Friday, October 31, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Halloween is a good time to talk with your children about the things they’re afraid of. Sometimes they don’t even know what those things are until you ask them about them. Almost always, they come to discover that they aren’t really fearful after all – just not sure how they feel.

It’s helpful for you to start off by expressing what you used to be afraid of, and how you overcame that fear. Were you afraid of the dark? A nightlight might have helped, or a flashlight under the bed, or best of all, an “exorcism” by your dad into the closet and that scary, shady corner where you were sure monsters lurked.

Were you afraid of being picked last for games at recess? Maybe your parents put you in swimming lessons to help you build up your muscles, or you kept your sense of humor and said that you’d rather be the team’s coach than a player.

Whatever a child’s fears, the secret is to think about the scary thing in advance, reason it over, and figure out a way to prevent it or defeat it.

Teach an older child to think of life as a piano bench, with four legs: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Fears that come along threaten those strengths and threaten to make you weak.

Talk with your child about how one of those legs could be kicked out from under you by fear and make you unstable. But, if you’re prepared, you can do what’s necessary to overcome that fear and put that strength right back under you where it belongs. Examples:

Physical – fear of illness – eat right; get enough rest; play as well as work; exercise; no drugs, alcohol or tobacco; regular doctor’s checkups.

Mental – fear of failing in work or school – get good advice on what might be holding you back intellectually, such as weak reading skills, and get help with those weaknesses; organize your study time or worksite; ask your teachers or bosses how you can succeed and do what they suggest; get a study buddy; pay a tutor or mentor; try your best but relax, don’t strain.

Emotional – fear of being excluded from a clique – first of all, don’t get into a clique and if you’re in one, get out of it before the inevitable “crash”; remember the adage, “There are plenty of other fish in the sea”; reach out to new people and broaden your circle of friendships; cultivate and enjoy your times of solitude.

Spiritual – fear of being alienated from God – spiritual disciplines for a Christian, for example, include daily Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, spiritual study, and service.

Thursday, October 30, 2003



OK. You were invited to a Halloween costume party for grownups. But you didn’t really think you’d be going and you didn’t bother to put a costume together. And now here it is – party time – and your spouse, significant other, boss or other powerful influence is making you go.

What are you going to do for a costume?

Here are three “panic” ideas you can put together in an instant from that totally logical source of all costume ideas, the laundry room. Good, clean fun!

1. Take a large, old laundry tub and cut a hole in the bottom large enough for you to pull over your head and settle around your waist like a plastic tutu. Fill with fun, colorful and interesting laundry. Clean, we strongly suggest!

2. Wear your clothes backwards. Women can put one “safety” brassiere on forwards, and then put another one on backwards and stuff tube socks in the cups. Put a shirt on backwards over it. Put shorts or pants on backwards so they zip up the back. The belt should face backwards, too. If you have some old tennies you can spare, cut off the heel and pin or hot-glue them to your backwards slacks so that the toes point backwards, too. Then wear black socks or pantyhose on your real feet, which, unless you really party a lot, will still be pointing forwards all evening.

3. Go as the secret destination of all those socks that disappear in the dryer. Safety-pin every sock you own in the house onto a sweatsuit. Maybe the other party guests will recognize some of theirs!

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


There was a young man who was going off on a toot – a sinful toot. He didn’t want to listen to the chastisement of his parents, his teachers, his boss, his friends, nobody, no how. Nobody was going to tell him what to do!

But this young man also had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was one that he had been ignoring lately, for the most part, but it was a real one nonetheless.

So when everybody was always getting on his back about his behavior, he would yell at them, hang up on them, slam doors and disappear. He was especially hard on his mother, a devout Christian.

Time passed. He kept acting badly, and his loved ones kept trying to get him to come back and behave. He was getting madder and madder. Finally, he spit out an angry prayer:

“God, why don’t You just leave me alone?”

Immediately, he heard the answer in his heart. “I can’t. Your mother keeps bugging Me, every day.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

The Crime With Parental Permission?

Throwing quarters . . . making book on football games . . . acquiring lottery tickets illegally . . . dice . . . sneaking into casinos . . . whatever form it takes, teenage gambling is becoming as prevalent as teenage drinking, smoking and drug abuse. It’s another risk-taking behavior that is becoming a serious problem nationwide.

"Youngsters definitely are gambling more," according to Elizabeth George of the North American Training Institute. "For high school students, at least 90 percent of them have gambled at least once in their lifetime."

George said parents should not let themselves rationalize by saying, "At least, it's only gambling."

