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The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

The Iron Lady: Wonderfully, Conservatively Subversive



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Rebecca Cusey has a review of The Iron Lady, which opens tonight in New York and Los Angeles:

Conservatives have nothing to fear from the controversial and wonderfully subversive Margaret Thatcher biopic, “The Iron Lady.” Because the creators, whatever their personal political beliefs, had the artistic integrity to let Thatcher be Thatcher, the film becomes a rousing call to those who believe that “those who can do, must get up and DO.”

She also talks about the controversial framework of the film:

The controversy stems from the framework of the film, which depicts Thatcher as a befuddled elderly woman recalling the important events of her life between hallucinatory chats with her deceased husband (Jim Broadbent) and pestering of her living daughter (Olivia Colman). As a portrayal of the onset of dementia, it is brilliant, with Streep fearlessly emitting guttural sounds and half spoken words as emotions chase each other across her face. Confusion transforms into amusement; Annoyance, determination, exasperation all flit through her eyes and lips as fast as cloud shadows on a hillside on a summer’s day.

Conservatives have worried that this depiction of a powerful woman wrestling with age casts aspersions on her career and beliefs, as if succumbing to age invalidates what came before. I disagree. Instead, it adds pathos as the former most powerful woman in the world comes to require what can only be described as babysitters. It also does something more:  it strips away the details and shows the iron core of Margaret Thatcher.

Even in her confusion, she is all about principle.

Read the whole article here, which has a warning you might want to read before you take the kids.

A Response to Keith Ablow



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Celebrity therapist and “life coach” Dr. Keith Ablow just jumped on the “let’s get the government out of the marriage business” bandwagon. I have been writing against the “privatizing marriage” mantra, going all the way back to 2005. (See also here and here.) I do not wish to rehearse those arguments here. But Dr. Ablow’s contribution to this unfortunate genre is doubly regrettable. He is, first of all, deeply mistaken about the government’s role in discouraging people from marriage. As a psychiatrist, he has no particular expertise in policy analysis, and I am sorry to say, it shows. My second regret about his foray into policy analysis is that he forsakes the area of his greatest expertise, namely, helping people live happier lives. His proposal to “get the government out of the marriage business” substitutes an easy exit strategy for the genuine work of building up marriage and family relationships.

Dr. Ablow claims that government intrusion is the cause of marriage decline because marriage amounts to signing a “draconian contract with the state to manage the division of your estate in the event of a divorce.” Now he is certainly correct that under the current divorce regime, the family court micro-manages people’s private lives. But his argument is completely backwards. He has no explanation for why people are less inclined to marry now, and why government is more intrusive now than in say, 1960. I can answer that: no-fault divorce.

California instituted the first “no-fault” divorce in 1968, with other states quickly following suit. The state no longer recognized marriage as a lifelong union, dissolvable only for cause. Under no-fault, either party could get divorced for any reason or no reason. The current “marriage contract,” if you want to call it that, is less binding than a contract to purchase a home or to take delivery for a load of concrete. For sure, it is easier to end a marriage than for the L.A. Unified School District to fire a tenured teacher.

Most importantly, the legal change to the no-fault regime created unilateral divorce: The state now permits one party to break the marriage contract, regardless of the wishes of the other. This means that the divorce has to be enforced against the reluctant spouse. Somebody has to be separated from the joint assets of the marriage, most often, the family home and the children. The coercive machinery of the state is wheeled into place. The state begins the micromanaging of divorcing couples that Dr. Ablow rightly decries.

Dr Ablow is correct that people are not getting married because they are afraid of divorce, including the state’s involvement in their post-divorce lives. State governments undermine marriage by siding with the least committed spouse. Unilateral divorce was a policy change that just happened to increase the power of the state over people’s lives. No-fault, unilateral divorce is the policy that ought to be reversed. That is not “getting the government out of the marriage business.”

But Dr. Ablow’s ill-advised foray into policy analysis is not the least of the problems with his article. He comments, in an off-hand way, that in his clinical observations, “the vast majority of married people consider their unions a source of pain, not pleasure, and that too few of them are equipped with the psychological and behavioral tools to achieve true intimacy or maintain real passion.” Translation: People don’t have good enough relationship skills to get and stay married, so let’s give them an easier way out.

This statement is both illogical and appalling.

It is illogical because a therapist typically treats people who are having problems. Happily married people don’t usually go to a therapist. He really shouldn’t draw conclusions about the “vast majority of married people,” based on a sample of clients in his own practice.

But suppose his clients really and truly don’t have good relationship skills. His job as a life coach is precisely to give them those tools. It is appalling that he abandons that field, where he undoubtedly has something to contribute. Instead, he goes off on a tangent of abolishing marriage as a public institution. His policy proposal accommodates the present instability of marriage, when he should be leading the charge to combat it.

But, Dr. Ablow, isn’t it your clinical observation that people actually want to get married and stay married? Don’t people want intimacy and passion? And, don’t children want and deserve parents who remain committed to each other?

This is where our current debate over the definition of marriage has led us. A noted psychiatrist joins the parade of people celebrating a cockamamie scheme for destroying marriage as an object of public concern. In the process, he is diverted from the serious business of helping people develop their capacity for love and relationship.

