Archives for May 2008

Religious freedom and children’s rights

The seizure of 460 children from the LDS fundamentalist compound in Texas(New York Times: Deal to Return Children to Sect Breaks Down) was done because officials feared children were being abused, in part by the sect’s custom of marrying very young girls off to older men. From what I have read, this indeed was the practice in that community, and if true, is a sad and appalling misuse of adult’s power over children. No woman, young or old, should have to marry against her will. And in the vast majority of cases, I believe that a 12 or 14 year old is simply not mature enough to be married.

But that does not mean that every child, girl or boy, infant or teen, in that community was at risk. And it certainly does not give the government the right to remove every child from every family before specific investigation on each family has even been done. Can you imagine a scenario in which all the children were removed from Catholic families in a community if it was discovered that several predatory priests were putting children in the parish at risk? Or a decision to put all homeschooled children in the nation in public school because a few homeschooled children were illiterate? No way. That would be so vastly unfair to families that it is ridiculous to even consider.

It seems obvious to anyone with good sense that when questions arise about the safety of children, families deserve to be considered on an individual basis. This common sense practice was seemingly forgotten when the 460 FLDS children were seized from their families. If decisions like this become commonplace, all of our freedoms could be at risk.

I want all children to have the right to grow up safe and unharmed, and I am not sure if enough is right in the FLDS community to allow that to happen. But I do not believe that the government has enough evidence to prove that every child in that community is at risk. I have watched the updates on this story with an increasing ache in my heart for all the little children who are now in the care of strangers in foster homes in the overtaxed Texas foster care system.

Anyone who’s done any reading on attachment theory has read of the crucial importance of a primary caregiver in a child’s life. Separating little ones from their mothers has been proven to cause long-term damage to little children’s psyches. Adoptive parents all over the world are working to heal the wounds caused in their adopted children’s hearts by the loss of their first parents. Attachment is crucial to happiness and a sense of well-being as an adult. Even a two week hospitalization can leave a child with permanent scars to his psyche. (see Becoming Attached by Robert Karen)

I believe that these FLDS children have been harmed and have had their rights violated by being forcibly separated from their mothers. Harm is compounded with every day these children spend in foster care, away from their mothers. Paperwork piles up and lawyers get rich and hearings drag on, and still these children wait.

It could be that some of these children would be better off in other families in the long run. I certainly don’t agree with the beliefs of the FLDS. I’ve read enough about the community to know that not all is right in the FLDS community. Some of the mothers may be too brainwashed to make good choices about their children’s well-being. Certainly men who prey on children in that community should be arrested and locked up forever. And I hope that all women will be given the option to leave that community with their children and should be assisted to begin life elsewhere.

But I firmly believe that those families, whatever their beliefs, deserve the right to be treated as individuals, instead of a herd of cattle. As investigation drags on and lawyers spout rhetoric, and decisions are debated, for God’s sake, put these children back with their mothers.

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Update on the swimsuit thang

I found my other half! Half a swimsuit, that is. Just got back from Wal-Mart where I found a navy blue ‘tennis skirt’ complete with bike shorts underneath for $10.97. The length is good for me and it looks very cute and patriotic with my red and white swim top. Woohoo!

The skirts that weren’t even a gleam in my eye this morning.

This morning I got up with no intent to sew. But then my 10 and 12 year old daughters came out of their room in skirts, which inspired insatiable skirt-envy in my 3 and 5 year olds. That’s when I remembered some extra fabric and elastic in a bin in the laundry room. Was quite pleased that the making of these sweet little skirts was complete from start to finish in ONE hour!

What I’d give for a really good swimsuit

Thinking of all the time I’ll be spending at the pool this summer, the other evening I spent a longlonglong time at looking at swimsuits. I must have had a dozen windows open at any given time, plus one of my older daughters at my elbow much of the time for advice. This is a monumental decision: I expect a lot from a swimsuit. I want something stylish, slimming, supportive, slimming, durable, slimming, and finally that most elusive quality: just enough but not too much coverage. Just because I’m not bikini material doesn’t mean I want to look like a granny for pity sakes.

I finally settled on this swim top. It came in the mail today. I couldn’t rip the package open fast enough, and all I can say is I love it! It has a perfect non-revealing neckline, a decent length, enough support for my not-tiny figure, and cute flattering fabric. I also love the non-frumpy thin straps. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to take it off once I put it on.

It was plenty pricey for a usually frugal sort like me, so much that I opted not to buy the $48 Lands End bottom. Instead I’m going to look around for a cute pair of athletic shorts which hopefully won’t cost more than $20 and that I’ll be able to pick in a length that I like. But I am just thrilled to have such a nice solution for at least half of the suit!