She said, "We know from research — very specifically, a meta-analysis out of Harvard University — that youngsters are at two to three times the risk of adults for developing a gambling problem.”

Nonetheless, experts like Focus on the Family’s Chad Hills, a gambling analyst, say often the person who introduces a child to gambling may be mom or dad.

"Some folks even buy their children lottery tickets for their birthday — 'Here, Johnny, here's five lottery tickets for your birthday; I hope one of them's a winner.' What message is that conveying to our children?" Hills said.

Citing statistics from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission's 1999 report, he added: "About 7.9 million teens are either problem or pathological gamblers right now. That's filling the Super Bowl stadium — San Diego's Qualcomm stadium — over 313 times to capacity. That's how many teens are currently addicted."

Hills said research shows that problem and pathological gamblers who begin as children tend to start at around 10 or 11.

For a look at an anti-gambling curriculum for Grades 3-8, “Wanna Bet?” as well as downloadable articles and a checklist of warning signs for youth gambling, visit the North American Training Institute website,

Monday, October 27, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. My fifth-grade daughter’s assigned novel for class has incantations from a pagan religion. I don’t want her to read it.

Children’s books with occult content have been used for centuries. From the wicked witches of fairy tales to the Harry Potter media spectacle, many children’s stories depict things that are against religions such as Judaism and Christianity. Some portray evil characters as “good” if the outcome of their actions is good.

The dangerous properties of occult games such as “Dungeons and Dragons” are well-documented. Parents and students alike know enough to stay away. But it’s different with schoolbooks that are being assigned by a classroom teacher.

Opting your child out of an objectionable book, and into one with the same academic purposes but no content that is explicitly against your religion, is a smart alternative. You can obtain an opt-out form from the Pacific Justice Institute, (see “Request an Opt-Out Form” at the bottom of the “Schools” section).

Although that may be the best choice for parents who really want to be in charge of their child’s educations, know that it can hurt feelings and cause problems.

Some of the best-known books that have drawn complaints from parents over the years include commercial successes like “The Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum, “The Egypt Game” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and now the “Harry Potter” series by Linda K. Rowling.

Parents who have studied books like these make a compelling case that there are better books available with the same educational value that don’t invade or supercede parental authority.

One final point: since “occult” is anything that is secret or claims to use special knowledge and supernatural powers known only to certain participants, it could be said that these books fail to teach children real-world skills, logic, problem-solving or critical thinking.

Homework: For more on school activities that appear to push New Age and pagan themes: “Like Lambs to the Slaughter: Your Child and the Occult,” by Johanna Michaelsen, Harvest House, 1989, 367 pp.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. – Matthew 7:2

It's parent-teacher conference time. Beads of sweat form on your furrowed brow. You stock up on deodorant and breath spray, and fold $20 bills for the handshake with the teacher.

Of course, I'm kidding. It takes at least $50.

No, honest. I love talking to teachers. We get along great, for the most part.

But I do worry, this time of year. I don't ever want to do another Doo-Dah like that Doo-Dah I did at a parent-teacher conference many years ago.

It was King Kong of ''You’re Not Doing Enough For My Child'' vs. Godzilla of ''I’ve Been Teaching For 25 Years and This is How We’ve Always Done It.''

I should have seen it coming. This teacher misspelled words on her notes to parents. Many of her ''corrections'' on student papers were misspelled, too.

She had never heard of the famous writing manual, ''The Elements of Style,'' by Strunk and White, which costs about $5 . . . yet boasted that she had just returned from a week-long writing seminar in a resort city . . . at taxpayer expense.

Before conferences, she tested the class on 100 spelling words covering the year's curriculum. My daughter missed one. The teacher still denied her permission to do independent spelling with challenge words.

The test was like this:

95. it
96. the
97. go
98. at
99. can
100. antidisestablishmentarianism

It was unfair. My daughter felt ''sentenced'' to spend the year on material she already knew.

''It’s sooooo boring,'' she confided. ''The teacher reads the words aloud, letter by letter, and waits for us to write them down, and then she reads them AGAIN, and we say them aloud together. . . .''

Kids had heads on desks, glassy-eyed, drool pooling at their feet. . . .

So I went to the parent-teacher conference ready to rumble. The teacher covered her agenda in eight minutes.

That left me two minutes for some fast talking. ''I have an alternative idea for spelling,'' I began. I would purchase this great independent-study spelling curriculum for all pupils who missed only a word or two on that test. They could go into the library during spelling time to do curriculum better-matched to their ability level.

