It was an irresistable headline: Nutritionist claims pizza can be a healthier breakfast than cereal.

I love breakfast. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My current favorite morning meal is a large bowl of steaming oatmeal with dried fruit, though that may change with the weather.

Make that second-favorite. Pizza is always at the top of the list.

Blogger and dietitian Chelsey Amer caused a stir when [she announced] that a greasy slice of pizza is healthier than a bowl of cereal with milk. "You may be surprised to find out that an average slice of pizza and a bowl of cereal with whole milk contain nearly the same amount of calories,” Amer said. “However, pizza packs a much larger protein punch, which will keep you full and boost satiety throughout the morning."

Not that this is news to me, though it's nice to hear a nutritionist say it. The writer of the article, however, is less than enthusiastic, and spends most of his effort convincing us of ways to make cereal healthier.

New York-based dietitian Keri Gans says that cereal can be a perfectly healthy breakfast option — yes, healthier than pizza — as long as you’re smart about it. ... "If you choose the right cereal that’s packed with fiber, it may help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar. ... You could top your cereal with berries, which are rich in vitamins. ... you [can] work plenty of nutrition into your bowl — far more than you’d find on a dollar slice."

Well, sure, if you want to load the equation in favor of cereal. But you can do the same thing for the pizza. Skip the fast food version. Homemade pizza, whole-grain crust, good tomato sauce and cheese, lots of veggies.... But don't forget the pepperoni, if—like me—you consider it nearly essential to good pizza. Don't skimp on flavor, or it won't be satisfying and you'll eat more.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 8:03 am | Edit
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A few months after my recent work on the David Wood branch of my family, I learned about the Register of Cohansey Seventh Day Baptist Church, Shiloh, New Jersey, 1737-1830, by Ernest K. Bee, Jr. I tried in all my usual sources to find a copy: ancestry.com, familysearch.org, americanancestors.org, hathitrust.org, worldcat.org, the New York Public Library, the Internet Archive, Google Books…. Nada. Even the few that recognized the book could not point me to a library where it existed. Amazon.com acknowledged the book, but said it was unavailable. Ebay didn’t even mention it.

But what do they know? Google came through, finally, after some playing around with search terms, and sent me to seventhdaybaptist.org. Yes, the denomination still exists, though I’ve ever only heard of it in the context of early American history and my genealogical research. They have an online store, where they currently have available 15 books. One of those they list under the title, Register of Cohansey SDB Church, Shiloh, New Jersey, 1737-1830. It sells for $2.50—plus a flat $7.20 shipping charge, which made me wince but which I did not hesitate to fork over. At least that hefty fee earned me Priority Mail service, and the book arrived just a few days later.

What a find! This 83-page book would have been worth the cost just for what I learned about David Wood’s family, though I’m hoping to find more to help with other branches of that New Jersey line.

On August 16, 1975, while doing genealogical research among the records and documents of the Seventh Day Baptist Church, Shiloh, New Jersey, a Register for the years 1737-1830 was found. It was covered with oil cloth which was held on by cotton string pushed through the edges. The pages of the Register were deteriorating—crumbling and discolored from centuries of handling. The significance of the 1737 Register became more apparent as the section, “Births by Family Group,” was examined. In that section are listed parents and their children with their birthdates and often death dates.

Ernest K. Bee, Jr. created a “one for one complete copy of the original,” and that is my $10 treasure. It is sometimes frustrating, as many pages are blank, and important information is clearly missing, but ah, the information it does have!

One way in which this source is apparently unique is that it lists five children born to David Wood and his first wife, Lucy Lennox; all my other sources had concluded they had none. As a bonus, it gives clear birth dates for the children—and for Lucy as well. Unfortunately, it says nothing so clearly about his other wives and children, but as the Jews say, dayenu.

For the sake of recording the process of this research, I have included the text of my original David Wood post below, with the additions and corrections based on the Cohansey Church records shown in red. (Except for the final Conclusions section, which I have kept black.)

 

The Problem of David Wood, Updated January 29, 2018

 

The Puzzle

I’m pretty happy with the line of my family tree that goes up (on my father’s side) to David Wood, born May 1, 1778 in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey, died there in 1828. He married, April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, born July 15, 1777 in Cumberland County, died there December 1, 1823, daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (David) Davis. I’m good with that.

I also have an okay line up from David’s grandfather, Jonathan Wood, who died in Cohansey, Salem County, New Jersey in 1727, and was married to Mary Ayers. This goes back to a John Wood who died at Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1655. Details are sparse, but at least the line is there.

The problem, as is often the case, is in the middle.

I know that David Wood, Jr.’s father was David Wood, Sr., son of Jonathan and Mary (Ayers) Wood. But David Wood, Sr. had three known wives, and what details are known have few dates associated with them. I’m convinced that David Jr.’s mother was named Prudence Bowen; I haven’t found her parents, though supposedly she was the sister of David and Jonathan Bowen, of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. Am I certain enough to put time into following the Bowen line? Probably, though not now. 

