Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts About Children and Censorship

Grand Theft Auto IV has been released. I've been watching the reviews with some interest over the last few weeks. Throughout the fray seems to be a lot of concern about keeping this game away from children.

Our son is 12. He enjoys video games, books, and action figures. There's a little girl at his school that he likes. Recently he excitedly told me that they held hands for a few minutes during recess, and he carries her books for her once in awhile. Sometimes he can be mouthy, and doesn't like to clean his room or brush his teeth when he should.

He is extremely kind-hearted towards our pets and all other animals that he meets. He's concerned when his Dad or I are not feeling well. He always asks if he can help with what we are doing. He takes the garbage out and feeds our pets faithfully without being reminded. He apologizes when he's spoken unkindly to us. He calls to let us know if he's going to be late coming home from school so we don't worry. He is concerned about kids he sees at his school who have developmental delays or are treated poorly by other students.

Don't misunderstand me - he's not a complete angel. But when I compare him to many of the children I've worked with, he is extraordinary. And I am grateful.

So. How are we raising a child who is showing such promise towards being a good and kind man in the future? Based on much of the popular research and opinion that I read - he should be heading quickly down the path of juvenile deliquency.

My husband and I have always been of one mind when it comes to censorship. We dislike it. We attempt to keep it out of our home and lives as much as we can. In our home we don't censor music, movies, books, magazines, subjects, language, appearance, or thoughts - and we never have. We've never sheltered our son from life or from society. This is not to say that we haven't run into some issues. Right now our son is pro-life. His Dad and I are pro-choice. I can't say that we're not hopeful that his opinion might change one day, but we are also very pleased that he can argue his position with some reasonably sound ideas. I also remember him at 8 years old innocently telling a conservative Christian friend of ours about the civil union ceremony he'd attended with us the past weekend.

One of my proudest parenting moments to date was when I received a phone call from his elementary school principal earlier this year. She was concerned because our son had won a prize for good behavior at school. The prize? One of those dreadful censored CD's where most of the original lyrics are either replaced or bleeped out. Her concern? Our son had refused to accept the prize, explaining to his teacher that it was a censored CD and he doesn't listen to censored music. She wanted to make sure that we knew what happened so that we could talk to him about appropriate and inappropriate music. I thanked her profusely and explained how proud I was to know that he was listening to us and taking what we were teaching him at home so seriously. She was chagrined, to say the least. When our son got home from school that day, I took him out for dinner and shopping, and I bought him the same CD, minus the bleeps and altered lyrics.

Our son thoroughly enjoys the Grand Theft Auto video game series. He's been playing the game since the first one. Once #4 goes on sale, we will be getting that one as well.

I wonder again - how has our child developed such a good character amidst all these seemingly terrible and destructive influences? Could it be that he hears us talk openly about our faith? Could it be that he's watched us being kind to each other and loving our pets? Could it be that he's heard us arguing -sometimes loudly- and then apologizing later for being mean, and coming to a compromise that made us both happy? Could it be that he's seen his parents doing random acts of kindness for strangers? Could it be that he's heard us discussing our differing opinions on various things, and disagreeing completely, yet respecting each other's thoughts? Could it be that he feels comfortable discussing his own thoughts with us and knowing we will respect them, whether we agree with them or not? Could it be that he can respectfully speak his mind in our home without reprisal? Could it be that we've never hidden the "seedier" sides of life, so that he never has to hear about them from his friends at school or search them out on his own, alone, without us knowing and being able to discuss them openly with him or explain what he doesn't understand?

I don't know why we've been blessed with a child of good character. I'd like to think that his Dad and I did our best to raise him with a conscience and an empathetic nature, and it worked the way it's supposed to work. I'd like to think that someday he will be grateful that he had parents who taught him that it is unacceptable for someone else to decide what he should see. hear, read, or think.

I refuse to believe that he is an anomaly. I also cannot believe that we would have ended up with a better child had we been far more restrictive with him.

Were we just lucky then? I doubt it. I think the parental example a child sees is of far more impact than any video game they will ever play.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hannah Montana Is Certainly Trying To Grow Up!

I've not ever seen an episode of Hannah Montana. I'm certainly aware of who the character is though. You can hardly walk into any store these days without seeing merchandise with that name on it.

I am a great admirer of Annie Leibovitz. She's taken some truly amazing photographs in her time. This particular photography of Miley Cyrus is certainly no exception. It's a beautiful photograph.

I just wish the subject was a few years older. I honestly can't believe I'm actually saying this. Knowing she's 15 just gives a whole different spin on the photo to me. It makes me shiver.

