Sunday, July 31, 2005

Travelling with ultra conservatives

So we had a surprise 70th birthday party for my Dad up in Idaho this weekend. Due to our financial constraints and the fact that we fear our transmission is going out, the kids and I rode up to Idaho with my sister and her family. So that was 3 adults and 10 kids in a 15 passenger van for a 6 hour drive. We drove up Friday and returned home Saturday. All in all, the trip wasn't so bad, though I confess that Spud spent a bit of the drive on my lap as he can't tolerate that much time strapped in his car seat. It's hard to be a newly mobile baby and then to be tied down to a chair for so long. My sister has twin girls that are about 6 months older than Noodle, so the three of them sat in a row in their car seats and had a lot of fun, with only a few episodes of driving each other to the point of screaming. A funny part of the trip, though, was having conversations with my very conservative sister and brother-in-law (BIL from here on out). These are people who find the most conservative candidate for president, no matter how obscure, and put signs in their yard and bumper stickers on their car proclaiming their support of the guy. The kind of people who are put off by GWB because he's too liberal. So, conversations with them are good because I'm reminded that people who I consider intelligent really can believe stuff that I think is rubbish. Anyways, on the way up to Idaho we started talking about dogs, and I mentioned how I think there should be some sort of permit required to breed dogs, and that this would help cut down the unwanted animal population. On their platform of not supporting government intervention in practically anything, they were adamantly opposed to this idea, as dogs are property and the government shouldn't step in when it involves people's personal property. I say that a lot of breeders are only breeding for money, so therefore they should subjected to some sort of regulation as they are dealing with living creatures and running a "business". I admit that I don't really have a vision for the particulars, but I do stick by my idea that pets should be neutered/spayed as there is no reason for them to breed. That should be left to experienced breeders who are educated and responsible. These sorts of breeders are referred to among the dog fanciers as "hobby breeders," and these types are typically heavily involved in the dog show circuit or training circuit and try to achieve titles for their animals. Additionally, these sorts of breeders require that dogs be returned to them in the case of the owners needing to get rid of them. The kinds of breeders that advertise in the Thrifty Nickel or sell dogs in front of stores are typically termed "Backyard Breeders" and breed dogs fairly indiscriminately, generally thinking that they can make some easy money. Their opinion is, once the dog is sold, it's gone, never to be worried about again. Anyways, I digress. So BIL disagrees with me that all pets should be "fixed" because "why shouldn't they have the opportunity to be happy and reproduce and raise puppies?" I had a hard time not laughing in his face. I'm a huge animal lover, but I know that dogs don't reproduce out of some conscious desire to "raise a family". It's all instinct and drive. They have hormones, so therefore they have a drive to mate with another dog. The "family" or puppies are just a byproduct of that drive. And even though mother dogs take good care of their puppies, it can't be said that their happiness is increased by having had puppies. Plus, if you buy into this line of thinking, isn't it terribly cruel to get rid of their family that gives them so much happiness? Puppies are sold at typically 8-10 weeks of age. Wouldn't that just break the mama dog's heart? I realize that laws are only as good as the enforcement, but I do think that they make a decent starting place from which to work at changing attitudes. Anyways, we agreed to disagree on the dog issue.

On the way home, I told them about the book/PBS series of "Guns, Germs & Steel" and we talked about the ideas in there. This covered the idea of many plants and animals being domesticated there, and how this was an advantage to the people of the old world. He says that this idea of a fertile crescent origin of things is popular in the world (referring to the ideas of human origins in that area as well) but that the world doesn't have the "modern revelation" that we do. I presume he was referring to the idea of the Garden of Eden being in Missouri as he mentioned this a bit later. But I just don't see how people can look at all of the evidence in support of evolution and turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. It must be stressful to feel like you are always on guard against those deceptive bones and such scattered throughout the earth. Oh well...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Through a glass, darkly

I've been thinking more and more lately about our human view on God and the heavens, and just how much we don't know. I think in our religion we are blessed to have a lot of revealed information, but we take liberties and make assumptions about so much. We extrapolate from our own reality and paste that onto God and the eternities. The more I think about it, the crazier it is that we can really presume to know the mind of God. I think it is important to have, as best as we can, a correct perception and understanding of God (as Joseph Smith said), but even with the most that we can comprehend, we still must be seeing such a small picture. It's in some ways similar to the blind man being led around the elephant for the first time, feelng various parts of it with his hands and saying " elephant is very much like a wall. Oh, it seems the elephant is very much like a tree."

