Last night I was advising the kids not leave any toys lying around this weekend. I want them to be aware that their little cousin, Nate, can and will pick things up and chew/choke on them. So my advice was, "Anything smaller than your fist has to be up out of reach."*

So, both kids obligingly made fists.

Em's wasn't bad, actually. Nice tight (little) fist. She could do some (little) damage with that. Matthew's ... well? Not so hot.

So, Joe spent some time right there at the dinner table teaching Matthew how to make a good solid fist. Flat across the knuckles. Thumb across the front. How to pull your arm back and apply. What part of the fist should hit and how to avoid breaking your fingers. **

Part of me wanted to stop him. "No, he shouldn't know how to fight. He should never punch someone. Never, ever. Stop. Stop!"

But, I didn't say anything. I watched a father teach his son a likely valuable skill. Something he'll undoubtedly need to apply at some point. Defending himself, defending his sister. Defending his girlfriend, wife, daughter. And, despite my inner horror picturing spilled blood and loosened teeth, I was proud of them both. It was one of those father-son-passing-on-skills moments. It was actually kind of a warm and fuzzy feeling, mostly.

Let's just hope he doesn't have to use those skills any time soon. Particularly not on his big (little) sister.


* After looking at both proferred hands, I amended my instructions to "anything smaller than Emily's fist." My son is a moose.
** Joe would know, too. He broke several bones in his hand punching a blackboard in grade school (better than punching the nun, I guess, which was his first instinct ... long story).


Third in My Freak Series

OK, so Alton Brown is a freak. Granted, if I could afford to, I'd obey everything he ever says and buy all his recommended kitchen gadgets, ingredients, etc. His methods and demeanor fascinate me.

He also advocates only owning kitchen items that you 1. use frequently, and 2. serve multiple purposes.

Except for this. I present for your consderation: The Turkey Derrick.

While I shall be brining my turkey (for the first time ever), I will not be deep frying. Maybe next time.



Nearly Done

aka ... Honestly, I'm not a Freak, Part II

Almost done with my Christmas shopping, which feels awesome. I have to buy for my brand-new baby nephew, (mostly because nobody knew if it was a neice or a nephew until last week). I have to buy for Joe's mom and Pete (mostly because nobody ever knows what to get for them, but I finally got an idea when I was at their new house over the weekend), and I have to buy stocking stuffers for the family (mostly because I like to wait until relatively late to do those, to accomodate those little last-minute-fighting-the-crowd-is-fun-when-it's-not-for-any-real-presents urges I get). I also have two Secret Santa gifts to buy for work (mostly because I never, ever in a million years have any ideas for that sort of thing. Honestly, everyone else's creativity and inspiration impress me to no end when it comes to that sort of thing. I just wind up feeling like a doofus).

Joe and I ordered my present the other day. I should be getting it today. Yippee! Not telling, for now. I'm sure I'll be blogging about it in some sort of detail at some point. Joe's present is in the works. He's going to LOVE it. And, he does actually every now and then wander through here, so that's it for the details for now.
Ought to get knitting on some things and give those as gifts. Lately, I've only wanted to try to make and felt some wool slippers for myself. Just frogged a nearly done slipper last night when I didn't like how it was going. Probably casting on with a new pattern tonight. We'll see...


I am Not Either So a Freak!

Just because I've spent about an hour working on a document that includes the following table ... that doesn't make me a freak. Honest. I am not Monica Geller Bing. It's just that I enjoy planning ahead. And ... well, if I don't write things down in detail the Mad Cow kicks in and I forget everything I ever intended.


Thursday Night

Turkey to fridge


Shred and dry bread

Defrost sweet potatoes

Make rolls

Wednesday morning

Begin brining turkey

9:00 a.m.

Stuffing prep

9:30 a.m.

Stuffing in crock pot

10:15 a.m.

Turn crock pot temperature down to low

11:00 p.m.

Turkey prep

By 11:30 p.m.

Turkey in oven

Set table

2:00 p.m.

Prep sweet potatoes

By 2:15 p.m.

Sweet potatoes into oven

2:15 p.m.

Prep and cook green beans

By 2:00 p.m.

Potatoes on stove

2:30 p.m.

Mash and finish potatoes

2:50 p.m.

Microwave beets

3:00 p.m.

Make gravy

3:00 p.m.

Beverages out, kettle on (?)