''But it'd be different from what the other kids were doing?'' the teacher asked. ''That wouldn't be fair. No.''

Wouldn't be FAIR?!?

I argued. She declined. I got angry.

When I get angry, I talk really fast: a machine gun with tonsils.

I told her, rapidly and polysyllabically, what I thought about her spelling curriculum . . . and her little dog, too.

My parting shot was to describe how our daughter felt during in class. ''It’s soooooo sloooooow, it's like playing a record at the slooooooowest rpm.''

She looked shocked. I felt better. I sure told HER.

I headed home. The car radio was tuned to the classics.

For some strange reason, it came on blasting a fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach . . . 'way, 'way, 'way too fast.

The music was so fast and so loud, it was painful. The bows from the violins seemed to be rapidly poking my eyeballs.

I couldn’t find the ''off'' button. I was stuck, listening to music that was so loud and so fast, it hurt.

Suddenly, I realized that's how I had sounded to that teacher.

I had hurt her – scraped my fingernails down her psyche like a psychological chalkboard.

Can you spell ''remorse''?

I wrote her an apology, but nothing changed. Our daughter survived her boring year. But what might have been?

If only I'd matched my message to my audience and ''sold it'' with melody, harmony and the right tempo, like a true musician . . . a true communicator.

I hope most parents and teachers make beautiful music together at conferences.

As for the rest of us . . . it's Bach to the drawing board.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


When was the last time you jumped in a big pile of leaves? For most adults, it has probably been far too long. Now is the time to recapture a sweet and innocent pastime of childhood. Or it may be your chance to introduce it for the first time to the younger generation, some of whom only know about trees, leaves and outdoor play from what they’ve seen on TV, it seems.

You can plan a leaf party for yourself, your adult friends, teenagers, neighbor families, a church group, or a joint activity with inner-city families or human service agencies, which are always looking for fun, low-cost things to do for the people they serve.

Everyone should start collecting leaves in yard bags just as soon as they start falling. Make sure to exclude sticks, trash and other items that could hurt someone. You may be able to bag up five or 10 good-sized piles of leaves this way, or maybe more.

If you invite five people and each brings five or more bags and a rake, you should have an enormous pile. The more, the merrier: see how tall a pile you can make, bury each other and pop out, or make several smaller piles to provide jumping opportunities for small fry, school-age children, and older jumpers.

If you have the party in your yard, you will be left with scrumptious mulch for your garden for the winter – leaves all crushed up. Or the group could rake the leaves back into leaf bags acceptable for pickup, and dispose of them that way.

Afterwards, it’s a must: make a bonfire and roast marshmallows. Serve hot chocolate and hot apple cider. Someone had better bring a guitar and have a singalong, too.

Stress? Leaf it to others. You ought to love autumn . . . it’s a great time for play.

Friday, October 24, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Halloween time gives parents opportunities to teach children how they can “dress” their own personalities just as they “dress up” for Halloween. The familiar question at Halloween time, “What are you going to be?” has tremendous implications for character-building as well. It’s a question children should be asked.

If you have a costume closet or box, you can lay out all the different costume pieces and wigs you have, and tape a character trait on each one: honest, loyal, patient, good listener and sense of humor are among the positive traits you may want to identify. But also tape a number of negative traits on costume pieces: gossiping, arguing, whiny, mean and backbiting are examples.

Now let your child “try on” costume pieces with the different character traits, and act in character. He or she may have a lot more fun acting out the negative traits! Talk with your child about the importance of choosing the right traits and rejecting the wrong ones. Throughout childhood, as your child interacts with others and reads stories and so forth, and begins to identity values and traits, keep teaching that each of us can choose to “put on” or “take off” various personality traits, and learn from other people’s choices, too.

If you keep at it, your child will build a wardrobe of character that will fill you both with pride.

Remember what philosopher Confucius said: “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”

Thursday, October 23, 2003



If you’re looking for jump-starters for conversations at the dinner table, the office, at parties, in the classroom, or just hanging around with friends, here are some that might get the creative juices flowing:

-- The World Series brings to mind all things that have to do with baseball. Have you ever known anyone whose baseball card or stamp collection got humorously out of hand?

-- Autumn leaves are for jumping in and enjoying. Do you have a fond, funny, beautiful or poignant memory that has to do with autumn leaves?

-- Think up the scariest book title imaginable.