We very often see examples of the "learned who think they are wise" (2 Nephi 9:28) and often associate this idea with secular learning, and those who are too caught up in the knowledge of worldly things thinking that they have no need for the gospel, and view such things as simplistic or beneath their intelligence. But what about those who think they are spiritually wise? David has some relatives who most assuredly fall into that category. In fact, they have stopped attending Sunday school as they prefer to have their own discussions at home because they think they know more than the teacher and other ward members. But the thing is, God didn't command us to meet together as a Church until we were sufficiently educated, then we can fraction off and be separate again. He said, "Be one, and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (Doct&Cov 38:27) and "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). As much as we might prefer otherwise, we cannot live the Gospel as a hermit.

So, I think I am realizing more and more the truth of 1 Corinthians 13:12:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Despite all of the revelations we as a Church have received, despite the mysteries of God that have been thus far unfolded to us, we still know so very little. I guess this is what it means to become again as a little child (Matt 18:3, Mosiah 3:18, 3 Nephi 11:37-38). To appreciate that there is much that we cannot understand at present, but not to get upset about it. God gives us sufficient information to do what we need to do, but not usually enough to answer all of our "pressing issues". Life is, after all, a test to see whether we will do all things that the Lord has commanded (Abraham 3:25).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fun with Photoshop

So, I need to improve my photography skills, but I also need to learn how to "improve" photos in Photoshop. Yesterday I spent some time testing out different effects, messing with hue/saturation, etc on this picture of my cute boy. It's so exhilarating to be able to manipulate parts of a photo to capture a certain mood. I really love my digital SLR, but a funny thing is just how excited I am simply that I finally have a camera with "zoom". Until David bought my D70, I had only ever had a point&shoot camera, so it took a lot of effort and a fair amount of luck to get a truly great photograph. For much of photography, at least of people & animals (my two favorite subjects) the key is to GET CLOSER. And when your point&shoot camera requires you to be at least 3-6 feet away, you just don't have a lot of options. And my other favorite thing about digital cameras--unlimited picture taking capacity and no film to develop!! The key to taking great photographs is to take A LOT, and this is so easy when you have a memory card that will hold up to 1100 photos. The only downside is having to sort through hundreds of photos and try to decide which ones to keep and which to toss. It just seems wrong to toss pictures of your children, even when you save the 3-5 best shots of the series.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pit Bulls

There's been a flurry of news lately about "pit bull attacks," which has inspired a rash of ban proposals around the country. Your average uninformed person thinks, "Yeah, pit bulls are bad, obviously, because they are biting people. Let's ban them." So, let's have a bit of education.

First of all, "pit bull" is not an actual breed of dog, but refers commonly to several types of dogs: American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Bull Terrier.

No dog has a "locking jaw." That would require some sort of skeletal or other type of modification, which simply doesn't exist. Also, if they had that, it would be enough to make them not be a "dog" anymore. That's a total myth.

All different breeds called "pit bulls" were mixes of terriers and bull dogs. Bull dogs used to be used for bull-baiting, which was a brutal sport that was outlawed in the 1800s. Then people started mixing the bull dogs with terriers to make them quick, and bred them to be dogfighters. Here is a KEY POINT: pit bulls were bred to be aggressive to other DOGS, not to HUMANS. The nature of a pit fight was such that there were usually 3 humans in the pit--both the dogs would have a handler, and there was also a referee/judge. These people didn't want to get bit, so the dogs were bred to have strong bite inhibition towards people. Moreso, these dogs lived generally as family members when they weren't fighting. (You have to remember that this was in the day before animal cruelty laws, so dog fighting was just a "sport" like dog racing or other things.) A dog that was human aggressive was not acceptable as a fighting dog, and was usually culled. Human aggression and dog aggression are two TOTALLY different traits. Other dogs are also animal aggressive, but nobody assumes that their aggression transfers over to people. Most hounds are to a degree small animal (i.e. rabbit or cat or fox) aggressive, most terriers are rat/squirrel aggressive, herding dogs are semi-aggressive to the animals they herd. Pit bulls were NEVER bred to be human aggressive, unlike "guarding dogs" such as mastiffs and others. Hopefully this point is clear: Dog aggression does not equal human aggression.

Pit bulls, specifically the APBT and the Am. Staff, were considered great family dogs throughout most of the 20th century--think Petey of Our Gang/Little Rascals. Helen Keller had a pit bull. A pit bull received medals for service in WWI. They were the all around family dog. They often do GREAT with kids because they have a high pain threshold, so they don't wince at every hug, poke, or other things kids might inflict uppon them. Both APBT and AmStaffs are descended from the Staff. Bull Terrier of England, which is called "the nanny dog" because it is SOOOOO good with kids.