I’m not at all certain my logic will convince anyone else, but I’m equally uncertain I’ll get any better documentation. As one of my correspondents understated, "New Jersey records are very hard to find."

I’m accustomed to working with New England ancestors, and, say what you want about the Puritans, those folks knew how to keep records. And when something like engaging in illicit sex or selling liquor to Indians lands you in the court dockets, that’s a bad thing for you but a great thing for future genealogists.

 

The Sources

Vital records (birth, marriage, death), church records, wills, and probate records are wonderful genealogical resources, since they are usually contemporaneous with the events they describe. That’s not to say they’re without error, but they are generally considered reliable. New Jersey was not as good as New England at keeping these early records, but I found some.

  • Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1683-1802 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, v. 22 p. 52 Prudence Bowen and Simeon Roberts, and v. 22 p. 335 Prudence Roberts and David Wood. (Original data: New Jersey State Archives. New Jersey, Published Archives Series, First Series. Trenton, New Jersey: John L Murphy Publishing Company.)
  • "New Jersey, Deaths, 1670-1988," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2SZ-1FPR : 18 October 2017), Anley McWood, May 1853; citing Roadstown, Cumberland, New Jersey, United States, Division of Archives and Record Management, New Jersey Department of State, Trenton.; FHL microfilm 493,711.
  • Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, v. 9, Abstracts of Wills, pp. 50-51 Jonathan Bowen, and pp. 419-420, David Wood Sr. (Original data: New Jersey State Archives. New Jersey, Published Archives Series, First Series. Trenton, New Jersey: John L Murphy Publishing Company.)
  • Ernest K. Bee Jr., Register of Cohansey Seventh Day Baptist Church, Shiloh, New Jersey 1737-1830 (Plainfield, New Jersey: Seventh-Day Baptist Publishing House, 1976), pp. 3, 35.

Although published genealogies are far from primary sources, they are usually—according to my contact at the New England Historic Genealogical Society—reasonably reliable on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though many fictitious across-the-pond connections abound. Therefore I’m designating these sources as credible, if not as good as primary sources.

  • Bruce W. David, The David Family Scrapbook: Genealogy of Owen David, Volume 5 (3223 Ormond Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio: Bruce W. David, Volume 5, 1964), pp. 315-316.
  • Gilbert Cope, Genealogy of the Sharpless Family Descended from John and Jane Sharples, Settlers Near Chester, Pennsylvania, 1682: Together with some account of The English Ancestry of the Family, including the results of researches by Henry Fishwick, F.H.S., and the late Joseph Lemuel Chester, LL.D.; and a full report of the bi-centennial reunion of 1882 (Philadelphia: For the family, under the auspices of the Bicentennial committee, 1887), p. 545.
  • Dorothy Wood Ewers, Descendants of John Wood: A Mariner who died in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in 1655 (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Ewers, 1978), pp. 54-56.

Family tree date abounds online, and its credibility is exceedingly variable. Some online trees are maintained by excellent, sometimes professional, researchers. Some contain undocumented but accurate personal memories. And there are also many, many trees that have merely copied someone else’s data that is entirely wrong—a widespread propagation of error. Unless something about the source convinces me otherwise, I consider this data suspect, but it can still be a source of ideas and hints.

  • Family tree data from Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and other Internet sites. 

 

The Data

From the David Family Scrapbook

David Wood Jr. was born May 1, 1778, the son of David Wood, Sr. and Elizabeth Russell.

From the Sharpless Genealogy

David Wood (Sr.) died about 1798, “aged over 70.” His wives and children:

  1. Lucy Lennox, no issue.
  2. Prudence, sister of David and Jonathan Bowen of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. Children:
    1. David Jr., born May 1, 1778 in Stow Creek, Cumberland County, New Jersey; married April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, daughter of Isaac and Mary Anna Davis.
    2. Auley McCalla
    3. Sarah
    4. Prudence
  3. Elizabeth Russell. Children:
    1. John
    2. Lucy
    3. Richard

From Descendants of John Wood

David Wood, Sr. was born 1721, died 1794 in Stow Creek, New Jersey, “over 70.” His will was written March 10, 1794, proved January 18, 1798. Two scenarios are presented for his wives and children, from different correspondents:

  1. Lucy Lennox, no children.
  2. Prudence Bowen, married 1777. Children:
    1. David
    2. Auley
    3. Sarah
    4. Prudence
  3. Elizabeth Russell, married in 1786. Children:
    1. John
    2. Lucy
    3. Elizabeth
    4. Richard

Alternatively, the following children, not assigned to mothers, and in no particular order (clearly taken from David’s will, see below):

  • Sarah
  • Prudence
  • Lucy
  • Obadiah
  • James
  • Phebe
  • Lydia
  • Aulay McAuliff (McCalfa, McCalla)
  • David
  • John

From New Jersey Marriage Records

I find nothing for a Prudence Bowen marrying a David Wood, but there are these records of marriage licenses issued:

  • Prudence Bowen of New Town and Simon Roberts of Philadelphia, June 14, 1762.
  • Prudence Roberts of Cumberland and David Wood of Salem, July 9, 1777.

