large church in a large city, I did all the right things. I volunteered, I joined small groups, I talked to my neighbors and had part-time jobs to meet people. I joined mom's groups and tried to follow all the "how to make a friend" lists out there. Sadly, after nearly 8 years, I still had only a tiny handful of close friends who I could count on to help out in a crisis (and some of them were moving away at the same time we were). It was incredibly difficult, to say the least, putting myself out there day after day, and not getting anywhere in my goal of building relationships and friendships.

I had pretty much given up, when we moved to the Raleigh, NC area to be closer to family and because of a great job opportunity. We first moved to the North Hills area. It was temporary housing, and I thought I would try it out. Because if it's the place everyone wants to live, then it must have some great community vibe and be a great place to meet people. That's when I realized where I had gone wrong. The place to meet people is not the "nice areas" of town. The place to meet people and build community is in the middle ground.

So, since you can do all the right things, and still not have community, what should you do? Well, don't give up, but also keep these key traits in mind for building community.

  • Percentage of People. Community by definition cannot be something you do yourself. A large percentage (in my estimation a minimum of 5-10%) of the people living in the area or within the organization need to be naturally community focused (more on that later).
  • Self-sufficient, but not self-contained. A community must be self-sufficient in order to truly be a community. However, it does not need to be self-contained. For instance, I usually go to the library, grocery store, doctor, coffee shop, fast food, and more in "our town". However, that doesn't mean that I don't invite community members from my community to go with me to other areas of town and do fun things. We are self-sufficient, but we don't have an idea that other places (or people from other places) are in any way less than we are.
  • Community Minded People. What does this mean? It can mean several things, but this is what I think of when I think of a community minded person. 
    • 1) Open hearted. Willing to let someone see the true you and being willing to look honestly at the other person in return with an open heart. 
    • 2) Working together. Being willing to ask for and receive help, regardless of the situation. 
    • 3) Outgoing. Again, not everyone in the community needs to have this trait, but many people in the community need to be willing to start the conversation, or you will lose whatever you have built within a few weeks or months. 
    • 4) Welcoming. This is a bit different than open hearted. This comes before open hearted does. People must be willing to welcome those who are new, strange, or different. This is more than a "greet you at the door" church. To me, being welcoming is an understanding that you are not better than the stranger you see. It's welcoming that person first and always as an equal, no matter their story, town, or creed. For instance, I was at a mom's group event that had a Facebook invite, and I didn't personally know anyone there. It was 30 minutes from my house. The moms all sat in a cluster, or circle, with their backs to any new people. They made snide comments about how, "at least in this town" they could leave their purses laying around and nothing would happen here. Most of the kids had no such problem or preconception about outsiders. My kids were playing with their kids and had a great time, but not one of the adults in this "mom's group" welcomed someone who was clearly an outsider. It definitely made me glad that I hadn't moved to that particular town.
I hope this helps the next time you are looking to build a new community, or improve your currrent community. The biggest thing, I think, is getting that initial momentum going. If you don't have enough people on board with this idea of building community, you will fail. Community, by definition, cannot be done alone.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Two Big Things

If I could change only two things in this country today, this is what I would pick.

1) No person working for government can accept any type of gift - including campaign donations personally. Basically, NCAA standards would apply to anyone in federal government. If it's wrong for a college student to accept help paying rent or an electric bill, then it's wrong for a government official making $170,000 to accept hotel stays, rental cars, $1,000 meals, and more. All campaign donations should be made anonymously to avoid the current process of kickbacks and corruption.

2) Pharmaceutical sales representatives would not be allowed to verbally transmit any information regarding their products. All product information must be written (or digital) and approved by the company's legal department. Also, they would be prevented from "bringing food" and other gifts of that nature to doctors and hospitals. The cost of many drugs has risen exponentially over the past several years. And drugs are being offered to patients with by doctors who have absolutely no idea what the drug does, but the pharmaceutical rep said "it has everything" so it must be the best.

As an example, I was offered by my physician in Louisville a prescription to take a prenatal supplement to help with my B-12 deficiency. She said it "had everything" so it would be the best one (I wasn't actually pregnant or trying to become pregnant at the time, this was before our first child). After doing some research on this expensive, name-brand vitamin, I realized that not only did it NOT have ANY B-12, but it had very few vitamins and minerals. It also was high in folic acid which can interact badly and interfere with the absorbency of B-12. So, instead, I chose a sublingual over the counter B-12 supplement, for a tiny fraction of the price. Not everyone has the ability or capacity to check behind their doctor on every recommendation, or even to price check for lower price options.

Hence, the average monthly cost of drugs to treat cancer patients has "inexplicably" climbed from an average of $1,800 per month for drugs launched in 2000 to over $11,000 PER MONTH for drugs launched in 2014. So, which drugs do you think those "sweet, nice" pharmaceutical reps are advocating for in their weekly lunch meetings with doctors and hospitals?

Yes, if all this happened, a lot of jobs would likely be lost. But I think we would also have a lot better laws in this country, a lot lower costs for prescriptions and healthcare, and a lot more peace of mind about our government, and our doctors.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Best Schools - Not the Best Scores

I know some of you are tired of the ever-present "crazy, homeschool mom" posts. So, I thought I would change things up a bit with a post that applies to public or private schools.

Having been a teacher (briefly) at one of the lowest performing public schools in Louisville, KY, I thought I would share my "best practices" and "pet peeves" for choosing a "best school" for your child (if you don't homeschool of course).

Pet Peeves
  • Choosing a school based on test scores alone. Test scores are primarily affected by the income level of the students at the school, not the teaching or administrative qualities of a particular school. If you look at test scores alone, you could end up sending your child to a really terrible school that happens to have a lot of rich kids AND missing out on an opportunity for your child to become a leader in a diverse community and learn a lot more than their multiplication facts.
  • Choosing a school based on "pricing out" students. Unfortunately, some people still subscribe to the theory that a school is higher quality if it costs more money. The school will obviously point to higher test scores, college admittance, and low class size. However, there is no correlation between dollars spent per student and a better education (once average income is taken into consideration).
    • Choosing a school based on extra-curriculars. Don't choose the school based solely on the soccer team, or marching band or anything else likqe that. You can definitely make it a factor in your decision, but it shouldn't be the only factor. Your child that wanted to be on the top soccer team in the county may drop out after their first year to focus on their year round team. The child that really wanted to join the flag team may find themselves joining the marching band instead to be with their friends. And your STEM loving student may end up enjoying the violin more by the time they finish up at a particular school. You never know!
  • Choosing a school based on your personality, not your child's. Don't choose the arts school for your non-artsy child just because you want them to be like you. Don't choose the STEM school just because your husband is an engineer. Don't choose the "open" model school for your Type A child or the foreign language immersion school just because "you were never good at languages either". In the same vein, don't eliminate a school based on your personality either.
  • Choosing a school (or not) based on the personality of one person at the school. One of my acquaintances mentioned that they didn't pick a certain school because they just "really didn't like the attitude" of the principal. Now, normally this could be a concern, but knowing the particular person, I'm pretty sure the attitude was more a consequence of my acquaintance's attitude rather than the principal's, if you know what I mean.
  • Not doing any research whatsoever on your child's school. I know people who say things like, "I went to X school as a kid, and had a great experience, so I'm really glad my grandkids are going there too." That may be true that the school was great 40 years ago, but, unfortunately, schools that were great 40 years ago could be awful today, and vice versa.
  • Making a decision without visiting (preferably with your child). At the very least, you ought to be able to take a school tour with a principal or administrator once your narrow your list down. That's where you find out how the school really is. That's where you see the true attitude issues of the principal (in dealing with students) and the true safety issues or educational concerns or facilities/transportation questions. You can also typically see whether you child's personality and learning style will mesh with what's going on at the school.
Best Practices
  1. Before visiting any schools - make a list of what you are looking for. At a minimum take notes on your child's personality, learning styles, and any skills or special interests your child may have (athletics, foreign language, STEM, etc.)
  2. Make a "Short list" based on location (near home or work), transportation options, and familiarity (knowing a friend, neighbor, or teacher at the school already). Keep this list at least 5 schools, but aim for no more than 10 unless you are in a very large district with a LOT of options. DO NOT make this list based on demographics or test scores.
  3. Narrow the short list down by reviewing the school websites and visiting your districts "school fair". It's great to have a "short list" before you visit the school fair or you might fall in love with a school that's 45 minutes across town with no transportation availability - or you may just be overwhelmed at the sheer number if you visit a "Showcase of schools" with no plan in place.
  4. Visit at least 3-4 schools. Check out the buildings, the traffic pattern, the classrooms/teachers (if possible). Review the policies, class schedule, textbooks/materials used, extracurricular activities offered, and general personality of the school. I know I vetoed one high school because the principal snatched a sucker out of a girl's mouth while we were on the "school tour". 
  5. Keep an open mind and honestly assess each school based on your criteria - style of learning, style of discipline, educational philosophy, and more. Look at your list honestly. You may not write down "race" as an issue, but ask yourself honestly when you are thinking about crossing a school off the list if the reason you are crossing it out is objective or subjective. We can complain about busing and go to school board meetings and be upset about the "lack of diversity" in our communities, but all it really comes down to in the end for most of us is a more genteel and underhand version of "white flight".
So, don't tick off your friendly neighborhood blogger. Make your school choices wisely, but remember, there's always next year if you change your mind.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Look in the Mirror

