Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 8

We just finished day 8 of The Shred. Technically, we've been at it for 10 days, but we took 2 days off due to sickness.

We are definitely both doing better in terms of endurance, and we have both noticed an increase in strength. I am up to 25 consecutive modified push ups (more than 35 total during the work out.) John is a push up maniac- he doesn't even do the modified ones anymore- he is all the way down to the ground each time, too!

I am nursing a pulled and spasming muscle in my back which makes any of the "bouncing" exercises very painful, so butt kicks, jump rope, and jumping jacks are all out for now. Instead, I have been learning to pack a punch by subbing boxing for all the cardio moves. In the 2 days I have been doing this, I have still gotten a good cardio work out, and definitely feel an improvement in my boxing.

Neither of us are having the horrible pains and burning muscles of the first few days. That is a major relief! The circuits don't seem as endless anymore, and I have take to counting how many of each move I am successfully completing in each cycle- this motivates me to try to do at least one more the next day. I personally take the moves slow but make sure my form is good on each move- I like to feel the muscle moving.

According to the scale, John has lost about 6 lbs, which is about 20% of his total weight loss goal. I have lost 3-4 lbs, which is about 18% of my total weight loss goal. We have not added additional cardio yet, nor have we calorie restricted (in fact, this past weekend we ate a LOT of birthday cake. Yummm!)

John and I both have things we really dislike about the workout. I personally think Julian is a bit obnoxious at times, and some of the things she says drive me nuts (I love to make fun of her between my panting.) I also really, really, really hate the combined arms+legs strength move in circuit 3- it's a anterior lift with a side lunge. Horrible! However, I don't mind any of the ab work (abs are probably my major strength in this work out) and my bicycle crunches are getting better (meaning they actually resemble the move:)

Here's a word from John:

Personally, I hate the static lunge with the bicep curl. I don't know why Grace likes it. More importantly, as Grace becomes a punching machine, I become more and more worried. She has standing orders from my father to hit me in the head if I become a jerk; it use to be less worrisome.

A word of advice: if you are going to start The Shred, do NOT watch it first. Just jump in and do it. Do it 5 consecutive days, and you will suddenly feel like 30 days is actually a reasonable and achievable goal. Just push through those first five days. It will suck, but it will get better.

Caved

I am on Facebook now.

Go- make me feel welcome!

yellow_grace at yahoo dot com

The train... thingy

Abigail: Momma, can we go on one of those trains without a roof on the sides?

Me: A train without a roof on the sides?

Abigail: Yeah. Like Mr. Rogers had!

That's when I figured out that she meant a trolley.


Abigail learned about Mr. Rogers in school. It was always one of my favorite shows, and I consider it far superior to Sesame Street. But I don't know how much she actually knows about the show- in fact, I don't know if she has even seen the show!

I was inexplicably teary-eyed when she brought home a portrait of Mr. Rogers that she had colored under which she printed "Fred Rogers diyd five years agow."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Help Needed!

You all know that I am working on graduating this semester. One of my classes involves working within the community setting to enact a community-based nursing intervention. My intervention is going to be teaching at an Adult Diabetes Support group. My topic?

Having a Sweet Holiday: A guide to controlling your blood sugar.

What I need from you are suggestions. I know many of you have had loved ones who struggle with the management of diabetes, and you have had to make accommodations to your holiday celebrations. So, help me out:

  • What are things you wonder about- what questions do you have about diabetes during the holidays?
  • What are things you have done that helped you or your loved one control their diabetes during the holidays?
  • Do you have any carb-friendly holiday recipes that you would be willing to share?

Thanks in advance for your help- feel free to forward this post to anyone who you think might be able to help!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prayers for Travis

As most Gladney Ethiopia Program families know, Travis Norwood, one of the in-country reps for Gladney, has been having some serious battles with his health. I thank God for the opportunity he had to be in the US and get the great care that the US health care system offers.