What a loss.

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The Going-To-The-Hospital Blues



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I have been spending a lot of time at a hospital lately. Too damn much time, one might say. And because I am not the patient, I’ve had time to observe all the things one can hate about hospitals besides having to go as a patient. Here is my list:

1. The lights. What is with those fluorescent bulbs that make everyone, including small children, look absolutely exhausted? Sick or not, under the dim but harsh lights everyone in a hospital everyone looks like they need to be in a hospital. Very depressing.

2. Nowadays I think doctors are really trying to work on their bedside manner and be more thoughtful and caring when dealing with patients. Nurses, by and large, are okay, too. But the check-you-in, tell-you-where-to-go staff, at least in some New York hospitals, seem to spend more time talking to each other than trying to be helpful. And when you dare to complain about their not being helpful, full-scale retaliation can kick in. Enough to make you sick. 

3. With all the blabber about electronic medical-record keeping, it seems no one has ever heard of reading a printout. Even though you hand over your medical insurance cards and fill out a form when you first go for treatment, and it is all entered into a computer, you need to do it again and again and again. Wonder how Steve Jobs reacted to this inability to effectively use technology. Now they explain this by saying they have to keep checking to make sure they are treating the right patient with the right protocol. But didn’t I read that over a hundred thousand people die in hospitals each year because of medical error? Wouldn’t it make sense that the fourth person asking you the same questions would at least read what you said before?

4. And then, of course, there is the waiting. You have an appointment at twelve o’clock, which means you really have an appointment at one o’clock or perhaps even later because they wanted you there early to fill out the information you have already given and assume it will take you more than half an hour. Or the doctor is running late. Or the staff is chit-chatting away and so the lab work is sent up later than it should be and everything slows down.

5. And, of course, the worst of all is you are in a hospital because you are sick or you are with someone who is sick and that is frightening and bewildering and makes you dependent on a whole batch of strangers. And so, under those fluorescent lights, you already feel you are in the shadows.

— Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge, where this first appeared.

Why Do I Write About the Military So Much?



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I got an interesting comment on my last article, which I wanted to respond to more publicly:

Mrs. French, I read NRO several times a week, and never miss entries in the Home Front blog. Thus, I read pretty much every word you write on here. I’m not sure that you’re aware of it, but it seems you mention your husband’s service in Iraq in roughly 3/4 of your columns. It grates, after a while. A lot of people have husbands, and wives, and brothers, and sisters, and on and on, who have served overseas, and yet they don’t feel the need to mention it at every turn. My cousin has a husband who served in Afghanistan for ten months, came home, buried their son, grieved for six months, then served another ten month tour in Kuwait. And yet his deployments (and, I might mention, their son’s death) are not the touchstone of her existence, mentioned as the backstop for every single story, observation and opinion. Just a thought, meant with respect.

First of all, I don’t really write about the military all the time, do I? Here’s my list of NRO columns, and — of the last fifty — I might have written about military matters about five or six times. I should also mention that at Evangelicals for Mitt, I write about why Christians should support Governor Romney for president, almost every day. At SixSeeds.tv, I write about faith and family issues. On What She Read, I write about the books I happen to be reading at any given moment. And on the French Revolution, my husband and I write about religious liberty, reality television, jihadism, adoption, politics, and religion. (Plus, I write celebrity memoirs, for people who don’t have anything to do with the military.)

However, the commenter is correct to point out — I do intentionally try to write about the military. Not only did I co-author a book called Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War with my husband David, I also try to incorporate a military perspective into my writing here on National Review.

Why? The answer is simple. We’re going into our tenth year of war, yet you wouldn’t know it unless you turned to page 23 of any major newspaper. Scour the pages of the New York Times, USA Today, or even National Review and what do you see? Who’s writing from the perspective of people affected by the war?

This perspective is sadly and egregiously underrepresented in punditry and social commentators, so here I am. I know, many people have had a more difficult time than my family. Many deal with the pain of ultimate loss or the continued agony of injuries. And they deal with it stoically and, often, silently. However, silence can mean continued separation — and continued incomprehension from fellow citizens. So I do whatever I can to remind people there is still a war, and that some of us bear that cost in ways great and small.

The Hazards of Being a Wal-Mart Greeter



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Today, I read this story about how a belligerent customer (who was not a cop, as previously reported here) punched a 70-year-old Wal-Mart greeter in the face when the employee asked her to see her receipt on her way out of the store.

It reminded me of one harried day I was in Wal-Mart while my husband was in Iraq.  I’ll go ahead and admit that it wasn’t one of my best moments.  I’d stopped by the store to get some organizational bins so I could make my house more orderly, lost track of time while shopping, and realized I was already late to pick up the kids.

Hurriedly, I scooted past the elderly greeter, who stopped me.

“Ma’am,” she said. “I need to see your receipt.”

I later learned that if one of your items was not in a bag, they’re instructed to stop you to check.  Since I had a gigantic bin, she stopped me.  She was just doing her job.