Starting in the 1970s or so, pit bulls became the "cool" dog for unscrupulous people to get, because it portrayed a tough guy image. They are beautiful, muscular dogs, so it's easy to see why they were attracted to them. Dog fighting still goes on, but you can be assured that this is not the "gentleman's sport" that it was in the late 1800s. People now abuse their dogs to make them meaner, and they typically "bait" them with other dogs. The people who dogfight now are the bottowmdwellers of society, and don't care about dogs or people or anything else. Since pit bulls are still popular among "bad people" there are a LOT of "backyard breeders" who aren't doing the breed any services. The pit bulls you hear about on the news are the combination of bad breeding but mostly bad ownership.

I can sympathize with apprehensions about the breed, because until a year and a half ago I felt the same way. I was doing research on great danes, and looked at one dane owner's page, and she had the cutest dog. I asked her what it was, and she told me it was a pit bull. I was flabbergasted!! At that time, I only knew of Bull Terriers (the target dog) as pit bulls, and so I set out to learn about these dogs. I've read loads of books and information on line about them, so I consider myself a well educated amateur. I've met about 8-10 pit bulls in person, and they are wonderful dogs--they have great owners.

If you are interested in learning more, just for "education's sake" check out

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to me and David! Four wonderful and crazy busy years. And what do we have to show for it? Two masters degrees, two kids, one trip to Brazil, 3 presentations at scientific conferences, one cruise to the Bahamas, 5 rats (with 3 more over the "rainbow bridge"), one fish (more over the bridge), one departed hamster, 3 Mac computers. . . In all honesty, four years hardly seems long enough to have experienced all that we have. It's hard in some ways for me to remember life before David came along. We met on a trip to the Amazon rainforest, where we spent two of the most relaxed and blissful weeks, even as we studied and learned and did some fieldwork with the other students and professors there. I think the memories of being deep in the Amazon will always remain some of the most peaceful and serene of my life. There really aren't words to describe it. But it's where I like to go when I need a "happy place" to restore the balance in my mind and take myself away from the occasional chaos of life with two kids.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Visit from a friend

My friend Dean from graduate school did stop by on his way back to California. He's a cool guy and a good friend. I actually introduced him to the world of rats, and in my honor he named one of them after me! (He did get to bring them home on my birthday after all.) I really was honored. When Zion asked what his rats' names were and he told her, she looked at me with this half puzzled half excited face and said, "That's your name!"

Anyways, he got to meet my two newest ratboys, Marco and Berkeley. He'd met the others before. Marco is the ultimate friendly rat and he'll climb right up your arm if you get anywhere near the cage when the door is open. Berkeley is really friendly too, just not as gregarious. This pic is of Berkeley scaling the cage last week during free-range time.

Friday, July 15, 2005


He's CRAWLING! Full on hands and knees, all over the place. And he's so nonchalant about it, which is so funny because doing the army crawl took so much energy, but now he crawls like it's no big deal.

Dog for a Day

This morning after David had left for work, he came back to pick up some car-related papers and told me that a female mama pit bull just came out of the bushes by the neighboring 4plex and was wandering around. Of course, we go out to see her and she turns out to be just the friendliest dog. It doesn't look like she has a current littler of pups, but her nipples are quite distended, so she has probably been bred a few times. We played outside with her for a while, and I brought her a bowl of water. After a while, I headed inside and she followed me. We hung out for the day, and I made a makeshift collar so we could take her around to hang up some "DOG FOUND" signs. It was a lot of fun hanging out with her, and I'd already fantasized about her living at David's folks house until we get our own house, and then she could come live with us. A woman called just a few minutes ago and described her perfectly, so I gave her the address and she came and picked her up. She said the dog's name was "Shanday" and that she'd actually been taken yesterday, but she didn't elaborate on that point. She said she and a friend were just about to start searching, and her friend saw the sign I'd put up at the park. So, I'm glad she's back with her owner, but it was certainly fun to have a dog for a little while. And Noodle and Spud just loved her, and she just loved them right back.

:::::sigh:::::: I really can't wait to have a pit bull of my very own.

"Imaginary" Friends?

