halves

June 12th, 2009

I forgot to mention in my post about Toby at the YMCA that he has to bring his own lunch this week (next week they’ll be providing free lunches for all the kids under a Minneapolis schools/federal lunch program, so it’ll be a lot more like what he’s used to at school). He has occasionally taken a packed lunch to school, but doesn’t have a great track record in actually eating any of it. Not sure how much of the school lunches he eats either, but it’s easier to see the evidence with a packed lunch when he takes the leftovers home. We’ve worked out that he’ll eat a bagel with cream cheese and carrot sticks and a few other things, so that’s what we go with. He’s told us that he likes apples too, so we sent one in yesterday with him and he ate a single, narrow strip of it all around it’s equator, and that was all he had. Oh well, he’s only six.

Anyway, in the car on the way home last night we asked him if he ate much of his lunch. He said he did, about half. Which half? we asked. “The first half” was his response.

Emma told me, quietly, that I should put it on my blog, but he heard it and asked what she was talking about. We kind of explained that we would write about his day, and he slightly glumly said “You’ll probably also write about things that I say.” So he’s on to me.

summer camp

June 11th, 2009

It seems like only six posts ago I was mentioning Toby’s impending summer vacation plans – going to the Downtown YMCA summer camp. Today was his first day and he did very well. It was pretty strange dropping him off – although it’s a well supervised environment and the teachers clearly know what they’re doing, it’s still odd to think of him being in charge of his own things, like knowing when to ask people for stuff and coordinating his packed lunch etc. Just little things which we know that he’s very capable of, but I guess it’s a parenthood thing to have to deal with the anxiety at the same time as dealing with the increased independence.

Of course he did great – he’s really good at making friends and being confident in new places and we’re very impressed with the program so far. He has a few weeks in the downtown location, then he’ll be off for a week in their outdoor camp where he’ll get to do hiking, fishing, kayaking and other wholesome summer activities. Lucky guy!

cooking and evolution

June 3rd, 2009

Obviously I believe that humans were created exactly as they are now, almost exactly 6000 years – 2 days ago, but if hypothetically evolution of the human species was true, this is a fascinating article about human development and its interaction with cooking.

I think there are a small number of things which set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom – possibly music (although birds, whales etc make music too), possibly self-awareness (although anyone who has owned a cat or dog will know that they are self-aware, and elephants can identify themselves in mirrors) and possibly language (etc), but I think that preparing and cooking food is a pretty clear difference.

toby science

May 25th, 2009

Toby seems to have quite a scientific mind, and he’s been getting more and more into scientific concepts now he’s learning more at school. It’s being expressed in a great six-year-old way.

Example 1: A couple of days ago Toby had a bag full of clothes, which he was spinning around. He expressed amazement at Emma, because none of the clothes were falling out. She said that’s because he was using centrifugal force. He said “But Mummy, I don’t have the Force.”

Example 2: He was showing me how he rolls up his clean socks before putting them away, and he said “Dad, watch this. I’m going to do a physic.” I do like the concept of singular physics.

words well written

May 25th, 2009

Further to my last post, here’s a moving and worth-reading piece from the Archbishop of Dublin.

shaken to the core

May 22nd, 2009

There has been awful news coming from Ireland this week – the Commission into Child Abuse in Roman Catholic institutions was released after nine of years of study, and the results are completely shattering. In summary it reports that over a period of at least 60 years “sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys’ institutions. It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions. Schools were run "in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff".” About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s. More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there. And one of the worst things is that the Church leadership knew that this was going on and did little or nothing to stop it. Furthermore, the Christian Brothers have successfully sued to prevent the names of the criminals to be published, and to limit liability of their organization. I have no idea how they managed to pull that off, but it is cowardly and repulsive.

These children were subject to emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse over years, treated like criminals and slaves and denied the most basic of human comforts and legal rights.

Another aspect of this which is truly repulsive has been some of the reaction of Church leadership. There have been some who have spoken about their sorrow, but they are rather feeble-looking compared to the following.

Consider, for example, what retired U.S. Catholic Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, who has himself been accused of child abuse, had to say: “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature. [I] Accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it’.”

Or this quote – it’s from 2002 in response to the Boston abuse scandal, but it has been quoted in response to this case too. Fr. Roger J. Landry said “No matter how sinful a priest is, provided that he has the intention to do what the Church does — at Mass, for example, to change bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, or in confession, no matter how sinful he is personally, to forgive the penitent’s sins — Christ himself acts through that minister in the sacraments.” So it’s about intention, not about actions? Maybe there’s a theological case for that, but when the actions are systematic abuse, you may be on shaky ground.

The president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, had this to say:

Reuters is reporting that “Irish Priests Beat, Raped Children,” yet the report does not justify this wild and irresponsible claim. Four types of abuse are noted: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional. Physical abuse includes “being kicked”; neglect includes “inadequate heating”; and emotional abuse includes “lack of attachment and affection.” Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: fully 82 percent of the incidents took place before 1970. As the New York Times noted, “many of them [are] now more than 70 years old.” And quite frankly, corporal punishment was not exactly unknown in many homes during these times, and this is doubly true when dealing with miscreants.