One of the more recent problems caused by the social media takeover of culture is the idea that we are the center of our own universe. A side effect of this unusual philosophy is the "you have a problem" syndrome. Of course, this particular issue is not a new problem, but it certainly seems to be getting worse. Unfortunately, I've found that this syndrome occurs just as frequently in those that are not attached to social media, perhaps as a defense against the you-centric philosophy of culture, but perpetuating some of the same mythology.

I can't tell you the number of conversations I've over heard (see my previous post on Life as a Reserved Extrovert to find out why I am listening in on conversations without necessarily participating) where someone is completely bashing someone for X activity without realizing that what they are bashing someone for is incredible similar to what they are currently doing.


Let me give you a few examples of what I'm talking about, to see if you've noticed this in your world.

  1. "I'm voting for Trump, because he's the only one who's honest about what he's doing. He's not really as bad as he seems, he's just putting on an act of being so abrasive, he'll calm down once he's president."
  2. "People are so intolerant that they won't even bake a cake for a wedding for somebody they don't know just because it's two guys. I mean who do they think they are to refuse to do business based on their personal religious beliefs like that? Hey, I'm so glad that so and so cancelled their concert/business/porn site for North Carolina because that HB2 law just goes completely against my personal beliefs, can you believe the governor hasn't changed his mind yet, with all the money they are losing over this?"
  3. "Those anti-vax people are a bit crazy, I mean don't they do any scientific research on this stuff? Did you see the natural, organic, seaweed based sunscreen on sale at Whole Foods for $30? I bought like 3 cases, because regular sunscreens are full of toxins, I can't put that on my baby."
  4. "As a Christian pastor, we really need to find out why people are leaving our church so that we can convince them they are wrong. We are a very inclusive church, so they should never have grounds to disagree with us and go to a different church."
  5. "Women can do everything men can. I mean except for sports and math, they are pretty equal."
Did you catch the problem? We're so convinced that our "way" is the only right way, because everyone on Facebook or in our small circle of friends "likes" or "agrees" with us, that we don't notice the ways in which we are blind to our own problems. Now, I'm not going to claim that I've never perpetuated one of these (probably closest to # 3 myself). However, I try to think things through from all sides and think before I speak.

The Bible says in Luke 6:41-42 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye."

So, realistically, how do we stop judging others and look more honestly at our own behavior? Here are a few tips:

  1. Stop thinking about whether other people are judging you. I will admit that I had a BIG problem judging other people, especially around the ages of 14-21. There were several factors that needed to fall into place to stop this negativity, but the biggest and most profound was ignoring or not focusing on what other people were thinking of me. Especially as a young woman, we often feel like people judge for everything from our clothing choices, hairstyle, or attitude, and we may react with defensive and judgmental tactics ourselves. Now, as a young mom, it gets even worse, as we may feel we are judged on our parenting style, job (or choice to stay home), breastfeeding and more. I noticed that when I was able to ignore what I thought were the judgments of other people, I suddenly found myself less likely to judge them (and vice versa). As I grew into this ability, I realized it was pretty foolish of me to care so much about what someone else was doing in the first place.
  2. Set up accountability partners. My husband is my biggest source of accountability. If I'm in the car with him and make a comment on someone or something around me, he will call me out on it. He's not doing it to be rude or mean, he just points out, "That's your J coming out again." and I take some time to think over what I've said or how I've reacted to see whether it was truly accurate or just a snap judgment.
  3. Look in the mirror. Think through all the times when you've said or done something similar before you get offended. Sometimes, people say things completely without thinking. However, rather than focus on what other people say to offend you and think back to things that you might have said or done without meaning to offend someone. For example, I had a conversation with an acquaintance who doesn't have kids yet about how difficult it was to give birth, and how it's a lot different driving 20 minutes with kids in the car. Then, I thought late about the fact that I don't know for sure whether or not her lack of children was a choice. Maybe they have been trying and unable to conceive, or had a miscarriage that I didn't know about, and I could have so easily offended this person without even knowing it. 
  4. Pray and seek help if needed. If you are truly experiencing anxiety that you can't control, or find yourself in a deep depression or uncontrollable rage or if you have sudden unexplained changes in your mood, you may need to seek counseling and get a medical opinion. If you are just struggling with this issue of judging, I suggest you read and study the Bible, and pray - seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I can truly say, that if it weren't for the intervention of the Holy Spirit, I would not have addressed this issue of judging in my life when I did. Some things, we just can't do on our own, but anything is possible with God.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

One-Size Fits All

I know, it's been awhile since I've posted. Between being sick and the nicer weather, and the never-ending schedule of activities, work, and housekeeping, I haven't had much writing time. The one day I did take some writing time, I worked on one of my novels (estimated date of publish 2022). However, I've been steaming over something for a little while, and finally decided to write about it.

In order to get a discount through my husband's work for our insurance, we have to get our "numbers" done at a laboratory every year (cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, etc.) AND spend 20 minutes (or so) doing an "online health assessment" through the insurance company.

I'm not upset (right now) over the health information they have on me, because honestly, Facebook probably has more information on me than I want, and people are much more likely to hack into that than my insurance company.

However, in scanning through the "red, yellow, and green" lights or warnings I noticed something a bit strange. My weight was healthy, my overall cholesterol and blood pressure were healthy, but my HDL cholesterol was low.

However, when I answered the questions, I mentioned that I was not currently trying to limit fat in my diet. Guess what, apparently that deserves a yellow light in and of itself.

REALLY?!? An otherwise healthy person who just needs to exercise and eat less sugar gets dinged because they are not specifically limiting fat in their diet? No wonder our nation is overweight and unhealthy. There is NO correlation between overall fat in the diet (within certain ranges of a % of calories and as long as it's healthy fat) and weight gain or unhealthy habits. They should have asked how much added sugar I eat in a day (I would have gotten a red light on that one, but I guess since they measured my blood glucose and it was fine, they don't care). In actuality, that would be the better question, since overall American diets have decreased in fat intake since the 1970s and yet our weight gain and overall unhealthy lifestyles (myself included) has continued to cause health and obesity problems. As a matter of fact, many of the nations that we consider "healthy" overall have a LOT of healthy fats in their diet.

Some ways that I can increase my HDL include eating fatty fish, less sugar, more vegetables, and exercising. None of the ways I can increase my HDL (or overall health) include limiting the total fats that I eat during the day. I have no high blood pressure, no high overall cholesterol, and a healthy body weight, so blindly telling everyone to "eat less fat" is absolutely the worst thing an insurance company can be doing.

Fortunately, I know better, but it still is frustrating to see a "one-size-fits all approach". I guess the only thing I can do is be glad they gave me a yellow light for it, and not a red light.

Now, who wants to go for a walk with me, so I can raise my HDL. Maybe I'll bring an avocado for my snack today...

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Dave Matthews - Live Trax Volume 14

By TC

DMB Live Trax Volume 14
06.28.2008

1) Don't Drink The Water
2) Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back)
3) So Damn Lucky »
4) The Dreaming Tree
5) The Idea of You
6) Corn Bread
7) You Might Die Trying
8) The Space Between
9) Sledgehammer
10) Eh Hee
11) Louisiana Bayou
12) Out of My Hands »
13) Everyday »
14) Ants Marching
15) So Much to Say » Anyone Seen The Bridge? »
16) Too Much
17) Sister
18) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel
19) Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

This Live Trax is a somber one.  One look at the album cover and you see Leroi Moore, founding saxophone player of the band who passed a couple of months after this show took place.  The band dedicated this release to him.

