Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Focus On It?

I like to read Slate, even though it is often full of boring political pieces I don't care about or cultural reviews of movies/albums/TV shows I'm not interested in. But Slate will occasionally hit a home run with an article I find thought-provoking and insightful. This is an example of that.

In this article on parenting, "The Messy Room Dilemma," the authors discuss the tendency we have as parents to make a big deal of our children's annoying habits. This piqued my interest immediately, as I am well aware that my parenting revolves primarily around getting my children to stop doing things that bug me, often in ways that are illogical and out of proportion to the offense being committed.

What interested me the most from the article (it's on page 2 of the sing-page view) is the question asked by the authors: Why should I focus on it? The argument is that most of the annoying habits children have will go away with time (and, though the authors don't say it, perhaps razzing from their peers has to be part of it--ever see a school-aged kid who still sucks his thumb?), and that sometimes we as parents just need to ride out the storm.

I like this question, and I think that when I'm at my best as a parent (read: when I do what Summer suggests I do) it's because I step back, take a breath, get some perspective, and stop worrying about how this thing annoys me.

I see a similar thing in my work. When a student's cell phone goes off in class, instead of reprimanding, I tend to pause enough to make the offender feel embarrassed or joke it away (my favorite is when the ring tone is some hip-hop song and I say, with an appropriate intonation, "Who'd have though that we would have the same ring tone?"). When we're working in the computer classroom I'm perfectly fine with students listening to their music (a student asked me one day if he could "bump his pod," which is apparently slang for listen to music on one's iPod--cool, huh?).

So, the question is: if I can smile and let it slide with my students, why can't I do the same with my kids? Clearly something to work on. And while I am not encouraging permissiveness in parenting (a common problem among many parents), I think the question of why should I focus on this gets at the heart of parenting. My goal is for my children to grow up happy and capable, able to make good decisions, and my habitual nitpicking is often detrimental to that goal, limiting their ability to make decisions. Here' to more flexibility and understanding in my parenting, and to a few more messes and mistakes. It'll be fun...right?

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Bit From the Corners of the Blogosphere

First, a disclaimer. I tend to avoid what some have called the “bloggernacle,“ that online space in which LDS folks like myself (you know, young, smart, a bit smarmy, and, of course, humble) blog about topics related to church doctrine, Mormon culture, politics vis-à-vis Mormonism, and, only occasionally, the truths of the gospel. It seems a bit of a navel-gazing world in which motes are dissected while beams are ignored, or, to paraphrase another New Testament passage, the weightier matters of the law get short shrift.

But yesterday I found this entry on By Common Consent (you can read my comment here), in which the author explores the relationship between the housing bubble and the rapid temple construction of the 1990s and the first part of the current decade. Wondering if the church engaged in an over-reaching akin to that of homebuyers who took on irresponsible mortgage, the entry sets out some interesting--but ultimately inconclusive--data. What I find is interesting here is how the analysis of the data assumes that the 1990 status quo was somehow right, and that a period of disproportionate temple-building was anomalous.

I think about this at times when I go to the temple here and find a party of 10 or so for a session. This is certainly a far cry from the experience of temple worship in Provo, but it’s disingenuous to think that one experience is somehow better than the other. There’s something very personal about attending the temple here that is lost in a place like Salt Lake or Los Angeles (pre-Newport Beach and Redlands--LA might be less busy now).

The other thing the BCC author neglects--either intentionally or incidentally--is the simple belief that prophets of God, who ultimately make the decision to build a temple in a certain place at a certain time, enjoy a sense of perspective that we typically miss out on. I wonder to what extent the 128 temples we have today are a groundwork for future growth. I agree with the basic premise that temple building has accelerated beyond the rate of conversion or retention during my adult life, but I don’t see that as being a problem; instead, I find great hope in that fact.

For example, the announcement of a temple in Rome--news that I received with great emotion--seems to me to be less a questionable move, based on the current strength of the church in Italy, than an indicator that something big is afoot there. I don’t delude myself into anticipating huge exponential increases in convert baptisms the day after the dedication, but I see the presence of a temple as a commitment by the church, an investment in the future of the church in a community.

In ABQ, for example, the youth in our ward are able to attend the temple every 6 weeks or so, which is much more frequently than I was able to go on temple trips as a teenager. The simple logistics of a 30-minute (versus 2+ hour) drive makes a difference. And this sort of regular, consistent temple attendance among youth has to make a difference long-term. Not only are these young people more likely to remain active, but the sense of dedication to the gospel will permeate their experience and worldview, making them better member-missionaries, better full-time missionaries, and better parents. And while there is value to the idea of great sacrifice in traveling long distances to attend the temple, proximity has its rewards too.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A New Toy

So I finally did it. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to buy netbook. While we were out Friday, I stopped by a few places and looked at various models, but to no avail. But ever the persistent one, I decided to try again Saturday.

Thus Ryan and I left the house yesterday morning to go on an expedition. A quick stop to Staples and WalMart left me unimpressed. Staples only had the HP mini with 512 MB of RAM and 8 GB hard drive; it was only $299, but I wanted more RAM for sure and more hard drive if possible. WalMart carried an older model of the Acer One (the 120 GB hard drive model), reviews of which were not always positive. The most fruitful stop was Radio Shack, where a helpful salesman showed me the Acer One, with 1 GB RAM and 160 hard drive, for $350. The $350 was a bit high; I was hoping for closer to $300. Not liking any of these options, we drove on.

We stopped by another WalMart and Staples, but it was all the same story there. Ryan and I had a good chat about why I wanted to spend $300 on a computer (“That’s a lot of money,” said he) and why I didn’t actually have $300 in my pocket at the time. He then asked, when I explained that I would simply use the check card, how the bank knew which money was ours. Quite the mind that kids has.

In desperation, our time running short (it was now 10 am, and we needed to be home by 11 so Summer could pack up for a cookie booth), we decided to make one more stop. Skipping Best Buy, we pulled up to Office Max. There we found it. The same Acer model we had looked at earlier at Radio Shack, but for $299. It was the final day of that sale price and, as I found out after checking out, the last one they had in stock. Rejoicing, we went home with a new toy.

So here’s the final verdict. The machine is small (8.9" screen), light (2.4 lbs), and fast. I’ve got enough hard drive to use the hibernation feature, which saves battery power when I shut the lid and starts back up in about two seconds. I’ve loaded some new programs on, and I think I’ll install Open Office to take care of my word processing and presentation needs. I may also see if I can install the software I use on my PDA for the scriptures. I used the new toy today in bishopric and welfare meetings to take notes, and it’s going well.