Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If You Must...

There is a bar/lounge across the street from us that I have never actually walked by. Which is too bad, really, because apparently I have been missing out on some serious fun. As David and I passed by on Saturday we noticed a sign placed prominently in the window (next to the blaring rainbow flag): "If you must do illegal drugs, please don't do them here."

"If you must"? What kind of anti-drug message is that? How about a similar anti-murder message? "If you must kill someone, please don't leave the body on my porch." Or burglary? "If you must rob someone, please don't choose me!" I'm so confused. But I'm glad to know that this bar at least sort of, kind of encourages their clientele to take their heroin needles elsewhere.

It's certainly not a poster that would win any drug-prevention contests (like my creative cat poster in the third grade that won me a ride in a police car with its clever catchphrase: "Stay Purrrfect. Say no to drugs." Original, eh?). It's not even eye-catching. But the volume of those three little words of encouragement is so loud you can hear it pulsing in the streets.

I guess in this age of moral relativism it would be offensive to tell someone not to do something, so instead we say, "If you must..." and hand out packages of free condoms to classrooms of teenagers and clean needles to drug addicts. As long as they take care of their unholy business somewhere else, who cares if they do those things, right? Just make sure it's not in my backyard.

Next week there will probably be a map posted next to the "If you must" sign directing patrons to a quiet little alleyway where they can shoot up in peace.

Why does tolerance have to extend to greenlighting the dangerous behavior of others? Can't we just say no anymore? Be smart, don't start?

Heck, I'll even vote for "Stay purrrrfect. Say no to drugs."

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Cases

Who knew that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could actually issue a decent ruling? Usually those California judges act as if they've spent too much time bleaching their brains in the sun and not enough time studying law, but for once it appears some sense has prevailed.

The case at issue involves a man who unexpectedly died of an allergic reaction in 1995. His widow ordered sperm to be extracted from her husband after his death so she could have his child (she gave birth to a little girl in 1999 using the frozen sperm). But here's where it gets tricky - she applied for her husband's Child Survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration to help care for the girl, but was denied. She sued for rights to the benefits, and the case eventually ended up in front of the 9th Circuit. The judges ruled that the child is not eligible for the father's survivor benefits because she was not dependent on him at the time of his death. Heck, she wasn't even a twinkle in her father's eye at the time of his death.

So, this ruling actually makes sense to me. But what doesn't make sense is why someone would want to take sperm from their dead husband to conceive a child. It is one thing for a child to lose a father after she is born, but it is quite another to deliberately bring a child into the world without a father to help raise her.

Of course, that case is not as icky as this one, where a Texas woman was granted the right to harvest (um, steal?) sperm from her dead son so she she could use it to father a grandchild at some point in time. She argued that her son had wanted children so she was just fulfilling his wishes. Um, lady, I'm pretty sure that there is not a man out there who wants his mother to get a court order allowing invasion of his cold, dead testicles so she can make herself a grandmother. Ewww. That is so creepy and wrong.

I understand there must be sadness in knowing you will never have children with your husband or that your son will never give you grandchildren, but is it really ethical to take sperm from a dead person, especially without their explicit prior consent? And even if you had their consent, is it ethical to deliberately bring fatherless babies into the world?

Ugh. Who knew men would have to start putting "Don't steal my sperm!" in their wills to prevent this sort of thing?

People these days.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Wrong Solution

Is a lifetime of wedded bliss still possible? That depends. If you ask me, I would respond with a resounding "Yes!" (I just celebrated eight years of happy marriage this week, in fact). But, if you ask Atlantic Monthly's Sandra Tsing Loh, she says that marriage is obsolete and kind of ridiculous, and she wonders what kind of personal idiocy induces one to marry in the first place.

While she did manage to walk down the aisle herself once without suffering any strangulating effects from the oppressiveness of the institution she was entering, after twenty years of marital un-bliss Ms. Loh is divorcing her husband, to her self-stated "horror". Of course, she says she is horrified by the undoing of her wedding vows, but then she reveals that she doesn't even enjoy men, particularly, and that "given [her] staggering working mother’s to-do list, [she] cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling [her] romance."