Please keep the Norwood family in your prayers during his continued therapy and recovery time. Please also pray for the rest of the staff in Ethiopia who are carrying the weight of the Norwood's work while they are here in the US.

If you would like to participate in a group prayer time, on Sunday, November 16 from 7:30-8:00pm EST, join with others across the nation as we pray for Travis, his family, the doctors treating him, the in country staff who know him so well and are acting in his absence in Ethiopia and all of those who have been or who are touched by Travis's presence in their lives...

Our children and each of us are better for having him work with Gladney.

Shredded

Desperate times call for desperate measures. That's why John and I have started the 30 day shred. We both want to get in shape, increase our cardio endurance, and loose weight (approximately 17% of total body weight each.) Julian Michaels from The Biggest Loser has designed this 20 minute work out, and let me tell you, it kicks your butt.

Since it is only a 20 minute work out, it is meant to make you feel like you are going to die, and you do. The first day we did it, I thought I was going to puke almost the entire time, and it felt like it was going to last forever!

The workout has a 2 minute warm up which is followed by 3 circuits that are 6 minutes each, and a 2 minute cool down (total time: 22 minutes.) Each circuit has 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs. There are 3 levels, each with the same format.

John and I are on day 3 of the shred. I can tell you that I already have noticed an increase in my cardio endurance, and I no longer feel like I am going to puke the whole time. My legs burn, and walking up and down stairs is a form of torture right now, but that means that it's working, right?

I can also tell you that it would be a miracle for me to advance to level 2 anytime in this 30 days. I am doing slightly modified versions of the level 1 moves (for instance, push-ups from the knees and not going into deep lunges). By the end of the 30 days, I hope to be able to do the non-modified versions of the moves, but I don't think I will be ready for level 2.

I will say this: today, I did 18 push-ups in a row. Granted, they were from the knees, and I did not go all the way down, but I bent my arms and pushed my body weight back up. I have never been able to do that 18 times in a row in my entire life!

It works, and since it is only 20 minutes, I think I can manage to do it every day, even when I go back to work. Once the intense burning pain in my legs goes away, I hope to be able to work a bit more cardio (ie- the elliptical) back into my day as well, in hopes of losing that weight.

So give it a try. I will keep you posted on our progress.


(I asked John if he has anything to add. He says "ouch.")

Sign Language Update and other Ax2 Stuff

I wrote before about teaching Anna sign language. We are good with "sleep" (although she consistently starts by putting one hand on each ear, and then remembers to bring one hand over to the other and tilt her head:) I cannot for the life of me get her to use the sign for "help" although I think this may be a personality thing. I am trying to teach her the sign for "want" because when she points at things, it is hard to know if she is pointing because she likes it, is scared of it, or wants it.


I am wondering how you teach kids the signs for emotions. I get that I can teach her love or maybe even happy, but what about angry, sad, or disappointed? Any thoughts? Also, I want to teach her the sign for "diaper" because I think she is starting to understand when she needs her diaper changed... and understanding that is the first step to learning to use the potty! Just found the ASL for Babies sight. It's so cool:)


I recently had a few mornings where, after getting dressed, Anna would have a meltdown. Turns out, the girl likes shoes (I tell you, she is a Kirk in every sense of the word!) (Although she has rather poor taste in shoes- but I can remedy that!) So we recently learned the sign for "shoes" and she uses it all the time. She insists on wearing shoes pretty much all the time, and was so mad the other day when she couldn't get her shoes on over her large fleece footed PJs. Eventually I found a pair of slippers that she could get on over them, and she was happy. So happy, in fact, that she insisted on wearing the slippers to preschool the next day. And overnight. She finally let me put different shoes on her this morning, when I bribed, uh, I mean... well, yeah, bribed her with pink cheetah-print dress shoes. She loved them! She signed "shoes" with a big smile on her face for a full 5 minutes.


Anna: loves shoes, hates footed PJs.


