Friday, October 31, 2008

More Jack-o-Lanterns

Katie and I made more Jack-o-Lanterns tonight for Halloween. Can you guess which one is mine and which one is Katie's???

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Preparations

Just thought I'd show off the jack-o-lantern that we carved last night. I think it's the first one that I've done since I was in junior high school (at least, as far as I can remember...) We executed this project last night with some friends in our ward: Brandon and Mallory Stoker. Brandon, by the way, was my companion in the MTC six years ago and moved out here this summer with his family to start a Ph.D. in Economics.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Official Endorsement

At the urging of several denizens of the blogosphere and specific requests by friends and relatives, the InspirationalKnoll weblog hereby is officially making an endorsement in upcoming presidential election. It is without hesitation that we endorse Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Ultimately, this endorsement is much more pro-Obama than it is anti-McCain. I have long held that we are very lucky this election to have two excellent choices before us. For the first time since 1976, we finally get to choose the "better of two greats" instead of "the lesser of two evils." John McCain is an upstanding American statesman who our country could be proud of. However, since a choice must be made, we recommend Senator Obama for the following reasons:

ISSUES. Due to space limitations, it would be impractical in this venue to delineate and discuss each and every public policy issue. Very briefly, however, we prefer Senator Obama's policy proposals on several issues ranging from dealing with the recent economic downturn, implementing a more progressive taxation system, improving the nation's schools, developing realistic alternatives to fossil fuels, and extending better healthcare and insurance to more Americans. In the international arena, we believe that Senator Obama would better represent to the United States on the world stage and pursue a more cooperative and effective approach to international affairs than his predecesor. (Anyone wishing a further discussion of a particular issue is more than welcome to contact me personally.)

For all our friends who secretly want to vote for Sen. Obama but feel guilty because of the issues of gay marriage and abortion, we humbly submit the following considerations:

  1. In the Vice-Presidential debate, Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin both flat-out admitted that they basically agree on the gay marriage issue. Both administrations would support civil unions while opposing gay marriage. There is no substantive difference between the two presidential candidates on this issue.

  2. While Sen. Obama would make no effort to overturn Roe. v. Wade, he has been more vocal than Sen. McCain in discussing options to reduce the number of abortions in this country. Sen. McCain's positions is that we should simply "let the states decide" (making it a federal issue, not a moral one). Additionally, I see it as highly unlikely that a Democratic Senate would approve any of Sen. McCain's Supreme Court nominees who do not believe in the principle of "stare decisis."

Essentially, although Sen. McCain is rhetorically preferable on these issues, we doubt very much that he would make much of an actual difference if elected. Sen. Obama, on the other hand, is in a position where he would much more effective in his efforts of pushing other important "moral" issues such as the environment, healthcare for the poor, a humane path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, etc.

PERSONALITY AND DEMEANOR. I am currently teaching a course in Political Psychology this semester. Researchers have carefully analyzed the personalities of both candidates. While Sen. McCain is outgoing and fearless, he is also impulsive, rebellious, and takes unnecessary risks. In fact, his personality is very similar to that of President Bush, and we do not believe that this personality has served us well over the past eight years. (See Sen. Obama, on the other hand, has an outgoing, congenial, confident, and cooperative personality. "Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special knack for settling differences, favoring mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement and also have strong affiliation needs, but a low need for power." (See Their contrasting personalities can be observed merely in their selections for Vice President: a risky gamble versus a deliberate, practical calculation.

ENDORSEMENTS. Furthermore, Senator Obama has been endorsed by several high-profile newspapers and individuals, including traditionally conservative newspapers like the Chicago Tribue and Washington Post. He has also been endorsed by major newspapers in the heart of Mormon-land like the Idaho Statesman and Salt Lake Tribune. We encourage everyone to read the following editorial endorsements of Senator Obama, as they provide more detailed and persuasive arguments than we are able to make in this venue:

Also, we highly recommend watching the endorsement of Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. This American hero's arguments are both powerful as well as persuasive:

A WORD OF CAUTION. There have been several "scare-tactics" out there regarding Obama's patriotism, ethnic background, religion, as well as his policy preferences on things like taxes and health care. Take some advice: do not believe anything you see on commercials or hear in campaign events - from either party. Take a few minutes and read several of the entries on -- it provides an objective analysis of several of the whoppers being told on both sides of the campaign and illuminates when a claim is either 1) an exaggeration or 2) a blatant lie, which unfortunately is rather often.

FINAL APPEAL. At this point, it is an increasingly foregone conclusion that Sen. Obama will win this election. (See for impressive methodologically-driven predictions of the election - Obama currently has a 95.7% chance of winning.) Will he be a perfect president? Of course not. Every president does things we are proud of and things we are embarrassed about. Will he be a great president? We believe he certainly has the potential. But as a recent editorial board has argued, given the problems he will assume upon taking office, we'd be satisfied with merely a good president. Given what we have observed up until this point, we are confident that Sen. Obama will be a very good president and one that America will be proud of.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chicago Trip Opportunity

In case anyone's interested, we'll be in Chicago next year over the weekend of April 2-5, 2009. I'll be attending portions of a conference and depending on the disposition of our yet-to-be-born daughter, Katie and the Little One are planning on coming along as well. (I'm excited to introduce her to Chicago-style pizza for the first time! Five-month-olds can eat solids, right?) So if anyone feels like flying into Chicago for a day or two over that weekend, we'd be happy to hang out and show you around. It's a lot cheaper and faster than coming all the way to Iowa City to see us...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekend Getaway