Of course, I didn’t see it that way.  I saw it as further proof that I’d lost control of my life.  I’d just purchased the bin 20 seconds ago, but I’m not the type of person who sticks her receipt in a certain compartment in my purse in case I need to return it later.  I never return it later.  To return a defective item would require more organization than I  have the power to muster.  So when a cashier hands me a receipt, I crinkle it up, stick it in a pocket, or use it to get rid of my stale Doublemint.

“Do you really think I stole this?” I asked, rudely.  I must start brushing my hair and matching my clothes, I thought.   I envisioned the kids sitting in after-school care wondering why I wasn’t showing up.  All of the indignities and difficulties of the deployment seemed to rear their head right there in the entrance of Wal-Mart.  “I just bought it at that register.  You saw me!”

The older lady looked at me.  She’d probably seen a lot of inconsiderate, selfish people like me over the course of the day.  Then, she did something that completely shocked me.

“I love you, honey,” she said.  “Everything’s going to be all right.”

Perhaps she could see that I was about to lose it right there.  Maybe she could tell there was more going on with me than simply not knowing where I stuck that receipt.  But right there in the door of Wal-Mart in Columbia, Tenn., the greeter embraced me.  I literally cried right there in her arms. It was one of those moments during the year that defined the deployment for me, a stranger showing kindness in spite of my own inadequacies. 

I boo-hooed for probably a minute or two right there in her arms, and she didn’t say a word.  I never explained that my husband was in Iraq, that I feared for his safety, or that I felt as if I wasn’t doing a good job of mothering my two kids while he was away.

And when I was done, I wiped my eyes and found my receipt.  It was wadded up in my pocket.

She grabbed it, looked over it, glanced at my cart, and sent me on my way.  Just an average day in the life of a Wal-Mart greeter, I suppose.  But it still sticks with me, more than four years later.

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Nanny-State Watch: New Year’s Day



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No, a real “nanny state, ” as in parents want the local government in Gloucestershire county (England) to take care of their kids on New Year’s Eve so they can get sauced.

What’s the Key to a Sane Family Christmas?



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Our houses are decorated, our stockings are hung, our perfectly decorated trees aren’t even big enough to provide a canopy over the large number of gifts we’ve bought.

So, why is it sometimes so hard to enjoy? Why do we gripe and snap? Why do we wake up with empty wallets and empty hearts, after snapping at our mothers? Griping at our fathers? Trying in vain to fight the resentment that builds in our hearts towards our sisters? After all, doesn’t she know I won’t fit into a medium sweater anymore? Is she trying to make a point that I haven’t maintained my figure? And seriously, who gives CDs anymore? Do I look like a KE$HA fan?

Sometimes magazine articles try to advise us on how to have the perfect Christmas. But we won’t ever have those, will we? After all, we’re . . . well, we’re us. During the season, we get everything we want — time off, sleeping late, that new Pottery Barn glassware — and suddenly we can see how much we idolize comfort and gadgets.

It’s not pretty.

So, what’s the key to a sane family Christmas?

Well, it’s a little late, isn’t it? After all, how can we suddenly be selfless? How can we make sure our kids don’t think too highly of themselves, beginning today? How can we ensure grateful hearts? How can we provide perspective on our wealth as Americans . . . even if the iPhone 4 we received wasn’t a 4s?

Christmas reveals the sin in our hearts, but it also gives us a solution. The very incarnation of Christ (and his subsequent death and resurrection) can miraculously free us from ourselves.

Instead of hoping they finally picked up on the 37th clue — a circle around New York on the map with a Post-It note which reads “airline tickets!” — the gospel liberates us to welcome the fact that we aren’t packing our luggage anytime soon. We can start looking forward to Mom’s bossy suggestion to add salt to the already too salty ham. We can try to enjoy the irritation when brother’s idea of “helping out in the kitchen” means licking his dessert plate clean. We can already appreciate that our older kids will have to go to the bathroom as soon as our younger kids finally falls asleep on the roadtrip. We can realize that our dads will probably belch through our kids’ flute rendition of “Silent Night.”

Why look forward to these invariable irritants? Because they show us what’s in our hearts. Christmas, in a weird way, allows us to see our own sin more dramatically: We are selfish, we are resentful, we give presents sometimes to show people how clever we are instead of trying to find something they’d really need, and we feel sorry for ourselves. And in that misery, in that turmoil, in that moment when we consider telling our spouses exactly where to stuff that new toaster oven, it dawns on us.

We need a savior. 

Thankfully, somewhere this season, we’ll see a manger scene . . . in the front yard of that weirdly evangelistic church off the interstate, on a commercial advertising insurance, or on the cheap wrapping paper our in-laws use.

But we see Him. He is a baby. In a manger. The son of God, who came to save the world from our sins. Immanuel. 

He, after all, is the only way to quiet the chaos of our homes over the holidays and the chaos of our hearts over the holidays. And this is true, even though his manger scene image is being used to wrap the Pyrex dishes your mother-in-law gave as a hint to cook more frequently.

For the Woman with a House Full of Boys



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Rachel Balducci is a “mom blogger“ and the author of How Do You Tuck In a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys, which she talks about here.


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ
: So how do you tuck in a superhero? 