Yes, I can imagine it's much nicer to focus on all the boring, menial tasks that make up life and work, spend each day slaving over a desk and each night enjoying a healthy TV dinner and the warming glow of your laptop than it is to spend five minutes here and there reconnecting with your husband.

Honestly, if these other boring tasks are preferable to the work of nurturing her marriage (which is often a lot of fun in spite of the fact that it might be considered "work"), I feel sorry for her. What a lonely, pathetic life she's carved out for herself! If she is so overwhelmed that she can't find a few minutes for her husband at the end of the day, why doesn't she try dropping some of her other projects instead of ridding herself of her partner? (or cheating on him, as she admits to doing, because that makes perfect sense - it's certainly easier to make time for secret trysts with another man when you're on a tight schedule than it is to romance the one who is already sleeping in your bed at home).

But, as anti-marriage as she may be, the author has a solution for modern marriages which doesn't require the work she is so keen to avoid - yay! She posits that research has shown that children don't really need parents who love each other - they just need domestic stability (What the...?); therefore, why not try out a post-modern marriage arrangement: have a husband to take care of the clogged pipes and shelf-building, and a boyfriend on the side for sex. Or, even better, she suggests an arrangement where the women and children live with their female relatives and the husbands only appear once or twice a week to cook or provide a little bedroom entertainment.

If either of those ideas seem a little too Byzantine for your taste, you can just stick with her final advice: "Avoid marriage — or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love."

Um, wow. It is really sad that marriage has been degraded to the point that it is thought to be nothing but a vehicle for self-fulfillment. And then, when the self-fulfillment grinds to a halt or your spouse demands too much time, unhappy wives and husbands present their get-out-of-jail-free card (you know, that "it's all about me and my happiness" card) and escape the marriage in pursuit of a more enjoyable, less responsible life.

Well, I have some news for Ms. Loh: She won't find happiness out there, no matter how many career goals she meets or how many exotic vacations she takes, no matter how many dinners she has with girlfriends or the number of nights she spends romancing hot, young guys. When you willingly throw away your family because you are afraid of a little work and tired of the responsibility, there is absolutely nothing that will save your happiness from being squashed by your own selfish actions.

Doing away with marriage isn't the answer. Doing away with selfishness is.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Super Fast

Michael's not-so-mild obsession with Little Einsteins has caused him to develop a love for all things "super fast!" So, one night when David suggested speeding up one of Michael's bedtime song favorites, he was in heaven. He has asked for the "super fast" version every night since.

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes from Bonnie on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

Why does it have to be butter that makes everything taste better? Why can't it be something healthy like wheat germ?

Of the 21,449 cases of Swine Flu that have been reported in America, only 87 have resulted in deaths. That's a fatality rate of less than one percent. Not to marginalize lives lost, but why are we panicking over this disease? According to cnn.com, the regular flu results in 36,000 deaths every year in the US. 13,000 people have died from January to April of this year alone. So I'm still not sure why everyone is so freaked out about Swine Flu (and at the same time probably not getting immunized against the regular flu).

If you smacked someone in the face with a frying pan, how long would they stay unconscious? It seems in the movies that the knocked-out time period is only as long as the plot requires (cue murderous loon jumping on our hero from behind...) but if someone in real life had such a bonding experience with a calphalon pan, would they be out for minutes or hours?

Half of the train-wreck union that is Jon & Kate Plus 8 appeared on magazine covers this week swatting one of her disobedient children on the behind. I'm so glad I don't have to find my picture splashed across the front page every time Michael's bum needs a little slap. Then again, I'm not stupid enough to make my family the subject of a reality show, so I guess you could say the Gosselins have brought this sort of thing on themselves.

I realize I can divide my life into two time periods - the days when I thought The Olive Garden made good Italian food, and the era of enlightenment when I discovered the Italian world beyond Provo and realized that Olive Garden's chef probably ran to Costco and purchased a bag of the green salad mix and a few dozen brown-n-serve breadsticks and tried to pass them off as authentic made-from-scratch Italian fare.

