Monday, April 30, 2012

Week in Review, 4/30/2012 late edition

Sorry I have been so rant-y.  I can't help but read the news and think that things are just so upside down and inside out, rather like we've gone through the looking glass.  But our lives continue in the hurry-up way.  Here's how we spent the last week.

Last week opened with church, of course.  I was the worship assistant, which in our liturgical church means that I help the pastor in leading the congregation through the worship service.  So I read prayers and stuff.  Except that this time there was no pastor, so I had to do everything.  And I forgot the offering.  OOPS!  Great start to the week.

I also did some massive cleaning in preparation for a shower that I am so excited about hosting.  One little benefit was finding my long-lost sorority badge!

We have decided to send D back to school next year, so she had to have a shadow day at our school to be sure she was ready for third grade.  Is she ever.  She also had a couple of funny comments about different things they were doing.  For instance, phonics.  We certainly don't do that here!  I don't think phonics is necessary to learn to read.  I'm not sure who really needs them other than linguists.  Anyway.

Since I had a day off (wow!) I took the opportunity to go shopping.  First I visited a super-cute little shop in West Atlanta, Whipstitch.  Got a couple of great things:

Oh, I also started (yet another) diet on Monday.  I'm following the diet that came with P90X2, basically no-sugar, low-carb, high-protein.  It isn't terribly calorie-restricted, just clean.  I forgot to weigh until the end of the week, but right now the remarkable thing is that I feel really good.  I kind of miss my glass of wine at night, but I am sleeping so much better that it is a fair trade.  The weirdest part is that I don't even want bread.

On Tuesday I let the boys skip school and go to an awesome traveling exhibit, Passages.  If this comes to your town I highly recommend this interactive exhibit on the history of the Bible, in particular the English Bible.  P didn't go with us; it was fetal-pig-dissection day for the fourth grade.  I really would like P and the DH to see it, and the other kids all want to see it again, too.  That is high praise!

Here's a little summary of what else we did, since I finally got a collage app to work!  (Descriptions are clock-wise.)

D working on perpendicular lines on her geoboard for math.  We have loved Saxon as our base math curriculum--very thorough, and flexible enough that I can skip or combine lessons as needed.

J had his last regular-season lacrosse game.  This hasn't been our favorite season for reasons I've already mentioned.

A little sewing for me this week, finishing D's Scavenger Bag from Growing Up Sew Liberated.  In case you are wondering, P's has been done (in turquoise blue prints) for a couple of weeks now.  I have such a hard time finishing things that it is always a wonder when something goes from my sewing room to the person it is for!

My sweet husband getting fitted for some new clothes by our dear family friend!  Calvin graduated a year ago and started selling custom-made men's clothes.  He loves it and seems to be doing great.  Bill has such a hard time just getting downtown to shop that he decided to try out this option.

We finished out the week with a Friday night ride and cook-out at the farm.  This is becoming our favorite way to end the week.  But I didn't take any pictures!

Our memory verse for last week:

Jesus said to the apostles, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation."  Mark 6:15


Friday, April 27, 2012

Um, Ma'am? Your slip is showing.

First, the now-viral video:

The over-arching message here is that (as Dennis Prager has said), "The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen."  How odd, then, that the following would also happen in the same timeframe:

  • "Crucify them."  From an EPA official, instructions to go after a few oil and gas companies (not just the Exxons and BPs of the world, the little guys, too) hammer-and-tongs, so that it will be easier to keep the rest of the industry in line.  (Strangely, the YouTube video of Al Armerenderiz has been taken down.)  
  • Farm kids can't work.  The Department of Labor proposed regulations prohibiting farm kids from doing basic labor around the farm, including driving farm vehicles.  That would mean my thirteen-year-old would be prohibited from driving the Gator around the farm for fun or chores.  Note that these were regulations written by the the Executive Branch as a way to interpret laws that had been previously passed by Congress.  This is what happens when there are so many laws on the books:  remulators can write anything they want, especially when they come out with a new "interpretation" of a long-passed law. These changes are hard to catch and turn away.  Fortunately, that happened this time.  But we certainly know where this administration stands.
  • The GSA reveals itself to be run by a bunch of entitled bureaucrats who see my money (and yours) as theirs first.  (Yes, I know this broke last week.  But the news continues to build.)  How else can you explain $800,000 for a conference, with several advance trips for Jeff Neely and his WIFE paid for by the government?  I can say with confidence that this is not normal.  For instance, when I travel with my husband we pay my expenses.  Yes, my husband's company--which he OWNS--pays for the hotel room and his meals, but we pay my expenses.  The IRS looks for things like this in the private business world.  Oh, but the GSA isn't a private entity.  They're exempt.  
  • The Secret Service scandal grows.  Do you find this as shocking as I do?  The Secret Service--the guys who will take a bullet for the President--that has to be one of the most respected institutions in the country.  And now this slime is being revealed.  I can't decide if this is (as they talk about in the video) discrediting our most respected institutions or another example of "the rules don't apply to me."
  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the Arizona immigration laws.  The federal government is prosecuting a state for enforcing federal laws that the feds won't themselves enforce.  The Justices sounded skeptical about the federal government's argument. Go, Supremes!

Just one week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Week in Review, 4/20/12 edition

Well, I was going to do this with some really cute little photo collages like my friend Mary does.  After six (yes SIX) crashes on my iPad I gave up.  Single photos only again this week.
 J started the week with the dreaded sixth grade edible science project, to my mind a waste of time and sugar.  At any rate, this is my boy mixing baked cake with frosting, a la "cake pops."  Yes, we needed both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. The cake becomes moldable, in this case to re-create a stratovolcano.  And then they eat it.  Gross.

 D played a neat little multiplying game for math this week.  We got out the 10-sided dice (not in this picture) and rolled, coloring in the appropriate array based on our roll.  First one to fill up their square won.  I drew our boxes too big, so the game took forever!  She enjoyed it, though, and has played a couple of times since then.  The other picture is real-life math lesson, making a bank deposit and adding up some checks.  Yay for real-life math!

Lessons, as usual, at the arena.  My precious friend (and trainer) Sandra is behind one of those ponies!

The girls have also decided to set up a jump in the back yard.  Just in case, you know, a pony needs to jump it.  (Or maybe a certain little girl...)

We had awards day for the middle school this week.  (oops, no picture)  I think fully half of the school, including my boys, made High Honor Roll.  Certainly makes you wonder about grade inflation, doesn't it?

J played lacrosse this week.  No picture here, either, sorry.  Now that he is in the U13 league I am just blown away at how big some of those boys are.  Practically men.  J is a long way from that, and a long way from full-grown aggression on the field, too.  This has been a tough season for all of us.

I was actually sick for a bunch of the week, coming down with a nasty stomach bug right after the awards ceremony on Tuesday and really being unable to move until late in the day on Thursday.  All of our Roman road/gladiator projects got put on hold.  D and I had started Harry Potter as a read-aloud.  By Tuesday morning she was reading to me as I struggled to stay awake with her on the couch.  Sick mamas make for bad homeschool weeks, that is for sure.  I hate that we lost time right as we're coming to the end of the year.

I did make it out of bed to get my hair done on Thursday.  I schedule those appointments a year in advance--no way am I missing that!  Wendy said she cut six inches off the back.  It definitely feels shorter.  It also feels less fried, which was why I needed some length taken off to begin with.

We did manage to join P for lunch today at school, though.

I continue to add planters to the back deck and pool area.  I am notorious for buying a bunch of plants and then running out of steam before I finish planting half of them.  This time I am only buying one container or project's worth at a time.  This is a gardenia on the tree-form plant I got yesterday.  Gardenias are one proof that God loves the South.  I wish you could smell it.  I also got a new sewing book and am positively chomping at the bit to work with it.  It has fantastic step-by-step explanations for things, and super-cute patterns included.  Now if I could just buy that extra hour in the day...