Obviously, any fan of the band wants to purchase this.  It's historic.  But I'm going to do my best to treat it as "just another show" for this review.  It's June 2008, which means there's a freshness here that was absent over the previous few years.  But, this show, admittedly, falls short of a lot of that month.  But, even with that said, there are a still a few highlights here worth discussing.

Don't Drink The Water is great as an opener and was finally starting to come into it's own here.  Old Dirt Hill is another tune which came out of the ashes of Stand Up to turn out to be pretty good.  The version here also has a little different outro at the end - the riff which developed into Why I Am.

So Damn Lucky is up next and, is one of the first (if not THE first) to have the extended outro.  Dave is very restrained singing over it and it's really good.  It precedes a fantastic Dreaming Tree.

The show starts slowing down and declining at this point.  I like The Idea of You, but this version has the alternate drumming on it and isn't very good.  The lyrics are pretty well set at least, but the drumming is distracting.  I'm glad that went away.  Corn Bread is next and...well, it's Corn Bread.  It can't be saved.  You Might Die Trying is a bright spot here, but it's a mediocore version.

Next up was a bit of a surprise, the return(-ish?) of The Space Between.  It was played basically by Dave solo.  I didn't mind the song or the full arrangements of it, but there are some folks out there that hated it.  (It's not in my top 50% of the catalog, but it's no Everybody Wake Up.)  Either way, it was played this way a few times for the next few years before it finally came back in full form.

Another surprise, a cover of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, comes next.  This was the only Sledgehammer Leroi got to play on and, of the two that have been officially released to date, I like this one the best.

The show CRAWLS next, with Out of My Hands, Louisiana Bayou, and Everyday leading into Ants Marching.  I don't mean crawls as in it's slow (Louisiana Bayou is an upbeat tempo if nothing else), but that's not a very good run of songs.  Ants is good, but not as good as Live Trax 13.

The main set concludes with swing through So Much to Say >> Too Much.  I like the way Anyone Seen The Bridge developed some pauses for effect here and it plays well on the recording.  I think I'd like it if it popped up occasionally that way every so often (it seems that it has been abandoned recently).  Of course, even with that, the second half of the set really dragged.

The encore is okay.  Sister isn't a great choice, but this is one of the first versions to have Tim in the background filling in the song a little.  I prefer it that way, but that's like saying I prefer my chicken burnt to raw.  Neither is too good.  Rapunzel is nice and would've been a fine set closer, but it's 2008, and Thank You was required to close the show.  The band has fun with it, and it's not as bothersome to me here after Rapunzel than it is after Louisiana Bayou from Live Trax 13, but it's never going to be my favorite encore song.

The mix is sort of boomy on this one.  It definitely sounds like you're hearing it more and more from "in the crowd" on these releases than that of a "studio album recorded live."  I tend to like that in mixes but I know it's not for everyone.  This one is fine for me.

Overall, I have to give this show 2 stars.  I want to give it 3 stars but I'm counting about 5 or 6 tunes which really stand out, and the rest is pretty much "eh."  I want to like this album more than I do, but it hasn't hit me yet.  That's not to say that it couldn't ever happen, but so far this one hasn't connected to me.

But, I'm still marking this as a purchase.  It's Leroi's last show and no fan of the band should be without it.  I suspect it'll likely be my lowest rated purchase in the series.


Recap:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 14: 2/5, purchase

Overall: 3.2/5, 9 purchase, 5 skip

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Unschooling Myths, Facts, and Reality

Let's be perfectly clear here, I'm not an unschooler, and I don't know many who are. However, I thought I would write from the perspective of a "schooling" mom as to what unschooling can be, is, and should be.

Unschooling, in the truest sense of the word, is letting your child's imagination drive the learning process. However, that can look very different from family to family and age to age.

Myths:

  • Unschooling requires less time and effort than an "in the box" curriculum. In the early years, this is probably true, because most early learning (Kindergarten and below) happens naturally in the car, at the breakfast table, and playing outside. Once you get a bit beyond that, if you're truly unschooling, you will spend a lot of time running to the library or pulling up websites or Youtube videos to answer your child's most recent queries and trying every trick in the book to ensure a well-rounded education without formalizing it too much.
  • Unschooling means your kids won't get all the basics. The basics of life are really pretty simple. A few minutes a day of basic math prep and reading quality literature and you'll cover most of the "basics". However, unschooling can mean that your child misses out on certain topics, or needs a refresher before moving on to tackle more difficult subjects. The trickiest part of this is knowing when and how to present this "basics" so that it applies to what you child is currently studying and without implementing "traditional" learning methods.
  • Unschooling means letting your child "figure out" how to learn to read or answer a math problem. I get it, some kids can figure it out on their own if given enough time. But if your child is struggling with a topic, you still need to be prepared to step in and give them some guidelines. Kids do learn most things naturally, but unless you live in a science lab/museum/library/foreign language speaking house there is likely to be something you need a little help to encourage them by showing or doing with them. Math and reading are two subjects where a little gentle help can encourage explosive growth that would take an eternity (in kid time) to figure out otherwise. Also, you can't expect them to decide to learn about history or science if you don't first peak their interest by exposing them to a particular topic.
  • Unschooling means no textbooks. OK, this one might be more true of unschooling than anything else. But be prepared. Your child will likely need encyclopedias (online or in print), living books on every topic imaginable, and a library close at hand for special requests. If you don't have those easily available, a more traditional "in the box" education might be a better fit. Math books that fit your style are also a must have (the books don't have to be traditional or have a lot of problems, as long as you can figure that part out on your own, but they do need to present an interesting variety of math ideas).
Facts:
  • Unschooling requires a tutor/parent/teacher who can find information and answer questions from any subject with little notice.
  • Unschooling requires a self-motivated child.
  • Unschooling may require a change in schedule, location, and lifestyle.
  • Unschooling requires the ability to withstand answering the question "Why?" 90% of the time from ages 2-10 and 50% of the time thereafter.
  • Unschooling requires patience, courage, creativity, and a strong sense of family.

Reality:
  • While I do quite a bit of unschooling myself (if my kids ask me a question I will answer or find the answer) it is way too difficult for me to implement as an entire curriculum. My oldest thrives on routine, and unschooling just doesn't provide us with the means to do that at the current age/stage.
  • Unschoolers can easily lose focus or miss out entirely on a subject if proper care isn't taken to sculpt the learning process. Think of a bonsai plant, it takes patience, and gentle direction to get it to grow into a beautiful creation rather than a hot mess.
  • Unschooling isn't automatically a bad or good way of learning - but it needs to be a conscious decision based on your personality and your child's.
How do you school?

Monday, April 04, 2016

Grumpy Mom Syndrome - and how to prevent it

My oldest has been joking a bit lately that mom is the "non-fun" one and dad is the "fun one". Some of this is his age (5.5 years old) some of it is an increase in behavior problems lately, but some of it is actually true, Now, I'm not going to lie and say that being a Mom is naturally stress free and all you have to do is let go a little and you'll magically feel better. But, as a fellow GMS sufferer (Grumpy Mom Syndrome) I did come up with a few ideas of what it is and how to help.

Causes:

  • Overconfidence. You know those times that you think to yourself, "Sure, I can take two young kids to the Lowe's and buy 10 bags of mulch even though only 3 of them fit in my car and my husband isn't here to help." No - just don't do it. Don't say yes to everything someone suggests. Even if you think you can handle it, if you are currently (or have recently been) suffering from GMS, don't do it.
  • Overscheduling. I currently have one main part-time job with total work hours that vary between 8-15 hours per week. I am a volunteer assistant coach for my son's soccer team (also responsible for closing up the church after soccer practice now). I homeschool my oldest son and try to keep the younger one out of mischief. I volunteer in the nursery. I have a small group every week that we have to bring food too. I signed up to bring food to an outreach program and mentor someone from that group (in the future). I have park dates and playdates, vacations and family visits. I have fundraisers and planning meetings and occasional delusions of becoming self-employed. All of this can easily lead to flare ups of GMS. None of that even touches on the "normal" mom duties of shopping, cooking, and cleaning (most of which I don't do much of - those 50s housewives made it look way too easy).
  • Overplanning. I have a lot of amazing field trip ideas. What I really want to do is line them up on my calendar so we can get to more of them and I can invite more moms and maybe have a field trip Facebook group and it will be so awesome! Wait - breathe - what I really want is someone else to do all that work of planning the field trips and I'll sign up for the ones that fit in my calendar!
  • Underplanning. Some days we take a break from school, or I have a few hours of work to do in the morning. Many of these days are not planned and I just try to get it all done anyway. Sometimes kids don't nap when they are supposed to. One kid loves screentime, the other gets bored after 5 minutes. If I don't have a back up plan for those times, my planned one hour of worktime is quickly broken up into 3-4 20 minutes work flashes smashed in between long bouts of yelling at the kids and downing mini-Snickers from the economy-size clearance bag. 
  • Unrealistic Expectations. This is probably the biggest cause of GMS. You may have dreamed of being a stay at home mom and always loved babysitting, Maybe you were even a nanny! Maybe you were one of those starry-eyed young-adults like me who thought life was easy because the only two bills you had were the credit card and a rent payment (utilities may have even been included). Maybe you thought having kids was nothing more than playdates and park visits, but you ended up with doctor's appointments and therapy sessions. Maybe you just look at the mom next door and think that she has it altogether (and maybe she does, if so, ask her for me and I'll share her secrets here). The point is, those days that I expect chaos and everything goes smoothly are much better than the days I expect my boys to be on their best behavior and they aren't. 
Symptoms:
  • Your kids call you "grumpy mom".
  • Your first stop at the grocery store is the Wine aisle (if available in your state).
  • You yell at your kids more than you play with them.
  • You find yourself seeking stress relief through chocolate, adult coloring, knitting, gardening, or one of a dozen other attempts at self-soothing.
  • You notice an increase in the number of headaches and muscle pain with no apparent cause.
  • You can't find time to exercise, read a book, or clean the house.
  • Your calendar looks like your kid got to it with a stray pen, but it's really just your actual activity for the week.
  • You miss bills, get easily upset over messes and spills, and don't have time for a sick day.
  • You hand your baby off to your husband when he gets home and walk out the door, or put a pillow over your head at night when the 3 year old is still awake at 11pm.
Treatment:
  • Just say no. Tell the PTA no, tell your husband no, tell your mother-in-law no. If your calendar is full - STOP WRITING ON IT. Don't say, oh yeah there's a double header soccer game that day, but I bet we can still go to X activity in between and write it on the calendar anyway. Speaking of which, I might need to buy some white-out for that one...
  • Ask for help. Hire a housecleaner, mother's helper, or send the kids to preschool (not for school, of course, but just to get them the heck out of your house for a bit). Ask your husband to grocery shop, cook, or play with the kids. 
  • Make a daily or morning routine. I know, I hate routines. I think they are silly and ridiculous. My current non-routine most mornings is to shower, get coffee, and get started on work before the kids get up. But then they get up in the middle of work, and I end up not having a chance t0 eat breakfast before starting homeschool, which is never a good idea. So, maybe I need to take the time to set up an actual morning routine rather than just letting entropy take over.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. If you aren't sure what that means, it means don't expect Pinterest or TV worthy activities or behavior from yourself or your kids. If you have preschoolers, don't expect them to amuse themselves for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Don't expect good behavior if you haven't explained what that is. Assign age-appropriate chores and expect them to be done in an age-appropriate manner. If you don't have good self-control or anger management, don't expect your kids to do better than you do.
  • Play with your kids. Plan a time, preferably in the beginning of your day, to do something fun with your kids. It can be building a sand castle with Kinetic sand, playing race cars, or birthday party. It can be singing silly songs and making silly faces. Tickle games or running games. It can be reading with them or coloring or building puzzles, but take the time to engage directly with them. Look in their eyes, remember that first time you saw their wrinkled scrunched up red faces and remember that they are still just kids.
  • Be consistent and fair in discipline. We've had our share of discipline issues over the past few weeks, and it gets really frustrating. Rather than taking your frustration out on the kids, sit them down and go over your rules and consequences again to make sure everyone (including you) is on the same page - then keep that momentum going as long as you can. If needed, consider weekly or monthly family meetings to review goals and progress.
  • Be a good example. One of my oldest son's young friends is pretty mean. She talks in a nasty tone of voice to pretty much everyone. What I've realized is that she is completely echoing her mom's tone of voice and attitude towards her (as my kids echo my attitude towards them as well). So, when talking to your own kids - be patient, be calm, be polite (please and thank you are great) and try your best not to let your GMS show around them. 
  • Take care of yourself. You've heard it said, before - eat right, exercise, take time for yourself. If you don't have time - make it! If you don't have time to exercise, I highly recommend vacuuming or mopping your floors, gardening while the kids play outside, or popping them in the stroller or bikes for a walk in the park. 
So, if you're truly frustrated with your kid's attitude, and can't figure out how to fix their behavior, consider your own attitude, and put some treatment in place if you may be suffering from GMS. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 13

My review of all of the DMB Live Trax series continues with what was, at least at the time, another recent release - this one coming out four months after the show had taken place.

DMB Live Trax Volume 13
06.07.2008

1) Two Step
2) Rhyme & Reason
3) Corn Bread
4) Crash into Me »
5) One Sweet World
6) #27
7) So Damn Lucky
8) Crush
9) Don't Drink The Water
10) Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
11) Pay For What You Get
12) Recently »
13) Water Into Wine »
14) Tripping Billies
15) Grey Street
16) You Might Die Trying
17) Ants Marching
18) Everyday
19) Louisiana Bayou
20) Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

A lot happened to DMB during 2008.  First, a little history.

Stand Up, the band's polarizing (that's the kindest way I can put it - read: disliked by almost everyone) album comes out in 2005.  The following year's summer tour is very heavy on those songs and is considered one of the weakest tours.  In 2006, the band starts strong in the first month of the tour but eventually settles back into the Stand Up bleh routine.  Rashawn is on board in 2006 and is seen by some (not by me) as cutting out a lot of Leroi's solos and the interplay between himself and Boyd on stage.  In 2007, it doesn't seem to be getting much better.  The band almost breaks up but decides to keep going (at least, according to rumor).

I'm not sure what all exactly happened during those times.  I thought 2007 was a little better than 2006 with the band trying to take some chances and mix it up a little bit.  But, for many, this period was a major turnoff.

Enter 2008.  Tim Reynolds, longtime friend, occasional guest, and definitely someone with whom the band recorded multiple albums with, returns on electric guitar for the entire summer tour.  Rumors persist that he's in the studio for the band's next record.  Meanwhile, just a few days before the start of the summer tour, Butch Taylor, who has played every show with the band since early in the summer tour of 2001, is announced as leaving the band and pursuing other interests.

I have no idea what happened or why.  I don't like to speculate either.  All that can be said for sure is that DMB 2.0 came to an end and DMB 3.0 emerged from its ashes.

And it was a welcomed emergence.

June 2008 was a fantastic month to be a fan.  The songs were fresh (thanks Tim), the band was re-energized, and there were more and more surprises coming out each and every show.

Then, it's heartbreak as Leroi has an accident on an ATV.  He's out for the rest of the tour.  Enter Jeff Coffin.  Jeff, music stand and all, joins in July 2008 and carries on through the rest of the tour (minus one date in Cincinnati) and, ultimately, carries on with the band as Leroi passes away in August.

It's a full year, with a lot of change - personally and musically.

This particular show was released after the tour was over.  It's Leroi's first show released after he'd passed away.  Live Trax 14 was a special album dedicated to him and his last show with the band, but this one was released probably because of the venue and the performance.  In fact, similar to Live Trax 6, this album was sort of released in stores as demand in the St. Louis area (it was performed at Busch Stadium) was high enough to warrant a local in-store release.

Enough history.  On to the music.

Two Step opens the show and is an immediate breath of fresh air.  It's not quite the same monster it would become in 2009 and 2010 (and on to present day), but it's great here.  Rhyme & Reason and Corn Bread are up next and are a major downer for me here.  Corn Bread especially as it was played on seemingly EVERY show in the tour.  It's not a good song.  Even still, it's good to have Tim with the band playing along.

The show kicks into gear with Crash and One Sweet World.  They're classics which feel different here, not stale as they had become for a little bit.  #27 is up next, relatively new song, and it's my go-to version of the song.  So Damn Lucky, sneaking into the set from Dave's solo album, is a shorter version as the long outro hadn't been developed and experimented with yet.  If you're not a fan of Dave's wailing at the end of this song, this is likely your favorite version.  (I like the wailing myself.)  Either way, this is not a bad version.

The monster of the first half of the set is Crush.  I don't think Crush has ever been better than in the month of June, 2008.  Tim and Leroi trading solos is a lot of fun.  I prefer the version released on Live Trax 2008 slightly more, but this is about as good as this song gets - I don't turn away either one.