Today's To-Dos

So, there's a lot of stuff to do before this weekend. My current To-Do list looks like this:

* Type up and e-mail in my meeting minutes for the NJEA Congressional Contact Committee
* Arrange for a babysitter for Wednesday's county-wide union meeting
* Print and email the invitations to our annual Christmas Cookie Exchange party
* Create, type up and print lesson plans through December
* Browse around and check out the Create-a-Graph website and figure out if I can use it with my students
* Pull out my old (like, five or six years ago) Thanksgiving plan and timetable and revise it for this year
* Come up with my Thanksgiving grocery shopping list
* Start addressing Christmas card envelopes
* Practice the trumpet at least twice (I'm playing in my school's Christmas concert with the advanced band)

Plus, both vehicles need their oil changed, Matthew may or may not be done with football for the year (I'm waiting for a call back from the coach about whether they won their playoff game last Saturday while we were at Mom Dugan's wedding), and we have laundry and unpacking to do from the weekend. And, I'm working backstage for the Off-Broad Street Players' Thursday-Sunday's performances of "Hello, Dolly!"

Then there's the regular round of Cub Scouts, piano practice, Girl Scouts, Joe's classes.

Add to that the enormous box of hand-me-down Legos that Matthew received over the weekend ... the box whose contents are now strewn willy-nilly all over his room. Let's just say there's some bedrooms clean in all of our futures. They seem to be the rooms of the house I find hardest to keep clean and tidy.

There may be a mental health day in my future this week, depending on how the start of the week unfolds...


ps. In other news, my teammates have finished raising money to meet their 2008 Breast Cancer 3-Day goals. Wooo! Thanks to all for their support. Now we'll have to see about 2009....*sigh*.



Welcome to Colin Patrick Dugan (Irish much?)!!! On Wednesday Joe's brother John and his wife (John's, not Joe's...my apologies for the ambiguous pronoun) had a baby boy. Big sister Kaitlyn is now about 2-1/2. So now Joe and I have two nieces and two nephews. Yay!

And ... tomorrow, Joe's mom will marry Peter Frasca. Mom's been widowed for years and years and it's wonderful to see her happy and in love again! Joe and John will walk her down the aisle. Joe's sisters are doing the scripture readings and the kids and I are Presenting the Gifts for the mass. I just love weddings!



I'm a Lobbyist!

Last night I attended my first Congressional Contact Committee meeting for the NJEA. I'm the representative for Cumberland County. This means I'll be getting in touch with our Representative -- NJ Congressional District 2-LoBiondo (R) -- and our Senators -- Frank Lautenberg (D) and Robert Menendez (D), regarding education issues.

Yep, I'm a lobbyist! Woo!

So, eventually, once I have half a clue ... I'll be making lobbying trips to DC and hosting receptions and events for the Congressmen. Well, way eventually. There are some seriously senior members in my district, so I'll watch and learn for quite some time, yet.

I need to do more reading on No Child Left Behind (always acronymed "NCLB" in ed circles), Charter Schools, etc. I need to become more informed on the appropriate issues.

In the meantime, I've written a lovely letter of introduction to the Honorable Frank LoBiondo's office. Maybe he'll send me tickets to the inauguration.

If not, apparently tickets to the Congressional Swearing In are generally abundant.

How do people get time off of teaching for these sorts of things, anyway??? Guess I'll have to start figuring that out.



Pro-Choice is *Not* Pro-Abortion

Mount soapbox

I'm been toying with blogging this for a few days now. Since it's been rattling around in my head and nagging at me rather persistently, I think I'd better get it out and see if it leaves me alone after that.

My mom teaches an adult Sunday School class/Bible Study at a somewhat conservative, evangelically leaning Methodist church in northwestern Pennsylvania. She and Dad have a number of friends there and seem to fit in pretty well, despite their own left-leaning politics and socially liberal worldview. Every now and then someone says something to Mom that gives her pause. She has to decide whether to let it slide in the interest of world peace or whether to get into it a bit in the name of defending everyone who has a different viewpoint from the majority of the congregation.

This past Sunday was just such an occasion.

Most likely referring to this article1, one of her students stated that abortion is the cause for the likely failing of Social Security and that if abortion had never been legalized, we would not be looking at the looming Social Security crisis.

As my friend Jake would say .... "Rrr-r-eally?"

Mom told me this on the phone and I immediately got online and began Googling like a mad-woman. We were positive there was a heinous flaw in this "logic," but it took us a few minutes to figure it out factually.

Depending on which source you use, there have been somewhere between 35 million and 45 million abortions since Roe v. Wade legalized it in the United States in 1973. Inaccuracies exist due to the various reporting methods.2 Still, a number in the range of 40 million seems fair.

Abortions per year peaked around 1990 at around 1.6 million (AGI) and have declined steadily ever since. We're now near 1.3 million (AGI), a number close to the 1977 figure.

So ... say 40 million pregnancies have been electively terminated since Roe v. Wade. I know there's currently an infant mortality rate of about 6.87 deaths per 1,000 live births3. I don't have mortality rates for later in childhood, early adulthood, etc., but it's safe to say that even unaborted, not nearly all of the 40 million would survive until the current day.