That being said - it almost seems to me like the publicity over these Vanity Fair photos is being carefully calculated by Ms. Cyrus' people/posse/management/whoever. This gal wasn't alone in the studio being taken advantage of by some low-life pornographer. I highly doubt that she gets much time alone at all. Her managers saw all the photos long before they were released, and obviously didn't have an issue with them.

So what changed? The photos? Did they suddenly become worse overnight? No. But somebody obviously recognized an opportunity to create even more publicity for this young lady.

Was it worth it?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mixed Bag Monday Once Again!

Here's some things that caught my eye around the Internet today.

  • This 7 year old took his grandmother's car for a joyride. You should pay attention to the interview with the child, and hope your own children don't have the same attitude.

  • You may want to check out the next DVD you buy first before showing it to your child.

  • Bruce Springsteen wrote a beautiful eulogy for his bandmate, Danny Federici.

  • When I read horrific stories like this, it's hard to remember that the Muslim religion is actually based on peace and tolerance.

  • God has his own website..... (Warning: I don't consider it child-friendly)

Have a blessed day!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Child Of The 80's......

I was thinking today about how much difference a few years can really make. My husband was born in 1965 (graduated HS in 1983), and I was born in 1971 (graduated HS in 1989). It's only six years between us, but sometimes the generation gap is really evident!

I love to tease him about the photo he once showed me (much to his regret) - it's of him in what is actually a powder-blue 70's tux, but it looks exactly like a powder-blue leisure suit complete with huge collar. And he was a gorgeous child and even more gorgeous teenager (and happily still a gorgeous man in middle age), but the old photos of him in the polyester, white belts, and PLAID, egads!

He laffs and laffs and laffs at photos of my poofy hair, raccoon eyeliner, and acid washed jeans, although - when I remind him that he used to DATE those same girls (and believe me, he dated a lot and dated well), he hushes a bit.

He can happily listen to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd all the live long day, while I'm much happier singing along with Duran Duran's greatest hits. We can find common ground on The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but forget St. Elmo's Fire or Sixteen Candles. Although he does like Pretty In Pink, and I do not.

I'm just old enough that I will always have an immense appreciation for how truly astounding the Internet really is, and how wonderful cellular phones are. My son has never known an Internet or cell phone free world and will never understand my delight, and that's sad in a way.

Anyway - how many of these things do you recognize?

Feathered Hair - Pumps with Jeans - Rave, Stiff Stuff - Stick-up bangs Multicolored - Shoulder Pads - Crimped Hair - Side Ponytails - Stirrup Pants - Ultra-Teased - Platinum Blonde - Glitter - Friendship Pins - Swatches - Hoop Earrings - Slouch Socks - High Tops - Rubber Bracelets - Jellies - Off Shoulder Shirts - Thick Belts over shirts - Neon - Sweaters Around Your Waist - Neon - Legwarmers - Ripped Hose - Granny Boots - Blue Eyeshadow - Heavy Mascara - Cover Girl Eyeliner in Black - Aqua Net - Light Pink Lipstick - Trapper Keepers

Ah the nostalgia.....

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Bleeding The Beast" - Otherwise Known As "Welfare Fraud"

"Bleeding the Beast". Have you ever heard that term before? Before I started doing some serious research into the FLDS cult/community, I hadn't come across it either. I had, however, heard of the concept. I just hadn't known what the FLDS members called it.

Within the FLDS cult/community, a man is legally married to only one woman. His other wives, however many they may be, are considered "spiritual wives", thus married in the eyes of their God, but not in the eyes of the state and federal government. So you effectively have hundreds of "single" women, with large numbers of children who apply for, and receive, untold thousands of dollars of tax money for food stamps, medicaid, welfare payments, child-care payments, WIC, housing assistance, etc...etc...

Now, granted, since the Welfare Reform Act was passed, the lifetime limitation for welfare benefits for any one person is supposed to be 5 years maximum. I don't know if there are loopholes which can be used to get benefits past that time limit or not. But even if 5 years is set in stone.....hundreds or thousands of women getting as much public welfare as possible for the maximum amount of time = how many millions..... Who knows exactly? The general public never will. Government regulations generally keep this kind of information a secret.

Welfare fraud is certainly prevalent in many other corners of society as well. I recognize this fact well, as I have seen it first hand over the years both on a professional and personal level. It certainly is not limited to the FLDS cult/community. I am just not used to seeing it mandated by an alleged "prophet" or "prophets" and suggested as the "Lord's way of using the system to take care of his chosen people."

The more research that I do, and believe me, I read, listen, and watch closely. I look at everything - both pro-FLDS and con-FLDS. I watch the body language of FLDS members, young and old. Everyone "keeping sweet". How can it not be seen for what it really is - a very, very powerful and formidable cult.

