Saturday, May 31, 2003

SATURDAY: Just For Kicks


Do you know someone who is moving into a new home? Give them a “garden-warming” instead of a housewarming. Invite guests to a patio supper and “flower shower.” As their “garden-warming” gift, they have to bring a divided perennial plant – or many of them -- from their own yard, or bring a special plant to be added to the new garden.

It’s always fun to hear everyone’s stories about the plants they are choosing to share, and exchange tips on growing conditions, plant care, foliage shapes and sizes, blossom color and timing.

The party planner should give the honoree a sheet of paper with everyone’s names and what they brought, for future reference. It’s awfully nice to offer to help plant the plants, too.

For years, when the proud homeowner looks out over that “friendship garden,” he or she will think of each guest and feel the joy that comes from the special languages of flowers and friendship.

Friday, May 30, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


If you want your children to have an unforgettable demonstration of how icky it is to let angry feelings fester, try this:

Set out a glass of milk, a piece of bread and a small block of cheese. Put a note next to these items, labeling them as “anger.”

Now let them sit out on the counter for just as long as your family can stand it. Let the kids get a good whiff of how bad that milk begins to smell, and make sure they see the ugly mold that forms on the bread and cheese, spoiling them.

That’s what happens to you when you let unresolved bitterness fester inside you. Teach your kids that anger, like all other negative emotions, needs immediate attention or your kids’ lives will begin to get stinky.

Like milk, bread and cheese, people’s hearts need to keep cool.

Thursday, May 29, 2003



Here’s a fun diversion that a babysitter, grandmother or Sunday School teacher might want to make with a child. It’s inspired by the children’s book series, “I Spy,” where the child looks at an elaborate illustration in a book to try to spot various smaller items. Here’s how to make that fun come alive in a bottle:

-- Use an empty plastic bottle that used to contain water or pop or some such; clean the inside and remove the label so that the sides are clear and you can easily see inside

-- Get together a collection of seven or eight colorful, small things that are meaningful to the child: a crayon, a plastic ring, a shell, a piece of candy, a marble . . . whatever you can part with and somehow relate to the child

-- Now make up a list of “clues” to go with each item: “something that will make a picture” might be the clue for the crayon, “something to wear on your finger” for the plastic ring, and so on

-- Be creative with categories: brainstorm and scrounge around with the child what could go in the bottle; try collecting items whose names all start with the same letter, perhaps the first letter of the child’s name; or collect items that stand for all the letters in the child’s name, so for “Mark,” you could have a marble, a miniature plastic apple, a rock and a key; if you are a Sunday School teacher, you could relate the items to Bible verses, or a grandmother could place items that are each representative of a family member or a family story

-- Place the items in the bottle and fill with plain, white, uncooked rice

-- Replace the cap with some glue to make sure it’s glued shut

Give the bottle and the list of “clues” to the child to play “I Spy.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


All you need to have a deluxe, primeau, first-class experience at a graduation ceremony is a little old lady in tennis shoes in your family. They’re the difference-makers.

Most normal people plan to arrive at a graduation a half-hour early to get a good seat. But if you’ve been doing this for very long, you discover that that’s not the way to get the very best seats. In fact, you can get there quite on time, for a normal person, and have to sit in the cheap seats or spillover auditorium.

Instead, your little old lady in tennis shoes goes two to three hours early, sneaking in the side entrance, talking her way into the sealed auditorium, persuading the maintenance man to open up the box of programs a little earlier than he’s supposed to so that she can have 12 copies, and then persuading another maintenance man to set up the first 12 chairs in the best possible location for her to place her 12 bootlegged programs on, to save those seats.

Then as the hours and minutes count down and she stays there along guarding the 12 seats, and they’re still empty while all other seats gradually fill, she may have to out-think and out-talk a few Phi Beta Kappas, dignitaries, media dudes, security guards and not-so-prompt other grannies and grandpas, all seeking to unseat her of her primeau seats.

The rest of her family may waltz in with five minutes to go; the whole auditorium will glower at them taking their privileged places while she basks in the glory of being the heroine who got the best seats in the house.

Stealth and cunning will beat out youth and vigor, every darn day. If you want to graduate to higher echelons of graduation lore, get yourself a granny. They come in handy . . . to the highest degree.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


It may seem like a good trend, this huge push in the nation’s supermarket chains to offer a customer “discount card,” “club card” or “membership card.” Nearly three out of every four Americans has one. But cards are not what they seem. In fact, because of the data collection process and massive privacy invasion that are behind them, grocery cards are a wolf in sheep’s clothing that smart citizens should avoid.

Studies such as one published in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 21 earlier this year point out the incontrovertible fact that the cards do NOT save you money in most cases, and in fact, more often than not, you wind up spending more for the same items at card stores than at noncard stores. Most people think it’s the opposite.

It does appear that the purpose behind the cards is slightly deceptive and designed, not as a cost-cutting measure as most consumers assume, but as a marketing ploy in the nation’s $400 billion supermarket industry.