Don't Drink The Water is next and is not quite settled yet in the new arrangement.  It feels off a little to me.  A Neil Young cover, Hey Hey, My My, follows and is definitely a song that wouldn't have been around for the band before the electric guitar came into the mix.  An old school trio of Pay For What You Get, Recently/Water Into Wine, and Tripping Billies follows the cover.  This was the first Water Into Wine in forever and is really need.  Recently is the truncated version as a result, but the Water Into Wine surprise is so nice thrown in here that it doesn't hurt it.

The set marches to its conclusion with Grey Street, You Might Die Trying (which REALLY grew into it's own on this tour), and a fantastic Ants Marching.

The real weak spot of the show for me is the encore.  Everyday is weak as an E1 (at least I'm consistent in my dislike for it there).  Louisiana Bayou sounds fuller here than it did 2005-2007, but it's not a great song to begin with and not much can save it.  Thank You was a show closer for the Dave & Friends tours and closed a lot of DMB shows this year (and still pops up in sets today).  It's obvious the band is having fun with it and it isn't awful, and if the encore before it was better I probably wouldn't dislike it as much (see Atlantic City).  But here, it's as if I got a piece of broccoli on my pillow instead of a chocolate or a mint.

The mix is VERY compressed.  It's clear, but it's one of the least dynamic releases of the series.  It's one of a few records I have of theirs where I can sometimes feel tired after listening to it, especially if I turn it up much.

Overall, the highs are very much above the lows in the show.  The band was just getting it's legs under itself in this new incarnation and the songs are fresh (albeit raw) early on.  Highlight of the show for me is without a doubt that Crush, but I find myself coming back to the Ants Marching, Recently/Water Into Wine, and #27 not infrequently.

I'm going to give this 4 stars.  The slow start and the slow ending take the show down a star.  Be forewarned though that if you're used to DMB 2013 and you go back to listen to this show, it may sound a bit...empty, maybe?  This show is best appreciated after listening to Live Trax 9.  You'll really be able to hear the big difference in the band.

Recap:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Overall: 3.3/5, 8 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why Can't We All Just Get Along? (Gender)

Among other fun topics at the "Women's Retreat" recently, a friend and I were discussing gender roles in different areas of society today. We discussed the interesting facts of secular versus "conservative" society and how neither one can really get it right. My husband asked me, half-jokingly, when transitioning from an almost all female workplace, where men were devalued and not allowed to move up when they were clearly the best candidate, to a mostly male workplace, where women are not in positions of leadership. He wondered, "Is there a place where men and women can work together side by side?"

It's an interesting question. The post-feministic society does at times tend to devalue men. At his previous place of employment, a white male would be considered last for the job, despite the fact that the office was 90% female. His boss, and boss's boss, and boss's boss's boss were all female. When he had clearly earned a position of leadership and one was about to become available, they suddenly decided the position wouldn't be created. He left shortly thereafter for a better position with more opportunity for advancement, and it turned out they did need that management position after all, and found a female to take that leadership role.

On the other hand, as a woman in a "conservative" or "religious" based organization, you are almost guaranteed to be denied a leadership position. Very few demoninations or churches are open to female pastors, elders, and staff. A female is more than welcome to an "administrative" role and that's pretty much it. Too bad my skills don't lie in the area of administration.

So why the assumption that "Christian" or "conservative" groups should put women at a lower level? First, this is completely anti-Jesus. If we are truly asking "what would Jesus do" he completely valued and lifted up women. From the Samaritan woman at the well, to the woman who had the audacity to pour perfume on his feet and the woman who gently asked if even the dogs ate the crumbs from under the table. He didn't hold them back or condemn them for speaking up. He also didn't put down men. Although they made mistakes and did the wrong thing, most of those surrounding him the closest were men.

So, how do we peacefully coexist? In a modern society, how do we reconcile strong male and female leadership in the church and outside the church?

  1. Don't make assumptions. It's easy, and often understandable, to assume that women are better suited for nursery or childcare work and that men wanting to be involved in those areas must have something wrong with them. On the other hand, men can be great leaders for children as long as certain safeguards are in place to ensure nothing improper takes place (for the men AND women in leadership or childcare roles).
  2. Don't exclude. When you are making a decision to hire, promote, include, or even ask for volunteers, don't exclude people based on only one factor. This is the very essence of discrimination, but it also means don't include only certain groups. If you consider 95% females for a certain position, you are automatically excluding males, whether you consciously make that decision or not.
  3. Ask everyone for advice. Many times the church will send out a survey about nursery issues to all the women in the church, or send out a notification about lawn care needs to all the men in the church. The same can go for young and older people too. Ask all the people what they need and want out of the church or workplace. It's important to see all sides of an issue, and many times the least likely person will come up with the most creative and useful idea.
  4. Promote based solely on qualifications. My husband left a job that he had been at for over 7 years. He loved all the people there. Yes, the primary reason we gave for leaving was to be closer to family, but a secondary reason was that he could see no opportunity there. He had received several "promotions" in name only (and without appropriate financial advancement) and was passed over time and again for other opportunities, not because of his qualifications but because he "wasn't friends" with the all female management staff. Of course, every establishment has it's own version of "office politics" but they all need to just stop. Put the best person in the best position for them, and don't worry about the politics.
  5. Don't talk bad about your spouse or another person's spouse. This was something I was fortunate enough to learn before getting married. If you join in the husband bashing and behind the back talk that goes on in many female groups, you will start to think negatively about your spouse. When you talk and think badly about your spouse, you will start to disrespect them. This goes both ways, but creates a very negative cycle of disrespect and can influence not just our relationship with our spouse but with all members of the opposite gender.
  6. Respect your spouse. Even if you don't talk badly about them, you may harbor a deep disrespect for the things your spouse does. It's easy to think that you are the one doing all of the work, but it's important to equally respect your spouse's work. Cooking the meals, caring for children, and cleaning the house can be done by male or female, but often the spouse who "typically" does those things will degrade the other spouse when things aren't done "correctly". I certainly have my own way of loading the dishwasher, but if my husband does the dishes, I thank him sincerely and then shut my mouth...
  7. Take someone else's perspective seriously. We've been reading the Burgess stories lately for my Kindergartener's homeschool. In one of the stories, Grandfather Frog was off to see the world, and wouldn't take anyone's advice on how to stay safe. Why? Because when you're used to being the "wise one" and the one other people come to for advice, it becomes so much harder to take the advice of other people. I find this to be very true in my life, as well as in the lives of others. It's important to take the time to listen to the advice other people give, especially when it's something that they know better than we do.
So what do you think? Can we all just get along?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Has Sprung - Or Has It?

Some of you may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't been posting in the last week or so. First, it was the Women's Retreat at Emerald Isle. We had a blast, the weather was beautiful, and I came back refreshed and with some amazing ideas for my blog. While I'm sure that eventually those ideas will come to fruition and wow you, I was confronted with a sad reality when I arrived home...

All that refreshing, relaxing and kid-free time, simply made me a bit more lazy around the house. Rather than spring cleaning fever, I feel like I've just gotten spring break fever. I've been taking the kids to the park multiple times a week, letting them play in the water table outside, and barely keeping up with the basic house chores. It doesn't help that my son started soccer right after we got back (and I'm assistant coach for the team) and my husband has been working late since then because of a big snafu in his work project.

So, let's be honest. It wasn't really much more than me being lazy, and busy, and just wanting to sit outside and absorb the sun.

Fortunately, we are in a great spot to do just that!

The great thing about our community is that it is just that: a community. At the park, I met up with two separate groups of friends at the same time (incidentally, not planned). At the voting place, I chatted with another woman about our neighborhoods and choice of pool membership. At the library, the librarian was upset that one of the girls at story time had taken things a bit too far and smacked her on the bottom (but she knew the girls by name). I thought it would be weird to live in a small-ish town, but now I'm very glad I do.

Now, for the sad news, spring will not last forever. First, we have another possible frost to prepare for (and I've already planted my garden). Second, after spring comes that dreaded beast of summer. I worry about this summer, as it's only March and we've already had an 87 degree day here!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 12

By TC

Today I'm talking Live Trax Volume 12.

DMB Live Trax Volume 12
05.05.1995

1) Warehouse
2) Recently
3) Dancing Nancies
4) The Song That Jane Likes
5) Proudest Monkey »
6) Satellite
7) What Would You Say
8) Tripping Billies
9) Drive In Drive Out
10) Typical Situation »
11) #36 »
12) Ants Marching
13) #40
14) All Along The Watchtower

I tend to float around when I pick my favorite era of the band.  Sometimes I really connect with the 2008-2011 era.  When Tim came back full time, I felt the band really picked up the energy and brought new life to a lot of old songs.  Sometimes I fall back to the 2000-2003 era, what I consider the height of their popularity and influence (if they had any at all), and that's when I first saw them too (in 2003).  And I tend to fall back into this period - the winter and spring of 1995.