It’s likely that these represent the first and second marriages of the same person, especially since that agrees with the 1777 date in Descendants of John Wood.

From New Jersey Deaths, 1670-1988

Anley McWood (Auley McCalla Wood). Death, May 1853, Roadstown, Cumberland, New Jersey. Residence Stoe Creek, Cumberland, New Jersey. Male, age 69, occupation farmer. Estimated birth year 1784. Birthplace Stoe Creek, Cumberland, New Jersey. Father David Wood, mother Prudence Wood.

From New Jersey Abstract of Wills

  • Will of Jonathan Bowen, February 21, 1804. He was likely the Jonathan, brother of David of Bowentown, mentioned in Sharpless above, hence brother to David Wood’s wife Prudence. Among many other bequests, he leaves a share of his household goods to “my niece, Mary Roberts,” strengthening the notion that this Prudence was once married to Simeon Roberts.
  • Will of David Wood, Sr. of Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, March 10, 1794. 

Wife, Elizabeth, 1/3 of personal. Son, Obadiah, £50. Daughters, Sarah, Prudence, and Lucy Wood, son, John, and if wife should be pregnant, the said child; the remainder of personal, divided between them, when of age. Son, John, to be put to a trade, when 14. To heirs of son James, 5 shillings. To heirs of daughter, Phebe, 5 shillings. To heirs of daughter Lydia, 5 shillings. Son, David, 4 acres of woodland bounded by land of David Gilman, Dorcas Bennett to John Dare’s land; also 10 acres of marsh in Stathem’s neck. Son, Aulay McCalla Wood, remainder of home plantation with buildings; also remainder of swamp at Stathem’s neck; should said sons, David or Aulay McCalla, die before of age, said property to the survivor of them. Executor—Azariah Moore, Esq. Witnesses—George Burgin, Mary More and Martha More. Proved Jan. 18, 1798.

January 10, 1798. Inventory, £221.9; made by Joel Fithian and David Gilman.

January 18, 1798. Azariah Moore, having renounced the Executorship. Adm’r—C.T.A.—Jonathan Bowen. Fellowbondsman—Benjamin Dare.

From Register of Cohansey Seventh Day Baptist Church

Luce (Lucy) Lennox was born 3 January 1718.

Luce (Lucy) Lennox was baptized 27 May 1739. (This says nothing about her birth, because the Cohansey church baptized only professing believers, not children.)

 David and Lucy (Lennox) Wood had the following children:

  • Mary, born 11 December 1748
  • James, born 4 December 1750
  • Pheby (Phebe), born 25 November 1753, died 19 May 1789
  • Obadiah, born 28 February 1756
  • Lidya (Lydia), born 26 May 1758

From assorted online family tree data

David Wood Sr. was born 1721 or 1740, died 1798, married Lucy Lennox 1760.

Lucy Lennox was born 1742, died 1773. Her children were Obadiah (born 1760), James (born 1760), Phebe (born 1762), Richard (born 1768).

Prudence Bowen was born in 1754, died in 1778, married David Wood 1774. Her children were Prudence (born 1776), Sarah S. (born 1776 or 1777 or 1779), Auley (born 1775).

Elizabeth Russell was born in 1755, died in 1797, married David wood in 1779. Her children were Prudence (born 1776 died 1777), Lydia (born 1778), Elizabeth (born 1779), David (born 1778), Lucy (born 1767), John (born 1780).

Simeon Roberts, born about 1735 in Philadelphia, died about 1766 (probate) in Philadelphia, married Prudence Bowen (born 1740 in Newton, Sussex, New Jersey) June 14, 1762 in New Jersey. Their child: John (born about 1780).

And more. The data is inconsistent and confusing as well as unreliable.

 

The Questions

So what can I make of all this?

First of all, let’s deal with the name of one of David’s sons: Auley McCalla Wood. By his death record, Auley McCalla is definitely established as the child of David and Prudence Wood. But what kind of a name is that for a child? First of all, despite the alternate spellings given in Descendants of John Wood, Auley (or Aulay) McCalla is probably correct. The name shows up more than once in New Jersey; David Wood’s child was no doubt named after a friend, or someone his parents respected.

The will of David Wood is a most interesting document, and I’m sorry I only have an abstract to work with. Struggling with hand-written wills is hard on both the eyes and the brain, but can give insights a summary misses. Still, the abstract is much better than nothing.