RACHEL BALDUCCI: Very carefully! Tucking in a superhero takes a lot of work, but it’s always the most surprising time of day for me. When they are nestled in their beds, superheroes just want to chat for a few minutes and kiss their mama. That’s nice — the weapons are stashed away, the superhero capes are hanging on the bedpost. And suddenly you can catch your breath and see this amazing creature that is your son and you fall in love with him all over again.


LOPEZ: Do superheroes’ moms have superpowers?

BALDUCCI: Yes, many superpowers! I think the most important powers they must have are a strong dose of humility and a lavish sense of humor. If you have a son and you can’t laugh at yourself, life will seem very challenging indeed.


LOPEZ: Why did you write this book? So teachers would realize not to mess with superheroes?

BALDUCCI: You know, I kinda did! Really, I wrote the book for women (but men enjoy it too!) who are in the same boat as I — living in a home filled with boys and wondering, “How in the world did I get here?” It’s such a challenge for moms with boys — we weren’t boys when we were little! These creatures are so crazy and foreign. And it hit me one day that looking at my sons through my female lens, well it was driving me batty. I had to figure out how to really enjoy their amazing, God-given nature, without allowing them to burn down the house. It’s always a delicate balance.


LOPEZ: Can you have a bunch of boys and a nice lawn? And why does that matter?

BALDUCCI: Taking care of our things is important. We need to be good stewards of what God has given us. But at the same time, we need to have a realistic view of our life and family. I realized a few years ago that my lawn is not going to look right now in this season the way it might ten or 15 years from now. And instead of fretting about the patches of dirt (or actually, the patches of grass) I need to just enjoy this time with my boys in my home, sharing life with me. The grass will grow eventually, right? I’m not going to put the kibosh on a soccer game for the sake of my grass not getting torn up. That’s just sad.


LOPEZ: How long did it take for you to decipher between hurt crying and mad crying?

BALDUCCI: After several near heart attacks, I finally realized this: The word “mom” or “mommy” (in extreme cases) is always accompanied with true injury. That is the only difference.


LOPEZ: How long does it take to see the personality in each one, to determine his temperament, to see him as a little individual making his way in the world?

BALDUCCI: It’s quite amazing to me how quickly personality emerges. But I think as a younger mom I didn’t pick up on that. When we had our second and third sons, I figured I was on easy street. As crazy as it sounds, I thought that having the same gender child (over and over again) meant you had it all figured out. Not so! Each of our boys is so unique that it sometimes blows my mind. Of course there are generalities about boys, but dealing with them individually shows that we are all wonderfully made.


LOPEZ: Since writing your book, you’ve had a daughter. How has the breaking up of male-child monopoly changed things? Or is it too soon?

BALDUCCI: My daughter was born the week after my book was released, and my goodness the joy and sweetness she has brought in our lives! It’s so fun to hear her brothers walk in from basketball practice and remark on how pretty she looks. “You are the prettiest girl in the universe,” I heard my 15-year-old say to her the other day. That has been one of the best parts of having a daughter — the sweetness she elicits from her big brothers.


LOPEZ: “I have started to notice a trend,” you write. “On the days when I’ve grocery shopped and the boys come home to a stocked pantry and fridge, there is something in the air. It’s an excitement, a glee, that I don’t see on any other occasion. Christmas comes close, but it’s hard to compete with a ten-pound bucket of chocolate milk mix.” Does Michelle Obama’s anti-junk-food campaigning constitute the first lady who stole Christmas? Or just make you feel guilty?

BALDUCCI: I don’t feel guilty at all. She is free to have her opinions! But I know, as a mother of five boys, that “everything within reason” is the way to go. I have a plan for food distribution, when people get to eat what junk food. And sure when we’ve had our daily allotment I have to hide that ten-pound bucket of chocolate milk mix (last week, I tucked it in the reusable grocery bags), but I’d rather have a balance that includes some bright spots for my boys than an unnecessarily totalitarian approach. There’s no need for all or nothing here. My boys are outside and running around so much that they burn it off within minutes of eating it anyway.


LOPEZ: You add, “This is how my boys feel loved. The way to a man’s heart is indeed through his stomach.” Are you trafficking in stereotypes here?

BALDUCCI: You know, I would have thought so before I had all these boys. But I’m watching this unfold before my eyes and it really is the truth — it’s all about the food. One day it might be all about other things (my husband didn’t marry me for my amazing cooking talents), but I see how my boys feel when we have the food they love in our home. It really makes them feel cared for by me.


LOPEZ: “I will make my boys hygienic, despite their efforts to thwart me.” Is there a secret to it?

BALDUCCI: Threats and bribes.


LOPEZ: What’s so special about Calvin and Chuck Norris?

BALDUCCI: They are the Wild West, in human form. These guys appeal to a boy’s sense of adventure and truth and justice. With Calvin, there is the added bonus of girls having cooties. With Chuck, it’s the round house kick to the face.


LOPEZ: “Like mothers everywhere, I’m training my children to get the job done.” Incentives are actually important, at whatever age, aren’t they?