The more research that I do....the more disturbing it all becomes to me.....

The problems that are plaguing the FLDS cult/community....the trouble they keep getting themselves into....Warren Jeffs....Tom Green....the removal of the children from the ranch in Texas.....

This has nothing to do with freedom of religion or religious persecution. In this country there are certain values....certain ideals...and I just don't see many of those values or ideals practiced within the FLDS cult/communities. In fact, I very much see to the contrary. Even the most recent flood of media interviews of the FLDS members themselves - all women - so many women. Where are the men? Are the women supposed to be a more sympathetic visual aid?

Click on the title of this post and start researching these things for yourself.

Be blessed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The FLDS Cult Keeps Getting Creepier.

There is an extremely rare genetic disorder called Fumarase Deficiency. Until about 18 years ago, there were only 13 known cases world-wide, but it is steadily becoming prevalent within the FLDS communities - due to the inbreeding that is common there.

According to the most recent article I could locate about it:

The birth defect — an enzyme deficiency — causes severe mental retardation, epilepsy and disfigurement of features. "The retardation is in the severe range — an IQ around 25," Dr. Tarby says. Afflicted children are missing portions of their brain, often cannot sit or stand, and suffer grand mal seizures and encephalitis. Language skills are nonexistent or minimal.

Please click here if you would like to learn more about this genetic disease and the ever growing number of cases within the FLDS community.

We are not just talking about the very real (and documented) physical and sexual abuse of children and women in the FLDS cult/community here people. We are also talking about people reproducing and damming their children to a probable 1 in 4 chance of suffering a tragic and terrible disease.

I also came across something even more disturbing during my research. I'll be discussing that on my blog tomorrow.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mixed Bag Monday.....Sort Of.....

Today's mixed bag Monday is a little different. In checking out the latest news and views, there just wasn't a whole lot that I felt like posting links to: whole bunch of people killed in Chicago over the weekend....the 416 children from the FLDS ranch are staying in state custody for now, thank God.....mostly stuff like that - just too boring.

Sooooo.....I thought I'd post up links to some of my very favorite television programs. Ones that I watch (or at least TIVO) regularly, and thoroughly enjoy.

  • The Abundant Life. This is a long running show on the EWTN network, hosted by Johnnette Benkovic. Half the time I watch it, I shout at the screen, and want to throw things at it, especially when the "experts" they use refer to "research" that is painfully non-objective, and not done in an ethical manner. Still, many of the shows do have some merit, and can be very interesting.

  • Doctor Who. I'm a Doctor Who fiend. I loved the program as a kid, and love it even more as a adult. The US schedule is about a season behind the UK. It's really a lot of fun to watch.

  • Let's Make A Deal. It's retro. It's kitchy. The prizes include some really ugly cars, 8-track players, "modern" color televisions, and a $299 "message machine" that lets you retrieve messages from anywhere in the world! The fashions and hair-dos are really disturbing, but it's just so much fun to watch. My DH and I are addicted.

  • Barefoot Contessa. I love the Food Network, and Ina Garten's show is my favorite. Her recipes are easy, and surprisingly recreatable - even for a non-gourmet cook.

  • Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. Another Food Network show. I admit that I watch this show for the hilarious factor of it, though, rather than the cooking "expertise". Although I'm sure that Sandra is a nice lady - the meals that she throws together are say the least. Add in the chronic alcohol use, and those tablescapes.... The shows are a laugh a minute. Whoot!

  • The Soup. It's a weekly show on the E! channel that recaps pop-culture and reality shows for the past 7 days. It's a lot of fun to watch.

  • And finally....the Law and Order franchise. I've been a fan since the beginning.

Mind you, these are only my favorite shows. My husband's would include Lost, The Riches, and anything on the NFL network!

Have a blessed day!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Maybe I Was Wrong About Pope Benedict XVI....

I loved Pope John Paul II. Absolutely adored everything about that man. I grieved bitterly when he died in 2005. And I honestly didn't care much for Cardinal Ratzinger when he was elected the new Pope. He wasn't JP II - which is completely unfair to hold against him, I know! But I just didn't see anything about him that reminded me of the much beloved Pope who had just passed away. He just seemed like a grumpy old guy.

But I may have been wrong. In fact, I know now that I was quite wrong.

I've been watching his visit to the US with great interest. Along with so many other Catholics, I was wondering if he would discuss the terrible sexual abuse scandal that so rocked us here in America, and gave our beautiful faith such a black eye. Honestly, I had thought that he might mention it briefly in passing - how could he not? But it would be a quick, brief mention, and then a move on to other issues at hand.