Of the thirteen children mentioned in the combined sources—David, Auley McCalla, Sarah, Prudence, John, Lucy, Richard, Elizabeth, Obadiah, James, Phebe, Lydia, and Mary—three are missing from the will. For that time period, it’s not unlikely that Mary, Richard and Elizabeth had died before the will was made, so there’s no need to assume they’re extraneous additions to the records. Three others—James, Phebe, and Lydia are mentioned only in that their heirs receive bequests. Phebe we now know had died by the time the will was made, and it’s likely James and Lydia had also, though not as children, since they had heirs. Mary, Richard, and Elizabeth almost certainly died before marrying and having children.

That Elizabeth Russell was David’s third wife is supported by the mention of Elizabeth in his will. Next comes Obadiah. It’s not specified that he is the firstborn, but that’s customary, and as he’s bequeathed his £50 outright, he must have been at least 21 years old in 1794, unlike Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, John, David, and Auley McCalla, who are clearly not yet of age. John is something less than 14 in 1794, making him born after 1780. Since we now know that James was the actual first born son, the bequest to Obadiah is further indication that James was no longer living when his father made his will.

The five-shilling bequests to the heirs of children James, Phebe, and Lydia are another puzzle. Why the heirs? Are James, Phebe, and Lydia older, married … and dead? Or did David just want to leave something directly to his grandchildren (sadly, unnamed)? In any case these three children seem to be married and on their own. I’m trying to be grateful to David for actually leaving a will, since many did not, instead of wanting to shake him by the shoulders and demand to know why he didn’t include surnames for most of the people he mentions. Sadly, it appears that James, Phebe, and Lydia were indeed married, on their own, and dead.

But whose are these children?

One scenario is that Obadiah, James, Phebe, and Lydia are Prudence’s children from her first marriage. It’s possible, because there were15 years between her first and second marriages, if the dates are right. But I think it more likely that they were Lucy Lennox’s children, already grown and on their own by the time their father made his will. Of course it’s possible that Lucy simply didn’t have any children; infertility is not exclusively a modern problem. But David specifically names these children as his. On the other hand, relationship naming was more fluid in the past: When a document specifies “my brother” or “my uncle,” for example, it does not necessarily mean by these terms what we do now.

One thing that speaks to these children being Prudence’s by her first husband is the naming patterns. It seems unusual for David to have at least two sons before giving one of them his own name. He did have an uncle Obadiah, as well as an uncle John. The sources of the names Lucy, Prudence, and Elizabeth are obvious, though if James, Phebe, Lydia, Richard, Sarah, or Auley McCalla are in his family tree, I don’t know about it. But I can’t find any information on children for Prudence and Simeon, nor for Lucy and David, to help solve the puzzle. I think it more likely these are Lucy’s children, but I may be wrong. Again, the church records render this speculation unnecessary: These children, plus Mary, are definitely Lucy’s, and I was right.

Wills often name children in order of their birth, but sometimes that order is within categories, such as all sons and then daughters. In this case, I would guess that Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, and John are listed from oldest to youngest; likewise James, Phebe, and Lydia; also that David is older than Auley McCalla, which we already know from their birthdates. In the case of James, Phebe, and Lydia, this is no longer a guess. 

Figuring out birth order between one category and another is more of a problem. Unlike most of my sources, I place Sarah and Prudence between David and Auley McCalla because of the large gap in the latter’s birthdates, although it’s possible that Prudence was born last and her mother died in childbirth.

Although it is speculation on my part, here is the scenario as I imagine it. As was customary, David’s widow received 1/3 of the personal property—as I understand it, this is pretty much everything that’s not land. It was valued at £221.9, so her share would have been £74. (Or possibly £57, if Obadiah’s £50 was deducted before the division. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about legal language when it comes to wills.) That makes Obadiah’s portion a pretty large chunk of the estate, but it was not unusual back then for the firstborn (or eldest living) son to inherit more than his siblings.

The remainder of the personal property was to be divided amongst Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, and John, probably the youngest children. This suggests that the older children may have already received gifts of goods and property and were perhaps living on their own. The older girls were no longer living, and the boys are dealt with below.

David and Auley each received land. Since Auley was given the “remainder of the home plantation with buildings,” I imagine the older sons (probably Obadiah and James) had been given their shares of the land already. Why was John to be “put to a trade” (I assume apprenticed) when 14? Perhaps the land suitable for farming had already been apportioned. Maybe John didn’t want to be a farmer, and his father supported that preference, although he seems to have been too young for that to be likely. Even though James was dead at this point, he still may have received land earlier, since he had children already. Obadiah most likely did. Wills often mention earlier gifts, but not always.

Why were the heirs of James, Phebe, and Lydia given five shillings? Such an amount was not insignificant, but at 20 shillings to the pound, barely a drop in the estate bucket. Was it meant to be just a token for small children from Grandpa? If there were bad relations in the family and he wanted to insult them, I imagine he would have done it for even less money. As stated above, discovery of the record of David and Lucy’s children makes it almost certain that this was a case of children having died before the will was made, and not some ill will in the family. Five shillings each for possibly a good number of grandchildren could add up to something that is a more significant bequest than it at first seems.