Her spoken language now includes the word "uh-oh!" Too cute! She also tries to speak the words baby, Gaga, Pepaw, and apple.



Speaking of food, Anna also has been expressing more and more likes and dislikes with her food. Likes spinach, dislikes apergras. Likes chicken, dislikes bacon. Likes potatoes, dislikes peas. Likes carbs, dislikes- well, most things that aren't carbs.


Anna: never met a carb she didn't like.


Probiotics

I've been meaning to do a post about probiotics for a long time. (Just like I mean to do a post about giving your kids antibiotics.) There are a lot of people who go around spewing anecdotal stories as if they are facts, and a lot of people who are too stuck in their ways to listen to facts. I try to strike that medium between open-minded and yet cautious and wise. Being a nurse and having access to lots of scientific studies and research helps. So does an insatiable curiosity that won't rest until I know the truth.

So, let me break this down to you.

The digestive track runs from your mouth to your butt- it is the path that food takes from the time it enters your mouth until it leaves your body. Your entire digestive track has bacteria (flora) in it. The digestive system also creates and excretes enzymes throughout it's entire track.

(**Note** Some diseases prevent the creation and excretion of enzymes and therefore supplemental enzymes are given; for instance, people with CF don't make enzymes in general and must take a comprehensive enzyme to help digest their food while people with lactose intolerance simply don't make the enzyme to digest lactose, and proper supplementation can assist them to digest small amounts of lactose properly. Enzymes and bacteria/flora/probiotics are NOT the same thing. Remember, enzymes are made by your body while the bacteria/flora enter your body and live there.)

For the most part, when we have problems with our digestive track, they are usually in our stomach and intestines (unless you have reflux, which is in your esophagus, but also your stomach.) The stomach and intestines are referred to as the GI track/system (GI standing for gastrointestinal.)

In the GI track, there are different kinds of flora. The kinds of flora that exist in the GI system are particular to the areas where they live. For instance, your stomach is a highly acidic place- it is part of how you digest your food. So certain bacteria can live in your stomach but if they move to a more alkalotic are of the GI system, they will not live. Likewise, things that are normal in one part of our GI system can make us sick if they are in a part of our GI system that they do not normally inhabit.

I am sure you have all heard of e.coli. We work really hard to prevent e.coli from being in the food we eat, right? We cook our poultry and try not to let raw chicken and eggs touch stuff and clean it up well when it does touch our counters. Because e.coli can make you sick in your stomach. But did you know that e.coli is a normal inhabitant of the last parts of your digestive system? We all have it in our poop. And when you get a urinary track infection, the most likely cause is from e.coli that has migrated from the butt to the vagina and up in to the urinary tract (obviously, this is most common in women, although men who get urinary tract infections could get it from hands that have not been washed well since e.coli also lives all over our skin.)

The antibiotics that we give to treat a UTI (urinary tract infection) are designed to kill e.coli- make sense, right, because that is what is clogging up our urinary tract and making us sick. But since the medication goes to all areas of our body, it doesn't just kill the e.coli in our urinary tract, it also kills the e.coli in our digestive tract, which is why we end up with upset stomach and diarrhea. Makes sense, right?

(FYI- if you think you may be getting a UTI, research has proven that cranberry is effective in e.coli UTI. So if you have an issue where you pee and you think "man, that was really burning" or whatever, take a cranberry supplement- you may prevent a UTI! I always keep a bottle in my bathroom cabinet. HOWEVER- if you have a known UTI, or if you get a UTI with back pain or severe symptoms, please see your doctor and take antibiotics. If you don't, you could end up with irreversible kidney damage. The cranberry should be taken only at the first signs of UTI, not to treat an established UTI. There is also some thought that if you are prone to UTI and get them frequently, you could take cranberry as a preventative. Talk to your doctor- I am not a doctor!)