I can't think of a single thing about smoking that is appealing, but having a cold this weekend has made me wonder how any smoker makes it through the hacking and coughing phase of a cold without resolving to quit.

Does anyone who has ever stood in line at the DMV really think government-run healthcare is a good idea?

The sound of splashing in the bathroom always means trouble, especially when no faucets have been running.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Daddy

This afternoon Michael and David were involved in a tickle fight. Michael has been nursing a pretty severe cold, so to say that David's shirt was completely slimed when they were done would not be an understatement. But the best part is that David did not notice the snot bedazzling his top half and nearly walked out the door with the huge streaks of green stuff smeared across his chest.

Ah, the joy of being a daddy. Almost as good as when your two-year-old gets too wiggly during diaper changes and sends a soiled nappy flying dangerously close to your face.

But, whether the moments are good, bad, or completely ridiculous, it has been so much fun to watch David interact with his little boy. I've never seen anyone settle into the role of father so quickly and easily.

For awhile, I couldn't even get him to take his eyes off his newborn son. The picture below is the first one I have of David where he is not staring into Michael's eyes, taken seven days after Michael was born (which means that it took him a full week to respond to my requests to look at the camera).

Fast forward two years and pretty much nothing has changed, except that our little newborn is suddenly huge and using grown-up phrases like, "Excuse me" and "May I have some more, please?"

And, still, I never get tired of watching my husband look into his not-so-little boy's eyes.

Happy Father's Day, David. I love you!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh, Brother! (Oops, I Mean Sister...)

I always worry a little bit when a mom-to-be gets her heart too set on her baby being a specific gender. Do I understand wanting a girl or wanting a boy? Sure. But it simply isn't healthy to be devastated if your little bundle of joy ends up needing pink blankets instead of blue.

Which doesn't mean I don't want to find out the sex of a baby before he or she is born. As it is a surprise no matter when you find out, I think it's nice to know what you are having in advance (it's a gorilla!) so you can be prepared with with a name and the right clothing. But, as ultrasounds have been known to be wrong, if I was expecting an ultrasound-certified girl and had a little boy instead (which very thing happened to my sister) I would be far from upset. I would be thrilled just to have had a healthy baby.

But apparently, some New York City mothers disagree with me. Specifically, six of them. These ladies are suing the maker of an at-home gender prediction kit, said to be accurate at predicting a baby's gender at as early as eight weeks of gestation. Though I have heard of these sorts of tests being in development, I have to think that if there really were an accurate test available (not just in the trial phase) it would be recommended or used by doctor's offices, or that it would have some other sort of legitimate backing.

But that didn't stop these six moms from sending in for the test and believing the results. Until they gave birth and their children turned out to be the opposite of what they were expecting, that is. They were devastated. So devastated, in fact, that they are suing the maker of the tests for negligence and fraud (and causing them emotional distress and trauma over expecting Danielle and ending up with Daniel instead).

I'm sorry, but anyone who is dumb enough to send away for a $275 test her doctor has never heard of deserves what she gets. Do these women not have the patience to wait for the ultrasound (which is not 100% accurate at predicting gender, either, by the way)? Or the birth? Would they have aborted their children if they had known they were really having a boy? Or a girl?

I understand the convenience of knowing what you are having in advance, but is this really worth suing over? How are the kids going to feel when they find out their mothers sued somebody because they turned out to be the wrong sex?

For heaven's sake, this is so petty. Even ultrasounds can be wrong. There is no guarantee of a specific outcome when you have a baby, even with testing and screening and the thousand other pokings and proddings that are part of pregnancy. These women should just be grateful to have had healthy babies.

And next time they shouldn't be so dumb as to fork over $275 for a test that has scam written all over it. Next thing you know they'll be suing companies who sell instant weight loss pills or enhance-your-cup-size liqui-gels.

But, if they do sue for those things, at least that might get all those annoying commercials off my television. In which case, sue away!

The Misguided Wrath of PETA

President Obama is in hot water with PETA for his cruel treatment of an animal. Boy, what did he do? Pinch a fluffy kitten? Eat a burger at Five Guys (of which he and his wife are apparently big fans, each having treated their staff members to a meal at the popular restaurant in recent weeks)? You'd think if PETA was going to complain about something it would be the leader of the free world snarfing down a dripping, juicy burger. You know, meat from a cow. Which would probably still be grazing in a peaceful green meadow at this moment if it weren't for the Carnivore in Chief who devoured him.

