Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Logic of Little Ones

By L.A. Kohl
December 13, 2005
(published in the Jan. 11, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

One of our older girls has been taking a “Logic” class in school this semester. I must admit, we were rather pleased that she had the opportunity to take this class, because…well -- suffice it to say, don’t most teenagers need a little assistance in that area?!

A large part of the semester, the class focused on learning all the different types of fallacies. At the school’s recent fall showcase event, her class got the opportunity to present most of the different types of fallacies in a fun, mock-trial sort of way. It enlightened me. I now realize that my younger children use a lot of those fallacies every day, I just could never put a name to it before now.

Here’s one that any parent with preschoolers probably hears daily. Our two-year-old and four-year-old often take their disagreements to a physical level. One of them will come crying to me and say, “He hit me”, and then the other one will retort, “But she pushed me."

Objection! This falls under at least two different fallacies. One, the “appeal to pity” fallacy, which is when the speaker tries to convince us by making us feel sorry for himself or others. It also falls under the “Tu Quogue” fallacy (Latin for “you also”) which implies that two wrongs make a right; the person committing this fallacy implies that his rival’s comments should be discounted because he has not always been consistent with it himself.

Here’s a little bit more unique one. Our four-year-old was recently amazed that her great-grandpa’s funeral was in a church; but it was in a different town and church than what we go to. Her father tried to explain to her that there are lots and lots of churches all around. She said, “I know dad – there are four of them!”

Objection! I believe that would fall under the fallacy of “fake precision," which is defined as the use of numbers in a way that is too precise to be justified by the situation. Perhaps there are four churches within a 6 mile radius of our home; however, that is too precise for the “lots of churches all around” situation being presented. (Ugh; leave it to a four-year-old to get too precise.)

I'll finish up by picking on our youngest. He’s a boy, and he likes to use “I’m tired” on a frequent basis. For instance, “I’m too tired, I can’t drink my milk” or “I’m tired, I need some candy."

I could go on and on with his “I’m tired” arguments; and they fall under all types of fallacies. First, it's the “fallacy of relevance." This fallacy states that these arguments have premises that do not “bear upon” the truth of the conclusion. (In other words, they introduce an irrelevancy into the argument.) Second, it's the “false analogy” fallacy, which is an argument by analogy that fails because the things being compared aren’t similar enough to warrant the analogy. Third, it loosely falls under the “sweeping generalization” fallacy, which is taking a generalization that is, perhaps, true, and applying it to cases to which it does not apply, without recognizing that exceptions could exist. I think all children are experts on using that “sweeping generalization” fallacy! (Oops – did I just use it myself?)

And now you know the truth…I’m not only an over-worked, under-paid, exhausted and stressed-out mom with lots of kids; I’m a bored mom looking for ways to take my job to a little bit more intellectual level.

Objection! That would be the “appeal to pity” fallacy…I just tried to convince you to feel sorry for me. But at least I didn’t use the “chronological snobbery” fallacy, or the “genetic” fallacy on you. Case closed.

A Matter of Tradition

By L.A. Kohl
December 10, 2005
(published in the Decemeber 14, 2005 edition of "The Bullseye")

The word “tradition” conjures up various thoughts within my mind, but at Christmas time, traditions are akin to the “warm fuzzies” for me. Some are trivial, often related to things like food. Others help us to pass on our spiritual heritage to the next generation. I hope for the sake of your children, your family has tried to carry on some time-honored holiday traditions, as well as to begin some of your own.
My husband has fond memories of going to his Grandma Kohl’s on Christmas Eve and having chili and oyster stew. I’m not sure how oysters worked their way into the Christmas celebration, but I think they’ve been there for years and years. I remember when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my girls when they were little; being surprised to see that even during the 1800’s oysters were a treat that people expected to enjoy during the Christmas season. Thus, every Christmas Eve, we cook up a little pot of oyster stew.

I personally remember going to Grandma Cox’s on Christmas Eve, where we would sometimes roast hot dogs and marshmallows in their fireplace, eat some snacks, and sit around sipping on Grandma’s wonderful spiced tea. It’s hard to beat hot spice tea and a blazing fire. When we got back home, my brother and I were allowed to open one present each – a tradition we’ve continued with our own children.

We have a few “new” traditions that our children look forward to each Christmas. One is getting out their personal box of ornaments and hanging each one on the tree. We give them a new ornament each Christmas – so we now have to set up a separate tree just for all of their ornaments! But they thoroughly enjoy pulling each ornament out of their box each year; trying to remember when they got it and who gave it to them.