I was so happy to see him talk about it at length - to admit to the shame and suffering of the victims, and the shame that it brought on the Church. And I was thrilled that he met with some of the victims. One of the ladies who was able to meet with him especially touched me. Her name was Faith and she talked about how, when her turn came to be in front of the Pope, that all she could do was cry.....

I remember that my Mom and I went to visit Ground Zero a month after Sept 11, and we visited some of the local firehouses. At that time, many of the firehouses were still kept open for the hundreds of visitors who came every day to pay homage, and say thank you. One firehouse in particular that we went to had lost, I believe, 6 firefighters. We signed their little guestbook, and I was able to hug one of the firefighters who was there that night, and I could only cry. My reaction surprised me very much - I am not typically someone who becomes overwrought with emotion, but that entire day had been incredibly emotional for me, and it all seemed to come to a head that night. And thankfully the firefighter seemed to understand what I wanted to say and could not.

I was reminded of that emotional night of mine when reading Faith's story of how she could not speak to the Pope, but only cry. And I got the impression that he understood. Sometimes tears can speak to another person's heart in a million more ways than a word ever could.

There are many who would say too little too late, and that may be so, but even a small something is better than nothing at all. Considering that this is the first visit by a Holy Father here since the abuse scandal became public in 2002, I'm impressed so far by how he has handled this sensitive issue, and thrilled that he did not just sweep it under the carpet.

I doubt Pope Benedict will ever be as beloved as Pope John Paul was, but it's nice to see him finally showing the world how kind he really can be. I hope it continues.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mixed Bag Monday!

Just realized it's Monday again! Here are a few things that caught my eye around the web today.

  • A VERY interesting website/blog with a unique way of looking at a whole lot of stuff: (WARNING: please note that it is not kid-friendly, nor does it minimize words, thoughts, or language. If you are an easily offended person, this site isn't for you.)

  • Child rape may become punishable by death. How slippery of a slope could this become?

  • It's tax season! Time to discriminate against our GLBT citizens again.

  • A push-up bra for little girls? Note that this is the same company that tried to sell a "pole-dancing" kit for kids back in 2006.

  • Yet another school decides to show the country how tyrannical, ridiculous, and shamefully unpatriotic it can be. What? Your Dad's serving our country in Iraq? Sorry, kid, we just don't give a damn....that is until the media gets involved.....

  • A Mom has won the right to send their son to a Catholic high school, against the wishes of his Dad, who is an Atheist.......(please note the three links which all lead to different parts of the story along a time frame...)

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just When I Thought I'd Seen It All.......

I've seen a lot in my career, and I consider myself a fairly savvy individual, but I came across this small article this morning, and I just had to post it for the sake of posterity, if nothing else. Over the years, I've counseled a lot of youngsters and adults both about things they should discuss prior to the birth of a child. I can honestly say that, in all those years, gang affiliation has never been one of those things recommended for discussion......

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- A couple fighting about which gang their 4-year-old toddler should join caused a public disturbance that resulted in the father's arrest, Commerce City police said Thursday.

On Saturday, Joseph Manzanares stormed into the Hollywood Video store where his girlfriend worked, threatened to kill her and knocked over several video displays and even a computer,
Commerce City police Sgt. Joe Sandoval said.

After he ran out of the store, police were called and the 19-year-old was arrested at his home. His girlfriend told police that they had been arguing about the upbringing of their son and which gang he should belong to. The teen mother, who is black, is a member of the Crips. Manzanares is Hispanic and belongs to the Westside Ballers gang, the woman said.

"They have different ideas on how the baby should be raised. Basically, she said they cannot agree on which gang the baby would 'claim,'" Sandoval said.

Manzanares was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, and domestic violence. He was transported to the Adams County Detention Facility. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to a year of probation. The misdemeanor harassment charge was dropped.

I am speechless.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More Reason to Not Eat Genetically Modified Foods

Have you ever heard of “Morgellon’s Disease”? If you haven't, I encourage you to click on the link and learn something about it.

For quite a long time, I've made a concerted effort to keep genetically modified foods off of my family's dinner table and out of our mouths. It's not easy, believe me, and I admit that we do eat some processed foods, but I try my best to keep our food as natural as possible. It just never seemed like a sensible thing to me to eat a lot of food that has been so damaged as to be barely recognizable anymore.

Morgellon's Disease (or syndrome) is pretty scary stuff - if it's real. As with a lot of medical research, there are a lot of people with a lot of opinions on both sides of the coin. There are doctors who absolutely believe it exists, and is somehow linked to genetically modified food. There are doctors who believe it is nonsense. I'm not a doctor, and I can see good points on both sides. I also remember the days when Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia were both thought to be faked, or mind created, illnesses. And I've read about the days when Doctors told their female patients that Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and other monthly issues were "all in their heads".