But no, PETA is upset because the President swatted a fly (caught the little bugger with a smack of his hand, too. Impressive!) during an interview at the White House on Tuesday.

PETA spokesman, Bruce Friedrich, is sending the President a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher so that the next time Obama crosses paths with a fly, he can release the little pest into the wild. "We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic of animals," Friedrich said. Which makes me wonder, does this man spray his house for cockroaches or ignore mouse poop in the cupboards in an effort to be sweet and loving to the disease-ridden vermin?

He goes on to say that PETA is pleased with Obama's voting record in the Senate with regard to animal rights, but that "swatting a fly on TV indicates he's not perfect." Oh, how tragic to miss perfection by such a small margin! (I'm sure it's keeping Obama up at night).

The president's press secretary says the White House has no comment on the matter. ("Dear PETA, you are a batch of nutcases...") I'm glad the White House has the sense to ignore such ridiculous hand wringing. Killing a pesty insect is a non-issue, unlike other things like, you know, war, or Supreme Court nominees, or the economy.

Has it ever occurred to PETA that throwing a fit over the squashing of a fly undermines the good and reasonable parts of their agenda (however few and far between they are)?

And then it makes me wonder - what is Mr. Friedrich's position on abortion? You know, inhumane treatment and killing of actual humans?

But what am I saying? That's just silly. Never mind the babies, let's save the flies.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Move Over Yosemite

A week ago I was contemplating how many wipes I would need to remove four days worth of dust and grime from a two-year-old camper running through the wild blue yonder of Yosemite. I set out a Costco-sized box. Then, the night before we were scheduled to leave, we got a phone call that David's Grandmother was doing poorly and was expected to die any day, which meant the last minute cancellation of his family reunion. I admit, while I was very disappointed not to see David's family (and a bit of Mother Nature at her very best), I was relieved not to have to spend four days covered in sweat and dirt. Though I actually do want to see Yosemite someday. You know, in a movie or an Ansel Adams photograph or something. Okay, okay, I'll settle for a view from a cabin window as I'm enjoying my bubble bath and flush toilet.

But since we were scheduled to fly out to San Francisco the next morning regardless of Grandma's heavenly promotion plans, and had no clear idea of funeral arrangements, we stuck with our original itinerary and headed out to stay with my sister for a few days, take in the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, sourdough bread and all things San Francisco.

Before we knew it, we found ourselves at Tuesday night with Grandma still going strong (relatively, anyway), no camping equipment, and no desire to fork over $250 for a one night stay within hiking distance of Yosemite.

So we did the only sensible thing. We drove to Anaheim and went to Disneyland.

Thanks to Priceline we landed a killer deal on a hotel within a ten minute shuttle ride to the theme park (which was still free for the under-three contingent of our group - hooray!). We checked in with plans to have dinner and spend the evening entertaining our little fish in the huge swimming pool. But somehow we ended up taking a slight detour when David was roped by his inner frugality into signing us up for a time share presentation. "We can get $100 Disney Bucks to spend, Bonnie!" he said, as if that would convince me to engage in an activity so torturous it would make Guantanamo detainees shake in their boots. It would only be ninety minutes, and they had a play room for Michael, etc., etc., David told me. Pretty much the only thing that convinced me to head to the presentation was the fact that we would lose a $20 deposit if we didn't show up.

Muttering curses under my breath and trying to stifle bad memories of a time-share presentation gone horribly wrong (which ended in us having spent nearly two hours of our lives in a horrific state of boredom and leaving with no gift), we set foot into the vortex of hot air and snake oil. The presentation lasted three hours and fifteen minutes and only ended because they ran out of higher-ups and higher-higher-ups to try to convince us we were ridiculous for not wanting to spend $28,000 "investing" in a lifetime of vacations.