So, back to probiotics and stuff. I am writing this specifically because there are people who are saying that you can use probiotics to prevent stomach sickness/travelers diarrhea and other illnesses when you travel to areas that do not have safe water and food practices. So let me first address what probiotics do.

Specific probiotics are used to re-establish healthy gut flora when we know we have killed it off. For instance, the treatment for giardia and C.diff is a medication called Flagyl. Flagyl is known to kill off normal healthy gut flora as well as whatever the infective agent is. So during and after your course of treatment with Flagyl, it may be beneficial to take a probiotic (in the hospital we give lactobacillus acidolphilis, although there may be others depending on age- talk to your doctor!) to help restore the normal healthy flora. These things can usually be found at your local drug store (my local CVS carries 2 kinds that my doctor recommended for Anna after she had giardia.)

When you are taking an antibiotic for a UTI or sinus infection, your doctor might encourage you to eat yogurt with live cultures daily. Why? Because the antibiotic might kill off normal flora in your gut that can be replaced with the cultures (bacteria) in yogurt. Every antibiotic focuses on killing different kinds of bacteria, so each antibiotic might kill different kinds of healthy flora. Lactobacillus supplements will not restore every kind of healthy flora- it will only restore lactobacillus. So sometimes yogurt (or other probiotics, at the suggestion of your doctor!) will help.

In addition, when you have healthy gut flora, you are more likely to be able to defend yourself against infections. It just make sense- when everything is working right, things are less likely to go wrong. Just like when you have healthy skin free of cuts and lacerations, you are less likely to get an infection in your skin. Common sense. So having a healthy gut is a good and desirable thing. Most of us have a healthy gut, and if we don't, we know it (because we vomit or have diarrhea.)

Now, let me talk about what probiotics don't do.

Probiotics don't affect any illnesses that are viral or parasitic in nature. So, Hepatitis A, worms, and a whole variety of things that you may be exposed to when you have unsafe food and water will not be prevented of affected at all by using probiotics. It's just common sense- you don't treat a viral infection with an anti/pro biotic (which is why we don't give antibiotics for the flu- it's viral!)

Bacteria can "battle" other bacteria- this can happen in the gut when we are exposed to bacteria that should not be there. However, in these situations, the abnormal bacteria is just as likely to win as the normal flora. It is kind of a toss up. Having more of the normal bacteria by taking a probiotic is not going to ensure that the healthy flora wins when it fights the bad bacteria. That's not the way it works- more doesn't mean better. It just depends on what abnormal bacteria makes it into the gut. Either the good flora is able to fight the bad bacteria or it's not. Probiotics don't prevent bacterial stomach illnesses that the good flora simply aren't equipped to fight. To put it in different terms: having more soldiers does not mean you will win a battle. If there are less soldiers on the other side, but they are wearing bulletproof armor and all you have to try to fight them off is bullets... well, they will probably win- especially if they are fighting you with bombs and grenades. When it comes to bacteria in the gut, some are just more powerful than the healthy flora. So probiotics won't prevent or shorten an illness caused by any of the bacteria that are not susceptible to the healthy flora.

(**NOTE** When you plan to travel to an area that has potential for unsafe food or water, it is good to talk to your doctor and have a prescription for antibiotics in case you were to become sick. Your doctor will probably tell you not to take the medication unless your diarrhea becomes bloody (this is typical of bacterial diarrhea, as opposed to a viral diarrhea.) If you diarrhea is ever bloody, it is important that you are treated right away. If you are traveling and don't have a script with you, see a doctor.)

Probiotics don't do the job of enzymes. If you can't digest your food because you don't have the right enzymes, probiotics won't help. Interestingly, when Anna was diagnosed with giardia, my doctor informed me that prolonged giardia infections can cause lactose intolerance (because it affects the enzyme production.) Thankfully, I took Anna off dairy while we were still in Ethiopia. So a newly adopted child with symptoms of lactose intolerance who also has giardia will definitely be helped by medication and probiotics- not because this creates the enzymes, but rather because it creates a setting in the gut where the enzymes can be produced and do their job.