I've had the opportunity over the past month or so to meet a number of my "internet friends". In every case I have been delighted with how the meetings went, and happy to find that I like these people as well in person as I do online. A side benefit was that meeting them kind of "legitimized" them in my mind as friends. Instead of people I'd met online but had never met, which sometimes seemed a bit like "imaginary" friends, now they were people I'd met and who I just don't get to see very often. And since that is true of my regular friends, too, I feel more justified than ever in keeping up with all of them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thoughts on parenting

"He is so full of energy and muscle, teething, ranting, crazed, but he's the best baby you could ever hope for. Still a baby, though, which is to say, still periodically a pain in the neck. Donna was saying the other day that she knows this two-year-old who's really very together and wonderful a lot of the time, really the world's best two-year-old, but then she added, "Of course, that's like saying Albert Speer was the nicest Nazi. He was still a Nazi."

--Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

As a child, you think that your parents really have the good life--not having to be accountable to anyone, or ask for cookies or ice cream, being able to stay up late and drive cars. What would it be like to be so independent, you think. Then you become an adult and you do get to enjoy all of those things, possibly for many many years. But when you become a parent and you have an infant or young child in the home, you are worse off than even a child, in terms of independence. Every minute you nearly walk on tiptoes as you wait to hear the summoning cry or demanding yell from your child. Being a parent is never truly having down time, and being always on call. I'm hoping that we regain independence, at least to some degree, not too long after they learn to wipe their own bums and fix themselves sandwiches. The years go fast but sometimes the days are painfully long.

Time waster

Relaxing, in a painful sort of way perhaps.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Good times...

Clive has mastered pulling himself up to standing using furniture now, and standing has replaced bouncing as his new favorite pasttime. Often he reaches and grasps the part of the furniture he uses to pull himself up before his legs are anywhere beneath him, so he ends up stretched out at a 45 degree angle looking like he is teetering over hot lava. He does pretty well slowly inching his feet and legs up, but it starts out looking pretty funny.

I went to our ward's Enrichment meeting tonight. I'd actually signed up to bring something (a bag of chips) in an effort to ensure that I would go. I have a tendency to decide fairly last minute that I'm not up to it and stay home, so I figured if I felt obligated to go because I was taking food, I'd actually go. And I'm glad I went. I had a chance to talk to people and also had the opportunity to say some witty comments and got everyone to laugh. It's funny, because all of my siblings are like that, and I'm not sure where we got it from, as I don't recall if mom & dad are that into saying the witty "after-thoughts" that we all enjoy so much. And while I would never go into business trying to get laughs out of people, I do enjoy making people laugh. But I prefer to do it on the side while I am not the main focus of attention. So, I'm really glad I forced myself to go. I also got to bring home a few leftover cookies, so Z was a happy girl, as she'd been asking for cookies all day long, especially after watching Cookie Monster on Sesame Street happily devouring his.


David and I had an interesting discussion regarding perfection. We were discussion what exactly perfection means, and how it is "measured". We figured it is not a numbers game, or even a results-oriented idea. We came to this idea by looking at the children that God has created. Right off the bat 1/3 of the hosts of heaven left, and what percentage of those who live on earth will make it back to live in glory with him forever? I figure it's a fairly small percentage. So if perfection isn't achieving 100%, what is it? Is it completeness? Is it having perfect motives? Perhaps doing the right things for the right reasons, irrespective of the outcome? I am fairly convinced that we can't look at results to judge perfection. Which is heartening to me, since judging from results in many areas of my life, I would have slim chance of ever achieving perfection.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rough night

Last night was not a good night for sleeping. Granted, David and I were up until 1 o'clock talking, but still. I think we were giddy over the fact that both the kids were asleep by 9:30--what a miracle! Anyways, so at about 1, when we are getting ready to go to bed, Spud wakes up. I nursed him, and laid him back in his bed. He woke up about 3 minutes later, and I tried to pat a burp out of him. He settled down, so I laid him back in bed. Then a few minutes later, he woke up again. I think once or twice during this time he slept perhaps up to 20 minutes, but then he'd wake up again. I tried everything. Putting him on the bed next to us, laying him on my chest while I slept on my back... I even got up with him and took him to the living room and nursed him a little more. He'd fall asleep, then wake up shortly after being laid down. By 3 o'clock, I was beside myself. I made David take over for a little bit, but the curse of being the mother, at least for me, means that if the baby is noisy or whimpering and I can hear it, there is no way that I'll be falling asleep, and Spud had gone through an intense crying spell. So, I took him again. He finally fell asleep, after doing some prolonged occasional sniffles and that inhale/pant that happens after you've cried a long time. It was so sad and pathetic that I pretty much forgave him for the whole fiasco, though I still longed for sleep. This morning he woke up at 8:00, and David had a meeting at 9:00 so there was no chance of me getting any more sleep. I've been cleaning all morning and the exhaustion hits me hard in my stomach, it almost feels like hunger or sickness, but it's just exhaustion coming in waves from my center. What I wouldn't give today for a nanny so I could take a 3 hour nap.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Birth Order