But, we survived, if only marginally, and very nearly not matrimonially. We headed out with $100 Disney Bucks stuffed in our tight little fists, eager to spend our hard-earned dough erasing the bad memories of the overly touchy sales manager who greasily tried to worm his way under our financially practical skin.

Luckily for David, all was forgiven the next day as we found ourselves in a position to buy Michael a $7 Mickey Mouse balloon and enough cotton candy and churros to work ourselves into a sugary oblivion. Michael delighted in nearly every ride, responding in growly satisfaction to our questions of "Are you having fun, Michael?" with "YEEEESSS, MOMMY!!!".

He was even tall enough to take a ride on the Matterhorn. Reaction? "Scary gorilla, Mommy!". Well, yes, I'm sure the Abominable Snowman is a rather forbidding sight to a two-year-old. He loved most of the rides, and liked "It's a Small World" so much that I could even block out the fifteen minute loop of the irritating song just to take him again. (It must be some sort of childbirth induced brain asphyxia).

We wrapped up our vacation with a lazy Saturday, and then a six hour Sunday drive to San Francisco and a five hour red-eye flight to JFK. Having suffered a week of fun-induced sleep deprivation, Michael was a screaming mess on the plane and alternated a few snatches of sleep with wailing, kicking tantrums. I have decided I'm no longer opposed to drugging small children on planes. I'm also not opposed to telling off the overly vigilant seatbelt-Nazi flight attendants who made the rounds with flashlights each time the "fasten seatbelt" sign was illuminated, poking snoozing passengers and urging them to buckle up.

But, we made it home, at last. Grandma is still hanging on as of this writing, so who knows when she will decide to check out. While we feel a bit like the undead ourselves, after a seven hour nap (yes, you read that right) holding tightly to his newly beloved Mickey Mouse, and the delight of being home, Michael seems to be his cheery self again. Of course, he is currently watching "Toy Story" at 11:30 at night, but I'm not complaining. At least there is no wailing going on.

If only every week could be this much fun.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Deserving of Sainthood?

The news has been full of commentary on the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortionist sometimes referred to as "Tiller the Baby Killer". He was one of only a few doctors in the country who perform late-term abortions (considered being 22 weeks or later), according to reports having performed somewhere between 250 and 300 of them in 2008 alone.

According to my research, this man was responsible for an estimated 60,000 abortions over his lifetime. Sixty-thousand. To put that in perspective, the number of babies whose lives this man terminated would fill Lavell Edwards Stadium to capacity.

And yet, everyone from liberal bloggers to religious leaders are hailing this man as being deserving of sainthood: the Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts stated, "This is about the loss of a man who was a saint and a martyr. He was a prayerful man who put his life at risk to protect others and died for it."

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia adds that Dr. Tiller "joins the list of martyrs for ethical decency and human rights, killed for healing with compassion" and that he is a "religious martyr in the fullest classical sense..."

I initially found it very incongruous that Dr. Tiller was gunned down in a church because it seemed like the last place I would have thought a man of his character and profession would be spending his Sunday afternoon. But when statements like these are coming from other religious leaders, I can see just how easy it may have been for Dr. Tiller to find a comfortable spot on a non-judgmental pew.

As so many people - both religious and non - have been hailing the mission of this man as being heroic, and as there are so many nuts on both sides of the issue who like to give partial bits of information to further their own agenda, I went to the Kansas Department of Health and & Environment report on abortions performed in the year 2008 to see what the real skinny was:

10,642 total (reported) abortions were performed in Kansas in 2008. Of these, 323 were performed at 22 weeks or later (one can only assume by Tiller himself, or someone at his clinic). Of these late-term abortions, it was stated that 192 of them were in fact viable babies who could have survived outside the womb. As the far-left often likes to state that these types of abortions are never performed except to save the life of the mother, I found it interesting that not one of these viable babies was aborted for that purpose. Instead the reason was stated as being that "The patient would suffer substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if she were forced to continue the pregnancy."