Creeping crud

eww….I’m feeling not so good tonight. I think that sleeping with my coughing hubby and coughing 3 year old for the past few nights may be catching up with me. That and my horrid habit of staying up way to late. I’m off to bed. More later. Oh, but just a quick question: are any of y’all planning to go to the BlogHer conference July 18th and 19th?

From dinner

We made kimbap (Korean sushi minus the raw fish) for dinner and it looked so pretty I just had to share pictures.

Since I didn’t have any beef, I used ham strips, which I ended up not liking. The ham flavor just seemed wrong to me. I ended up making a few rolls with just the carrot, chard, radish and egg. With a sliver of ginger on top–yum! But everyone except me loved the ham ones — I had to set some aside quickly so that some would be left for my husband.

First swim

This deck is going to be awesome. See that corner way back under the tree? That’s where I’ll be spending my summer.

Testing the water — just right!

Waiting for dad to get enough deck nailed down. Kids paced around the pool all morning in their swimsuits and towels.

Bliss! (That is, if your idea of bliss is 69 degree water on an 80 degree day.)

Don’t you love the hat? Not sure why he decided to swim in it, but in my experience it is a rare boy’s hat that wouldn’t be improved by an application of chlorine and water.

This is the life!

Ah….now it’s summertime!

Memorial: Childhood church

I can’t think about that church without thinking about my father.

It was built 35 years ago when I was in kindergarten. We lived next door, and every day during the build my dad and I would walk around the building site inspecting the progress. First footings, deep in the earth. Then the forms for the concrete, rodded down the centers with rebar. I was there the day they poured the forms for the basement walls. When they pulled the forms away, the walls, not yet back-filled, looked spindly and unable to support the weight of a whole church.

The main level walls were made of brick. My dad and I watched the bricklayers in fascination. Daddy expounded on the characteristics of gothic arches as the skilled hands of the workers created them before my eyes. The windows set into those brick arches were my father’s pride and joy: gorgeous eighty-year old stained glass beauties salvaged from a church being torn down in inner-city St. Louis.

So much of my childhood was spent within those walls. Not only on Sunday where my father stood in the pulpit and my mother sat at the organ, but all my school days through 8th grade as well. The basement of the church was a 3 room schoolhouse. There were twenty or so kids in the whole school, 3 or 4 of whom were my siblings. The teacher? My dad. I suppose it is not surprising I’m a homeschooling parent now –I was practically homeschooled as a child. Except every morning I walked next door with my tin lunch box and spent the day with my dad.

We learned reading and writing and lots and lots of math. We drilled the rivers in Europe (the Danube, the Tiber, the Poe?) and the cities that St. Paul visited on his missionary trips (Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth). We learned parts of speech and German vocabulary. On Wednesdays after lunch we all put our heads down on our desks in the darkened classroom and listened to classical music for 20 minutes, sometimes in silence, and sometimes punctuated by comments from my dad. “Hear that? That’s an oboe. And there’s the flute….”

Friday mornings my mom and another mom arrived to teach art so my dad would have time to get his sermon written. Friday afternoons we cleaned the church top to bottom in preparation for Sunday mornings. The oldest boy and girl in the school had the dubious privilege of cleaning the bathrooms. Younger ones dusted and vacuumed and cleaned chalkboards and straightened hymnals

Recess time consisted of wiffleball played on the church parking lot. Along with the typical parking space lines used on Sunday mornings, bases were painted on the asphalt. I loved my father for letting me bring a book in the ‘outfield’– he also was an obsessive bibleophile and understood the urgency that makes you want to turn another page and another and another. But when I was up to bat, the book was tossed aside.

Daddy stood on the ‘pitcher’s mound’, tip of his tongue peeking out the corner of his mouth, all concentration, to deliver just the right pitch to each child. Gentle 3-feet-away lobs to the kindergarteners. His best sliding outside fastball to the 6th-grade Little League stars. Thanks to years of practice at recess time, I learned to hit a ball just fine. Still can.

In the summertime, our back yard was cooled by an ultra-practical cattle trough swim pool. Hours were spent there, swimming punctuated by runs around the church, part of an elaborate game that we called ‘around the world’. The north side of the church, right next to our house where oaks made deep shade, was Siberia to our swim-wet bodies. We hugged ourselves as we ran, shivering. The south side, where the heat collected and bounced between brick and asphalt, was Africa. Blessedly warm for the first 20 feet, but then your feet started to heat up. Run fast, or risk burned feet. Back we’d run to splash in the pool and do it all over again.