BALDUCCI: I am amazed at the things my boys will do for the right prize. It’s all about having a carrot dangling in front of them. Now that doesn’t mean spoiling a child — it’s all relative to the task. We have a weekly chore chart (one that includes personal hygiene!), and there is a little treat for that, maybe a Coca-Cola from the gas station or extra time on the computer. We don’t call it a reward, it’s a celebration — we’re celebrating a job well done (but one that is expected of you!).


LOPEZ: Does your determination to have success with standards in your house give you Tiger Mom envy? What did you make of that whole debate?

#more#

BALDUCCI: I was intrigued by the Tiger Mom debate. On the one hand she sounded totally over the top and as a mom with five boys, I found myself rolling my eyes, just a bit. Except, I totally agree with her as well! There is an unfortunate tendency in this day and age to coddle our children. And it’s not how we need to be raising tomorrow’s men. It’s all about balance in our home (that’s our goal anyway). My children aren’t all enrolled in Suzuki violin, and we aren’t on traveling sports teams. But I do have standards for how my boys keep their room, for how they do in school, and for how they talk and act. When it comes to kindness and respect, yes I’m a Tiger Mom.


LOPEZ: This comes through in stories in the book but has having so many boys in the house made you appreciate how a dad really is important in a child’s life in a whole new way?

BALDUCCI: My love and respect for my husband has grown exponentially as our boys have gotten older. Watching him relate to them, how patient but firm he is with them, it really amazes me. I trust him implicitly because he was once this strange little creature who I now don’t always understand. Instead of thrusting my own agenda on how boys will be, I often ask Paul “is this normal behavior” and trust his answer. I want my boys to turn out exactly like their dad.


LOPEZ: Do boys help you keep from overcomplicating things?

BALDUCCI: Women have a tendency to over-think things, and I’m definitely someone who struggles with that. With boys, what you see is what you get. It’s not that they’re neanderthals, and there is definitely a lot going on beneath the exterior. But once I stopped trying to read into every little crazy thing they did (“Why would they want to jump off the roof of our garage? What is wrong with them?!”) I became a much saner and happier woman.


LOPEZ: “There are those days when life feels like enough of a whirlwind without fixating on this one day with this one meal (and its abject lack of nutritional value). Some days I simply cannot stop long enough to nitpick about having enough purple or green or orange on the plate because I’m busy stopping the wrestling match in the front room or protecting my china cabinet from an errant soccer ball.” Did you write this so a corndog maker might sponsor your blog?

BALDUCCI: That would be so awesome. Do you know anyone at State Fair, makers of the best corn dogs in all the land!?

LOPEZ: You’re a Catholic mom who watches ESPN with the kids. Was that ever an issue — having a TV in the house?

BALDUCCI: Yes, and I tend to be a little extreme when it comes to the TV. We have a nice, big, flat screen so my sister sewed a nice little cover for it so I can “put it away.” There is so much junk on television, even (or especially) on the so-called “family channels” that I’ll want to just get rid of TV altogether. But we have cable because sports is a big part of our world. So we work hard to have a balance, no TV during the school week and then really guarding what the boys watch when it’s on. Most times the commercials seem worse than anything else!


LOPEZ: You write about your time before your daughter, being asked randomly if you wanted a girl. About this, you write, “It is not simply about being a mother who has sons or daughters, or even some of each. The journey of motherhood centers on being the person God has chosen out of all humanity and space and time to care for these souls, these beings who exist for all eternity.” Why was that important enough for you to write?

BALDUCCI: I have heard from so many moms of boys who have such an ache for a daughter. I can understand that, but it made me sad just the same. Because there are lots of families with only boys (and that was us for so long!). We have to realize that a child is indeed a gift from God, but that whatever emptiness we feel can’t be truly filled by anything other than God. We need to make sure we aren’t so focused on something we don’t have that we miss the gifts that are right in front of us.


LOPEZ: What made you turn to blogging and book writing? And tweeting! And now a TV show? Goodness knows you’re busy enough without them.

BALDUCCI: I started my blog when our fourth son was around three. My boys were driving me nuts and I realized I needed to figure out how to see the joy and humor in my life instead of always wanting to cry in my beer. I had been a newspaper reporter in a former life and have a master’s in Journalism, so writing is therapy. It saved me in some ways, because every time something outrageously crazy would happen, I’d start to process the event, “report it” to my readers, and in the end find the humor. That’s not to say we laugh at inappropriate behavior. but it helped me not get too crazy about everything either.


LOPEZ: What’s the unexpected best part of being a mom to this clubhouse of yours? (Which you occasionally worry is a frat house!)

BALDUCCI: Boys are awesome. I love being a part of this world. The best part is just watching them enjoy the world around them, watching them grow and develop into who they are going to be. It’s such a gift to have sons. But I also enjoy being a part of the process, of helping guide them in the way they should go. I think about the men they are going to be, and I’m humbled that I’m a part of that journey, of guiding them with my female perspective.

What Would Andie Walsh Say?



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Occupy Gotham?



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The Dark Knight Rises trailer is now officially out, and the movie seems to echo the current economic woes. Rebecca Cusey has it on her site:

“There’s a storm coming Mr Wayne,” whispers Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, “You’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

Is this Occupy Gotham? Check it out here!