Was David Wood, Sr. really born in 1721? It seems a reasonable approximation, if it is true that he was “over 70” when he died, which was somewhere in the range 1794-1798. That makes him apparently much older than his wives, though I don't have documented birth dates for any of them. I've also seen an unsourced birth year of 1740 often suggested for David Sr. But it's not impossible that he really was that old—one of my own great-grandfathers was 59 before producing any children. Absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with the earlier date, though since I think it’s a guess from the uncertain death date, I’d put it more at about 1725. Now I’m much more likely to agree with Descendants of John Wood on the 1721 date, though I still have no hard evidence for it. But Lucy Lennox was born in 1718, and for a man to be three years younger than his wife is more likely than that he be seven years older. It might have been even earlier, since “over 70” covers a lot of ground.

The discovery of the Cohansey church records also makes me willing to speculate on a marriage date of about 1746 for David and Lucy—based on the birth of the eldest recorded child, Mary. David would have been 25 years old and Lucy 28, a bit old for those times, but it’s the best evidence I have.

 

The Conclusions

Always being ready to scrap speculations in light of new data, this is what I now believe about David Wood, Sr.

David Wood, Sr. was born about 1721, probably in Salem County, New Jersey. (Cumberland County was formed in 1748 from the west side of Salem County.) He died between March 10, 1794 and January 18, 1798, in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey. David married three times.

His first wife was Lucy Lennox, born January 3, 1718, baptized May 27, 1739, and died before July 1777. They had five children, probably born at Shiloh, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

  1. Mary, born December 11, 1748
  2. James, born December 4, 1750
  3. Phebe, born November 25, 1753, died May 19, 1789
  4. Obadiah, born February 28, 1756
  5. Lydia, born May 26, 1758

He married, second, about July 9, 1777, Prudence Bowen, the sister of David and Jonathan Bowen of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. She had married, first, about 14 July 1762, Simeon Roberts of Philadelphia. Prudence died before 1786.

David Wood and Prudence Bowen had the following children (order uncertain).

  1. David Wood, Jr., born May 1, 1778, died in 1828. He married, April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, born July 15, 1777 in Cumberland County, New Jersey, and died there December 1, 1823, daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (David) Davis.
  2. Sarah S.
  3. Prudence
  4. Auley McCalla, born about 1784, died May 1853, Roadstown, Cumberland County, New Jersey (residing in Stow Creek, Cumberland County, New Jersey).

In 1786 David married, third, Elizabeth Russell. (This may be a married name from a previous marriage.) Their children (order uncertain) were probably

  1. Elizabeth, died before 1794
  2. Richard, died before 1794
  3. Lucy
  4. John

 

The ancestry of David Wood, Sr., taken from Descendants of John Wood, is, in an abbreviated form, as follows:

John Wood, died 1655 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, married ---- ----.

John Wood, born 1620, died August 26, 1704 in Little Compton, Rhode Island, married Anna ----.

Jonathan Wood, born August 26, 1658 in Springfield, Massachusetts, died 1715, married, by 1692, Mercy Banbury.

Jonathan Wood, died 1727 in Cohansey, Salem County, New Jersey, married Mary Ayers.

David Wood, Sr., as above.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Edit
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In a comment on my previous post, my sister-in-law introduced me to Vicki Hoefle. In trying to figure out how to add a video link to the comment—I couldn't; it appears to be exclusively on Facebook—I came upon an essay on Vicki's website that also addresses the issue of immunizing our children against the risky behaviors that are all-too common among peer-socialized teens. She doesn't used the term, "peer-socialized," but there's a lot here that reminds me of Gordon Neufeld's Hold On to Your Kids.

The bottom line? It's all about a child's connection as a contributing member of his family and immediate community. Here are a few excerpts from "Teen Fads: Parents are talking about all the wrong things."

The public response to these fads is usually to call the teenagers “stupid”, assume their own child would “never do something so absolutely idiotic” and then blame the fad on social media or their friends, the media, the college, or the companies who sell the products. Because who in their right mind would actually do something so risky and downright dumb?

Answer: They’re not dumb. They’re not from bad families. They’re average kids who are seeking connection and purpose. These kids are desperately looking for a place to belong. They want to be noticed not simply for attention, but for a bond to others that will satisfy their needs for a social network where they feel valued.

The first opportunity for your children to develop a social network is at home. Your family and immediate community is the first social network in your child’s life and if they don’t feel connected as a contributing member, they’ll search for their social network elsewhere.

  • What are you doing as a parent to ensure your child feels connected, capable and like a contributing member of your family?
  • How are you interacting with your child to enforce the idea they belong, they are important and they are accepted – exactly as they are today?
  • How are you supporting the development of essential skill sets so they feel competent and comfortable contributing to the success of their family?
  • How are you ensuring they feel valued, listened to and appreciated for their perspectives, opinions, and preferences?