Consider these terms that stem from the cards:

-- customer identification is cross-linked to social security number and collected in gigantic databases down to the microrecord level about your buying habits; this leads to purchase monitoring and surveillance in the same way that tapping your phone or putting a tracking device on your car will monitor and surveil your ideas and actions

-- customer purchase data is available by search warrant from law-enforcement officers who would not be allowed to collect or use that same data against you in a court case if they did it themselves

-- data mining from the data collection that the stores do through the cards is made available to other kinds of companies and individuals, including junk-mail, telemarketing and other kinds of marketing firms, divorce attorneys, tax-evasion attorneys, other kinds of civil-suit attorneys, and insurance companies. This information free-for-all may lead to future detrimental uses against you, such as companies canceling your insurance if you purchase cigarettes and so forth

-- the use of “psychodemographics” in which data collection on a store’s clientele can be used politically for or against certain neighborhoods as the food marketers study the buying patterns, time of day people shop, and so forth; discount coupons and campaign materials may be mailed in one zip code segment and not in others, for example

-- the data trail inevitably leads to special favors for certain kinds of customers that the stores want to encourage, with preferential pricing and discounts set aside for more elite customers, creating different “castes” of shoppers, which should be anathema in a free society

What do the experts suggest? Two things:

1. Shop at a store that allows “anonymous shopping.”

2. Work with politicians and community leaders to get rid of the cards or at least force a lot better consumer information on the actual costs and benefits of them and exactly what data is being collected on you and how it is, or could be, used.

For more, see the book, “The End of Privacy” by Charles Sykes, and the excellent website, “Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering,”

Monday, May 26, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. What does it mean that grassroots activists got rid of the “Profile of Learning” in Minnesota in 2003?

It’s a good sign that, despite being outspent politically, grassroots activism by parents and taxpayers concerned about public education can still defeat the powers that be. Minnesotans who opposed the Profile of Learning -- the costly nationalization of school curriculum through the standards and assessment process that destroys local control of schools -- have paved the way for those in other states to fight off the nationalization of schools.

The fight was led by the Maple River Education Coalition (, which has exposed anti-American content in educational standards that have been basically boilerplated in states all across the country, but blatantly so in Minnesota. They made a case that Minnesota’s standards ignored or bashed the Declaration of Independence, the concept of natural law, the importance of America’s national sovereignty, and free-market enterprise.

Activists were cautiously rejoicing about the eradication of nationalized curriculum and “performance assessments” from Minnesota’s learning requirements, along with the controversial “rubrics” system of grading. In addition, diversity training is no longer part of the state standards. They say the new standards are a move away from politically-correct, socially-engineered, nonacademic curriculum, and toward re-establishing knowledge-based education.

The state is still aligning itself to the requirements of the federal education bill, No Child Left Behind, in order to keep receiving federal tax funding. But activists say that besides the required tests for math, language arts and science, there will be no other statewide annual tests. This is seen as good so that schools aren’t forced into standardized, nationalized curriculum and instructional methods. Activists are now focusing on getting rid of School-to-Work, the attempt to replace broad-based liberal arts with mere job training.

Homework: For more, see

Sunday, May 25, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


(W)e will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine. . . .
— Song of Solomon 1:4b

It was many years ago, at the tail end of the Vietnam era. A friend of mine was living in Norfolk, Va., and dating a dashing lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

He was often Officer of the Day on the USS Roosevelt, and so she got to tour the ship, be served fancy meals on china and silver in the officer's dining room, and walk the decks arm in arm with her lieutenant on midnight rounds.

It was like something out of a movie, the kind of romance you tell your girlfriends about, and they all fan themselves and sighhhhhh.

But then one day, he got shipped out.

And, being the strong, silent type, he didn't write to her very often.

She was a little confused about where things stood.

And then one day, she met another dashing young man.

So . . . well . . . you can guess.

She was pleased that the lieutenant came to the wedding, with warm wishes for their happiness. He married, too, a few years later. He stayed in the Navy and traveled the world while she and her husband settled in the heartland and raised a family. She and her old beau exchanged Christmas cards with light and jolly updates.

The years passed. Babies, laundry, bills . . . a divorce . . . the big 5-0 . . . and the shock of Sept. 11 all took their toll. She was feeling a little down, a little anxious, reviewing her life's course.

And then one day a big box came. It was from him -- her lieutenant.

It came with a letter. He wrote that 9/11 had alerted him to the fact that life is fleeting, and that there is no time like the present to deal with the past.

And in that box, he was sending her some gifts – gifts he had bought for her long, long ago, from all over the world on his Navy travels, gifts selected just for her, and kept for her, that he intended to give to her . . . as his bride.

She had had no idea.

While she was thinking that she was just his girl in that particular port and that he wasn't really serious about her, he was thinking that she was the one for him.

But he never got around to telling her. And then it was too late.

When he learned that she was engaged, he put all the gifts in a cedar chest, and he kept them there for more than 25 years. He wrote that his wife knew about her, and the gifts, and approved of his sending them to her as a way to find ''closure.''

Her hands were shaking. She took the things out, one by one, amazed at his exquisite taste and how each item fit her style and was obviously selected just for her.

Here was a beautiful leather purse. . .

a matching set of smoky topaz earrings and pendant. . .

black soap from Spain. . .

a bottle of Shalimar perfume, the REAL thing, not just watered down toilet water. . .

a bottle of Joy, once the most expensive perfume in the world, and even after 25 years, absolutely still wonderful in fragrance.

She cried. Darn right she cried. She cried for her strong, silent lieutenant and how it must have felt for him to learn that she was going to marry someone else.

And she cried for the sweet and tender demonstration of his lifelong regard for her, and the risk that he took with his wife and his own feelings to have sent those things to her, after all these years.

