Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

No, this isn't a picture of a kindly couple who are offering foster care to a dozen kids in addition to their own five. It's not a picture of the founders of a charter school and all of their charges. It's a picture of one family: one mom, one dad, and their seventeen biological children.

I'll be honest, my initial reaction to the Duggars was one of slight revulsion. They are a deeply religious couple who decided that they would bear any number of children that God saw fit to give to them, citing the scripture, "Children are an heritage of the Lord." When I first heard about them, they already had fourteen children, all of whom have names beginning with the letter "J", and I thought that they had gone far too far. It just seemed gross, somehow. And so unhealthy for the woman who had borne a child every year for years. And those poor children! Homeschooled! Indoctrinated! Isolated! Wearing home-sewn clothes! But as the years have gone by and I've watched specials on the Duggars on the Discovery channel, read articles about them in online periodicals, and pored over their website (yes, I'll admit to a mild obsession), I've come to love the Duggars. If anyone is qualified to raise 18 children, Jim Bob and Michelle are. They are now expecting their 18th child. And I'm excited for them!

But the Duggars' belief that God is the distributer of children, a belief that is also promoted in the LDS faith, gives me a bit of an uncomfortable feeling. From my observations of the world, it would seem that children are distributed pretty randomly. An anecdote: My good friend Ressa recently moved into an apartment complex in Idaho Falls. She and her daughter were settling down one evening to watch a movie when a baby starting screaming outside their window. Ressa, thinking that the baby's mom was probably just letting the baby cry while she had a quick cigarette, ignored it. But the crying persisted, so she peeked out the window to see what the problem was. And sitting on the sidewalk outside her window were an 18-month-old and a 7-month-old, whom she recognized as the children of one of her neighbors. They were alone. So Ressa went outside and stood with the little ones, waiting to see if Mom or Dad would show up. She waited. No one came. So she took them inside, leaving her door open in case their parents came back, and gave them some cuddles and a little food. The littler one was covered in cuts and bruises and seemed really hungry. Her feet were bleeding. Both of the children were in very dirty diapers. Ressa finally called the police, who eventually found the two lost girls' mother passed out on the floor of her apartment, drug paraphernalia lying nearby. Police photographed the girls--their unchanged diapers, their injuries--and took them to Child Protective Services. But if I had to guess, they're probably back home with their parents now.
To further illustrate this issue, I'm including the following brief descriptions of the condition of children living in homes where meth is manufactured:

-The five children ranged in age from 1 to 7 years old. The one-bedroom home had no electricity or heat other than a gas stove with the oven door opened. Used hypodermic needles and dog feces littered areas of the residence where the children were found playing. Because there were no beds for the children, they slept with blankets underneath a small card table in the front room. The bathroom had sewage backed up in the tub, leaving no place for the children to bathe. A subsequent hospital exam revealed that all the children were infected with hepatitis C. The youngest was very ill. His liver was enlarged to the size of an adult’s. The children had needle marks on their feet, legs, hands, and arms from accidental contact with syringes.

-At another lab site, a 2-year-old child was discovered during a lab seizure. Her parents both abused and manufactured methamphetamine. She was found with open, seeping sores around her eyes and on her forehead that resembled a severe burn. The condition was diagnosed as repeated, untreated cockroach bites.

Source: Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Planning, n.d., Multi-Agency Partnerships: Linking Drugs with Child Endangerment, Sacramento, CA, p. 9.

These are not isolated incidents. One pediatric website reports that 13% of children in the United States live in a home with a parent who abuses illegal drugs; another 24% live with one or more parents who drink heavily. And it's not just parents who abuse drugs: there are children living in homes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse is common. Some children witness one parent abusing the other; others are harmed themselves. Children in such dysfunctional households grow up feeling unloved, unimportant, and with a sense that life is meaningless. They don't understand how to function in normal society. They don't know what a healthy relationship looks like. They frequently begin a pattern of substance abuse early in life.

On the other hand, there are millions of healthy, loving, stable people who are unable to bring children into this world.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it seems to me that if God is distributing the children, He's doing an awfully poor job of it. If God is in charge of fertility, one would think that he would be tying off the fallopian tubes and vas deferens of people who won't love, care for, and teach their children, and sending dozens of children to those who will. But as such is not the case, I'm wary of any notions about children being "sent" by God. I kind of feel like they just happen. Because if they don't, I've got a bone to pick in the next life.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rub a dub dub...three kids in a tub.

Soren's cousins Maya (12 months) and Chase (2 1/2) came to visit a few weeks ago. They brought along their parents, Lara (Abe's sister) and Nathan. It was a really nice visit and the kids seemed to enjoy interacting with each other. Even in the nude. See below for details.

Soren and Maya started out with friendly introductions. "Hey there! You come to this tub often?"
Soren was pretty excited about having someone to bathe with.
He was more excited still by the addition of a third party, who decided that Maya and Soren shouldn't have all the fun.
The kids have all found something pretty awesome in the middle of the tub. Said Something Awesome was so cool it even illicited a Garfield-esque "oooooh" from Soren.
Maya showing off one of the many classy, expensive, and high-tech bathtime toys we've purchased during our many travels abroad and given Soren. This one we bought in Paris. It's called a "Boogre Suckre."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A brief tribute to my dad.