There's more of value in the essay, but I'm pushing the boundaries of fair use with what I've quoted here. (It's a short essay.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 6:09 am | Edit
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It's the American way, and even more so the Japanese way, and apparently the Swiss way also: the professionalism of parenthood. School is no longer so much the place where one learns specialized skills that can't be picked up at home or on one's own, but a place expected to teach children nearly everything a society deems important. The Four R's: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic ... and all the Rest. Because, well, you know, the professionals can do it so much better, and who has the time, anyway?

Society is beginning to take notice that our children are getting to the once-upon-a-time age of adulthood without many of the life skills we take for granted, skills that enable them to live independently and hold down a job. Employers have noticed this for years, but the rest of us are finally beginning to catch up, if only in our derisive sneers at "Millennials." Is it the job of public education to teach these skills? Of course not—though I agree with those who insist that any institution that takes away most of a child's life, practically from the cradle, should be expected to return a lot more benefit from such a huge cost. But when a social need is found, it's likely to get dumped on the schools.

Enter the Let Grow Project for Schools, created to address this need. This is actually something different from the norm, in that the schools are only the vehicle for spurring action by parents and children. It begins with this basic homework assignment: Go home and do something your parents did at your age. The suggested activities are shocking: cooking, cleaning, buying something from the store, playing outside unsupervised, riding a bike in the neighborhood, briefly watching a sibling, walking to school. Shocking, apparently, for parents who have been conditioned to believe that such activities are too dangerous to think about; shocking, definitely, for those of us who grew up doing them in a world statistically more dangerous than the one we live in today.

Parents aren't stupid. They want their children to grow up to be independent, competent people. But it's hard to live against the grain, when the media, friends and colleagues, and sometimes even the laws of the land are telling you that overprotecting, even coddling children is simply good parenting. What the schools are doing here is giving parents permission to take that first step.

My only concern is that some parents will approach the project without common sense; the best way to learn to swim is rarely to be thrown out of the boat into deep water. (I know someone who was taught to swim that way, but she doesn't recommend it.) If our grandchildren are extraordinarily competent—and they are—it's because they've been taking baby steps toward independence all their lives. A child at age 11 can go through the steps faster if he wants to, but it still takes time and training.

I haven't seen it mentioned in the literature on this subject, but my theory is that a major contributor to over-dependent children is the modern trend toward small families. When parents have only one or two children, it's all too easy to do for them things they should be doing for themselves. (Mea culpa.) Larger families simply cannot. Training children to do their own laundry, to wash dishes, to shovel snow, to cook meals, and to entertain themselves is a matter of survival. And it pays big dividends, for parents as well as children. As my daughter (mother of six) proclaimed, referring to her then thirteen-year-old son, It was worth all the work (and that work did include tears, it's not like I'm forgetting) in training him in the kitchen from a young age to be able to say now, "Please make dinner on Thursday night. Quiche would be nice."

There's no reason why this can't happen in smaller families, of course. But it's like exercise.  Once upon a time, people got plenty of good exercise without having to think about it, because their daily lives were so active; now, our sedentary lives mean that this essential element of health and happiness requires deliberate action.

May the Let Grow Project help more families find the "child competence exercise program" that fits them best.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 7:55 am | Edit
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Carl Lutz, together with his wife, Gertrud, was instrumental in rescuing some 62,000 of Budapest's Jews from the Nazis, after he was appointed Swiss Vice-Consul there in 1942. This is largely unknown, even in his native Switzerland. I certainly had never heard of him before this BBC News article. Perhaps Lutz's List isn't a good movie title.

I understand why Switzerland has chosen to be a neutral country, and there are many reasons why such countries are needed, despite the widely-attributed (and mis-attributed) aphorism, "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." The Lutzes are ample evidence that political neutrality does not necessarily lead to personal, moral neutrality.

(from the BBC article)

As an envoy for neutral Switzerland, Lutz represented the interests of countries who had closed their embassies in Hungary, including Britain and the United States. So he began by placing under Swiss protection anyone connected to the countries he represented. ... But to save Budapest's Jews, Lutz needed to go further. He persuaded the Germans to let him issue diplomatic letters of protection, 8,000 of them. He then applied the letters not to individuals, as the Germans had intended, but to entire families. And once he reached 7,999, he simply started again at number 1, hoping the Nazis would not notice the duplication. Historians estimate the letters saved up to 62,000 people. "It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War," says Charlotte Schallié. ... Lutz's efforts frustrated Nazi officials in Budapest so much they requested permission from Berlin to have him assassinated - although this was never carried out.