I'm not sure what it is about this particular era that is so fantastic to me.  The songs sound really tight.  The setlists were pretty much all amazing (they still hadn't released two major label albums yet).  The arrangements were starting to get a little more complex as well.  There were still several songs in transition and in development, but this is a band which is really refining it's sound on the major stage and is honing its stage presence.  It's great to have some multi-track recordings (even if we don't have a ton) from this era.

This album, which at the time was the earliest Live Trax release, is also the shortest concert released as a Live Trax.  (Live Trax 33, without the previous night's bonus material, may be shorter - forgive me for not looking it up to confirm).  The release, at barely over an hour and a half, may be short but is still extremely engaging.

The first four songs are money.  Fantastic versions from a fantastic era.  Proudest Monkey is really more of an introduction at this point than a song, as it had been for a little whlie at this point (it was slowly building into the song it would become the following year).  After Satellite, What would You Say and Tripping Billies keep the set moving quickly.

If you've read the blog, you know I don't care for Drive In Drive Out.  Here, although the basic structure was already set, the lyrics aren't set.  It's a unique listen every now and again, but it's not mandatory.

Typical Situation is great (Leroi!), and the main set ends with the fairly standard #36 >> Ants which closed sets for a number of years.

The encore of this set contains likely the biggest draw of the album to fans, a full solo acoustic #40.  Although it's not THE #40 (that would be 5 days later), it is a clean recording of the song that never came to be.  It's a good listen, but it's not what sells me on the set.  The show closes with All Along The Watchtower.  This version is okay.  I prefer the 4.7.95 version from this tour, but since that's an all time Watchtower it's very hard to do an accurate comparison.

The sound on this one is fantastic.  It's a multi-track 1995 recording and I'm thrilled with it.

It's another 5 stars, and given that the series had a rough patch in volumes 9 and 10, it's good to get it back on track with 11 and 12.

It was around this time that Tim Reynolds came back into the band as a full-time touring member, so the next few Live Trax focus on 2008 - not only for Tim, but in rememberance of Leroi who had passed away.


Recap:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase

Overall: 3.3/5, 7 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How to Save a Life

As part of Upward soccer coach training, we had the opportunity to hear from an excellent speaker regarding child evangelism. He made some great comments about how the biggest things we can do are to not confuse children and try to keep things simple and concise and clear up any misconceptions. It was a fabulous opportunity.

We also had a unique opportunity in our small group to discuss some of these very same concepts with an adult, and I can tell you that it's not nearly as easy as it sounds with an adult compared to a child. Yes, the adult can understand more, but it is so much more difficult to get from that place of understanding to that open and genuine acceptance. That's why Jesus said we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I remembered or came up with an analogy after last night's discussion. God's grace and the gift of Jesus (fully God as well) and His death on the cross to pay the price for our sins is really this simple:

Through His death and resurrection, He has sent us a lifesaving ring from the edge of the ship. It has landed within arm's reach. Maybe we can't see the ring or the ship because of the wind and the waves. Maybe we can't reach out and grab it because we are so busy trying to keep our head above water. But it is there. The part that is difficult for people who are already saved to accept, is that we can't wrap someone's hands around it. They have to reach that point where they see it AND are willing to stop paddling in the water long enough to latch their arms around the float. Only then will God's Holy Spirit start to draw them closer to safety. They will no longer be drowning, but that's when they will start to grow closer to Him and undergo the transformative process that will take them through the rest of their life here on earth.

There is no magic bullet. There is no special prayer I can tell someone to pray. It has to take that specific decision and action of reaching out and grabbing onto that lifeline with every ounce of strength you have left. Then, you keep hold of that while you are pulled ever closer to eternal safety. Sometimes the hard part for us, is keeping hold of that line, rather than thinking we are close enough we can just start swimming toward the ship.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Few of the Reasons We Homeschool

A part of any good organization is a well-thought out mission statement. Since we aren't "officially" a homeschool yet (in our state, we don't have to register until the oldest child in the school turns 7), we haven't quite sat down to come up with an "official" name or mission statement. However, after a few of the latest blog posts, and helping some other families with advice for their journey to begin homeschool, I've decided it is important to sit down and list a few of the reasons we homeschool.

Having a goal, idea, or even just a homeschooling "personality" is very important. I would suggest narrowing down your reasons for (or against) and ideas about homeschooling before even looking at curriculum options. If you don't, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the choices, or spending a lot of money on a curriculum that doesn't end up fitting with your style.

Obviously, this is just a blog post, but if you want a book to read, I do recommend Cathy Duffy's 100, 101, or 102 "Top Picks for Homeschool" (our library has a few copies available) as the first few chapters are a great way to narrow down your (and your child's) style. She does get a little checklist happy, whereas I am more "go with the flow and when it's right you'll know" - I tried the checklists, and charts, and then gave up after awhile.

So, here is a little about our personal homeschool choices and why we homeschool.

  1. Age. Our oldest has an August birthday. Now, we could have "held him back" a year, so he would start Kindergarten at 6 years old, but then he would be the oldest in the class. My husband and I were both among the oldest in our classes, and it didn't hurt us in the long run, but I at least had some trouble with that when it came to certain things, like driving to school occasionally as a sophomore. I was joking with another mom that we sometimes take these things too seriously, because who knows whether our children would enjoy being the oldest in the class or whether they would enjoy being the youngest in the class. Overall, it's a pretty ridiculous thing to freak out over whether they should still be barely 18 or already 19 when starting college, but it is the first thing that started the discussion. Because, let's all be honest here, barely 5 is way to young to be sitting in a classroom for 6-8 hours a day.
  2. Intellectual ability and curiosity. While my oldest was too young in my opinion to start Kindergarten, he has an insane curiosity and was already reading. He taught himself phonics at age 3, which I ignored for as long as I could, but when he started showing signs for being ready for sight words as well, I did finally teach him to read at age 4. I highly do not recommend forcing kids or pressuring kids to learn to read (and I probably did too much pressuring regarding handwriting too early), however, when all the signs are being met for learning to read, I also feel it's wrong to NOT give your child the opportunity to learn to read (without pressure). So, now I have a very young Kindergartener, reading on a 2nd grade level (or higher).
  3. Personality (child's). My son did preschool for two mornings a week for 1.5 school years (all of 3-year old preschool and half of his 4-year old preschool). On his "pre-evaluation" at the 4-year old preschool, they noted that he already knew all the "academics" but needed to work on his fine-motor skills and he "did not participate in group activities". Well, unfortunately, pretty much all of Kindergarten is writing or drawing and/or group activities. Now, in a small group, or one-on-one, he participates fairly well. Library story time, or larger group activities (such as the baseball team which was 10-20 kids) and he pretty much shuts down. He also hates singing, art, and drama.
  4. Transportation. I tell people the worst thing about preschool was driving back and forth with a younger sibling in the car. Even though it was a short car ride, you are really making that trip 4 times a day (drive there, then back for morning drop, drive there, then back for afternoon pick up). If we had stayed in Louisville, I would have considered our elementary school since it was a neighborhood school (we were technically over the line into Oldham County) and it would have been a 10-15 minute bus ride (the bus came just to our neighborhood, picked up kids and then went back to the elementary school). Now we live in an area where even the neighborhood bus ride would be much longer, not to mention all the other school choices and magnet programs, with everything from "bus depot" drop off and pick up to parent provided transportation. I have enough shuttling kids around town for errands and playdates, I don't need (or want) to chauffeur them to and from school before I have to.
  5. Personality (mom's). I was homeschooled through elementary, so I tend to understand a lot of what homeschooling families typically "get". I also was a teacher in a failing public school, which terrifies me no little bit, because much of what I saw could be going on in "good" schools as well, and is being hidden by the natural abilities and personalities of the "good" families and kids at the school. I've seen that homeschooled kids can easily adapt to private or public school (for the most part). I've seen that their academic abilities and natural curiosity are protected rather than squashed. I am a naturally reserved person, but I can tell you that I never felt "shy" until I went to private school. I talked to strangers, sold Girl Scout Cookies door to door, and was generally friendly and open, but something about that school "system" made me nervous and unsure about myself rather than the confident, self-assured child I had been while homeschooled. I also, on the opposite side, felt a bit overwhelmed to begin homeschooling. My personality is to over-plan and never actually get around to doing what I've planned and was a bit worried I wouldn't "complete" what was needed (this came into my curriculum choice big time).
  6. Personality (dad's). My husband, on the other hand, was not gung-ho about homeschooling at first. He figured he "made it through" public school just fine and was even outgoing despite being an introvert. He was an August birthday as well, but advised that we could just "hold our son back" as he had been. He also asked a good question that I hadn't fully thought through at the time. He asked, "who is accountable if our child isn't learning what he needs to"? Now, the answer to that, is actually the same answer in a public or private school as well, the parents. This may surprise those of you with children in private or public school, but there is no real accountability for failing a particular child. Parents are responsible for whether their kids are learning, but if your kids are gone all day, how can you be sure what they are learning? I can tell you that there were kids falling through the cracks in droves at the school I taught at, and communication with the parents was nearly impossible. One child "passed" his computerized reading test (probably by looking at what the kid next to him was doing, he wasn't dumb by any means) and none of the teachers on the team figured out that he couldn't read until the end of the first semester. Who was held accountable for this horrific oversight? No one. The student and his parents were the only ones that could have fixed that situation any sooner (we all thought it was behavior issues until we discussed it further and I and the other teachers realized he was great on the math/history/science concepts as long as someone explained the topic or activity one on one with him). 
  7. Siblings & family. I think it's awesome that my kids play together and love each other. Sure they can be loud and rough and get on each other's nerves a bit, but overall they have a great relationship. I can't imagine trying to keep my 3 year old busy while big brother was off at school all day. I know how difficult it is even for my 5 year old when his little brother naps. I love that I can send them outside to play in the dirt box, or take them to a park, or play soccer and go for bike rides. This is "family time" that most people have to cram in on the weekends or summer, and it's time that we can't get back with our kids.
  8. A firm foundation. This is where I bring "religion" into it. There is honestly no religious reason to homeschool, despite the fact that many parents (Catholic and Protestant) choose to homeschool for "religious" reasons. This is more a side effect of homeschooling that I'm taking full advantage of. I don't leave things out of science or shelter my child from media. He found a science book the other day and brought it to me to explain "this is how the world started - it was all volcanoes" and I set aside what I was doing and explained/pointed out that this version had the word "probably" and was someone's idea who didn't believe in God. Then I explained the same concepts from a Christian perspective and asked him which made more sense, that we just appeared from dust or that life was breathed into that dust by an Almighty God. Believing in evolution takes more faith (in my opinion) than believing in the amazing design of an All-Powerful Creator, and if it makes sense to a 5 year old, it ought to make sense to an adult. I can trust that these concepts that he's working through at age 5 will set a firm foundation. As pointed out to me last night at a child evangelism seminar, I can't "save" my own son, I can't even "save" myself. However, I can make sure the gospel is presented clearly and simply to him, from a young age, and pray for God to work on his heart, while it is still tender.
All that being said, we chose to go with the Heart of Dakota curriculum. More on that in a future post.