What it comes down to is this: probiotics are good, but like any good thing, they can be misused and misconstrued. Just like antibiotics are not the cure for the common cold, probiotics are not the cure for all stomach illnesses. In fact, there is almost no way to ensure that you won't get sick if you are traveling in a place with potential for unsafe food or water. There are some things you can do to try to stay healthy, though:

  • Start out healthy and aim to stay that way. If you have recently been sick or on antibiotics, talk to your doctor about what you may need to do in order to be in top-notch condition to travel. Know what is safe and unsafe in the country you are visiting, and be mindful of anything you put in or near your mouth. Vigorously wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds before eating. Use alcohol hand sanitizer appropriately and often.
  • Certain medications can be used to prevent travelers diarrhea. Bismuth subsalicyate (the active ingredient in adults Pepto Bismal) can help prevent e.coli and viral stomach illnesses if taken with meals. (**NOTE** Bismuth is not safe for kids and therefore there is no Bismuth subsalicyate in kids' Pepto. If you are traveling with kids, they do not need to take Kids Pepto before meals, and they should not take adults Pepto. Not sure what bismuth is? It is one of the most "natural" things in nature- it is #83 on the periodic table of elements. Bismuth subsalicyate is a stabilized version of bismuth.)
  • Have a plan if you do get sick. Talk to your doctor about a prescription for travelers diarrhea (talk to your pediatrician about a script for your kids if they are traveling with you.) Make sure that if you are vomiting or having a lot of diarrhea, you have electrolyte solution (Gatorade powder or similar, Pedialyte for kids) and drink frequently if you become sick. The more hydrated and nourished your body is, the more likely you will be to fight off the illness.

Anyway, I would like to reiterate that I am not a doctor and these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. But if you are intrigued, please engage in your own research (and remember, wikipedia is NOT a good reference!) Look in the medical and science journals. There is some interesting info out there.

And just for fun, a poll:



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Must Make!

You must make this.

People who know me in "real life" know that I have recently fallen in love with my crock pot. I've made yogurt, bean soup, and now this chicken over the course of the past week. Delish!

But really, this chicken is the best chicken I have ever had. I did skin my chicken (except for the wings- those things are tricky!) and stuffed the cavity with a few peeled and crushed cloves of garlic and a quartered onion. I used a smaller crock and cooked on high for 4 hours (my crock is about 18 years old and cooks at much lower temps than the newer crocks, so keep that in mind) then on low for another 6 hours.

The chicken was so tender that it literally fell off the bone- and the bones fell apart- while I was trying to get the chicken out of the crock! John, Abigail, and Anna give it rave reviews, and we all ate a lot. Since it was skinned and trimmed, it was pretty lean in terms of chicken, but it was moist and flavorful. And since it was already off the bones, it made picking the bones (for meat for chicken and dumplings) so much easier! Plus, even though you don't add any liquid, there was quite a bit of liquid by the time it was done cooking. I strained it and saved it for broth.

With whole chickens only $0.77/lb. at Sam's, this is definitely going into the dinner rotation on a regular basis. In fact, I might not cook chicken any other way (well, not whole chicken.... I mean, I still want to try the applesauce chicken using my homemade/canned applesauce!)

Anyway, do try this. It is delish. And at $0.77/lb, this home-cooked-better-than-store-bought rotisserie chicken is half the price of the store-bought kind.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

You, too, could be a winner!

This little guy is.

So is this little girlie.

This little girl soon will be.

If you are home with a little one that spent time in the older baby/toddler room at the Gladney Care Center anytime from May-September, 2008.... you too could be a winner!

Just email me at yellow_grace at yahoo dot com to claim your fabulous prize*!

* Fabulous prize is an email from me discussing the intricacies of Anna stool pattern. Seriously, wondering if anyone else has any ideas?

Motherletter

I wrote a Motherletter.

