Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and the Entitlement Culture

Today being Halloween (although, almost over), my mind started wandering to the whole premise of trick or treat, and I started wondering if it's popularity is somehow related to the whole society of entitlement that we seem to have nowadays.

We don't really do Halloween in our family. My daughter watches all the popular children's cartoons, so she knows what it is, but we don't go out trick or treating, purchase Halloween costumes, or anything like that. She did play dress up today, wearing a princess costume I bought a couple of years ago on the day after Halloween (50% off). She also got candy, since our church had a movie night to go to.

Since we don't do Halloween here, I think of the scenario of what happens when/if someone shows up on our door begging for candy. We do have some candy in the house, and I suppose if someone had shown up, I'd give them some and a gospel tract. We have lights that turn on when you walk up to the front door and stay off the rest of the time, so that didn't happen.

The premise of Trick-or-treating... give us candy or we'll play a trick on you... isn't very appealing to me. Most people nowadays don't vandalize a person's house for not giving out candy, but the phrase implies the threat. I was curious if the rise in popularity of trick-or-treating was in any way correllated to the rise of entitlements, so I looked it up in Wikipedia.

There are various forms of begging for treats that go back hundreds of years... in the 1500s, poor people used to go around promising to pray for the dead in exchange for food. However, the earliest reference for Halloween begging was around 1915. But it wasn't something commonly done.

The phrase "trick-or-treat" came from the 1930s, when begging for Halloween candy became more widespread. In the 1940s and 1950s, trick-or-treating became more mainstream, appearing on TV shows, magazines, and a Disney cartoon.

Oddly enough, from the 1930s to 1950s, many adults though of trick-or-treating as a form of extortion. Some adults didn't even know what trick-or-treating was, and the children had to explain it to them. In 1948, even the children protested trick-or-treating... the Madison Square Garden Boys Club carried a banner saying "American Boys Don't Beg."

Coincidentally, perhaps, the entitlement programs started around the 1930s as well. There is some correllation but it may not actually be linked. 80% of adults plan to give out Halloween candy, and 93% of children go trick-or-treating. So while it may be seen as an entitlement by some kids, it is one that many adults don't mind bestowing on cute, costumed children.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Child Left Behind - Homeschool Style

Yesterday I found out what the meaning of "No Child Left Behind" is to homeschool parents.

A local Christian school had the day off yesterday, and one of the members of our little homeschool group was babysitting 10 of the students that had the day off. We used to go to the church attached to the homeschool, so my daughter and I know all the kids at that school. One of the girls attending the school is my daughter's best friend, so she was really happy that her best friend had the day off.

So yesterday all of us had a park day. 10 kids from the Christian school, my 2 kids, and 4 other kids that normally go to the homeschool group. So we had 16 kids.

We all met at the main house where we normally meet, and all the kids either walked, rode in a stroller, rode in the van, or rode bicycles to the nearby park. We took a picnic lunch and toys. We had quite a bike parade!

For the homeschool parent, No Child Left Behind means making sure that no child gets left behind when you have 16 children walking or biking to the park... and making sure that no child gets left behind when returning home. Or toy.

Any parent that thinks that homeschoolers get no socialization doesn't know what sort of socialization homeschoolers can have. Our park day crowd of kids looked like any group of kids you might find at any day care center in the country... only none of the teachers had to make sure the kids weren't biting, spitting, climbing up the slide, etc. (I worked at a day care center for two years). The kids ranged from 11 months to 8 or 9 years too, so there was probably a wider age range than would be playing at the typical day care center playground.

In a typical week, my daughter attends church 3 times, goes to the library with other kids, sees her soccer friends twice a week, and goes to her homeschool group. Not to mention trips to the grocery store, doctors, or anywhere else we might happen to go. She doesn't seem to lack friends. As an added bonus, she usually gets along with her brother pretty well (unless he's trying to play with the mouse or keyboard while she's trying to play computer games).