She wrote back, assuring him of how special the things were, and what a wonderful man he was to have blessed her so much by sending them. She has a serious new love in her life, and so she wrote about him, and made it clear to her lieutenant and his lady that she understood that the gifts were platonic and the intent was pure.

She gave the Joy perfume to her best friend, because it was her late mother's fragrance, so that has been a blessing.

She has worn the jewelry, and received compliments on how perfectly suited for her it is.

But mostly, she tells the story as an example of God's perfect timing, since she needed so much to know at that time in her life that she was loveable and worthy and had once been somebody's dream girl.

And now she knows that those midnight walks, arm in arm with her lieutenant, had a purpose in her life that went far beyond the moment. The gift of being loved knows no price and has no end.

This Memorial Day, many of us will be looking at graves, remembering lost loves, and feeling sad.

But I know a very special woman who has learned that love never ends, after all, and in fact it's a gift that will always be remembered, and once given, can never be lost.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

SATURDAY: Just For Kicks


Here’s a recipe for an appetizer that always has party guests reaching for more. That’s why it’s called “Smo” . . . as in “some more.”

You can shape this into a ball or log and set it out for a party with a box of your favorite crackers or sliced veggies:

2 1/2 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (a 10-oz. Cracker Barrel block, for example)

8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese

2 1/2-oz. package smoked or dried beef slices, finely chopped

1/4 C. green onion slices

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Combine cheeses. Use mixer to fluff. Stir in the rest. Chill for three hours or overnight, then form into a ball or a log. Add mayonnaise or milk if you think it’s too stiff. Wrap with plastic until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh parsley. You also can roll in sliced almonds if you wish.

Friday, May 23, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


There are all kinds of end-of-the-year events going on for children of all ages. For most, it’s fun and exciting. But a few children are under strain: perhaps their parents are having problems, in the midst of a divorce, or this is the first end-of-school “season” in which both parents won’t be coming, united and happy, to the sporting events, concerts, recitals, awards ceremonies and other festivities.

It makes it really hard for the newly-single moms, especially, to make these events seem special and exciting for the kids.

So that’s the cue for the friends of the mom, especially, to be on the lookout for opportunities to attend the child’s events with the mom. Call and offer to pick her up. Let her know, by your presence, that you value her and her children. Affirm her in the most important job of her life – rearing her children – by being there with her. Take them out for ice cream afterwards, if there’s time.

It works slick to call and invite yourself to go to an event or two if you have children the same age and are going anyway, but you need no other reason to invite yourself along other than you’d really like to go.

This friendly gesture lets the children know that they are still part of a larger community “family” and they still are worthy of attention and fanfare . . . just a little different than it used to be.

When a family breaks up, there’s nothing more important than “being there” for the kids, and reassuring their mothers in the process.

Thursday, May 22, 2003



A little graduation cash takes on personality and fun with a bit of dolling up. Before you slip that $10 or $20 or $50 bill into a graduation card, have a little fun with stickers – a mortar board on the head of the President is hilarious and unexpected – or cut out a cartoon-style speech bubble, write a congratulatory wish and tape it on as if the face on the bill were saying it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Family life is the breeding ground for strange, new vocabulary words. Potty-training is a . . . excuse the expression . . . ripe environment for this.

If you tell a little one that you are going to leave the bathroom in order to give that little one “privacy” and allow him or her to “concentrate,” it soon morphs into child-worded demands similar to what happened in our household:

1. “Give me private-cy.”

2. “Give me concentape.”

Result: whenever anyone in the family of any age wants everyone else to be quiet and leave them alone, they demand, “Give me concentape.”

Works every time. So now our family depends on scotch tape, duct tape, videotape . . . and concentape.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


Official government sources say that the “chemical trails” often left in the sky by passing airplanes are merely the result of the mixture of hot jet exhaust with atmospheric air of low vapor pressure and temperature.

But watchdogs are increasingly saying that the “chemtrails” are actually evidence of military manipulation of the ionosphere that are having a harmful effect on people’s health and the environment.

If you search “chemtrails” on a major search engine, you’ll see the growing mountain of chatter on both sides of this issue.

Which side is correct? That’s one for further study.

To learn more, the best-known chemtrail investigator is Clifford Carnicom; see his reports on

Also see

Monday, May 19, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. I keep hearing that the term paper is dead in public schools, and if you want your child to learn how to research and write a serious report, you’d better pay a private writing tutor when your child’s in middle school and high school. How can this be? Isn’t writing taught in public schools any more?

It sure looks that way. Email, instant messengering and less formal instruction overall in schools are all factors in the decline of student writing skills. But lot of blame can and should be laid at the feet of educators who chose Whole Language reading instruction methods instead of phonics in the early grades over the past couple of generations, making a lot of students basically functionally illiterate.

People are just now waking up to the key consequences of Whole Language’s language deficiencies, including a sharply reduced attention span on the part of our students, far less analytical power, and considerably less breadth and depth of research skills. These woes stem from the inability of most students to handle a lot of reading, which stunts their vocabulary and thinking skills, and renders the quality of their writing to the intellectual level of a TV show.

Coupled with this is the “dumbing down” of the teaching profession into a trade because of the union influence. Spending evening and weekend hours grading stacks of papers used to come with the territory for English teachers; now the pressure is on to train the kids’ minds for simplistic multiple-choice standardized test questions or to write a brainless but structurally standard five-paragraph essay to pass the state’s writing assessment. The College Board’s National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges reports that 75 percent of today’s high-school seniors have never written a term paper for history or social studies and can’t write anything at all without errors. You can’t do what you haven’t learned.