-- Write down all the ways people show fear: scream, shake, shudder, sweat, and so on. Now describe a humorous experience you had where some of these behaviors might have fit in: a blind date? A sports experience? A housecleaning snafu?

-- What are the Top Ten reasons your doorbell might ring, but when you open the door, no one is there?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Bus etiquette comes full circle: you need it when you’re a little schoolchild, and you need it again when you’re with a group of senior citizens going on an outing.

A whole bunch of 70- and 80-somethings rode a chartered bus from their country club to a university game in another city on a fine Saturday. But first they signed their names on the clipboard. It was understood that the bus wouldn’t head back, after the game, until everyone had checked back in.

Well, after the game, most people rushed back to the bus, except for one old gentleman. He didn’t come and he didn’t come. The busload of older folks sat there for a full hour, wondering if maybe he had had a heart attack, forgot, got mugged, got lost, was downtown drinking with the students, or was becoming hard of hearing and hadn’t understood the arrangements.

A little uneasy about it, they finally took off without him. When they arrived at the country club again, most of the seniors went inside to have dinner.

There was their lost bus-mate, finishing his. He had had another ride home. It never dawned on him to tell anybody about it.

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round . . . and sometimes, the wheels inside bus riders’ heads do, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


The good news is that medical science has given us tremendous advancements that allow us to sustain life where previous generations would never have been able to.

The bad news is that that is getting to be a problem sometimes, morally and ethically.

Euthanasia cases like Florida’s Terri Schiavo and famous names like Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan and Jack Kevorkian bring to mind one of the key bioethical dilemmas of the day.

The pro-euthanasia movement calls the process “dying with dignity,” “deathing,” “the right-to-die,” “aid-in-dying” and “hastening or facilitating death.” They say that the religious condemnation against killing only applies if it’s against the person’s will. They say that a loving God would never keep a person in a coma or put him or her through a painful, lengthy death, and that technology is available for “self-deliverance” that fits within ethical constraints. They say “pulling the plug” is no more “playing God” than performing open-heart surgery or giving someone a feeding tube.

On the other hand, the anti-euthanasia people point out that “mercy killing” has clearly been against human-rights principles for thousands of years, citing, among other things, the Hippocratic Oath that doctors have taken for centuries, which states: “I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked.” Those against euthanasia point out that it is universally agreed, regardless of which religious affiliation a person has, or none at all, that human beings are supposed to be brave, not fearful; accepting, not manipulative; and suffer gracefully, not selfishly. They point out that it is OK for a terminally ill person to refuse technological help, and to let nature take its course. As long as nothing deliberate is done to end life, that does not violate the sanctity of life.

For more pro-euthanasia information, see of the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization.

For more against it, see Focus on the Family’s “Focus on Social Issues” article bank,

Monday, October 20, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. Our sixth grade has a big speech contest, but the teachers don’t have time to teach the kids anything about how to prepare. The kids whose parents do it for them always win. It’s not much of a learning experience. How can we change this?

With parental involvement! Public speaking is one of the most important life skills, but it is another one of the features of public schooling that is getting short shrift because of the standardization of American education and overemphasis on test scores.

Get together with other parents and propose a short-term Speech Club to the sixth-grade teachers and principal. Parents will provide the curriculum and give the kids a bit of practice as they embark on their own research and speech preparation. Schedule it to meet at school three or four times about 45 minutes before the school day begins. Use the time to give the kids a short-course in speech techniques:

-- Choose a topic that fascinates you and narrow the focus just as tight as you can make it, so it’s interesting and unique.

-- Set a goal or purpose for your speech. What ideas are your top priorities for getting across? What are you trying to prove?

-- Research the topic thoroughly, but tell only the best 10 percent or so of what you know. It should be new to your audience, too.

-- Write a “skeleton” outline with just a few words representing each key concept. Put these key words on note cards. Memorize the order of the outline; don’t write your speech out. Give your speech based on your outline, not by memorizing words you’ve written. That’s not speaking; that’s reading aloud!

-- Start with a bang! Get right to the point, then prove it.

-- Visuals are key. Use charts, pictures, models, comparisons, demonstrations, drama, expert testimony . . . think 3-D.

-- Rehearse a lot, ‘til you can give your speech in your sleep.

-- End with a bang! Make them laugh, feel touched or energized.

Homework: The two-audiotape guide, “Speak For Yourself” from Learn, Inc., is meant for adults but applicable for school speech tasks.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
— Psalm 68:34

Our daughter Eden's summer and high-school softball teams played 110 games, culminating in last week's state tournament, where the Elkhorn Antlers came in fourth in Class B.