What are your reasons for (or against) homeschooling?

Monday, March 07, 2016

My White Privilege

Most of us have heard the term by now, "white privilege". It means different things to different people, and is actually a bit different in many cases. So, what is "my" white privilege, and why does it matter?

First, white privilege doesn't mean you are a racist person. It actually means that you don't have to think about race. For example, whenever I read a book written in this country, I typically assume it is written about/by/for white people, until and unless I read otherwise. Unfortunately, movies are much the same way. To some extent, this is because we apply our own world view to what we read, but to a greater extent, it's because those are the pocketbooks most likely to spend money on those products, so that's who the "main characters" are based upon.

Some other examples? It means if I were to be pregnant in a bad situation, the majority of people would not ask, are you getting an abortion? It means if I were to be unemployed, I would have a much easier time finding employment. It means if I go to the park or library, I am much more likely to see people of my own race. A friend of mine who is white, but has adopted a black child, noted that when she goes to the park during the day, it is typically very easy to spot her child in the park, Occasionally she attends some black homeschool groups, and says she's always amused by the fact that she forgot to remember what her son was wearing that day, and finds it difficult to spot him from a great distance away (and no she wasn't saying all black people look the same, and apparently she did need new glasses).

Now, let's talk a bit about racism. Many people are offended by the term white privilege, because it's not something they did and they feel that they can't change that aspect of themselves. Well, that is true, I can't be any less white. So what can I do, once I've recognized my white privilege?

  1. Be understanding of the hatred coming from Black America. I have a few activist friends on Facebook, and the vitriol against White America is real. There is hatred that has built up, because things "should" be better by now. Instead the hatred on both sides is only beginning to increase due to media coverage and political machinations. Our generation is unique, in that our parents have seen some activism, but for the most part we have been sheltered from it. Understand that there are real reasons behind the hatred, and use that understanding to react with kindness and love.
  2. Stand up against racism and white privilege. If someone makes a comment that even could be considered racist, stand up and say something (kindly). For instance, a few friends at the playground asked if the downtown (small town) parks were "safe" for their very young kids. I asked some leading questions to confirm that they were talking about physical safety (that their toddlers wouldn't be able to run into the parking lot, street or woods) rather than the color of the skin of other people at the park. I find this difficult to do myself, because, while I'm always shocked and upset when someone makes a racist comment, I don't always say something right away. My personality is to intensely judge it as wrong, but then I wonder whether they just meant "poor" not black or I excuse their behavior because they are "from another generation" and no one taught them against hatred. There is no excuse, but answer in love. Ask leading questions, challenge their beliefs, and then address the true problem of underlying hurt and selfish desires.
  3. Don't answer hate with hate. This goes to conversations with white or black friends, acquaintances, and family, as well as those of another race. It's easy to jump on a stranger who has done something wrong to you. It's easy to make excuses for those who have been hurt by racism (whether they are white or black, racism hurts us all). It's much harder to answer a friend in love. When we've been hurt or seen someone we love hurt someone else, we can either brush it under the rug, or react strongly. Whatever your natural inclination, take a breath first. Find out their reason and address it gently. I'm sorry that someone in high school called you so white you were "near death" or ignored you in front of your boyfriend because he was black and you weren't, or forced you to walk around them in the hallway because this was "their space", but that doesn't give you a right to react with hate. Instead, by reacting with love, you will break down their walls and barriers and start making a journey to a more diverse world for all of us, where hatred on any side is unacceptable.
  4. Start the Journey towards friendship. New friends aren't easy to come by. However, the first step is to talk to someone. Most of us, especially those of us who are white, have very few friends of another color. Now, we can make excuses all we want, but that doesn't actually excuse us from reaching out. So what's the first step? Find someone already in your circle as an acquaintance, co-work, or friend of a friend, and find out more about them. Do you have similar interests? Invite them to join you. Are your kids about the same age as theirs? See if they want to join you at a park or playground. Do they have questions about a topic you understand well? Answer their questions. Do they have knowledge you could use in your field? Ask them to teach you. For instance, I've met two friends of another color at the library, one I am no longer involved with very much, because she lives in North Raleigh, the other is a newer friend, and I haven't seen her lately at the story time we typically go to. So, that means I'm done, right? Because I've tried a couple times and it hasn't worked out? Not at all, people are people no matter the color, so the next time I spot someone to talk to, I will talk to them. Not because of the color of their skin, but because they are people. This is not a 1-and-done, but rather a journey towards diversifying our communities one person at a time.
  5. Keep racism out of the next generation. If you are in an area where you are involved with kids, whether it's soccer practice, baseball team, school or an after-school program, you have a huge influence on the next generation. Don't treat behavior or "good" or "bad" as an example of black and white (race related or otherwise). My oldest was asking how I knew one of the characters in a TV show he was watching was going to be bad, and I told him it was the black outfit. His response, "Why?" Of course, that's his response to everything, but I honestly told him I wasn't sure why. I hope that I'm keeping racism out of our family with my children, but it does get harder as they get older and start to understand more of the subtext of what other friends and family (and the media) may be saying. For now, I will continue being amused that he tells people of another color, "Did you know you have more melanin? I want to be like that one day." We should all be a little more child-like in our responses (without being flippant or rude).
  6.  Take a walk in their shoes. If you feel like you really can't stand the other race, because they are taking "jobs" away (I realize this primarily applies to racism against Hispanics, but thought it was applicable given the insanity of the political climate today) you ought to take one of their jobs from them. Give it a shot! If you can't find someone willing to hire a white person standing outside the Home Depot, then go volunteer. Here are some good volunteer opportunities I'm sure you can find - planting or harvesting in a community garden (please be sure you are working at least 8-10 hours to make it more realistic), home repairs (check with Habitat for Humanity and volunteer for digging holes or roofing), or take a bus ride across town to volunteer in a soup kitchen. A lot of racism is simply mistaken beliefs and ideas. I can guarantee that if you work alongside someone of another race, or experience what they experience on a daily basis, you would have a lot more sympathy for their anger at your "white privilege".
  7. Keep our schools diverse. Now, this is not an argument for or against neighborhood schools. This is a personal argument. We all feel that we want our kids education to be a primary concern, but let's be honest about how many of us click through the website to check demographics or go on a "school visit" just to ensure that our child is going to end up at a school where they "fit in". Rather than looking at private schools or magnet schools or (gasp) homeschooling, we need to look at what education is best for our child regardless of race. Yes, I am currently homeschooling my children (for various reasons, which I may re-post about later), but I also believe that a culturally diverse public school is better than an academically "better" private school. Primarily because the main reason the private school is academically "better" is by weeding out those of a lower class or lower income.
Well, if you think that's too much work for you, and you don't want to change your attitudes and beliefs, then you can't complain about the state our country is in right now. If you don't make an effort to reach out, rather than looking down, then you can't complain about the label of "white privilege" when it is applied to you. If you can't make an effort to understand the hatred, then you can't get angry at the peaceful protests taking place in your city. Voting someone into or out of office isn't going to fix the race problem in our country. It will take a sweeping movement of people who care. Millions of us, working together to create more racially, culturally, and economically diverse communities.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 11