We ended the week with the annual piano concert.  All of our teacher's students give a concert instead of a recital.  It is very collaborative, with students even performing original work, and many doing duets or singing as they play.  It is nothing like the nightmare recitals I lived through as a child.  Sometimes I'm not sure it is good to be so easy on them!  But it is a fun and positive evening of good music.  Here is everyone afterwards, in my first ever picture of Carson with all of my children.  Great job, y'all!

Our memory verse this week was:

This is the message that we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.--1 John 1:5

Happy Friday!

Obama on Buffett

Because I just had to jump in.  Via Althouse (which is part of my daily reading), I read about Obama penning a blurb for Time magazine for Warren Buffett (via The Hill).  Here's a good chunk of what Obama wrote about his new BFF:

Today Warren is not just one of the world's richest men but also one of the most admired and respected. He has devoted the vast majority of his wealth to those around the world who are suffering, or sick, or in need of help. And he uses his stature as a leader to press others of great means to do the same.
The Sage of Omaha has handed down plenty of lessons over the years. Today, at 81, he reminds us that life is not just about the value you seek. It's about the values you stand for.

"Vast majority of his wealth."  What does that mean?  I don't understand what that means--clearly over his career he reinvested most of his earnings to build Berkshire Hathaway.  He takes a very small income, which is why most of his wealth is capital gains.  You know, now that I think about that, he takes a VERY small income (around $100,000) because it is a tax advantage to him.  My husband, as you might remember, is self-employed.  We have often talked about the balance between income and dividends that he and his partner are paid.  Every small business owner knows that this is one way to take a lower tax rate.  The fact for us is that DH takes a much larger salary because the IRS usually looks askance at low senior executive/owner pay.  It is curious that Warren gets to take such a low salary when it is a certainty that his other senior executives are paid much, much better than this.

Back to "vast majority."  What does that mean when most of your wealth is held in the stock of one company?  That you still hold?  Buffett has pledged about 85% of his wealth to go to the Gates Foundation.  Before that it was supposed to go to the Buffett Foundation.  It hasn't gone; it is just pledged.  It isn't done yet.  He said he intends to leave most of his wealth to charity.  But he hasn't done it yet.  Yes, he gives significant (to me) amounts away. (And he has continued his plan of donating his wealth in pieces.)  But if he feels so passionately about our government and its debt, why not help out there?

And then there's "those around the world who are suffering, or sick, or in need of help."  Like Planned Parenthood.  Or this organization, which makes air suction devices to induce abortions, and are cheap, and are distributed around the world.  And of course, the Glide Foundation, supported by Glide Memorial  Church, notably a UMC church which removed their cross.  Yes.  Famously, Glide Memorial was featured in the story of Chris Gardner in "Pursuit of Happyness."  So they do a lot of good, but I remember the scene from the worship service in that movie and it seems that Glide has moved away from their evangelism.  Clicking around on their website yields no reference at all to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, just a lot of references to "telling our own stories" and "respecting each other's truths."  (The Gates Foundation is also a very big supporter of Planned Parenthood.)

Again, if Warren is so concerned about our debt, why not lead the way by contributing directly to the Treasury?

"Press others of great means to do the same."  Like, for instance, not pay your taxes?

"Life is not just about the value you seek."  Yes, great line.  Frankly, it looks to me like Mr. Buffett spent many years seeking the hidden value in companies.  He did it very, very well, and made many people, including himself, a lot of money over the years.  He had a vision that required marshaling others to achieve it--that means valuable jobs that contribute to GDP.  He didn't set out to "create jobs."  Instead, he had a bold vision that required many people to execute.  Job creation was a side benefit of his vision.  Yes, some people also lost their jobs in his relentless pursuit of value.  This is part of the creative destruction of capitalism, freeing resources so that they can then be used to their highest-value purpose somewhere else.  Painful but ultimately beneficial to everyone.