Because of all that spectating, Eden's sister is already a hot pitching prospect. Only Maddy, 3, doesn't pitch softballs. She pitches underwear, pants and shirts.

Every morning, she drags them across her room, turns, winds up dramatically, and pitches them at me, one at a time. If I don't catch them, it's do-overs, or she won't get dressed. There's nothing quite like a pair of Barbie undies hanging from your glasses when you miss an errant rise ball.

We've been to juuuuuuuust about enough softball games, don't you think?

Now, some people say sports are shallow and waste time, there's a lot of poor sportsmanship, and players today are greedy and one-dimensional.

People who talk like that don’t know sports. Spiritual lessons? Meaningfulness? Goosebumps? The last two weeks of softball season provided them all.

Our team was seeded second at Districts. Wah! Blair got a bye and we didn't. We also had to play the third seed, Roncalli / Fort Calhoun.

We took it for granted that we would be back at State, but first, we had to win Districts. And recently, many of our hitters had struggled; we had lost some games.

Roncalli was beatable, though. Inning by inning, our pitcher, Jenna Marston, shut them down. But her pretty face was getting redder and redder. Jenna had the flu.

By the last inning, we were ahead. They were up with two outs. The batter was 3-2. Boom! Triple! Then a double! Then another triple! Boom! We lost.

The season was in jeopardy. We would have to navigate the loser's bracket, beat two teams, win a re-match with Roncalli, and then beat Blair twice on their home field . . . or we wouldn't get to State.

And our pitcher was in serious upchuck mode. We parents felt doomed. The girls' heads were down.

But not a sharp word was spoken. Not a finger was pointed. No whining, no cursing, no criticism. The team just suddenly came together. They dug deep, and found what they were looking for.

They stood a little taller, shouting to each other a little louder, as they warmed up.

Jenna composed herself, and pitched beautifully. Against the weaker pitchers, our hitters got their mojo back. We creamed Schuyler, then Duchesne.

The two extra games turned out to be godsends: all those extra strikeouts against weaker batters helped Jenna shatter the school strikeout record.

And if we'd won that first game, we would have had to face Blair that same day, when Jenna was sick. This way, she got an extra night's sleep to fight the flu.

But first we had to win the re-match with Roncalli. Ironically, we were the ones who seemed hopelessly behind by one run in the last inning, with two outs, and two strikes on our batter.

Then boom! A double! The outfielder bobbled it! Our runner scored from second base!

Next batter: boom! Line drive! We score again! We win! On to the finals against Blair.

Jenna felt much better. Scads of fans appeared, with balloons, wigs and cheers. The atmosphere was electric.

While warming up, our daughter Eden said a little prayer, and looked up into the sky.

The clouds formed a big ''E.''

''E'' for ''Elkhorn''!

We call her ''Beamer'' because she smiles all the time; this time, she really beamed. God comes in the clouds. It says so repeatedly in the Bible, and she knows that. Whenever you're surrounded by clouds of adversity, if you call for Him, He will come.

She felt He was there, had heard, and was going to bless her and her beloved team.

She just ''knew.'' Everybody did.

They played great. Beamer made a spectacular catch, got some hits and scored. They won, 2-1 and 1-0.

By then, the big ''E'' had been eclipsed by the sparkling stars and huge harvest moon of the autumnal Nebraska night. Tears flowed. Hugs lingered. Joy abounded.

There's nothing like it in the world: overcoming adversity, doing it with people you love, and knowing that God is there and will help you, when it's your turn, His way, with His timing.

That's not just luck, sports fans. That's the whole ball game.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


Mid-October is just the time for a neighborhood clean-up followed by an Oktoberfest-style group picnic.

Your neighborhood association can promote the event a few weeks in advance. It’s a good opportunity to ask new neighbors to join you and get to know them, and if your local high school requires volunteer hours as a graduation prerequisite, your neighborhood association could authorize teens to help out for that purpose.

Participants should be asked in a flyer or letter sent out a few weeks in advance to bring rakes, trash sacks, clippers, weedeaters and other tools to a central point such as your neighborhood playground or park. They can be roughly assigned blocks or areas, and then fan out in small teams around your neighborhood spiffing everything up before the holidays and winter months. Sunday afternoons work well. Set a rain date a week later.