The Theology of Christmas



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Obviously, during this time of year, many of us are thinking a great deal about Christ. (My favorite part of the season is our candlelit Christmas Eve service at my hometown church — not the present-opening. Could that be the very definition of adulthood?) But sometimes theology takes a back seat to tradition, as this article, entitled “The Flawed Theology of Naughty and Nice Lists,” points out:

For years moms and dads the world over have preached Santa’s naughty/nice list theology to their children. If you’re good, you earn your way onto the nice list and a subsequent pile of gifts under the tree. If you’re bad, you join the ranks of naughty listers who get nothing but charcoal in their stocking. With such a threat looming large, what kid in his right mind wouldn’t be on his best behavior, knowing that ‘he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake?’

But isn’t this just really bad theology? Read more to find out how not to give your kids the wrong impression this season.

Also, I found this interesting piece, which compares Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to Handel’s Messiah. Here is the conclusion:

“For Dickens, Christmas is a reminder that we are all Scrooges, self-centered ungrateful nobs who yet have some hope of appeasing God through our personal reform.

For Handel, Christmas reminds us that we are all sinners, we are “in Adam,” and for that we are helpless to stop God’s righteous judgment towards our sin. Yet there is One who has paid the price to quench God’s wrath on our behalf.”

Who wins the theological battle in Dickens versus Handel? Click through to read more of that discussion.

Lastly, do you ever feel like people who remind you that “Jesus is the reason for the season” want you to give up all gifts and instead go down to the local soup kitchen on Christmas morning? Amy Julia Becker takes this on in her essay praising extravagance during Christmas:

And yet there is a spiritual dimension to gift-giving. From a Christian perspective, giving gifts reflects the celebration of the gift of God’s son on Christmas morn. Moreover, it reflects the idea that God has entered into the material world, and through that entrance, God has declared that the material world is good and worth celebrating, if not in excess then at least through extravagant generosity.

Read the rest of her article, entitled “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Jesus is Born!”

Christmas is obviously a great opportunity to talk to your kids about the birth of Christ. But these articles can also be great topics of conversation around the dinner table and push us even deeper into our understanding of the rich implications of that manger birth.

Raising Men (and Women) of Grit



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Amy Henry reflects on last week’s anniversary of the first person to reach the South Pole:

Have you ever wondered how people with such pluck got to the point where they were able to pull off such almost-inhuman feats? I do, and sitting on the couch watching Hogan’s Heroes reruns ain’t it. We’re spoiled in this day, thinking that if Pizza Hut takes more than three rings to pick up their phones, we’re being deprived. It makes me wonder how the explorers of tomorrow are living their lives today. Do they sit in 71-degree rooms waiting for their mothers to deliver their mac and cheese or are they outside, facing the elements, working a callous or two into their fingers? Do our kids know how to do without? Do our children have what it takes to go through extreme discomfort if their life’s pursuits (or life’s curveballs) require such a thing? Who is raising today tomorrow’s men (and women) of grit?

I hope I am. Are you? Read more here.

Marriage: What’s in It for Men?



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A new report by Pew Research Center shows that barely half — 51 percent — of adults in the United States are married. In place of marriage are nontraditional living arrangements — including cohabitation, single-person households, and single parenthood — that may likely continue. The share of adults who are currently married could drop to below half within several years.

While the report says it’s “beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why [emphasis mine] marriage has declined,” senior writer D’Vera Cohn adds this: “I’m struck by the fact that a large percentage of people who say that marriage is obsolete still want to get married. I think they may be having two ideas in their head at once: one about the institution of marriage and what its status is in society today, which is to say that it’s a lot less dominant, central, or important in society, [and another about] their own wishes for their future, in which they personally would very much like to be married.”

Indeed they do. But some major changes have to take place first.

For starters, parents have to stop getting divorced for less than dire reasons. Many, if not most, of today’s 20- and 30-somethings are products of these divorces and thus have no role models. They may be looking for love, but they have no idea what to look for. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of In Spite of Everything, is a great example. Her parents split when she was twelve, and in an article about her book she laments the lack of guidance available to young people. “Why would we take counsel,” she asks, “from the very people who, in our view, flubbed it all up?”

Second, we must retract the message Boomers sent young women about female empowerment. Indeed, it isn’t a coincidence that marriage rates have plummeted alongside America’s fascination with the feminist movement. Empowerment for women, as defined by feminists, neither liberates women nor brings couples together. It separates them. It focuses on women as perpetual victims of the Big Bad Male. Why would any man want to get married when he’s been branded a sexist pig at “hello”? In the span of just a few decades, women have managed to demote men from respected providers and protectors to being unnecessary, irrelevant, and downright expendable. Consider these examples:

Author and journalist Natalie Angier begins an article in the New York Times by writing, “Women may not find this surprising, but one of the most persistent and frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically . . . why doesn’t he just go away?”

In a CNN interview with Maureen Dowd about her 2005 book, Are Men Necessary? Dowd says, “Now that women don’t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, ‘You know, we need you in the way we need ice cream — you’ll be more ornamental.’”

Lisa Belkin, a blogger for the New York Times wrote, “We are standing at a moment in time when the role of gender is shifting seismically. At this moment an argument can be made for two separate narrative threads — the first is the retreat of men as this becomes a woman’s world.”