The church was initially built without a steeple, I suppose as a concession to the budget restraints of a tiny new congregation. But when I was 10 or so, the steeple came. It was cause for great excitement. I was disappointed that it didn’t have a real ringing bell, like on my beloved ‘Little House on the Prairie’ TV show. But bell or not, the steeple was the crowning touch. A few days later my dad took the whole school across the street for art class. We sat on the sidewalk and drew the church. He talked about perspective and shading, all the while drawing away himself.

My dad wasn’t content to let that building be only a church and a school. His ambitious creative brain led him to learn everything he could about printing. Then he proceeded to turn corners of the church basement into a full print shop, complete with a huge camera, a dark room, a three color offset printing press, and a lethal looking paper cutter. The printer took big metal plates that had been burned with images. His goal? To resurrect and reprint old books and Sunday school materials, and ship them to churches all over the world. Sometimes when print orders stacked up, the students in our little school were pressed into service to do ‘assembly’: walking around a big table picking up one each of a semester’s worth of Sunday school lessons. And repeat. And repeat. I remember being fascinated with the foreign addresses that my dad slapped onto the white cardboard boxes. I dreamed of going some of those places some day.

In the summertime as a young teen, I sat with my best friend on the church steps, boom box plugged into the outdoor outlet as we listened to Van Halen and Survivor and REO Speedwagon. Loud and bold until my dad would emerge from the house, then quickly quiet.

When I was 16 we moved away from that church and came out west to live near my mother’s family. I was too busy mourning the loss of my best friend to think about it back then, but it must have been hard for him to leave the little church into which he’d invested so much of himself. Somewhere I still have the drawing he did of the church that day we had art class across the street on the neighbor’s sidewalk.

I didn’t know that I only had four more years with him. That in four short years I would be married, with a baby, and that suddenly he would be gone, killed when a car fell on him, leaving us grieving the loss of him.

I went back to Missouri a decade after I’d left, five years after he died. I entered that little church, walked up the aisle to the pulpit and went to my knees in grief. The church was full of his spirit, thick with memories of him. It had been years since he’d died, but in that church that day it was as if he’d died the day before. As I knelt there weeping, with my best friend patting my shoulder and a confused key-keeper standing at the back of the church, I welcomed the sharp stab of pain.

Time tends to dull the ache of loss, which is mostly good. But it can make you feel like your loved one has been gone forever. To feel the agony afresh was welcome reminder, proof of all my father meant to me, of all he taught me and all the time he poured into me. Of all the precious memories he gave me.

I can’t think about my father without thinking about that church.

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Dedicated to Steven Curtis Chapman and his family.

I Will Lift My Eyes (mp3)
By Bebo Norman

God, my God, I cry out
Your beloved needs You now
God, be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt

Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can’t climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

God, my God, let Mercy sing
Her melody over me
God, right here all I bring
Is all of me

‘Cause You are and You were and You will be forever
The Lover I need to save me
‘Cause You fashioned the earth and You hold it together, God
So hold me now


If you would like to contribute to Maria Chapman’s memorial, the Steven Curtis Chapman family asks you to send donations to Shaohannah’s Hope, the foundation they’ve established to assist families with adoption costs.

The pool in numbers


(Used but good quality) 18′ pool–$250.
Small backhoe (4 hour rental)– $160
New liner–$180
Chemicals and test kit–$40
Concrete and deck posts–$120
Tarp underlayment– $50
Sand for underlayment– $20
New skimmer for pool –$40
$860 so far (this will probably total $1200 by the time we buy the rest of the deck wood)

    Time (multiple people working simultaneously in most cases)

Level site– 8+ hours (5 by hand, 3 with backhoe– one side was 19″ higher than the other!)
Setting and leveling pavers for posts–3 hours
Spreading sand– 2 hours
Digging post holes for deck posts– 2 hours
Sorting filter and pump parts and scratching our heads – 1 hour
Web-searching for photos and instructions– 3 hours
Driving to pool supply store 3 times this week– 3 hours
Phoning pool supply store (they know me now) — 15 minutes
Setting up pool and liner– 4 hours
Smoothing liner and cutting holes in liner for pump/filter– 1 hour
Filling pool (finally, a passive task!)– 4 hours so far and it is only 1/4 full
30+ hours spent (still have 90% of deck to build).


Here’s the crazy thing. Despite the time and energy already spent, and the time and expense still ahead of us, we are just thrilled about this project! I can’t wait to see the kids swimming!! I’ll share pictures later!!