"And then I see my fair-skinned, blue-eyed 6 year old protectively hug her molasses-skinned, midnight-eyed sister in a crowd of children who look at them with questioning eyes. And I know there is so little that I really need to teach them. Because God has given them the gift of each other. And they will teach each other more than I ever could."

Will you write one, too?

What do you make of this? (A question about our policy towards Iraq)

So, I just read this article from the AP, published today (11/8/08). Here is the text:

Iraq still needs US military, official says

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer


BAGHDAD – Iraq's deputy prime minister said Saturday his country still needs the U.S. military to ensure security and warned that time is running out to approve a new security deal with Washington.

West of Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed eight people and wounded 17 more at a police checkpoint near the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in Anbar province, police said.
The bomber stepped out of his car at the checkpoint and blew up his explosive vest, said police Col. Yassin Duweich. Seconds later the car exploded, apparently detonated remotely by an accomplice nearby.


Three more people died in roadside bomb attacks in Baghdad and in Madian, south of the capital.

The attacks come as U.S. and Iraqis officials have been working to finalize a deal that would remove U.S. troops from Iraq's cities by June 30 and withdraw them from the country by 2012.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh cautioned that Iraq will enter a "period of a legal vacuum" if the U.N. mandate under which US troops operate in Iraq expires by year's end without the agreement having been approved.


Without a deal or new U.N. mandate, the U.S. would have to cease all operations in the country.
On Thursday, Washington delivered what it calls its final answer to proposed Iraqi changes to the draft agreement, and is now waiting on Baghdad's move.


Saleh said the government was studying the latest amendments, and expressed hope the deal will be resolved "as soon as soon possible because time is running out." He added the pact is key to preserving "the security improvement which has been achieved" in recent months.

Also Saturday, Iraq's prime minister called for changes to the Iraqi constitution to give more power to the central government, especially in security and other key fields.

The comments by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was a member of the committee that drafted the constitution in 2005, appeared directed at the Kurds, who enjoy extensive autonomy in their three-province region of northern Iraq.

But it may also have been directed at his Shiite rivals who want a similar, nine-province autonomous region in the south.

"A strong federal government must be built which has full responsibility over security, sovereignty and other issues," al-Maliki said in Baghdad.

His remarks came against the backdrop of rising tension in the north between Kurds and Arabs, who have accused the Kurds of trying to expand their region to include areas under central government control.

The Kurds have also signed contracts with foreign oil companies to exploit oil fields in their region. The Oil Ministry maintains those contracts are illegal. The constitution gives the Kurds the right to maintain their own military force — the peshmerga — that is responsible for security in the Kurdish region.

Al-Maliki said the current constitution was written "in haste," when Iraq was in a "transitional stage," and that the time has come to revise it.

"Since we managed to establish the government and to protect it from collapsing and from terrorism, killers and the followers of the former regime, today we should move forward in building it on clear national and constitutional bases in which responsibilities are specified," he said.

He said a possible solution would be to give regional governments say over their economic, agricultural, investment and local administration matters, while leaving security and foreign affairs to Baghdad.

Kurdish politicians promptly dismissed al-Maliki's proposals, defending their regional rule.
"We reject any attempts to limit the powers of the Kurdistan region or any other province," said Falah Mustafa Bakir, in charge of foreign relations in the Kurdish regional government.
Another prominent Kurdish lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman, said while central government should be strong enough, "this does not mean that the government should be the controller of everything while regions and provinces have no power to do anything."


But al-Maliki suggested that the failure to tackle these issues would leave open the door to future violence.

"We have a conflict over one inch here and over a line there," he said. "If there is no clear vision of the political system and sovereignty, we will turn into real governments fighting each other."

Al-Maliki's main coalition partner — the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council — wants to create a similar self-ruled region in the nine-province Shiite south. Al-Maliki's Dawa Party, which is also Shiite, and the movement of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, oppose the autonomous region as a threat to national unity.