We are fast approaching the "no travel" zone of the pregnancy (I am now 32 weeks pregnant) and we decided to take a last-minute trip. I know, it's surprising, we are usually so predictable. On Wednesday Ben suggested that we go somewhere, he was somewhat surprised when I agreed. We arranged our schedules and headed out early on Friday morning to visit Missouri. Independence was a compromise for us, I got to see the church history sites and Benjamin got to see another presidential museum. Although the drive was long, we enjoyed the trip immensely. Here are pictures of our trip, including rest stop decorations, Ben stretching, the Truman museum, and an original copy of the "Dewey defeats Truman" newspaper.

Here are some more pictures from the museum. Doesn't Ben look good next to president Truman? I am pictured enjoying a root beer "phosphate" from Clinton's Soda Fountain. President Truman worked at this soda shop when he was young. It was fun to see and the spice cake was pretty good.

On Saturday we headed to the church history sites where we visited the LDS visitors center near the site of the prophesied Independence temple. The spirit was strong as we learned about the saints who lived in Independence and the struggles that they experienced. We also learned about Zion and the importance of living a righteous life and becoming closer to Christ. While here we also visited the hill where the prophet is believed to have dedicated the future temple site and the temple of the RLDS or Community of Christ church. The tour guide was very nice and we enjoyed seeing the temple and the museum inside. I was exhausted by this time (12 noon).

We then headed north to Liberty, Missouri. Here we visited the visitor's center that is built upon the ruins of the Liberty Jail. It was amazing to think about the difficult months of imprisonment that the prophet Joseph Smith and his companions spent here. We have experienced the cold Midwest winters and can, with difficulty, understand the trials that those men underwent. It was neat to think about the beautiful and important revelations that the prophet received here. It made us appreciate the many blessings in our lives.
Next, we drove up to Far West, Missouri where the saints had relocated after they were driven from Independence. There is nothing here but historical markers and beautiful scenery. We took some pictures of the temple lot with the dedicated cornerstones. The weather was gorgeous this weekend and we were really glad that we had come. I sat on a bench for about twenty minutes while Benjamin explored the area. I just sat there and stared at my belly as our baby was kicking away. I can never get enough of her. I could just watch her move forever, I can't wait until she is born, I imagine that I will be just as enthralled.

Our last stop, Adam-ondi-Ahman, was even more remote. It was a little overwhelming to contemplate the return of the Savior one day to the earth. We enjoyed the spirit we felt.

We then headed back home to Iowa. We ate a yummy dinner of Arby's fries combined with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yum!

I managed to survive the long car ride without anything worse than a sore back and swollen ankles. Ben tried not to complain too much about having to drive the whole time.

I wonder when we will be able to take our next road trip. . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mommy Mush Brain

Although my story isn't heroic like Ben's, I still thought that it was worth sharing.

I have recently started to experience what some call "mommy mush brain." I feel like I am unable to think as well as I used to. I cannot multitask very well and sometimes I forgot what I need to do. Obviously these symptoms are caused by the pregnancy and can not be blamed on my normal brain capacity. ;)

Today was one of those days. I got up early and headed to the elementary school where I am doing my practicum. I spent three hours there and took almost an hour to create a vocabulary review guide. Then I drove to the university, where I parked my car in front of the meters, got out, locked the car, and went to class. What did I forget? To FEED the meter. Whoops! I didn't realize my mistake until class was half over. I was too embarrassed to leave class in the middle, so I just waited it out. Luckily, I didn't get a ticket.

Here are some pictures of me (both pictures taken on Oct. 8th) and the little girl that is causing my brain not to function.

Minor Crisis Narrowly Averted...

This morning I (Benjamin) got to the bus stop a few minutes early on the way to school and it occurred to me that I could walk down to the next bus stop to give me something to do while waiting. As I arrived I noticed across the street that there was a little boy (1-2 years old) walking down the sidewalk with his blanket. There were no adults around and this was a fairly busy street we were on. At first I just kept an eye on him thinking that at any minute a parent or other adult would come around the corner to get him. But then the little boy started making his way toward the street and that's when I ran across and picked him up. He was very cute and was giggling and smiling. There was still no one to be found. One woman pulled over and called the police on her cell phone.

While we were waiting, the little boy's mom came running around the corner. She looked very distressed and was greatly relieved when she saw us. Apparently, she had been in the bathroom and this little 20-month-old had figured out how to unlock the front door and made his way out to the sidewalk, where they often go to take his older siblings to school. So we gave him back to her and I waited with her until the police car showed up. She was a very nice lady and was pretty shaken up - for a few minutes she didn't know where her little boy was. The police officer then showed up and was cool about it -- she asked the standard "check up" questions but didn't make the mom feel any worse than she already did. She even gave me a ride to school in her police car because I had missed the bus.

Ultimately, two things stood out to me from this experience: 1) it gave me a reality check on what a big responsibility raising a child is going to be and 2) I was glad that I acted on the thought (I assume it was from the Holy Ghost) that came into my head to walk down to the other bus stop. Things might have turned out very differently if I hadn't.