In an article in The Atlantic titled “Are Fathers Necessary?” author Pamela Paul wrote, “The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.”

Women have also been raised by their feminist mothers to “never depend on a man.” As a result, couples no longer think of themselves as one unit but as separate entities sharing space. “The confusion over roles is there, as are the legacies of a self-absorbed, me-first, feminist-do-or-die, male-backlash society,” wrote Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee in The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts. Honestly, are we really surprised marriage is on the decline?

The concerns of men frequently arrive in my inbox. The latest is from Mark Trueblood, who had this to say: “From a man’s perspective, men take on an untenable risk. The culture of male disposability runs deep — some say even at the level of our DNA.” Because of this, he says, “Men are making a lifelong commitment to eschew marriage, cohabitation, and even dating in some cases. We do so for all the reasons you can guess, and more. As far as I am concerned, this is the wisest lifestyle decision for men in the United States at this point in time. And I say so as a conservative/libertarian who fully acknowledges the power of a functioning nuclear family.”

Mark Trueblood is not an anomaly. Countless men’s-rights groups have popped up across the country, and even more men happily shack up with their girlfriends with no plans to get married — which may sit well with women for a while, until their clocks begins to tick, and they become desperate for a baby. All of the sudden men look more appealing — but the men don’t want to marry them.

There may be more than one reason Americans are delaying or eschewing marriage, but almost all of them can be attributed to feminism. Feminists assured women their efforts would result in more satisfying marriages, but that has not happened. Rather, women’s search for faux equality has damaged marriage considerably (some might say irrevocably, but I’m an optimist) by eradicating the complementary nature of marriage — in which men and women work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the unique qualities each gender brings to the table. Today, men and women are locked in a battle. The roles have changed too drastically, and the anger runs deep.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t call that progress.

— Suzanne Venker is co-author of the new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say. Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.

How Should Parents Deal with ‘Santa Truthers’?



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If you’re teaching your kids about Santa, you’re afraid that your children will meet one of those kids in school or on the playground. You know the kind: the ones who purposefully burst the holiday bubble by telling everyone Santa is a myth or a conspiracy theory.

On the flip side, if you’re not raising kids who believe in the big fat man with the red suit, you fear your kids will be the one to ruin it for the rest of the class.

How should parents deal with this delicate issue? Here are three parental responses. What are yours?

Do You Watch Dexter? You Might be a Democrat!



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Are Real Women Liberal?



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 If you’re the parent of a daughter, you probably remember the doctor shouting, “It’s a girl!” after you or your wife gave birth. (Unless you found out the sex beforehand, that is.) But did you ever wonder how the doctor knew your daughter’s gender? I’m guessing not.

According to Dr. Logan Levkoff, a nationally recognized sexologist, our biology is “only a small (and sometimes not at all) part of our gender” — and this is especially true, she says, when it comes to women. In a piece for the Huffington Post called “The True Meaning of Womanhood,” Levkoff writes that since women are our nation’s “moral compass,” they have a duty to stand up for what’s right. And what’s right, she says, is to not “block or deny access to rights, freedoms, information, and services.”

In other words, real women are liberal.

She didn’t use the word liberal, of course — that’d be too obvious. Instead she wrote that women demonstrate their moral nature via social justice. “I believe that being a woman is a state of mind and a commitment to social action.” This may sound harmless (albeit stupid), but it’s Levkoff’s definition of a state of mind and social action that matters. A woman can’t harbor any ole’ state of mind, or take any ole’ type of social action. She has to harbor a very specific state of mind and produce a very specific type of social action. Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, for example, have “all the right body parts” — but “all the wrong sensibilities.”

They aren’t real women because they aren’t pro-choice, says Levkoff. And Bachmann supports the idea that women should be submissive to their husbands — and her heroine, Phyllis Schlafly, waged a battle against the Equal Rights Amendment. “Is this true womanhood?” asks Levkoff. Well, actually, yes. Millions of Americans would say these positions are very pro-woman — and for good reason. That Ms. Levkoff disagrees is fine. That she suggests real women are liberal borders on heresy.

You might be tempted to write someone like Ms. Levkoff off as a left-wing loon. Fine, except for one thing: Levkoff has a considerable platform. She represents the media elite who ban together and preach their message, using their considerable power, to the most vulnerable among us. As her website boasts, “When a news story breaks about sex, the media calls on Logan. Her expertise and advice is featured on network television, cable, and publications across the country.”

As a sexuality educator, one of the questions Levkoff poses to her students is, “What does it mean to be a woman?” She then tells them their body parts aren’t what make them male or female, at which point the students are understandably confused. That’s when the social engineering begins. ”This can be a hard lesson for students to understand, particularly when contemplating women,” she writes.

Well, yes, I would think so. But, accordingly to Levkoff, that’s not because it doesn’t make sense. It’s because “the most common visuals of women in our media include caricatures of traditional women’s roles.” Really? The most common visuals in the media are housewives? Point me to those channels — I’d like to see that.