As it became clear that Germany would lose the war, Nazi operations in Hungary became more and more brutal. Rather than organise deportations, they began taking Jewish families to the banks of the River Danube and shooting them. In response, Carl Lutz set up 76 safe houses. Technically in Switzerland's territory, the shelters took in thousands. Sweden and the Red Cross set up safe houses too. Altogether there were 120 across Budapest.

Sometimes the work became more personal.

(from Wikipedia)

One day, in front of the fascist Arrow Cross Party militiamen while they fired at Jews, Carl Lutz jumped in the Danube River to save a bleeding Jewish woman along the quay that today bears his name in Budapest (Carl Lutz Rakpart). With water up to his chest and covering his suit, the consul swam back to the bank with her and asked to speak to the Hungarian officer in charge of the firing squad. Declaring the wounded woman a foreign citizen protected by Switzerland and quoting international covenants, the Swiss consul brought her back to his car in front of the stunned fascists and left quietly. Fearing to shoot at this tall man who seemed to be important and spoke so eloquently, no one dared to stop him.

There was a hero, indeed. Not that his own country was eager to recognize him as such, fearing damage to their neutrality, and danger for other Swiss diplomats in Budapest, who had been arrested by the Russians. Another reason, according to historian Francois Wisard, is that the Swiss are reluctant to celebrate heroes. (They clearly make an exception for William Tell.)

"In Switzerland you do not like the cult of personality. Other countries may have more of this. I think what he did was quite extraordinary, but I am reluctant to use the word hero."

I'd use the word hero. But the Swiss may be on to something. If they are too reluctant to recognize heroic actions, Americans are far too eager to embrace even modest good works as heroism, and to glorify people to the point of idolatry.

The story of Carl Lutz is proof enough that great deeds do not make one immune to temptation to personal betrayals: Shortly after the end of the war, Carl Lutz divorced his heroic Gertrud to marry one of the women he rescued.

Perhaps it's better to look at the flip side of that: It does not take a hero to accomplish heroic work. It takes a normal, flawed human being who is willing to do what is right. As Carl Lutz's step-daughter said about him (back to the BBC article again),

"He was a very shy man, it was not necessarily in his nature to do what he did. But he saw the misery of the Jews and he thought he had to help."

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 9:35 am | Edit
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In 1944, my grandparents moved across the continent from Pullman, Washington to Rochester, New York, where my grandfather worked until he retired in 1969. This film, made in 1963, gives glimpses of their Rochester. The Rochester they watched as it developed.

We visited them at least once a year when I was young, but I remember little of the city from then. Most of my memories are from my own time in Rochester, from 1970 through 1983. That's close enough to 1963 for this video to have sparked many memories, from the Midtown Plaza Clock of the Nations to Letchworth State Park to the Spring House restaurant, where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner. Not to mention the University of Rochester, the Lilac Festival in Highland Park, and the old familiar industries and landmarks.

By the time our daughter returned to attend the Eastman School of Music at the end of the century, Rochester was a different city, with much of the industry gone or on the way out. A telling quote from Wikipedia about the Eastman Kodak Company, once virtually synonymous with Rochester, is this: Although Kodak developed a digital camera in 1975, the first of its kind, the product was dropped for fear it would threaten Kodak's photographic film business. They had forgotten, perhaps, the film's admonition that if a company (or a city) does not change, change will come in ways unexpected and unpleasant.

Rochester is still a lovely city, and I sure miss "the splendor of a Western New York apple," though I don't think anyone's bragging about the traffic situation anymore. Our children, and perhaps even my siblings, are too young to remember when life was like this, but I hope they'll still enjoy this bit of history, which is part of the world of my childhood. I only wish I could talk with my grandparents about the Rochester they knew.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 7:19 am | Edit
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Since mid-November, my reading has been rather light, there being nothing intellectually challenging about my last 13 books. (Well, Boys of Blur could be—I need to re-read Beowulf—but it was enjoyable enough without going into all that.)  I had planned to continue that trend for a while, not from any particular desire for easy reading, but because I want to re-read all the existing Green Ember books before the new one is released.

altMy eldest grandson, and the library, changed all that.

His current all-time favorite book series is Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.  With that kind of recommendation, I thought it would be good to check it out. Recently our libray sent notice that my hold for the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, had come through, so today I ventured out to pick it up.

The librarian didn't quite need a hand truck to bring it from the back room.

The book is 670 pages long.

I hope I like it, because 670 pages will be a long slog if I don't. But I'm more than half hoping that I don't like it too much, because there are 13 more books in the series, plus a prequel and a companion book.

Long gone (though only five years past) is the time when I could sample his taste in reading by whipping through half a dozen Animorphs books in a few days.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Edit
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I need new jeans. This is a perennial situation; I've been looking for new jeans for years, waiting for comfort to come back in style. I mean, we're talking jeans here. Not high fashion. Jeans are supposed to be comfortable.

When will the skinny jeans fad end?

