1.) I went to a lecture given by Esther Duflo on MIT's Poverty Action Lab which uses scientific methodology (double blind studies, randomized evaluations, variable and control groups) to figure out what works and what doesn't in helping people out of poverty. It was, in a word, fascinating.
The goal of the center is to make sure that whatever funds and programs are available to alleviate poverty are both A) founded on research and B) actually working.
I got to re-experience the excitement of the scientific method when applied to real life. It's certainly disappointing when a great idea doesn't really work out (for instance, she said they found that micro-finance does get women more money and more business, but it's not getting them significantly greater political or social freedoms or their children much more education). But when it does, or when you can figure out a way to make it work, you are changing peoples lives for the better. And that is awesome.
She works in South Asia so most of her examples were about teaching farmers in India about fertilizer and how best to incentivize them to buy it. But she also talked about mosquito nets and vaccines. One of my favorite points was one she made near the end. She reminded us that it's real people we're talking about and while it is important to have science backing your actions, you should act (then evaluate, and act again, better this time). Many people and policy makers she talks to want to wait for more and more information and she said she needs to remind them sometimes, "If we want to help people, they need to be alive for us to help them. So lets get them food and vaccines, and then work from there."
I left inspired. I'm now reading Half the Sky and I'm waiting for Duflo's book to come in at the library.
2.) We ate dinner. Together. I made chicken tikka masala (double the recipe so I could freeze some) and naan. I ate a ton. I have realized lately that warm, creamy, spicy Indian food on naan is my ultimate comfort food. Sam didn't have to rush off to homework so we all just sat and ate and talked about the Joy School Halloween party that happened that morning and laughed ourselves silly at our crazy boy Levi. He loves to laugh. Here's more evidence. And I love that Anna is talking to the camera; she was so excited about Halloween this year.
I love how Levi sucks his stomach in in this next video
And here he's playing peek-a-boo and smashes his face into the curtain
3.) The leaves! Here's the view from my window about mid-October. It got even more beautiful about a week later.
4.) We made a house. Anna was driving me crazy one night, so I broke out the glue gun and raided the recycle bin. We cut and glued and taped and then painted. Since then, on various days it's been completely painted, given a garage and stairs, and adorned with googly eyes and mini pom poms. Anna puts her doll house family and furniture inside and talks about how incredible her house is. It has a garage! And stairs! And a back yard! We have the same dreams...
5.) Sam got a perfect score on his homework in his hardest class 3 weeks running. Here's a typical evening-time view of Sam.
I don't know which of us will be happier when he's done with this class. (Just for a little perspective, if you went to BYU, Sam is taking the equivalent of 24 credit hours of graduate level courses. Remember how the limit was 18 as an undergrad? Yeah, just some food for thought... And he still manages to be a great Dad!)
6.) The kids. I am way over my head at this stage. Anna is... contrary. It's so hard to find things to motivate her. She swings from silly, brilliant, and creative to mind-blowingly annoying, whiny, dependent, and dramatic. I can hardly keep up. And Levi desperately wants to communicate- he's getting better and trying new words- but he can still get pretty frustrated. I moved his nap up by half an hour and that's been a world of help. He is, as my father-in-law sagely puts it, at the age of no reason where he must have whatever anyone else is having, and must have things exactly the way he wants it, except when he doesn't and is the happiest, cutest little creature on earth.
a little self-portrait I found on the camera
So life, it's good. We live simply and are happiest when we're all together, supporting each other. I think we all feel safest and most at ease here at home, which is as it should be. There are always improvements to be made and we're all working to make them. But we have a happy little family and we love it.
P.S. Does this post actually have more pictures of Levi than Anna? That may be a first...