Tutoring can really help. Send the bill to school; it’s worth a try.

Homework: Homeschoolers and others can download a packet on how to write a research paper from
SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
— Psalm 143:5

There's a tremendous rip in the upper left of the dress I wore today. That's because our beautiful daughter Neely graduated from high school, and my heart burst with pride and joy.

Most everyone there saw a tall, blonde honor student in a white cap and gown with a shy, sweet smile.

But I saw Don Elbow.

Nobody would ever believe that our classy, reserved daughter Neely was once a cheesy lounge lizard straight out of the Las Vegas strip. But she was.

Right in our home, she put on the ''Don Elbow Show'' for several weeks with the polish and verve of a pint-sized Liberace.

This whole thing was confounding, since the only entertainment Neely had ever been exposed to was the playground and her kiddie CD with ''The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round.'' She must have seen something on cable TV that gave her the idea to start a Vegas nightclub act.

Where'd she get the name ''Don Elbow''? We have no clue. But she was sure that's who she was, so she went with it.

She was about 4. At bedtime, after her root-beer belly was stuffed into her pink footie pajamas, she would command the presence of her mother, father and older sister as her ''audience'' at the foot of her bed.

She would vault up on top of her great-grandmother's hand-me-down headboard, which served as her four-inch wide ''stage.'' She would have on her ''joo'ry,'' which consisted of 47,034 colorful plastic beaded necklaces and stretchy bracelets all the way up her arms. They were colorful. Life-threatening, but colorful.

Today, she dresses tastefully and modestly, like a junior professional. We think she might become a scientist or an attorney. Back then, though, we were sure she would become an exotic dancer. She already had the uniform.

Here's how her act went: once her audience of three had gathered, she would command her father, the stagehand, to stand at the doorway and switch the overhead light on and off real fast — the poor man's strobe.

Then she would begin her monologue. It went something like this:

''Hiya, folks. This is the 'Don Elbow Show,' starring me: Donnnnnnnnnnnn ELBOW!''

This was our cue to give her riotous applause.

''Thankew. Thankew veddy much.''

Then she would crouch forward, stick out her arm to the extreme left and, pointing her finger with an extravagant flair and beaming with delight, she would swing her arm slowly from one side of the bedroom to the other.

''Is there anybody new here tonight?''

There never was. It was always just us three. We gave her more riotous applause, anyway.

Then she would go into her song and dance. It was . . . one-of-a-kind.

First she would swing to the left and sing: ''Deet, deet.'' Then she would swing to the right and sing: ''Deet, deet.''

Repeat; each identical ''stanza'' was rewarded with riotous applause. ''Deet, deet! Deet, deet!''

I’m sure, in her head, she was accompanied by a full-fledged jazz orchestra with a laser light show, theatrical fog and bubbles.

But all we could hear and see was this weird-looking little girl singing, ''Deet, deet! Deet, deet!'' We riotously applauded anyway.

Then the finale: a full, frontal, necklace-jangling flip from the headboard ''stage'' onto her colorful heart bedspread.

The intrepid stagehand would flip the lights in frenzied fashion. Ta-daaaaaaaaa!

Riotous, relieved applause from her fabulously entertained fans. We would tuck her in, turn off the lights, roll our eyes skyward, and blame the other spouse's family tree for sprouting this particular nut.

After a brief, but storied ''run,'' though, the ''Don Elbow Show'' closed.

Neely's energy turned toward drawing mazes and riding her big-girl bike. She never did any more performing. It was as if she tried it and got it out of her system because it wasn’t ''her.'' Her choices moved toward golf and soccer, the flute and her friends.

She is who she is now, which is very, very special.

But I'm her Mom. I remember who she used to be. I remember all the Neelys. I didn't just see one of them graduate today. I saw them all.

It's my job to play the old tapes in my head, the memories of her childhood. I have to line my heart with them as insulation against the long, lonely stretches that are to come, when she won’t be at the dinner table or right down the hall so I can see her and hug her and listen to how her day went and marvel at this glorious creature that I had a hand in creating.

It's graduation. So we do our part: we remember.

Like every mom and dad, when I watched her receive her diploma, I savored the memories of the little girl she used to be – in all her facets and permutations – and looked ahead with joy to meeting the new Neelys that are to come.

Yes, there is somebody new here tonight. There are a lot of them. They are the Class of 2003 – wonderfully talented and diverse individuals.

They're in the season of life where they can relish the spotlight that they've earned, do a little song and dance, and then do a flip into the future, to our riotous applause.

Shoot for the moon, young men and women. Always be yourself, and expect that to change from year to year. That's what makes adult life fun. That's what makes your Maker smile – seeing you feel free to be who He made you to be at that particular stage of your life.

Hey, Class of '03 – congratulations, go get 'em, and God bless.

And one more thing:

Deet, deet!

SATURDAY: Just For Kicks


May is the month for dance recitals, tornado drills, and graduation parties -- hopefully, not all on the same day. Here are some ideas for a meaningful and slightly different graduation party to mark your child's big day:

-- Serve easy-to-fix finger food with at least one item that relates specially to your child, either his or her favorite, or something from the state the child's college is in or otherwise connected to.

-- At the door, have a stuffed animal that is the mascot of your child's college in a small rocking chair wearing a sweatshirt from your child's college.