I've been thinking a lot lately about family dynamics, specifically birth order. I'm the youngest in my family of six kids by six years, so in some ways I was a bit like an only child, and I definitely didn't have the experience of having younger brothers or sister. I did become an aunt when I was 9, but in a lot of ways that is like being a grandparent -- you only see the kids for brief stints and you can give them back. I was always really good with kids, and I was a great babysitter, probably because I had a comparatively extended childhood and I love to play. So, with all of this "experience," I looked forward to becoming a mother. And WOW was I in for an awakening. I won't say a rude awakening, because overall motherhood has been a wonderful experience, and I think I'm a pretty great mom on the whole. But having never observed someone raising kids long term (except for my parents raising myself, which of course couldn't be viewed objectively), I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. I can't help but think that everyone else in my family had a much more informed portrait of parenthood in their heads before they became parents. My oldest sister (mother of 8 living children) is 16 years older than me, so I'm sure she remembers when mom was pregnant with me and some of the other kids. She saw the thousands of diaper changes, and probably did a lot of them, and noticed how the family dynamics changed with the addition of another child. I don't doubt that becoming a mother is life-changing for every woman, but wonder if it is less dramatic for children higher up in the birth order. And I wonder if oldest children generally have more kids than youngests.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Self entertaining

Spud is at such a fun age (6 months). He's quite mobile, and though he only does a true crawl every once in a while, he gets around amazingly well with his "army crawl". He can sit up and absolutely loves clapping his hands. It's amusing to watch him when he can't see me as he claps and giggles to himself - and I love to see his capacity for self-entertainment develop. I am the youngest in my family by six years, so growing up most of my entertainment was based on finding things to do to entertain myself, so perhaps I value it more than most. And to be honest, nothing wears me out quicker than to spend a lot of time around kids who have no self-entertaining abilities. I can only come up with and tolerate so many games in which I have to be an active participant. Noodle is a good self-entertainer, too. I try and play with her when she comes to me, usually up to an hour, and often she gets an idea and goes off to play on her own for quite a while. I love it! DH complains that we have too many toys in her room (a lot of which were mine as a child) and perhaps she does, but I think it's important to have a sufficient variety to encourage and support creative and independent play. Plus I figure as long as I'm the one home with the kids the majority of the time, I'd prefer they have lots of options and possibilities for play, especially on their own.

(Note: I'm not a big fan of "editing" naked baby photos, but since this is on the internet, it seems best to play it safe.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Aviator

We watched The Aviator this week, and having known nothing about Howard Hughes, I quite enjoyed it. I have several friends who have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so I'm familiar with the disorder, but after watching the movie we watched the extra scenes, and they go into more depth discussing OCD. The estimate is that 1 in 50 people have some form of OCD. One guy I know had really violent obsessions, and would spend hours in his room doing compulsive behaviors to try and get the thoughts out of his mind. It's just so sad to think that people have to live with these problems, and they don't know that it is just a problem with their mind. It typically isn't diagnosed until around age 20, which means that people spend the very formative years of their lives feeling anxious and concerned, and having to deal with so many unpleasant and often terrible thoughts. And they just think something is wrong with them. I certainly am grateful that it is diagnosable and treatable now.

For more information on OCD, check out


My Nikon D70 is finally back from "the shop". At the end of April, it inexplicably stopped working, and online I found that the specific error was a result of a manufacturing error in some cameras sold before September. So, today, TEN WEEKS LATER it finally made it home to me. In the ten weeks, I missed photographing my birthday (trip to Dinosaur museum with dh and kids), my daughter's 3rd birthday, vacation to beautiful mountains of Colorado, family reunion, and my 6 month old son learning to sit up and crawl. I'm thrilled to finally have it back, but I still haven't quite finished being annoyed that it took so long. Lately it seems that there is always one thing lingering in the back of my brain that really annoys me. I'm sure it isn't healthy, and it likely says something about my mental/emotional state right now. For example, yesterday was the recycling pickup day, and someone (I don't know if it was some random car or the recycling truck) knocked over our bin, so it didn't get picked up. And it's full clear to the top. And it's two weeks until the next pick up. Perhaps my excessive reactions are the result of being at home all day every day, having such a small realm of influence/experience lately. Seems a likely possibility.