Which brings me to my next point. Roe v. Wade wasn't all that long ago, population wise. The very earliest of those legally aborted in 1973 would only now be 35 years old. Millions of others would decrease in age down from that point. So only the 18-35 years olds in that group would even be contributing to the Social Security pot at all4. The Social Security withholding rate is approximately 7.65% of your first $102,200 in earnings5. The calculations in the footnotes come up with a figure of around 15.2 million wage earners aged 18-35.

I think it's safe to say that generally speaking the 18-35 year olds are not earning at the peak of their lifetime salary potential. So, they're probably largely under the $102,200 threshold. In fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workers aged 16-24 earn an average of $425 per week6 and the 25-34 year olds earn $656 weekly. Which of course comes to only $21,528-$34,112 annually. Well, below our 7.65% threshold.

So, these individuals would be contributing roughly $1,646.90-$2,609.57 each into the Social Security pot each year.

If we use our still rather generous and unrealistic number of 15.2 million wage earners missing from the system, we have a range of $25.0 billion and $39.7 billion annually. This report from 2003, says the Social Security shortfall was then in the $26.4 trillion range, increasing at that time $1.46 trillion per year, which would put us already at least $33.7 trillion short over the next 75 years.

So ... not aborting those 23 million wage earners could not possibly have made enough of a positive impact on the Social Security system7. And ... over the next 75 years, all of those 23 million would then later be drawing upon Social Security, sapping the system further. But ...

... and here it is.

Legalizing abortion may have had nothing to do with any of this, one way or another.

According to the National Abortion Rights Action League (granted a biased source, I'm working on securing others), roughly 1.2 million abortions were performed annually through the 1950s and 1960s. The AGI says the number could range from 200,000 to 1.2 million annually through that same time period. The 1.2 million number is usually reserved for the just-before-Roe v. Wade data ... so, say the very early 1970s.

And, according to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of childbearing women worldwide has doubled between 1950 and 1990. The U.S. is behind the worldwide growth curve for that demographic8. By about half ... according to numerous estimates.

The childbearing population of the U.S. has grown by roughly 30% since just before the legalization of abortion. And yet, by many estimates, the number of abortions has grown by only 10% during the same time period.

Women are not having significantly more abortions just because it's legal.

So, why worry about keeping it legal or not??? Well, to save the lives of the mothers, of course. If even one woman is saved by having access to safe, sterile medical facilities, it's worth it. After all, statistically, more babies are not dying with legal abortion than with illegal abortion. So if that whole issue is a wash (as gruesome and unsavory and horrible to think about as it is...), it's really just the lives of the mothers at stake.

I'm very much not pro-abortion. Very. Much. Not. I'm sad that any woman should feel that it was the only option remaining to her. I think the major fallacies in arguments made by Pro-Life groups is that 1. Pro-choice=pro-abortion (I don't know anyone who sits around gleefully rubbing their hands together at the prospect of any abortion.), 2. Keeping abortion legal equals increased numbers of abortions, 3. It's an ungodly practice that equates to murder and should be banned on those grounds.

Well ... #1 just isn't true. #2 seems statistically untrue or at least unlikely. #3 should remain a personal choice between a woman and her God.


Make what you will of my research and so forth, but please refrain from any personal attacks. Thankyouverymuch.


1 Or referring to any number of conservative pundits, media personalities, etc referring to this item ... just Google abortion social security and see the stuff that shows up. This has been around for years now, though this is the first I've heard of it.

2 The CDC regularly reports lower numbers than the Alan Guttmacher Institute (one of the leading independent research centers for women's health issues). Reporting laws vary from state to state and it's suspected that some health care professionals under-report to protect themselves.

3 Article here.

4 Straight out adding up the AGI and CDC numbers for the years 1973-1990 gives us a range of 21,424,281 and 25,426,000. So, roughly 23 million abortions that could possibly have resulted in current-day wage earners ... again not subtracting out for natural miscarriages, infant mortality, and other causes of death up to the current day. Additionally, many of those who survive to their majority would not even be earning and therefore contributing to Social Security at all. According to this chart, it seems to me that roughly 1/3 of those in the designated 18-35 age group are not in the work force.

5 Link here, and is it just me or is $102,200 a weird cut-off number?

6 Link here, and scroll down a bit to Table 2.

7 I'm not going to try to figure out the drain on the other governmental programs per born child in terms of education, welfare, WIC programs, housing, incarceration, etc. Not to mention wages lost to mothers bearing the additional 23 million.

8 Averages by country, according to the CIA, here.


Feels So Good

I know that a Democratic majority isn't the answer to all life's problems. I know that President-Elect Obama has inherited a boatload of problems that he may or may not have the power and wisdom to remotely solve. I know that.

And yet, I can't stop smiling today.

Does anyone know how to score tickets to the inauguration?