Friday, October 26, 2007

The "Good Old Days"

When I was a kid, I would remember sometimes about how old people would talk about "the good old days." You probably know the stories... the ones where they had to walk barefoot in the snow 10 miles uphill (both ways) to get to school. But then again, they could go to the movies for 1 cent and with another penny they could buy a bag of candy or something outrageous like that?

There was a thread today on a bulletin board where people were talking about their version of "the good old days," using real examples that they remembered rather than the 10 miles in the snow uphill exaggeration, that made me think. There have been good old days in my family as well, and it's sad that they are gone. And it has nothing to do with money, or technology, or even safety. It's something that could be recreated today, but is probably gone forever, at least with my generation.

When I was a kid, we used to go to my grandma's house every Sunday. The grownups would sit around and watch 60 minutes, and us cousins would play. They were all there almost every week. All of my grandma's 4 children and their kids. Sometimes we'd ride these Big Wheel tricycles out in her backyard, or play house, or something else. Grandma always had lots of toys at her house (she still does).

Every July, we'd get together to watch boat races. We'd all draw little slips of paper to see who got what boat, and if your boat won you got some money. I remember one year we made homemade ice cream. Another year it was so hot that it was in the 100s and one of our bunnies died.

Every year, we'd go camping in August. Same place every year. The campground started getting popular, so we started showing up on Thursdays to get a good spot. The campground started getting even more popular, and I think we ended up going on Wednesdays toward the end.

Every Christmas, we'd all go to grandma's on Christmas Eve. "Santa Claus" would come and pass out present. One year Santa came drunk and pinched my Aunt's butt, and said "sure is *#*&ing hot in here"... something we still can laugh about. On Christmas day, we'd all get together again to open Christmas stockings and eat.

Obviously, people get old, and families get bigger as the kids grow up and get married. It would be okay if that was the end of the story. But unfortunately, that wasn't what happened. Everything started going downhill about the time I graduated from high school and went off to college.

My cousin got cancer at age 5. He died when he was 7. It really hurt my Uncle deeply. I'm sure that it hurt my Aunt as well, but she could at least still be kind. My Uncle started being sullen at family gatherings, and stopped talking to my mom. Then my mom got mad at him and doesn't like him any more. Uncle said some harsh words to my brother and they got upset with each other as well.

Then a different Aunt got a disease that makes you quite sick and remains with you for the rest of your life. Ended up getting a divorce with another Uncle of mine. That situation deteriorated as well. Now my Aunt is somewhat estranged from her own daughter because she wanted her daughter to choose which parent she liked better, and that's a mess.

Another Uncle of mine has always liked to drink, but it's catching up to him. Sometimes he can't remember what year it is any more. His own son took his food stamps from him one time and was laughing about it with another cousin of mine.

Two of my family members around my age are divorcing.

Since I live far away from my family, I haven't been able to go to our annual camping trip in several years, but I've heard that some people just don't show up any more. Those that do show up often fight, because half of them don't like each other any more.

It makes me so sad to see what has happened to my family. I still get along with all of them when I come up to visit, even though many of them don't get along with each other. I love them all. Since I live far away from all this, I have pretty much avoided the drama, and perhaps the days when we all used to get together and go camping, hanging around the campfire together, going hiking together... perhaps they seem more real to me and not as far off, because that's how everyone was when I moved away to get an education and see the world. A little like when the last time you see a child is when they're an infant, and the next time you see them they're 5 years old, and they seem to have grown up overnight. It's like that with me, perhaps.

I hear about the breakdown of the family, about Satan trying to attack the family, and this is what I think of. A family that used to be so close even 15 years ago, barely cares for each other any more. It's so sad to me. Because my daughter and son will never know how fun it is to have 8 cousins to play with, that we visit weekly.

While the 9-person extended family on my husband's side is pretty close, it's not the same. And perhaps we're the exception rather than the rule.