It's husband again.  It's hard to believe I've reviewed 10 of these already.  No time like the present to write about number 11.

DMB Live Trax Volume 11
08.29.2000

1) The Stone
2) Rhyme & Reason
3) Don't Drink The Water
4) #41 »
5) Grace Is Gone
6) JTR
7) What Would You Say
8) The Maker »
9) All Along The Watchtower
10) Crash Into Me
11) Minarets
12) Lie In Our Graves
13) Bartender
14) So Much to Say » Anyone Seen the Bridge » Too Much [fake]  »
15) Ants Marching
16) Digging a Ditch
17) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel


The series takes a hiatus from "current" shows (at the time) and swings back to a favorite time period for most fans, summer 2000.  This particular show is the show immediately after Live Trax Volume 3 (two nights earlier).  At first glance, the set is fairly similar.  However, there were a few surprises thrown in this show to make it special in its own right.  Butch Taylor also guests on this show as he did through most of the summer.

The show starts strong with The Stone which, despite a small flub in the lyrics, still shines.  For me personally, the combination of Rhyme & Reason and Don't Drink The Water fall short here.  Don't Drink The Water is much slower and moodier (as it was on the album) but without the additions of Tim Reynolds & Bela Fleck.  I like a little more intensity.  It's not bad, but it's not something I seek out when I think of Don't Drink The Water.

The next three songs pick the show up - a great #41, my favorite Grace Is Gone (love these 2000 versions!), and a great JTR.  What Would You Say is up next and has another lyric flub, this one very noticeable.  In the middle of the set are two covers, The Maker and All Along The Watchtower, both of which are great versions.

A fairly standard Crash serves as a prelude to a Minarets which had already been released at this point on the fan club disc Warehouse 5, Volume 3.  It's a unique version as it wasn't played that often already and Dave plays a 12-string guitar on it.  It's fantastic.

Lie In Our Graves and Bartender are next, and this is exactly to me how Butch Taylor fit best with the band.  His solo on Lie In Our Graves is perfectly placed and Bartender doesn't drag.  The set ends with a So Much >> Ants Marching combination which, although not spectacular, is very solid.

The encore includes Digging a Ditch, which at this show was an unreleased song, and Rapunzel which was really finding it's way into just about everywhere in the set.  Rapunzel might just be the most versitle song in the catalog from that standpoint.  It can be the opener, it can play mid set, it can close a set, and it can close an encore.  There aren't many songs which can do that effectively.

The sound on this one is...well, most reviews I've read of this consider it pretty flat and lifeless.  It's definitely not as "pounding" as the mix on Live Trax 3, but I like it.  The Minarets on Warehouse 5, Volume 3 is an entirely different mix so it is a good comparison to see how this one turned out.  To me, this mix captures the mood of the show just fine.

This is summer 2000 - just about all of these shows were fantastic.

This one is a solid 4 stars.  It's a definite purchase despite the mistakes.  It's a great representation of the band during this time and there are a few standouts (Grace is Gone, Minarets, Lie In Our Graves) that are versions to seek out if you're looking for a single song or two to listen.

For those interested, I've also decided to keep the recap going.  The math geek in me liked the numbers and I'm sticking with them.  I'm also going to round to one decimal place on the overall numbers.


Recap:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase

Overall: 3.1/5, 6 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Birthday Celebrations

My husband said he missed being younger and carefree in his 20s. Maybe it's because I don't remember a lot of my 20s, but I can't think of much to miss (except the baby stage of my kids, since they are now officially both in the "preschool" age range).

I feel like I wouldn't want to go back there, because I've learned and grown so much since then (although I obviously still have a long way to grow). So, while celebrating the birthday catapulting our youngest from babyhood to preschool, I reminisced a bit about what we were really celebrating.


  1. We're celebrating another year of growth in his life. I feel like 3 months ago, he was still wearing 18 months, and now he's outgrowing some of his 2T clothes. I can't wait to see how much he's grown at his official check-up tomorrow. He's enjoying puzzles and mazes, knows his colors and many numbers and letters/letter sounds. He is stubborn, sweet, cuddly, and defiant all at the same time. He's learning something new everyday.
  2. We're celebrating another year of health in his life. When he was born, he was unexpectedly large. He made it out okay, but since he was "overdue" there was a lot of meconium, much of which made it into his lungs. He was intubated quickly, but because of his size, they had to try several times (eventually using the largest tube they had available). While in the NICU being treated for meconium, they noticed he was staring to "stiffen" his muscles, and immediately began monitoring and treating him for seizures due to hypoxia. No one knows exactly what caused his hypoxia (maybe some combination of his large size, meconium, or my own stress of having the stomach bug while in labor). What they do know, is that the new-at-the-time treatment of a cooling blanket completely resolve the suppression on his EEG. Despite a few normal childhood sicknesses, he's been remarkably healthy since his birth, and we're grateful for that every day.
  3. We're celebrating another year of friends in his life. He's not the most outgoing kid, but he has tons of people in his life who love him. We had a "small" birthday celebration last night, that somehow turned into 25 or 30 kids and adults talking, laughing, and running crazily through our house. I hope a good time was had by all! It truly takes a village to raise a family! I remember when our oldest was celebrating his 1st birthday, and we had a hard time getting RSVPs, and then people just didn't show up and we were left wondering where our friends were and what they were doing. We certainly haven't had that problem in Garner! The few people who couldn't make it, made sure to let us know. It's great to know that we truly have a village supporting us as we raise our kids.
  4. We're celebrating another year of family in his life. When we lived in Louisville, the closest grandparent for our kids was over 7 hours away. Now, we are planning an additional birthday celebration, just so ALL the grandparents and uncles can spend time with them in person. Our kids can visit with my in-laws several times a week now that they are only a few miles away. My parents can come up several times in the summer and a few times throughout the year, now that they are only 3.5 hours away. There are uncles within an hour's drive and great-aunts, great-uncles, and second, third, and probably fourth cousins all over Johnston County. I'm grateful for all the family we still have, and grateful that we now live so much closer.
  5. We're celebrating another year of memory making. We're making memories everyday. Memories for us, memories for our kids, memories for our friends and family. Maybe there will be some bad memories along with the good. I'm just glad that I'll be able to remember some of them. 7 or 8 years ago, I was suffering what I thought was depression, but when I realized my memory was affected, I finally scheduled a doctor appointment. 7 vials of blood later, my doctor called in amazement that I wasn't suffering permanent nerve damage because my B-12 levels were so low. I'm incredibly grateful for the ability to make memories and learn new things.

There have been hard times with our youngest child. From his late arrival into the world, to the stomach bug that kickstarted my labor, to the week-long NICU stay and watching those little fingers and toes turn blue while God and the doctors miraculously worked to improve his health.

There are still hard times to come, dealing with his sleep issues, potty-training a chronically constipated kid, the typical "terrific" three behaviors. Hopefully, he will have a full and satisfied life to come, with many more years of growth, health, friends, family, and memories.

The thing about birthdays is, we are celebrating the good along with the bad, and enjoying the now without worrying about the future. Happy birthday!