Regarding sexual abuse, “kissing,” and “non-contact including voyeurism” (e.g., what it labels as “inappropriate sexual talk”) make the grade as constituting sexual abuse. Moreover, one-third of the cases involved “inappropriate fondling and contact.” None of this is defensible, but none of it qualifies as rape. Rape, on the other hand, constituted 12 percent of the cases. As for the charge that “Irish Priests” were responsible, some of the abuse was carried out by lay persons, much of it was done by Brothers, and about 12 percent of the abusers were priests (most of whom were not rapists).

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.

I think that’s worth examining, while you lift your jaw from the floor at the hubris and insensitivity. Firstly “hardly draconian”, and using when they happened. Bear in mind that this wasn’t happening to kids in school who could go back to their parents and complain (although that would be bad enough). This was happening to children in institutions run by the people who were abusing them. There was no escape. The fact that there was lack of attachment and affection makes it even worse. These children had no families apart from the people in authority who treated them like dirt.

He seems to defend the fact that only 12% of the abuses were actually rapes, rather than the other deeply inappropriate conduct. Considering how many children were abused – a few thousand – I think that’s an insanely high amount. One commenter I read today said it was like the line in Father Ted: "We’re not all like that. Say if there’s two hundred million priests in the world, and 5% of them are pedophiles– that’s still only ten million!" I don’t know what Donahue is trying to get at here, but it’s not pretty.

Then there’s the comment by outgoing Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor: “He said, rather controversially perhaps, that a lack of faith is ‘the greatest of evils.’ He blamed atheism for war and destruction, and implied it was a greater evil even than sin itself.”

And another evil apparently is being gay and wanting to get married – the Catholic Church in Maine is being investigated by the US Inland Revenue Service because they are accused of violating tax rules by helping a referendum campaign aimed at repealing the state’s new same-sex marriage law. So at least we’ve got our priorities straight. Let’s also not forget the little girl in South America who was excommunicated a few months ago because her father had raped her and her mother arranged for her to have an abortion because her life was in danger because of the pregnancy.

Anyway. I apologize for ranting at you, reader, but I sort of needed to get it off my chest. I knew that there were many shady things going on in the Church, following the abuse scandals here in America, but this somehow takes things to a different level. It just seems so much worse. And I have to wonder, where was God in all this. I would imagine that at least some of these poor little kids prayed for help, prayed for release from their nightmares. I’m aware that it was actual humans committing the abuses, not God, but they were part of God’s Church and you would think they were lead by scripture, and assume that they prayed too. But the help didn’t come, and clearly many faith leaders are continuing to demean the victims.

yocks

May 21st, 2009

Dara’s speech is really coming along lately – lots of words and sentences. Sometimes it’s hard or impossible to understand the longer sentences, but they’re said with such sincerity that they really do sound meaningful. But on the whole her speech is pretty clear. She has a few cute speech impediments, primarily that words starting with an S or SH either have the S dropped (like asking for a nack instead of a snack) or with the letter Y at the front. My favorites are when she talks about giving the cats their yupper, or about her arms and youlders. She also talks about her yoos and yocks, which makes me glad that she uses a letter Y – it could be worse:

From engrishfunny.com

From engrishfunny.com

aaaaaand we’re back

May 8th, 2009

Sorry about the strangeness of the site over the past few days, readers. It seems that my ownership of the domain had expired – when you renew every 5 years it’s easy to forget. So a bit of scrambling around and some tech support from a friend, and we’re back in business. I’m sure you missed my dashing wit.

summer camp

May 6th, 2009

It’s hard to believe, but Toby will be done with Kindergarten in only one month. He’s had a fantastic year – made some really good friends and learned tons, including the ability to read very fluently, so that he’s now reading books for 8 or 9 year olds. The summer break is pretty long – from mid-June till early September – and the standard thing is to find a lot of summer activities for kids to do during that time.

On the advice of some of our neighbors, we’re enrolling him in the Downtown YMCA summer camp. It sounds like he’s going to get to swim and play every day, as well as do at least three field trips each week, to places like museums, farms and parks. We’re also going to see if we can get him a couple of weeks going to the YMCA’s more rural center, where he’ll get to go hiking, canoeing, and general outdoors things. No overnight stays though – he has to be at least 7 years old to do that – and fortunately the YMCA offers a bus service each day from the downtown location. Sounds like tons of fun.

Certainly more fun than this anyway:

Daily? I would assume youd only need to have it done once.

Daily? I would assume you'd only need to have it done once.

this man is clearly an idiot

May 4th, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, a poster child for Republicans: “Joe” the “Plumber”:

In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?

At a state level, it’s up to them. I don’t want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it’s wrong. People don’t understand the dictionary—it’s called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It’s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we’re supposed to do—what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we’re supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I’ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they’re people, and they’re going to do their thing.

Ugh – God and bigotry using God to justify bigotry.