I miss the good old days at times. Not good old days of black and white TVs and 5 cents a gallon gas (not that I remember any of those days because they were before my time)... but I miss the good old days when my cousins, aunts, and uncles were all close, met together every week, and there was only 1 person out of the whole lot of them that had gotten a divorce.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drug Makers Take Infant Cold Medications Off The Shelves

My son has had a cold for more than a week now. A couple nights ago, he woke up at 2 AM hacking and unable to sleep. We didn't have any infant decongestant in the house, so my husband ran to Walgreen's to get him some medicine so he could get back to sleep.

Well, I'm glad that my son was sick earlier than this week than today, because who knows what infant medicine is left on the shelf? I found an AP article on Excite saying that drug companies had pulled many infant medications off the shelves. Evidently, some parents are overdosing their children.

While I don't run to the medicine cabinet every time my little boy has a runny nose, there are times when it's very nice to have infant medicine. Like when it's 2 AM and your baby can't sleep. By taking the infant medications off the shelves, parents are left with fewer options to deal with their children.

With the wonderful availability of the internet, it's very easy to look up a dosing chart for infant's medications. I like to use the one here. Although, since they are taking the medicines off the shelves, they might end up taking the dosing chart off the internet as well.

Which leads us to the bigger question: with infant medications no longer available, what will parents do when their child is sick in the middle of the night and can't sleep? My guess is that many of them will be giving their infants children's medicines. Which doesn't really fix what the drug makers are trying to solve in the first place, does it?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

15 Minutes of Anonymity

There's a saying that goes something along the lines of... everybody gets 15 minutes of fame... or something like that. The culture that we live in is obsessed with fame. People want to be famous, and if they can't be famous... they want to work for the famous. In a recent poll, more people wanted to be a celebrity's assistant than something important, like being the president or the CEO of a fortune 500 company or something.

You really can't blame them. Celebrities make a lot of money, and people almost worship them like gods. Who doesn't like being loved and adored? Of course, for those of us who are Christians, God is who we should want people to love and adore, not ourselves. But even for the Christian, it's natural to want to be liked.

A lot of people do stupid and dangerous things because they think that it will make them famous. Look at the Fear Factor phenomenon. People that get into fights or do stupid, dangerous stunts in front of video cameras in hopes that their YouTube video might go viral.

But what happens to these people? Do they really experience a complete change of life? Do they get mobbed for autographs in the grocery store? Probably not.

With the popularity of reality TV, just about anybody can get on television. Or lots of people at least. But very few of them are remembered by the masses. If you watch American Idol, do you remember Zachary Travis (without Googling)? He was a boy that completely looked like a girl... he now has a web site up at They have a guest book up there that gets about 1 post a month. Or perhaps you are a Survivor fan. Without googling, can you even tell me what season Carl Bilancione was from? He was from Survivor Africa... which wasn't the most popular season by far, but I've seen every episode of Survivor at least once and I had to look up Survivor seasons on Wikipedia to find that name. I haven't seen every season of the Amazing Race, but I don't really remember Megan and Heidi... and they were on the very popular season that Rob and Amber placed second in.

So if your average reality TV fan can watch every episode that you appear in and not remember you after a couple of years, what becomes of someone who loses their finger creating a YouTube video that they hope will go viral. Well, a year from now, nobody will know who they are, and they will be without a finger.

I have my own experience with television. One summer in college, I worked as a movie extra. I worked in Higher Learning, Stuart Smalley, Reform School Girls, True Crime, and Little Giants. I carried the American flag during the televised Olympic Torch Relay Kickoff in Los Angeles for the Atlanta games. I appeared in several commercials and did a couple of interviews for the Armed Forces Network in Europe about terrorism. Most recently, I appeared in a local American Idol style singing contest.

As a movie extra and flag bearer, I blended into the background and nobody ever notice me, although I could pick out myself. People did recognize me after I did the commercials, and would come up to me and say "hey, I saw you on TV last night!" However, the military community in Italy is pretty small, and more than 90% of the people on the base would know who I was even without the commercials... especially since I taught the anti-terrorism class every week, that all new people were required to attend upon arrival. My picture was also up in the security building because I was the Force Protection Officer and was part of the chain of command. So it wasn't exactly appearing in a commercial and having some random stranger recognize you the next day.