The issue is expected to take prominence in the provincial elections set for January. The Supreme Council needs to take control of provincial governments to push through its autonomy plan.

Associated Press Writers Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.




So, here is where I think we are in this whole Iraq War issue (and I am separating the Iraq War with the Afghanistan military action, so don't try to confuse the two.) I am starting with where we presently stand, not to ignore any of the past or the "rightness" or "wrongness" of it, but to give us an equal and fair starting point for discussion, because we can't change what has already happened, and we certainly can't accurately determine the hidden motives of decision-makers in previous years. So, here are some facts about where we stand (please feel free to add to the facts, because I certainly don't know everything):

1. US troops are presently in Iraq under mandate from the UN. They are not there illegally or in violation of international peace agreements by being there.

2. US troops are helping to train the Iraqi military, provide support services like transportation, air control, and communication technologies, and act in a peace-keeping capacity.

3. Iraqi citizens seem to be the target of the present violence in Iraq, which is terroristic in nature. While US troops are certainly wounded and killed, innocent Iraqi citizens and Iraqi troops are wounded and killed each day by terrorists.

4. The life of a US soldier/citizen is just as valuable as the life of an Iraqi soldier/citizen.

5. The Iraqi government is still "new" and still trying to find ways to operate successfully in an ethnically and religiously diverse country. Even to officials within the Iraqi government, the presence of US troops is viewed as necessary to help stabilize the country. The Iraqi government does not appear prepared to govern independently.

6. Total withdrawal of US troops is required by the end of this year under the UN mandate unless the troops are invited to stay by the Iraqi government. Washington and Baghdad are working towards an agreement that would extend an Iraqi invitation to allow the US troops to stay in the cities until June 30, 2009, and allow troops to stay in the country (military bases, etc) until the end of 2011.

7. Upon withdrawal of US troops, Iraqi troops would become completely responsible for the services that the US troops are providing (air traffic control, transportation, communications, support services) in addition to providing border security and fighting insurgents and terrorists.

So, working off these facts, and ignoring things in the past that we cannot change, what is the "right" thing to do? It's a complicated situation, and I don't know if I, as a citizen, can fully comprehend the enormity of the problem. Certainly, to innocent Iraqi citizens that are at the will of their government (one that may not accurately represent them or their wishes), this could mean life or death. It's a big deal. And I don't think there is an easy answer.

Here is what I starting to think

1. Unless the US and Iraqi governments reach an agreement, we must pull out of Iraq at the end of this year. It would not benefit us to be in violation of UN mandates, although I seriously question the cost to the Iraqi citizens.

2. If the US and Iraqi governments come to an agreement, and the Iraq government extends an invitation- a request- for US troops to remain in Iraq, it is our duty to do so. If a broken nation is requesting our assistance, we need to help them, especially since the whole reason they are the way they are is because of us. We broke it- we need to fix it.

3. Have you seen Charlie Wilson's War? If not, please watch it. It has a lot of "stuff" in there that is pretty over the top (in terms of the drugs and sex and crazy politics) but one of the things that I brought away from the movie is that the US is good at destroying. We are not so great at rebuilding. We need to help Iraq rebuild. Not in terms of military forces, but with our teachers, our engineers, our doctors and nurses, our transportation/aviation officials, our Exxon Mobil executives, our financiers, etc. Iraq needs infrastructure. They need to learn how to use their wealth to provide income to the country, the people, the government. The people need the encouragement and resources to help them build a prosperous and independent future. We are a nation that is rich in education and thought- we need to give that to the Iraqis. Otherwise, we will end up with another Afghanistan.

4. I highly doubt that the assistance that we need to provide (as detailed in #3) will be possible unless we can assure the safety of the US and international citizens that would be performing these rebuilding duties. Basically, US citizens are not going to volunteer to go help the Iraqis if it means we are going to be killed by terrorist, insurgents, or (as I think is totally possible) civil war activities within Iraq.