We also enjoy reading Christmas stories together as a family during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Some are simply cute and sweet – the kind that make you sit back with a smile and go, “Ahhh…” Others are deeply moving and contain great spiritual lessons; often leaving one or more of us a little teary-eyed. Either way, it’s a heart-warming way to end the day before sending the kids off to bed.

Many years ago, we started going caroling on Christmas Eve (or as close to it as possible) and delivering goodies. The last several years it’s mostly been to our neighbors, but some years we go to a widow’s home. Our children look forward to it each year…and I understand that some of our neighbors have come to anticipate it as well! It’s fun to spread a little “Christmas cheer," and since the children help in making the cookies, candies and/or bread that we deliver, it helps to teach them that a lot of the joy in Christmas is in giving, and not just receiving.

We even have a tradition associated with our Nativity scene. It’s a fragile, ceramic Nativity set; thus, each piece is individually wrapped in tissues, hiding their identity. The children think it is great fun to take turns choosing one wrapped figurine, and then unwrapping it to see which one they picked. Of course, baby Jesus is the most coveted one – it’s always been fun to watch their faces light up with excitement when they unwrap Him and exclaim, “I got baby Jesus this year!”

There are others, but those are some of our fondest. I hope your family has many of your own traditions; but mostly I hope that at least some of your traditions, like our little nativity scene ritual, celebrate the excitement over finding the greatest Christmas gift ever given…Jesus Christ.

Front Porch Lady turned Movie Reviewer

By L.A. Kohl
November 9, 2005
(published in the Dec. 7, 2005 edition of "The Bullseye")

With winter upon us, our family enjoys cozying up on a Friday night and watching a movie together at home. We appreciate it when someone we trust tells us “that’s a good movie,” so on those rare occasions when we visit a movie rental store, we have an idea of what to look for. Thus, I thought maybe you’d enjoy hearing about some of our family’s favorites.

Old musicals rank high on the list for us. When I was younger, I thought musicals were so weird…people standing around singing to each other? Get real! But as I grew older and gave them a second chance – I found them extremely entertaining. They’re now amongst my favorites.

Fiddler on the Roof became my all-time favorite long before we had a household of daughters ourselves. It’s easy to relate with Rev Tevya and his troubles with family and finances, and I find his open honesty with God about his life’s daily problems heart-warming.

We also really enjoy some of Howard Keel’s old musicals – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers taking first place. It makes for some great entertainment when seven singing and dancing, back-woods brothers decide it’s time to find themselves wives; even if they have to drive all the way to town and steal them! Following closely in second place is his movie with Doris Day, Calamity Jane. How fun to watch them fight and sing their way through the wild, wild, west!

As for new musicals? They are very few and far between, but even as I type, my four-year-old is trying her hardest to sing “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera. I wouldn’t call it my favorite by a long shot…but the music is some of the loveliest I’ve ever heard (unless, perhaps, a four-year-old is singing her rendition!)

As for non-musicals…sorry to say it, but oldies are still my favorites. It’s just hard to beat Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember or Philadelphia Story, or Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any movie with Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart that I didn’t like. Oh, and if you want a good laugh – try an old Marx brothers movie. I’ve never seen one yet that didn’t have me laughing to the point of tears at some point within the movie.

Okay, okay – so maybe you want some movies that you can actually find in your movie rental store! If you’ve got a video player like ours that can block out foul language, then George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? will give you a good laugh – it’s the crowning glory of all “hayseed” movies! Second Hand Lions is another newer one that we really like – but again, having that TV guardian set up to block out the bad language is a necessity for us.

My older girl’s would disown me if I failed to mention Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies…take your pick, they like them all. Along the adventure line…Nate really likes Master and Commander. But, like most adventure movies produced within the past 20 years, it has a fair amount of blood and gore type stuff. National Treasure is a really great adventure movie that’s amazingly free of blood and gore, foul language, and “adult” situations.

I personally love the movie renditions of Jane Austen’s books, especially Sense and Sensibility and AandE’s very long Pride and Prejudice series. Oh, and don’t forget Little Women, or the Anne of Green Gables movies. I guess it’s the time period that they all depict, but I find the family devotion, simple hardships and light-hearted fun in all of them very endearing.

I could keep going, but that ought to give you a good start. Go light the fireplace, grab a blanket and some popcorn, and take some time to relax with your family during the hectic holiday season.