-- About a month before the party, or more, ask at the local high school if there is a '' techie'' student who is good with slideshows and mujltimedia who would like to make a little money doing a graduation video for you. Go through old pictures and pick out a representative sample. Choose a neat song that's on a CD that can work as background music. Keep it to two or three minutes. The going rate is about 75 cents per picture used, and for a 2 /2 minute show, you'll probably want about 65 pictures.

Friday, May 16, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Here’s a fun alternative to a guest book at your graduation party: buy a standard white pillowcase and fit a piece of flat cardboard tightly inside so that it is well stretched out. Duct-tape the corners at the back to keep the rectangular surface neat.

Then put out several colors of permanent marker pen, and ask guests at your graduation party to sign their names, make a wish or draw a cartoon on the pillowcase.

Your child will enjoy bringing that pillow to his or her dorm room as a souvenir and homesickness remedy.

Thursday, May 15, 2003



With Memorial Day and the Fourth of July coming up, it’s a fun idea to plan a red, white and blue garden this year.

Whether you have several garden areas around your yard, or just some space at your front door for a few pots, here are some ideas for combinations of readily-available annual flowers that will show your patriotic colors this summer:

Red: Salvia

White: Petunia

Blue: Lobelia

OR . . .

Red: Petunia

White: Alyssum

Blue: Ageratum

OR . . .

Red: Begonia

White: Nicotiana

Blue: Pansies

If you really get energetic, you could plot out the stars and stripes of the American flag in living color.

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


One of the most enjoyable conversations to have with friends is to find out how married couples first met. One of the sweetest first-date stories -- in more ways than one -- started off as two college girls who made a point to sit next to the boy in their chemistry class whom they thought had the most on the ball. If he took notes, they took notes. If he turned to a certain page in the textbook, they'd turn to that page. So, yes, at first, they were just using him for his chemistry knowhow . . . but soon, the chemistry between one of the girls and this young man began to build.

One day, he asked her to come to his dorm room because he had something for her. Don't worry, it was in broad daylight and there was nothing nefarious about it. Well, she wasn't quite sure what to expect . . . and then he brought out a Sara Lee Coconut Cream Pie.

He said solemnly that it was his very favorite and he was happy to share it with her.

It was a nonsequitur, but what a charming one. The rest, as they say, is history. They've been married for more than 25 years. And yes, their anniversary dessert is always a great, big piece of you-know-what kind of pie!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


The Supreme Court of the African nation of Nigeria has upheld the death sentence for Amina Lawal, condemned for the crime of adultery on Aug. 19, 2002. She is to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death. Her death was postponed so that she could continue to nurse her baby. Execution is now set for June 3.

Is it wrong for Americans to get involved in court decisions of other countries? I say no, if it's something like this, which goes so appallingly against any concept of human rights.

Remember how Jesus treated the adulterous woman, shaming all those who would have stoned her. He didn't ignore or minimize her sin, but He acted to save her life and then told her: ''Go, and sin no more.'' (John 8:11b)

Note that Amina's baby is regarded as the ''evidence'' of her adultery. The father denied everything when he realized the trouble he was in. To find out more about sharia law, see,6512,777972,00.html

Amina's case is being handled by the Spanish branch of Amnesty International, which is attempting to put together enough signatures to make the Nigerian government rescind the death sentence. A similar campaign saved another Nigerian woman, Safiya, condemned in similar circumstances.

The petition is located at

Enter your first name in the space marked ''nombre,'' last name (''apellidos''), county (''provincia''), country, and in the drop down box pick Reino Unido (United Kingdom) or Estados Unidos (United States) or wherever. Then click on ''Segui'' and go to the second page. There you have the option of entering your email address if you wish to receive follow-up information. In any case, be sure to click on ''aceptar'' to have your name added to the petition list.

Please sign the petition now, then copy this message into a new email and send it to everyone in your address book.

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. I'm bothered by the use of the term ''social studies'' instead of ''history.'' I think it has opened the door to all kinds of politicization of curriculum and allowed teachers free rein to criticize our country. Why can't school boards just declare there's no such thing as social studies, and let teachers go back to teaching what we want: history, civics, geography, and everything that has made America the best country in the world.

You represent one side of this, and who knows? It might be the majority view by a country mile. But nontraditional instructional philosophies for civics are deeply entrenched in public schools, and unless waves of parents start complaining, nothing is likely to change.

If you look through the social studies textbooks in use in most districts, you’ll see a lot about multiculturalism, diversity, globalism and quite a lot of material which does seem to bash America, capitalism, Christian values, marriage and the family, and more.

Is it left-wing indoctrination of the next generation, to turn them into socialists and globalists? Or is it an honest attempt, true to our nation's founding principles, to teach children about equality, tolerance and looking beneath the surface to find truth?

One thing is clear: most social studies texts are heavily into relativism and situational ethics. That means they teach children that no country is better than any other, no religion is better than any other, and no individual is better than any other. Is that true? Most people would say no. Traditional history topics such as our status as a constitutional republic, the Second Amendment, religious freedom as the reason for our founding, and so forth, often get short shrift.

What would it take to change that? A little ''social studies'' of the power system in your district. Get together with like-minded citizens, study up, and work to get this important subject redefined.