5. Whether we stay at the invitation of the Iraqi government or leave under the present UN mandate, innocent Iraqi citizens will continue to be the target of insurgents and terrorists. And that is really sad. (Don't get me started on Darfur.)

6. The only thing I know to do right now is to pray. I can't find it within me to request that our government bring home our troops when they are obviously still needed, and the UN has mandated their presence. However, by the end of this year, things will change. I want to hope that it will be for the better, but right now it looks like an agreement will not be reached, US troops will not be invited to stay, and we will have to withdraw, or risk being in violation of UN mandate. And if we withdraw, it will only be a matter of time until we are forced to go back, all of our present gains having been lost, and start the rebuilding process all over again. It's so complicated. And it's so sad.

So, what do you think?

So Glad

It's over.

Anna was a total doll the first have of the post-placement visit, and a total brat the second half. Someone really needed a nap.

But at least my house was clean:)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What some fail to understand... (A Political Venting Post)

The President has basically no power over the economy. The Senate does; in fact, it is one of their duties to control economic stability (need clarification- see here.) And for the past 4 years, the Senate has been controlled by the Democrats.

It was also Democratic President Bill Clinton that signed the Gramm-Leachy-Bliley Act in 1999, repealing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The Gramm-Leachy-Bliley Act shot us down the path of sub-prime lending, a path that led to our current crisis and people loosing their homes. (See here for an explanation if you are not familiar.)

The truth is that our current economic situation is not a product of the Republicans. It's not a product of ANY political party. It is a product of our (the American people) greediness, our "keeping-up-with-the-Jones"ness, and our irresponsibility.

We, as a society, felt it was okay to stop living within our means. We bought big cars, big houses, big vacations, big stuff. And we bought it all on credit, because we couldn't pay cash for it. And it finally caught up with us.

Don't blame Bush for things that were not his fault. And don't think any President can fix this; it's not the role of the President. It's up to Congress.

And it's up to us- to make better, more responsible choices.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Potential...

places to live if the Dems get the Senate at 60 seats in addition to the presidency...


Greece
Austria
Chile
Ethiopia (mmm. coffee.)
Dominican Republic
Egypt
Easter Island
Genovia (Abigail's favorite European nation)
Luxembourg
Ireland
New Zealand
Liechtenstein (who doesn't want to live in a country that is 62 square miles)

Any thoughts?

In a Sea of Blue...

A great text message from John:

Did you take your prilosec yet? (Yes, I have a stress ulcer.) If not, please take it now. I am picking up a bottle of wine to help us get through the election.

I have so many thoughts, political thoughts, thoughts about Christianity and our political system and my role as a Christian in the vote. But people get nasty when they think you are trying to change their vote. So these thoughts will only be forthcoming when the polls are closed (and probably after I am done with school for the semester.)

I will say that John and I have been debating where we will move to if we do actually turn into a socialist country. He loves Chile. True, they are socialists as well, but, you know, they are not Americans with a sense of entitlement. So they do socialism much better than we ever will.

Halloween 2008

Minnie Mouse (who refused to look at the camera and thought everyone was nuts for dressing up!)




Queen Lucy (from Narnia, and yes, also from last year.)


Sisters
And just for kicks, here's a look at what dinner time is like at our house with an 18 month old who doesn't really speak English and only kinda speaks sign language.


video

It really cracks me up how sometimes Anna stuffs huge bites into her mouth, and other times, she will pick up her food one grain of rice at a time.

Alien

It appears we have an alien in permanent residence here at our house.



YIKES!






If you don't get my joke, I'm just trying to say that Anna got her permanent resident alien card from USCIS.






Now I just need to get crackin' on that re-adoption stuff. You know, once I make sure I am not going to fail out of my final semester of college.






More Halloween pictures are up here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Post

So, on Saturday, we have our first post-placement visit.

Hmm.

What kinds of questions should I be preparing for? What will she want to know or see?
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