Two or three hours is enough for this process. Then follow up with a German-style picnic. Back at your local park or playground, arrange in advance to bring in two or three gas or charcoal grills. Then grill bratwursts and serve with kraut and grilled onions. In the same flyer that announces the cleanup, ask participants to bring one potluck dish: A-H could bring a salad, I-P could bring a side dish, fruit or chips, and Q-Z could bring dessert or cookies.

Your neighborhood association should provide beverages, plates, cups, forks and bratwurst fixin’s, as well as trash disposal. It’s nice if you have picnic tables already on site, or scrounge around for card tables and utility tables with plain tablecloths, and portable chairs. If all else fails, ask participants in the flyer you send out to bring their own folding chairs.

Set a few bales of straw and lots of pumpkins and gourds around for decoration.

Best of all, if your neighborhood association’s budget will allow, hire an oompah band for the occasion! Check with your local German-American Society or music store. You can probably get a trio with a tuba, accordian and drum for $300 for a couple of hours.

It’ll be worth it, all you mensch und frauleins!


Friday, October 17, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Learn from the regrets of the mothers of older children who don’t love to read. Most often, the reason is that the parents allowed too many other distractions in those crucial early years and didn’t make reading a top priority.

There are two bedrock principles: (1) by about age 1, you should be reading with your child in your lap at least one storybook per bedtime and keep it up through grade school, and (2) minimize or consider completely doing away with television, computer games and other electronic media until the child is reading very well, in about third grade. The idea is to make your child get “hooked” on text, not images.

Take turns reading aloud to your child, and listening to your child read to you. Ask questions about the story as you go along, to make sure your child is understanding and not just parroting the words.

As you look at the cover of a new story together, brainstorm what it might be about. Ask questions about how the story may compare to your child’s own experiences, friends, opinions and so forth. Share your own reactions to the story. Ask questions about how the story might have ended differently, or what your child liked or didn’t like.

Instead of taking your child to the video store, take your child each week to the public library, and check new books out for free.

Instead of buying a new toy, buy as many new paperback books as you can for the same price. Remember, garage sales and thrift stores are great resources for items such as books.

Arrange book exchanges with other families for those books that you do own. Put seven storybooks in a sack, and label both the books and the sack with your name and phone number. Exchange with other families with small children. Re-fill the sack with different books when it comes back to you and recirculate.

If you’re starting these good habits a little late, with a “reluctant reader,” and squirming, whining and other reading-averse behaviors are a problem, then use a kitchen timer set for five minutes a night, gradually stepped up to 30 minutes a night, and give your child a small privilege for cooperating during the nightly reading session. Patiently help your child sound out unfamiliar words, and coach your child to read aloud until it sounds musical and fluent. Keep the mood warm, noncritical, and accepting.

Children all WANT to be good readers, so give your child every opportunity.

Thursday, October 16, 2003



Do you have a booooooring meeting coming up, or do you have a friend giving a speech that you plan to attend?

Well, once in your life, you have to do a caper involving the consummate comedian, Groucho Marx. Maybe this is the time.

Go to a novelty store and buy as many pairs of Groucho plastic glasses (nose / eyebrows / ‘staches) as there will be people in the room.

Arrive a little early and pass them out quietly to your classmates. When the instructor or speaker turns to write on the board or dig around for a visual aid, that’s your cue to don the glasses.

Just wait ‘til you see the reaction on the instructor’s face, when he or she turns back around.

One guy lost it and laughed so hard that he left the room. He was unable to finish the day's class. It had to do with cost studies . . . extremely boooooooring. Groucho masks: a few dollars. Getting out of a cost-studies meeting: priceless.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Kids today are so familiar with brand names and logos, it’s amazing how even the littlest ones who can’t even read can still call out the names of things with tip-top precision.

So when the resident 3-year-old asked for “Mickey Marshmallows,” I had to reply that, sadly, we didn’t have any, but that I would look for that brand in the grocery store and try to bring them home for next time.

I didn’t see that brand on the store shelves, though, and so the next time she asked for them, I had to repeat that we didn’t have any and I couldn’t find them in the store.

“Nooooo!” she cried. “We do, too, have Mickey Marshmallows.” She led me to the bakery cupboard in our kitchen. There, right before my eyes, were the . . . mini-marshmallows.

Close enough . . . in this Disneyland world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

Has Welfare Reform Worked?

Today’s families know very little about a term that used to be very familiar – “Aid to Families With Dependent Children” – also known as “AFDC” or “welfare.”

Congress passed welfare reform legislation several years ago that replaced it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, and much more stringent requirements that people should be working, looking for work, or performing community service, rather than sitting at home watching soap operas and collecting AFDC.