My dad has always been the blindly adoring sort. I remember many a morning as a teenager, I'd crawl out of bed and slink to the bathroom. I'd be engaged in some unattractive activity like zit-popping, my hair all tangled, mascara smeared under my eyes, when my dad would pass by. He's stop, smile, and say something like, "You look really nice today, Penelope." And mean it.

I also remember driving somewhere with him when I was in the throes of adolescent insecurity, sure that I was the fattest and ugliest person who had ever lived. We weren't talking about this, but I remember as we turned onto the freeway on-ramp he asked me, "Have you ever thought about being a model?" I just laughed, but I remember thinking that everyone should have a dad who thinks they should be a model. And while I didn't feel any more beautiful for his having said that, I did feel very loved.

And I would have to say that's the greatest gift my dad has given me over the years: unconditional love. Life is hard sometimes and it's fabulous sometimes. It can bring out the best and the worst in me. Sometimes I've lovable and sometimes I'm not-so-lovable. But it's nice to know that through all of life's ups and downs, my dad will always be there. Thinking that I'm beautiful.

Thanks, Daddy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 11, 2008

It snowed.
And I begin to wonder if life was really worth living after all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Newsletter: 17 Months

Dear Soren,

Your turning 17 months old means one thing to me: in 1 month you'll be old enough to go to nursery during church. Wandering around with you in the halls for three hours while you ransack other people's diaper bags and tear the fake grass out of potted plants is great and all, but I think it will be nice to put you into a soundproof room with four walls, other small children, and lots of supervision-- and just walk away. (I think you'll enjoy being there too, actually, but that's not what's important here.)
Words you now say on a regular basis include: "Uh-oh" (usually before you intentionally throw something off your food tray or down the stairs), "No" (pronounced "oh" and said in a very forlorn tone), "Ow" (generally accompanied by hair-pulling), and "Meow" (upon seeing a cat, of course). You have also said "shoes" on a couple of occasions and your Uncle Sue swears that you recently whispered "horse." Also, it would seem that you frequently up and out with an "Oh shit," but I'm pretty sure that you're saying something else, like, "What's this?" and it's just coming out all wrong.
Earlier this month you and I walked to a park and you pushed your umbrella stroller around in the grass like it was a plow and you a little plowboy. Then we went down the spiral slide together, you giggling every time, until my calves couldn't stand the thought of climbing to the top again. Instead I talked you into playing in the playground's wood chips, an activity that amused us together for quite a while. Later we drove to Auntie Collette's house, where you were passed from child to child while we sat around a campfire and roasted weenies.
You are the family darling, and generally loved and adored by all. Your Grandma Hanson, for example, insists on referring to you as her baby, and when you spend time together, she'll periodically burst out with, "I love Sorenelli! I love Sorenelli!" Grandpa Hanson is always happy to take you outside or roughhouse with you on the carpet. Auntie Collette calls you "Little Nephew," and practically begs me to let her babysit you. When we visited Yellowstone National Park this week with the Smiths, Little Marty insisted on riding in our car so that you could play with the K'Nex airplane he had made that morning. Tessa also had to take a turn riding with you. Calysta pushed your stroller along the boardwalks. And when the kids made a teeter-totter out of a felled tree, Arielle pulled you onto it and helped you ride. It was quite a sight: five kids on one side, Big Marty on the other.
Even Auntie Loriann and Uncle Sue, neither of whom would consider themselves big "kid people," and who do not take to just any old child, delight in your presence.
Today, however, you had a sad initiation experience into the Real World. Your dad took you to the park and-- because school is out now--it was full of other children. He sat down on a bench and let you wander off on your own. Pretty soon you were approached by a sour-looking little boy of about 5, who leaned down and pointed his fingers in your face menacingly. You stared at him blankly, then turned around and toddled off. The mean little boy then proceeded to shout at and kick you. At this point, your dad intervened, yelled at the kid to back off, and scooped you up into the safety of his arms. Your were shocked and saddened but recovered quickly, as you always do. I think I cried more about the incident than you did. At first I contemplated hunting down that kid and kicking his butt, but then I realized that a kid like that doesn't come from nowhere. I imagined his big brother or dad kicking or hitting him for no apparent reason. And I felt worse for him than I did for you. You had a pair of strong arms to protect and comfort you; what did that little boy have? So tonight when we helped you say your bedtime prayer, we asked that the mean little boy from the park feel loved and safe.
I frequently make lists of things that I hope to instill in you as you slowly grow into manhood. They vary, but a few things stay the same. I hope that I give you a sense that you are loved and lovable. I hope that I help you develop a sense of competence and courage. I hope that you learn to be compassionate, kind, respectful, and reverent towards every living being you encounter. I hope that you become self-disciplined and self-controlled, that you won't let what you want now keep you from what you want most. I hope that you develop the capability of thinking for yourself; I particularly hope that you will be able to think through the consequences of your actions. I hope that you will enjoy life and be happy.

Anyway, sweetie, I love you. I'm so glad we've got to spend another month of life together. You are my sunshine.




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