What makes women like Levkoff so dangerous is not just what they say but what they don’t say. Left-wing women couch their views in benign terms that appeal to people’s emotions. Rather than say, “Here are my beliefs, and I think they’re worthy of consideration,” the beliefs are presented as normal, good, something any girl or woman in her right mind would believe. That’s powerful stuff — particularly when you’re young. The most natural thing in the world is to want to go along with what it seems like everyone else is thinking or doing.

As parents, we can counteract the messages women like Ms. Levkoff preach; but not without a great deal of effort and understanding as to how pervasive the propaganda is. So my advice to parents is this: Don’t turn away from the monster too long, or it might swallow your kids whole.

Scholastic’s One-Sided ‘Occupy’ Coverage



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Michelle Malkin has been writing about Scholastic’s lop-sided coverage of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement:

Scholastic Inc. is a nearly century-old educational publishing company that distributes books, magazines, and other teaching materials through the schools.

If you have kids (or remember from your own grade-school days), Scholastic puts out news bulletins that get sent home weekly or monthly.

One of those items is Scholastic News, which bills itself as “America’s Leading News Source for kids.”

Reader Edward has a daughter in fourth grade who brought home the December issue of Scholastic News — and he wasn’t too happy when he saw the publication’s coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Click through to see their news article, biased poll, and to find out how to contact Scholastic to talk to them about their reporting.

What Feminism Means



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If I had a dime for every time I heard a young woman tout her definition of feminism, I’d be rich. “Feminism to me means . . .” It’s true that feminism is a word that means different things to different people, but the goal of feminism is still the same no matter how many adjectives we ascribe to it.

When people ask me to define feminism, I go straight to the source: feminists themselves. Gloria Steinem defined it clearly just last month. She said the goal of the feminist movement is to “free everyone from the prisms of gender.” The system, she says, is crazy: We must change it. Like their friend in the White House, change is feminists’ favorite word.

What, exactly, must we change? In a word, biology. Feminists want to change male and female nature, which as most of us know is like trying to stop the ocean from producing waves. But more to the point, why? What’s wrong with more wives than husbands choosing to care for their babies and more husbands than wives choosing to slay the beast to make it all possible? What’s wrong with more women than men choosing nursing or relationship-oriented fields and more men than women choosing math and engineering?

If you’re a feminist, everything’s wrong with it. Biology separates women and men and makes them different. And the goal of feminism is sameness. Feminists want men and women to be exactly the same, so much so that we cannot distinguish between the two. They should live parallel lives, coming together as necessary and breaking up at will.

That’s what feminist Linda Hirshman pronounced in our debate this week. Hirshman is No. 77 in Bernard Goldberg’s 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America for her elitist stance that no mother (no parent, actually) should stay home with her children because an educated adult’s place is in the office (which begs the question as to who, precisely, should rock the cradle — dimwits?). When asked whether she believes the number of women checking out of their marriages today is a good thing, Hirshman proudly claimed yes. It’s evidence, she said, of their willingness to get out of a potentially damaging relationship and stand on their own.

That millions of women are getting divorced for reasons other than spousal abuse is lost on Hirshman. That’s because feminists begin their day with this mantra: “men bad, women good.” They never preach this message in an obvious way, of course — which is why they’re able to get so many young, impressionable women on their side. Feminists talk only of fairness and rights, and who could argue with that? Young people are always looking for a way to assert their rights. So when Gloria Steinem says reproductive freedom equates to the “right to decide to or not to have children,” young people absorb the idea that abortion is critical for women to be able to determine how many children they will have — as if there’s no other method available. As if without it they’d be stuck at home with ten screaming babies.

Over and over I hear young women’s misconception about feminism: that it’s about choice. No, feminism isn’t about choice. It’s about so much more — and, hopefully, when young women are older and come out of their feminist fog, they’ll understand this. Lord knows they wouldn’t be the first.

The Tops



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An NR family member just highlighted this Christmas recipe on her Facebook page.

Entertainingly edible. 

Happy Pearl Harbor Day?



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It’s hard to know exactly how to acknowledge Pearl Harbor Day. I think I’m like many young Americans who suddenly realized how much pain and heartache these days represent, only after 9/11 awakened us to the real suffering hiding behind the cold numbers on the calendar. 

As you think about the day, Anna Quinn does a great job thinking about “The Greatest Generation,” in this piece about a disabled woman she used to know –  a woman who epitomized the traits of that era even though she couldn’t walk:

Once I had a dear friend whose birthday fell, unfortunately, on December 7.  Every year her favorite cousin would call to congratulate her with the words “Happy . . .  Pearl Harbor Day!”

She loved to tell me about his teasing, but in truth, I could not comprehend the darkness of December 7, 1941, her twentieth birthday. As with most other difficulties in her life, she handled her birthday with grace and wry humor.

Her difficulties prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor were not inconsiderable. She survived the 1932 super tornado that devastated her small town of Northport, Alabama, riding the storm out in a bed with her brother. And then she contracted polio, which left her in leg braces.

A handicapped girl in small town Alabama in the forties could have easily chosen to live quietly at home. Instead she earned a B.S. from the University of Alabama, a Master’s from UNC, and eventually a Ph.D. in Library Sciences from Columbia. She worked at many universities, finishing her career as a librarian at Georgia Tech.

Read the rest here.

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