Homework: For both sides, see the National Council for the Social Studies,, and Maple River Education Coalition,

Sunday, May 11, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

The Changing Table

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
-- 2 Corinthians 3:18

I have these stunning, just-about-grown daughters. Blonde hair, blue eyes, dew-petal skin, slender fem-jock builds. Next to them, I look like a potato farmer from Siberia.

When I show my ID at stores, their photos line up next to my driver's license picture. If the clerk is a young male -- OK, any male under 103 -- I've seen it happen time and time again:

His eyes look at my picture, then slide over to the girls' pictures and linger, and then a little frown of confusion and disbelief washes across his brow. Then his eyes slide back over to my Mrs. Potato Farmer picture, then back to the babes.

Finally, when he looks up at me, I lean forward and say proudly, '''I was their nanny.'' It always draws a smile of relief. Aha! That explains it.

Twenty years ago, before I had children, this would have hurt. But now, my rank on the beauty scale means nothing to me. I've changed.

Hey, I used to do the vanity thing. I camped out in the bathroom. I stared into mirrors. I micro-inspected my fingernails for specks of dirt.

But now instead of doing all those things just to primp, I do them to pass the time while our youngest, Maddy, World Champion Dawdler, Princess of the Kingdom of Random, is holding court on the potty chair, chattering away about orangutans and her new swingset and the ant party on the back patio. . . .

This would have driven me screaming yellow bonkers before I became a mother. Now, wasting time with Maddy is one of the most delicious delights of my day.

I've changed. How I've changed. And on this Mother's Day, I'm celebrating that.

I poured my youth into them, and it shows. A few years ago, a little girl I didn't know came up to me at our neighborhood school. ''My mommy went to college with you!'' she said. I found out her mother's maiden name and remembered her, fondly.

''She said she didn't even recognize you when we moved here,'' the little girl continued.

''Oh, yes, well, I've changed,'' I replied.

''That’s what she SAID!''' the little girl answered.

But here's the crazy thing: I'm glad.

Children change you. They grow you up. I used to care about all kinds of trivial things until that first week at home with our first baby, when all I could see was her face and all I cared about was getting ''the dairies'' to work and cuddling her, night and day. Everything else melted away -- the headlines, the weather and especially the laundry pile. Everything.

Children turn you inside out and ''toast'' your inner side, so that by the time they're grown up, you're ''done.''

That's because while they are growing up, you are, too.

When they get an owie and you hug them, it doesn't take long to realize that two arms are encircling you and hugging you back, making you feel better because you've been able to make that child feel better. Motherhood is a two-fer.

Once you know what that's like, you're changed. You can never go back to being self-contained. Your heart has multiplied. Your eyes see on new levels. Their hurts are your hurts. Your dreams are for them. You see yourself, and their father, in them, and it's as if a drawstring of love pulls you all in, snug and tight. Complete. Connected.

And that's why, on this Mother's Day, I can't stop smiling . . . because there’s someone very special who is going to become a mother for the first time this summer.

She's my niece, Theresa. I am going to become a great-aunt, which means I get to act dotty, pinch cheeks and marvel, ''My, how you’ve grown'' while they roll their eyes but secretly love it.

I get to watch Theresa grow and change, the way I did, and discover the profound, private and enduring joys that only mothers know.

And I have something very special to give her.

It's a changing table. Our changing table. It was for morning greetings and evening partings, lots of diapers, ''Itsy Bitsy Spider,'' nuzzling, and the incomparable, unforgettable feeling of baby skin, the most beautiful feeling in the world.

Sure, the changing table has a few miles on it, some dings and dents . . . like me . . . but it has held up under a lot of changes, and is sturdy, strong and ready for acfion.

Young mother-to-be, you are blessed. God is giving you such a gift. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood. You're going to be great at it. You're going to love it.

And my, oh, my. How you are going to change.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

SATURDAY: Just For Kicks


A fun idea for a graduation party is to buy or decorate a recipe-card filebox and purchase decorated cards to go in it.

Send out a card with each party invitation, with a note instructing the party guest to write advice, encouragement, a wish, a favorite quote, a Bible verse, an anecdote -- whatever they can share as a ''recipe'' for life -- on the card, and bring it to the party or send it back to the graduate.

It will serve as a fun and different guestbook and a wonderful memento of a special time in the young person's life.

Friday, May 09, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Helping an angry or anxious child feel better is one of the crucial arts of mothering. The goal is to relieve and refresh your child and teach him or her healthy ways to do it for a future adulthood that is certain to encounter stress and conflict. Here are some ways:


Your child may just need a hug and kiss. Touch is that important. Few of us get enough of it, though. Mothers who breastfed have an advantage here. The child is used to being calmed, comforted and cuddled by the simple touch of Mother’s skin. It often takes just a caress with the palm of Mother's hand down the child’s cheek and under the chin, to bring back those feelings of ease and tranquility from the breastfeeding joys of infancy. Every mom has her own style of touching –- hugs, pats, strokes, attentive body language, whatever -- and it's the very best therapy there is.


Lots of kids who are stressed out hold their breath or breathe only shallowly. Teach the ''take a deep breath and count to 10, and do that 10 times'' technique to flood the body with helpful oxygen.


Teach your child to wait to react to the distress until after a period of relaxation, to get the child's mind off the trouble and into a calmer mood. Listening to music, pounding a pillow, swinging on the swings, bouncing a ball, running around the block, riding a bike to the park and back . . . all are good redirection techniques.