So I read this and I see into the heart of Obama.  The acquisition of filthy lucre is fine as long as you then turn around and contribute to his approved causes.  Avoiding taxes to the maximum extent is fine as long as you allow yourself to be used by those on the "right" side of the issues.  But building a business, risking capital, having a vision that requires others to execute and therefore employees people in meaningful, productive pursuits is insignificant.  HOW you made that wealth is not worth talking about.  Being a true believer--or maybe just knowing which side of an issue to be on--is all that matters.

EDITED TO ADD (Five hours later):  On reflection, I knew most of this.  I knew this about Obama, what he cares about and what he despises.  But I think what I didn't know is the heart of Warren Buffett.  I had, until recently, thought of him as a nice, rich man from Middle America.  I mean, how much more "middle" can you get?  A really smart guy who made good, but one of "us."  But he isn't.  And never was.  He and his wife had an odd, nontraditional marriage since 1977, and his current wife was his companion until his wife's death.  With her full knowledge.  He has been a contributor to Planned Parenthood and other progressive causes for years.  While I don't really give a flying leap about his private life, I do feel like he has been presenting this persona to the world for years, when in fact he has been happy to use his wealth to advance an agenda directly harmful to the system under which he succeeded.  So, in the end, maybe Obama's little essay was more revealing of old Mr. Buffett than he intended.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Week in Review, 4/14/2012 version

This is as good a way as any to jump back in.  I'll just post a few quick takes from this week:

I moved my computer and changed my view.  If I can get Blogger to cooperate then I'll change my background here, too.  Love my view this time of year, with the electric spring-green in the morning and the birds finding new homes.

A Roman hair-do, complete with hairpiece.
D started studying Rome.  And flowers.  Not sure how they are related but we had a good homeschool week.  We also made cookies.

The hairdressers in Peachtree City have nothing to fear from me.  I tried cutting Bailey's forelock.  This is what happened:

P is still mad, even though I tried to fix it.  At least it will grow out and we don't have a show soon.

Pilates is killing me while also making me stronger.  I wonder which one will win.  No, I will not post a picture of me doing Pilates!

We ate at the farm last night--shared hamburgers and hotdogs with Sandra and Terry and some of their family.  (That picture has nothing to do with dinner, but is just a fun picture from the last time I drove the tractor.)  A good way to end the week for sure.  Love love love having the farm to go hang out at.

I hate doing computer work, but I successfully registered the farm domain name and got my email set up.  Next is to get Sandra's email going and also a basic website.  Then I'll link to it.

M made Junior Beta Club.  Yay!

Both boys were asked by a friend to be in his Eagle Scout ceremony.  How thoughtful.  They are thrilled.

I haven't knit anything in a while.  I've been sewing when I can find a minute and I'm starting to do embroidery.  I want to sew more but can't find the time.  I want to write more but can't find the time.  I wish I could buy an extra hour every day.

We are dog sitting my parents' Springer while they are on vacation.  I have a couple of thoughts on this:  first, Springers are absolutely adorable in groups.  Chaz and Katie are ten times cuter together than they are individually.  I don't know why.  (That's just Chaz on his own.  Hopefully I'll get a picture of the pair of them this week.) Second, I am so glad my parents are on vacation!  I am glad they have the means and the health to go on such a great trip (to Italy, wow!).  And I can't wait to see every single picture and hear about all the wonderful food.

Lots of things to weigh in on, politics- and culture-wise, but I don't want to do that yet.  I do think that just because a woman is a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean that she lets her brain atrophy.  I know that I have a far, far better feel for consumer prices than my husband, even though he runs a company.  On the other hand, I don't think that all moms should stand together, either, just because we're moms.  My identity as a mother is just one part of who I am.

Our memory verse for last week was an easy one to remember when the weather is so lovely:
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24