The goals were to increase employment, reduce child poverty, and reduce illegitimacy and strengthen marriage.

Although there are points of disagreement, most Americans, scholars and think-tank researchers believe welfare reform has accomplished its goals, at least in part.

The percentage of black children in poverty had remained about the same for a quarter of a century, but after welfare reform, the rate has dropped by one-fourth, for example.

Still, for one out of every seven black children in America, things are economically worse now than before welfare reform. This is apparently due to the fact that the adults in a hard-core of welfare families refused to switch to full-time, full-year employment. Lack of working hours and paychecks by parents is the No. 1 cause of extreme child poverty.

In addition, Census Bureau statistics indicate that milder poverty is on the rise for children in full-time working families because of rising prices in everyday necessities. But according to the Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report, child poverty would be nearly one-third lower today if the traditional two-parent family hadn’t deteriorated so much in recent years.

For more about welfare reform, see:

Article, “Sharp Reduction in Black Child Poverty Due to Welfare Reform” by Melissa G. Pardue,

Children’s Defense Fund,

Monday, October 13, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. My fifth-grade daughter’s assigned novel for class has incantations from a pagan religion. I don’t want her to read it.

Children’s books with occult content have been used for centuries. From the wicked witches of fairy tales to the Harry Potter media spectacle, many children’s stories depict things that are against religions such as Judaism and Christianity. Some portray evil characters as “good” if the outcome of their actions is good.

The dangerous properties of occult games such as “Dungeons and Dragons” are well-documented. Parents and students alike know enough to stay away. But it’s different with schoolbooks that are being assigned by a classroom teacher.

Opting your child out of an objectionable book, and into one with the same academic purposes but no content that is explicitly against your religion, is a smart alternative. You can obtain an opt-out form from the Pacific Justice Institute, (see “Request an Opt-Out Form” at the bottom of the “Schools” section).

Although that may be the best choice for parents who really want to be in charge of their child’s educations, know that it can hurt feelings and cause problems.

Some of the best-known books that have drawn complaints from parents over the years include commercial successes like “The Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum, “The Egypt Game” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and now the “Harry Potter” series by Linda K. Rowling.

Parents who have studied books like these make a compelling case that there are better books available with the same educational value that don’t invade or supercede parental authority.

One final point: since “occult” is anything that is secret or claims to use special knowledge and supernatural powers known only to certain participants, it could be said that these books fail to teach children real-world skills, logic, problem-solving or critical thinking.

Homework: For more on school activities that appear to push New Age and pagan themes: “Like Lambs to the Slaughter: Your Child and the Occult,” by Johanna Michaelsen, Harvest House, 1989, 367 pp.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1

I can still hear that big-boat murmur in the sky-blue waters of northern Minnesota: lub-dub-dub-dub-dub. . . .

I can still smell the marine oil. I can feel the warm vinyl seats under my wet swimsuit and the cool breeze whipping my hair.

We had a ski boat, a 22-foot Mark Twain, with a powerful inboard and seats for eight. She was the best boat on the lake. Her name was was ''NautiNancy.''

She could double-ski and triple-ski us. We even did pyramids – at least, for a few seconds. We skied right off the dock without getting splinters you know where.

That boat taught me what ''sadistic'' meant. My dad liked to go around in circles 'til the waves were tsunami-size. Naturally, you'd fall. He'd make sure you weren't drowning, and then as he circled the rope back to you, he’d tease in his “jolly Nazi” imitation: ''Vat are you doink in the VATER?''

We took all-day cruises, exploring the glacier-cut shores and islands, watching beavers and otters, marveling at eagle's nests, waterfalls, and what looked like ancient faces cut into the rocks.

I remember laying on the floor of that boat and looking up at the moon, which 'bout filled the sky, the night the first astronaut stepped onto it. It seemed close enough for me to hop on, too.

But year have passed. The boat, now nearly 40 years old, has been sitting in drydock. The cabin was taken by eminent domain by the federal government to become part of Voyageurs National Park.

This fall, my husband decided to bring the boat home, fix it up, and use it again. Dave called ahead to get the old boat trailer road-worthy. He made the 12-hour drive up there. Next day, he checked everything twice and started off in his pickup truck hauling the trailer and boat, shipshape.

About halfway home, on an isolated stretch of Interstate going about 65 mph, he came to the crest of a hill and crossed a short bridge. There was a pretty good dip and hump at the bridge expansion joint. The truck bounced.