Soothing atmosphere:

When your child is ready to talk about what's wrong, turn off the TV and have soft music, if any, on. If you have a scented candle, now's the time to light it; there’s something so soothing about gentle candlelight. Don't ''call a meeting,'' but make yourself available to talk. There is both biochemical and emotional power in milk and cookies at a time like this, so use it. Make sure to listen 80 percent of the time, and talk 20 percent. Don't allow other family members to bring up anything else that's stressful or a problem, and don’t talk about troubles at mealtime. Don't criticize or judge your child's feelings, reactions or actions, but do ask your child what he or she feels about them now, and help brainstorm alternative suggestions, what good might have come out of it, what might work better next time, and other encouraging, supportive input. Open minds and open hearts allow troubles to fly away.

Happy soothing!

Thursday, May 08, 2003



Here's a simple project for a special mother or grandmother in your life:

1. Draw and cut out a flower from cardstock or construction paper and have the child or grandchild decorate it with markers or stickers.

2. Use an Xacto knife to cut a circle out of the center.

3. Take a photo of her child or grandchild and tape it to the flower from the inside, so that the child’s face is the center of the flower.

4. Snip and tape plain paper behind the photo to protect it.

5. Then hot glue to a clothespin.

6. Last, hot-glue a magnetized strip to the other side of the clothespin.

Makes a great way to clip the child's art work or school papers to display on the fridge, or holds notes and papers at a desk.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


The toddler of the household was enjoying being potty-trained, because every success yielded not one, but two Hershey's kisses. She would squeeze her eyes tightly shut, stick out the palms of her hands, and feign shock and surprise when the two candies were put there, one on each palm.

Springtime brought a new sack with foil wrappers in pastel colors.

That, in turn, brought a surreal new atmosphere to the potty-training. The first time the candies were distributed, there happened to be a silver one on her left palm and a pink one on her right.

''An officer and a lady!'' she exclaimed.

The next time, she got two blue ones:

''Twin boys!''

And so it went. Older family members will never be able to eat Hershey's kisses again without thinking of the potty-training characters they represent, at least to the toddler's twisted mind.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


Mike Price is fired as the University of Alabama football coach because he spent hundreds of dollars at a topless bar and an unidentified woman charged $1,000 in room service to his hotel bill at a pro-am golf tournament in Florida.

Meanwhile, Larry Eustachy resigns as Iowa State basketball coach after photos reveal that he was drinking and partying with college students.

Now, compare those actions and consequences with what happened to former President Bill Clinton after the various embarrassments were revealed concerning his sexual and behavioral acts, especially with young women while he was at his place of employment, and to Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose financial fandango in Whitewater and other matters involved a considerable amount of money, and both of them are attorneys employed in powerful, serious, public service positions, not sports jobs.

Wuzzup with the mega-mega double standard here?

Monday, May 05, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. Twenty years ago, there was a big report, “A Nation at Risk,” that gave many good suggestions for improving our schools. Whatever came of them?

A major report issued on the 20th anniversary of “A Nation at Risk” says that schools have shown little improvement since 1970 in anything but the amount of money being poured into them, and the number of people employed by them. It calls for new reforms.

The report, “Are We Still At Risk?” is from the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. It says the report 20 years ago was right on, but underestimated the power of the education establishment to resist change, and lacked the follow-through necessary to carry its recommendations to reality.

Other findings about school reform from the Koret report:

-- Achievement gaps are as wide as ever for minority and disadvantaged youth, suggesting a need for new methods.

-- Instead of making effective changes in curriculum and instructional methods, schools and the bureaucracies that regulate them have responded to pressure to change by getting more money, expanding their services and tightening the governmental grip, all of which are counter-productive.

-- Schools still are overstaffed and inefficient because of the natural propensity of the powerful teachers’ unions (3 million members, $1 billion in dues) to “grow” school staff and thus membership rolls and dues income with “reforms” such as smaller class sizes, which don’t really improve learning.

-- Again because of union power, schools are still not hiring and paying teachers based on classroom effectiveness.

-- School choice has been blocked, in large part.

-- The American public needs much better information on what’s working and what’s not, to direct our tax dollars well.

Homework: A condensed version of the report is available on:

Sunday, May 04, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


(M)ale and female created He them.
-- Genesis 1:27c

I have this friend who is a petite blonde and one of the funniest, most capable women I have ever met. Once, though, she contracted a kidney infection.

It got very serious. Her fever was skyrocketing. She lay at home, in bed, writhing in agony.

The doctor wanted to see her every six hours to determine whether she needed to be hospitalized to save her kidneys.

So there she was, flat on her back, in horrendous pain, when her husband came home. He tiptoed into the bedroom, bent down close to her face, and whispered,

"Did you go to the store?"

I still laugh every time I think of it.

What her face must have looked like! What color his face must have turned after he realized he had been a schmuck! There isn't a woman on the planet who would have said what he said.

Now, he's a very smart, very aggressive lawyer, You wouldn't want to tangle with him. But he's also madly in love with his wife and would never hurt her . . . at least, on purpose.

Men and women: vive le difference. One gender can never quite figure out the other. That’s the gimmick that keeps us together. Men may drive women crazy, but where would we be for laughs without them?

I first learned that the difference was inbred and permanent in preschool. No, not as an inmate: as the Garden Mom.

Every year in May, I volunteered to plant flowers with the nearly 100 small fry who attended preschool at our church. Each child brought a flower to plant in the church's garden.