Somehow no one ever wants to mention the substantial and irreversible emotional harm that results from aborting a human life. And as abortion numbers increase due to the shaky economy - Planned Parenthood reports number of abortions climbed in the last half of 2008, and phone calls to the National Network of Abortion Funds (which helps women pay for abortions) have nearly quadrupled from this time last year - it seems that we are failing women more and more. When a woman in an inconvenient or distressing situation feels that her only option is to abort her baby, we have landed ourselves back in the dark ages. Adoption waiting lists for newborns are still years long. Especially in the cases of late-term and third-trimester abortions, it is a tragedy when men like Dr. Tiller feel they are "helping" these women. Just think - if a single compassionate person could convince even one of these women to hold on for two or three more months, allowing her baby to be placed in a loving home, now that would be heroic. That would truly be helping someone in a distressing situation.

So I just don't see how it is that people are honoring this man, who spent his life harming women and killing babies. Personally, I can't think of any action that is less heroic and less deserving of emulation.

Dr. Tiller may have been a lot of things, but saint is certainly not one of them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Want is the Mother of Necessity

Have you ever noticed how you can justify something you "want" into being something you "need"? David and I spent the first six years of our marriage tolerating dial-up internet for the sheer frugality of it, holding out through hundreds of tedious downloads and annoying 20-megabyte photos from people who didn't know how to re-size them for email. When we finally joined the 21st century soon after we moved into our townhome it was like the internet floodgates had burst open, and suddenly I was hearing strains of the Hallelujah Chorus as I checked my email (because I could download it in 5 seconds, of course). Now that we've had a taste of high-speed, there is no going back. I need my fast internet. I mean it. You can pry my wireless router out of my cold, dead hands.

But, if it came down to a choice between feeding my family or checking my email, feeding my family would win (if only by a slight margin, and only because I adore food). Also banished in exchange for survival would be the cell phones, the cable TV and many other little conveniences I love, but could live without.

I've never met a person who hasn't justified some sort of want as a need, but there are different levels of justification. Some people might simply "need" a candy bar (blood sugar issues, you know). But I have heard others label everything from cable TV to a garage to gym memberships as "needs" even as there is no food on the table and no way to pay the electricity bill.

So, in a way, it doesn't surprise me that some people in Texas had trouble differentiating between needs and frivolities, even in desperate times: After Hurricane Ike, hospitals in storm-hit areas were seeing a pattern of children needing treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. You see, the storm surged, the power went off, and suddenly parents were tearing their hair out trying to entertain their normally zombified little ones. So, they ran generators indoors to power video game consoles and poisoned their children in the process.

University of Texas associate professor of medicine, Catherine Fife, stated: “Our bias has been that people use generators because they need to keep cool or run equipment to maintain necessary household functions, like food storage. Yet, we were seeing people in the first 36 hours of the storm and the thing that they were struggling with is keeping the children entertained.”

Now, I will be the first to admit that I have plopped Michael in front of a television screen to allow myself a few unhassled moments at the computer or a couple extra minutes of sleep. And I usually allow Michael to play a few games on Wii Fit before I turn it off for the day (but I won't talk about how he has the reigning high score on a few activities... too embarrassing). Sometimes I also let him hold a controller and we will play "Monkey" (Super Mario Brothers) together. But while these little technological babysitters are rather convenient at times, I'm pretty sure I could do without them, whether now or in times of disaster.

It's too bad that more people can't say the same. Because, in addition to needing a lesson on the definition of necessity, these Nintendo-playing doofuses need a dose of common sense. Using a generator to power video games instead of using it for cooking, light, or maintaining refrigeration? You know, surviving? Hello? Get these people a board game and some candles if they are that bored. Or books. Or the instructions to hide-and-seek. And then smack them over the head with a spare two-by-four. If they are running out of things for their kids to do, perhaps they could try helping with the storm clean-up, which would get their little darlings off their behinds and out serving the community, a family bonding experience if there ever was one.

When our perception of reality is so skewed that video games become the greatest necessity in times of disaster, carbon monoxide poisoning is the least of our problems.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bubble Your Pleasure, Bubble Your Fun

Recipe for curing the Sunday afternoon blahs:

1 gorgeous, sunny day
1 little boy
1 bubble maker (bought from a street vendor for $5)
1 kiss for daddy after the bubbles are all gone