My last television appearance, singing on a local television show, actually surprised me because nobody recognized me. I wasn't on a public access show that nobody watched, I was on a television program that they advertised for months beforehand while they were soliciting for people to audition. I was the very first person to sing on this show. The judges said my name on the air. I sang an entire verse of a song on the air. I'm sure that many people watched the show, but when I went out the next day, it was just like the day before... I still lived a life of complete anonymity. I didn't go on the show to try to be famous (I wanted the prize of a car and cash), so in a way I was glad that nobody knew about my television performance.

In the grand scheme of things, very few people are remembered for very long in history. Would you recognize Mark Dinning if he was walking down the street? Do you know what song he sang? He sang the popular 1960 song "Teen Angel". Many people remember the Beatles, Chubby Checker, and Elvis Presley, but many other people who had hit songs of the time have been fading from memory. 47 years from now, do you think anybody is even going to remember Paris Hilton? Probably not.

If you go back even farther in time, even fewer people are memorable. We remember Bach, Beethoven, and Queen Elizabeth, but many other people who made music or sang during that time are forgotten. Even farther, we remember Plato, Nero, and Julius Caesar, but who remembers the Roman Emperor Vespasian? Going farther back, how many Egyptian Pharoahs can you name? What did Sekhemkhet do? And I have heard the name of the Pharoah Djoser before, but only from the movie Ghostbusters.

As Solomon would say, it's all vanity. Being famous might be fun, but it's not worth losing a finger over. Besides, there are way too many people that get famous and it ends up being their downfall. River Phoenix? Dana Plato? And more recently, Britney Spears... although she hasn't died of a drug overdose or killed herself or anything, I know I wouldn't trade my kids for anything.

Besides, the more famous you are, the more people say bad things about you. It doesn't matter who you are, people even criticize Mother Theresa. Even this little ol' blog, with maybe two readers, already has someone talking smack about it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Are You Ready For Bird Flu?

Worldnetdaily has reported that dozens of people in a Mexican city have turned up with suspected bird flu. So far, 45 patients have turned up with flu symptoms, some of them children that would not normally have anything to do with being around birds.

This may turn out to be nothing. Hopefully it will not spread. But it does leave us with a very important question... are you ready for the bird flu? Do you have a plan in place?

We use The Grocery Game method of buying groceries, which not only helps you save money, but has the added benefit of letting you stock up a little, since you buy things when they go on sale, not when you need it. I have some food stored up, as well as quite a lot of toilet paper (2 unopened packages of 12 double rolls each). Unfortunately, my diaper supply is pretty low. I had purchased a lot of diapers prior to my baby's birth, but he's worn them all and I buy diapers as I need them.

After hurricane Katrina, I put together a stash of water, but that supply has dwindled as well.

With these recent potential bird flu cases so close to our backyard, perhaps now would be a good time to rethink what you would do in the case of bird flu. Would you continue to send your kids to school? How long could you avoid going to the grocery store? Could you work from home? Do you have supplies like gloves and masks?

The US government is currently undergoing a practice bird-flu exercise. I wouldn't be alarmed, when I was in the Navy we did practice terrorism exercises all the time, so that we would know what to do and what to expect if the real thing ever occurred. I'm glad that the government is working on being prepared. How about you?

Some preparation is good in general. It's good just to have a little extra water and food on hand, because you never know what will happen. If you live in a part of the country that has bad snowstorms it's good to have extra food and supplies on hand just for that. A terrorist attack could occur, or some other scenario. Food and water are great to have on hand no matter what. If you have a few extra dollars, masks and gloves could be a decent investment... if bird flu did hit the US, you can be sure that they would sell out quickly.

There's no reason to be alarmed... it's a good idea to be watchful though. And a little preparation never hurts.

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