Their parents thought it was a developmentally-appropriate, hands-on learning experience. We thought it was a way to get El Cheapo landscaping. The kids just had a blast because it involved dirt. So everybody was happy.

I loved seeing the different personalities come out during the planting sessions: shy and bold, thoughtful and hyper. The really little ones would drop a bulb into a hole and keep shaking their hand for five minutes, not realizing the bulb had already dropped.

The junior princess, in a dress and lace anklets, cradled her ''lellow'' snapdragon with ultimate tenderness and whispered about the buds: ''Thethe are her eggth.''

Some would bring a six-pack and insist that all of the seedlings were ''friends'' who wanted to be planted close together. Others would obsess over packing dirt around their flower to ''tuck it in'' and soon the mound of dirt was taller than the flower.

One mom won my heart: she had apparently forgotten it was Garden Day. She must have rushed out to her own yard to dig up something, anything, to send. The result: a little pot of everyday clover, in bloom with little yellow flowers. She labeled it ''Colorado Columbine.'' Her little girl was proud of her special flower with the special name, and I’ve never since minded having clover in my yard now that I know it is so primeau.

But you'll note that the little ones who were in to Garden Day were the little girls -- Mother Earths in training.

The little boys, in stark contrast, were running all over the place, grinding the precious seedlings into the pavement with their He-Man sneakers, having swordfights with my garden tools, and shoving dirt clods down each other's backs. They didn't care a fig which flowers were friends.

One brought a cactus; I guess it looked tough. The boys brought a lot of red flowers that looked like flames and machine guns, and great, big, bossy ones that would dominate the landscape and win the turf battle over, what else? Turf.

But I'll always remember one little boy. He seemed mortified as he handed me the flower his mother had sent. Why? Because it was PINK.

It was a lavish begonia in a color that he found unacceptably sissified, especially since all the other little boys were looking on, which is when you most want to look macho, even at age 4.

And then he said it -- the thing that proved to me once and for all that males and females are made differently, period, and vive le difference. He said:

''These are 'Batman Pink.'''

His eyes bore into mine to make sure I understood that these were no wussie flowers. I did my best to exhibit respect and awe to his satisfaction.

And I am still laughing about it many years later. Batman Pink: nobody of the female persuasion would have thought of that name in a zillion years.

But, come to think of it, it's the perfect description of the color of the face of my friend's husband when he realized he'd been obnoxious, selfish and pig-like as she lay there near death, making her want to run over him in the Batmobile.

Males can't help it. It's just how they are . . . different, down to the bottm of their Batman Pink hearts.

God made us different on purpose -- to keep us endlessly fascinated, endlessly laughing, and endlessly, hopelessly, always in love.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

SATURDAY: Just For Kicks


Here's an all-season, all-time favorite that keeps well in the freezer if well-wrapped. How did it get its crazy name? A teenaged girlfriend of our daughter is 6'4'' and ''Ogre'' is her nickname. (Don’t worry; the awful favor is returned, as she calls our daughter ''Peeps.'') Every time Ogre comes over, she makes a beeline for our freezer and helps herself to one of these. She's not really an ogre – she's a beautiful girl – but she has a GIGANTIC taste for this dessert, and so will you.

2 C. crushed chocolate wafer cookies (''Famous'' brand works well)
1/3 C. melted margarine or butter
1/4 C. sugar


1 C. chocolate fudge sauce, slightly softened
1 quart vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 pint raspberry sherbet, slightly softened
1 12-oz. pkg. frozen raspberries, without syrup


1 8-oz. carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

In medium bowl, combine crust ingredients. Mix well. Reserve 1/4 C. for topping, Press the rest into a 13'' x 9'' pan, or into 20 individual cups or glasses. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Spread softened fudge sauce over crust. Spoon ice cream over fudge. Blob sherbet randomly over ice cream. Swirl gently together. Press raspberries into sherbet. Spread whipped topping over all. Top with sprinkled crust.

Cover. Freeze 6 hours or more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 02, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


You badger them to practice piano. You drive them to soccer practice. You drill them on vocab if they ask and you show them how to make their bed and mow the lawn.

So why wouldn’t a mom be deliberate about teaching a child how to show love?

You can, because it’s easy. There are a lot of good books on the market about "love languages" and so forth. But here’s a short list you can teach your kids. Together, brainstorm ways and means of fulfilling these tasks. Then declare a new sport in your home –- year-round "love season."

Put the following list by your calendar, and encourage each person in your family to do one of these for a family member each and every day, and record it. Your family atmosphere will change within a month, in a marvelous way. So if your daughter is named Sally and she matched socks without being asked, she can put "S-2" on the calendar that day.

Do these things for each other, and you’ll get your "reps" on building a loving home with loving kids:

1. Words of affirmation, tenderness and praise
2. Acts of service
3. Physical touch
4. Gifts
5. Time and undivided attention

Thursday, May 01, 2003



May Day! May Day! Someone special has remembered you with a charming May Day basket of flowers or cup of popcorn and candy, but you haven't done a dang thing in return and you have nothing on hand.

Not to worry: one of the sweetest May Day gifts ever is a basket of seashells that you collected yourself on your last trip to the shore. Use an extra basket –- everyone has at least one small one hanging around -- and rest the shells on a soft washcloth or piece of lace.

They won't make anybody fat, they won't wilt . . . and most of all, they’ll be memorable, focusing on May's role ushering in the summer fun that's soon to come.