For some inexplicable reason I thought I'd try my luck again today. Tell me, what kind of an oxymoron is "plus size skinny jeans"? Just plain moronic, I'd say.

Listen, folks. I wouldn't want to look as if my jeans were painted on even if I had the best of figures. But in what bizarre nightmare did you dream that a plus size woman might want to feel every ounce of flab she owns from the waist down—and display it all for the world to see? Even the models in the ads look ugly, stuffed into skin-tight pants.

One more, little hint you might want to take seriously: Adding big rips in the knees does not make the jeans any more attractive, no matter what the size. On plus sizes it looks beyond stupid.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Edit
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I've been waiting over a year for the next book in the S. D. Smith's Green Ember series. As I said at the end of my review of Ember Falls,

Bring on the next bookBring on the next Kickstarter appeal. I'll be there#RabbitsWithSwords

The time has come. Ember Rising is finally in the home stretch. The book is written, artwork done, cover chosen ... there's just that little matter of publication. Once again they are funding this through Kickstarter, which I see as a great way to support a good author and play a small part in getting these wonderful books out of his head and into the world. 

I'm now officially an S. D. Smith fan. I don't support projects for the sake of the rewards, any more than I donate blood for the t-shirts and gift cards. But they're still nice to have, and this time I chose a level with rewards that duplicate things I already have—such as Kindle versions of the books—because it also gets me physical copies of all the books published so far. I had some, from previous campaigns, but gave them away, because why take up bookshelf space when you have the Kindle versions? Unless, of course, you have decided that you really like the books, and you're a true bibliophile, and still love the feel of a real book in your hands. And want to be able to lend the books to friends, or attract the eye of a visiting grandchild. That sort of thing. You can read a Kindle book, but you can love a physical book, and some books deserve to be loved. Hence my extensive collection of George MacDonald, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Arthur Ransome, Miss Read....

Anyway, here's the Kickstarter link and accompanying video, should you want to join this exciting project.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 8:50 am | Edit
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On an out-of-the-way street in a suburb of Lucerne, Switzerland, hides a small, by-invitation-only restaurant called Chez Stücklin. It was there that we were privileged to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary.

alt

Well-dressed, cheerful greeters met us at the entrance and led us to our private table. This was located in the Sun Room, which was on this day a misnomer, as the sunshine was primarily of the liquid variety.  alt

No matter; the room was well heated and we were offered warm slippers to protect our feet. Note the blue, personalized place card, the beautiful roses, the amusing pig-shaped candle, and the fancy-folded napkins.

The menu at Chez Stücklin is fixed. Here is what was served on our special night. (Click on any image to enlarge.)

The elegant, semi-refined wait staff lit our candle and took our drink orders. They were attentive to our drink needs throughout the meal—to me, the hallmark of a great restaurant.

Soon they brought in the first course: Mermaid Blossom Potage, "seasonal soup with a trefoil of select seasonings."  It was delicious, and reminded me of the curried pumpkin soup we traditionally enjoy at Thanksgiving time, but with lighter seasoning.  During the soup course, the youngest kitchen apprentice came by with a bowl of potato chips, solemnly handing us each a single chip.

altThe main course, Pizza on the Head ("homemade pizza with Mama's favorite crust and toppings worth jumping about"), was prepared tableside, as we watched. The dough had been previously prepared, but the staff rolled it out to perfection, one of the crusts even being in a "hidden Mickey" form in honor of our home town. They then added sauce, cheese, and a personalized assortment of toppings.

alt

While we waited for our pizzas to bake, we enjoyed the restaurant's varied entertainment. Seldom have I been so pleased with the volume of restaurant music, which is nearly always too loud. Here, it was pleasant to listen to and did not interfere with normal conversation.  If the quality of the performances varied somewhat, there is no doubt that the cuteness factor was as high as I have ever experienced.

I regret that a few of the acts are missing from the following montage. The restaurant has a policy that discourages videotaping of the older staff, so you will not get to see some delightful piano and harp performances. There was also an incredible duet between the head waiter on keyboard and Waitress V on tin whistle. I'm told that it was a completely unrehearsed, impromptu performance, but Waitress V was so sensitive to the music that she picked up the rhythm and even some of the melody simply through listening to the piano. I'm really sorry not to have filmed that—Waitress V would love to have had it recorded—but by the time I realized what was happening, I was simply too entranced to pull out my camera. We also missed a comedy routine I'm told was hilarious, but apparently the commedian was overcome by a sudden attack of shyness.

altMy pizza was all I could have hoped for. I could easily have eaten it all, but accepted the suggestion of a take-home box because I knew that dessert was part of the anniversary dining package. Team Vanilla Chocachilla, "a generous portion of vanilla ice cream with hagels and chocolate sauce," was the perfect finish to a perfect anniversary dinner.

Chez Stücklin, Lucerne's hidden gem, receives my highest possible, five-star rating.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 5:49 am | Edit
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