Do your homework. And, for goodness' sake, think carefully about the food you and your family eat, and the chemicals you and your family use on your skin and hair, spray in the air and on the fabrics around your home, use to clean your kitchens and bathrooms, and use to wash laundry.

To paraphrase (very badly) a famous quote from Joshua: As for me and my house, we will not eat genetically modified food.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mixed Bag Monday

Some things that have caught my eye around the web today...........

  • A man decided to stand on top of his mini-van.......

  • Once again, a group of ultra-conservative christians decides to show the country how sadly narrow-minded they can be..........

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Situation At The Polygamist Ranch Continues.....

This is the latest as of 9 minutes ago: The number of people removed from a West Texas ranch that is home to followers of imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs grew to 183, including 137 children, authorities said Saturday. Please click the title above for the entire article.

I spoke with a social worker friend of mine this morning who lives in that area, and she says that the situation is quite dire, as there are not enough foster homes close by to house all the children who have been taken into state custody, and more who may still be put in state custody, and they are going to have to start moving them to homes outside of the area.

I have faith that God will provide what is needed for these children and families caught up in this whirlwind.

52 Children Removed from a Polygamist Ranch in Texas

Apparently sometime late Thursday night/early Friday morning, child welfare authorities and police armed with search warrants converged on a 1,900 acre ranch outside Eldorado, TX, which is home to as many as 400 followers of Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving 10 years on two counts of being an accomplice to rape, charges related to a marriage he performed in 2001. He faces trial in Arizona on eight charges of sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy.

They removed approximately 52 children, ranging in ages from 6 months to 17 years old, and currently 18 of those children have been placed under the temporary custody of the state. A few articles I've found have stated that a number of the female children are pregnant.

The compound was built by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The congregation, known as FLDS and led by the reclusive Jeffs since his father's death in 2002, is one of several groups that split from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based in Salt Lake City decades after it renounced polygamy in 1890.

I've studied Polygamy and the FLDS cult on my own for a number of years. The lifestyle is both fascinating from a cultural standpoint, and appalling to me as an individual, at the same time. I do not even begin to propose that I have any understanding of how it can be either an appealing, or a workable, lifestyle. However. If an adult sincerely feels it is a lifestyle that is correct for them, ok. I can certainly appreciate an adult's decision.

I do, though, have a problem with what seems to be rampant misogyny, sexual and physical abuse of both women and children, inappropriate financial dealings, and general secretiveness of the FLDS cult. I also recognize that this cult is a non-official Mormon offshoot, and that the majority of good Mormons are as appalled as I am by these people.

Too many times in the past, authorities have turned a blind eye to the activities going on in some of these compounds, to the detriment of thousands of children who never had a choice.

I have to applaud the Texas authorities for stepping in. I hope the increasing media spotlight - between the Warren Jeffs controversy, and more events like this raid - will help to shed some much needed light on a very disturbing, and extremely hidden, situation in our country.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Most DELICIOUS Macaroni and Cheese!

I wish I'd taken a photo, but I forgot before we all started digging into it, so I'll just have to describe it as best I can.

It reminds me of the mac and cheese my Grandmother used to make when I was a little girl, and I just could never recreate the recipe no matter how hard I've tried over the years. This comes as close as I've ever had.

My recipe is actually an adaptation of a Paula Deen recipe, so I give her all the credit for the original. I made hers exactly to recipe before, and we just didn't like it so much - it was a little bland, and a few other things were just not to our liking. So I took the recipe, made a few adjustments, and created a dish that is so delicious. They aren't drastic changes, but seemed to make a world of difference.

Here is my/her adjusted recipe for Macaroni and Cheese:

  • 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used mild cheddar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter - cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup and a splash of milk (trust me!)
Cook and drain the macaroni and place in a large bowl. Immediately add the cheese and mix together. In another bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly, then add the other ingredients and mix together. It is very important that you do NOT combine the egg mixture with the macaroni/cheese mixture until the mac/cheese mixture has cooled to just warm, otherwise you may curdle/scramble your egg mixture, and it will ruin the dish. Once it is cooled, mix everything together and pour into a casserole dish (I use a 9x13 size). Top with some additional cheese, if you like. Then the very last thing to do is sprinkle some seasoned salt over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. My oven runs a little hot, so mine is always done right at 35 minutes. Delicious!!

I think I might try slicing some tomatoes next time and adding them to the top - a la Ina Garten.

This recipe is just so good and so old-fashioned!

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