Suddenly, it swerved violently from side to side. In the rear-view mirror, Dave could see the trailer fish-tailing wildly. He was afraid the truck would flip, so he barely touched the brakes and concentrated on steering straight.

He felt a “bang!” as the trailer hit the truck. He glanced in the left side view mirror and watched — mouth agape — as the trailer swerved off into the median. The boat flew off, rotated 180 degrees, and landed on its top, augering into the ground.

It was like watching slow-motion action scenes in a James Bond movie: boats flying in mid-air, sparks shooting around, random stuff exploding outward. . . .

Seems the trailer had come unhitched on that bump, and the safety chain wasn’t heavy enough to keep the trailer connected.

The boat will go sailing no more. Unlike James Bond, Dave had to tend to cleanup and salvage details after the big crash scene; what’s left of NautiNancy sits in a field awaiting her final destination.

And everyone is saying it’s a miracle he wasn’t hurt and it wasn't any worse. Thank you, Jesus. A wise friend pointed out that maybe God could see, on down the road, some kind of a terrible accident with that old boat, and this was a relatively painless way to make sure it didn’t happen.

Maybe the purpose was remind me how lucky I am to have such a great husband with such great driving skills, and to give him a really cool boat story to tell his friends, all of whom are closet 007's who love fast toys and explosions and emerging unscathed from terrible messes, too.

Like James Bond, he went up there on a mission: to get me that boat. So he was ''On Her Majesty’s Secret Service'' when the boat became a ''Thunderball.''

Like 007, he survived the adventure. Thank you, Cap’n of Grace, that he’ll ''Die Another Day.''

Saturday, October 11, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


Teenagers don’t have much money, but they love making memories. A homecoming dance is a great chance for parents to step in with some practical assistance to make a very special evening that youngsters couldn’t otherwise afford.

It’s a good idea to plan this a week or two in advance to give everyone time.

One family could offer to be the “dinner house” for the evening. Depending on how many teens are coming, plan for seating at one, two or more tables. Decide with your kids if they want to duplicate the fancy restaurant feeling for the meal. Nothing looks as fabulous as white tablecloths, china, crystal, silverware, real napkins and candles.

But if the formal approach isn’t for you, you can set up a cozy Italian restaurant theme with red-checked paper tablecloths and candles in makeshift “candlesticks” – wine bottles . . . or to be really different, set up a Chinese feast and have the kids sitting on pillows on the floor.

Another family, perhaps one whose members don’t like to cook, could order a special floral centerpiece in school colors, and bring over a garland of balloons in school colors to drape around the room at ceiling height to add to the festive atmosphere.

The hosts may choose to make the main course, but other families might arrange to contribute an hors d’oeuvre and beverages to serve as everyone gathers for pictures . . . a salad . . . a vegetable dish . . . perhaps a potato dish . . . rolls . . . and a dessert.

Be sure to take pictures of the group at dinner . . . and parents will enjoy nibbling leftovers and doing dishes together in the kitchen.

Friday, October 10, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


A nature walk with your child in autumn is one of the most beloved teaching tools of parenting. You can make a lot of comparisons between the plants that you see, and life:

-- If you see a flower or weed that is dried out and dead, pull it up and show your child the roots. Talking about the roots of plants that are vital for their health, but which we cannot see, has power for children. Compare the roots of a plant to the “roots” of someone’s personality. You can’t see all the influences that have formed a person, but they’re important.

-- Point out the stupendous variety in shapes and sizes of plants, and yet each is well-adapted for its habitat and beautiful in its own way. Some have thick trunks while others have the slenderest of stalks. Tall trees can get plenty of light for their thousands of leaves, but at their feet in the shade, the grass can flourish, too. This may be helpful for a child who hasn’t hit a growth spurt yet and friends have, and also to teach appreciation for different shapes and sizes of the human body.

-- When living things go dormant, there’s a purpose involved. Small children need to know that empty branches and dry, dead leaves of autumn are going to spring to life again with color and vibrancy in the spring. Without that period of rest and cleansing, the plant wouldn’t be as healthy. This is a principle that can make children feel more secure about life and hope. Maybe their sports team hasn’t been doing too well or the grades at school have been disappointing. But look to nature: lots of good things happen after a bit of a break.

Thursday, October 09, 2003



You know that big old purse that you really should give away, but it was so expensive, you just can’t?

It would make a fun toy organizer for a child. A large clutch purse, or one with a zipper, makes a good container for little bitty toy parts, small stuffed animals, a craft collection, felt, ribbons, crayons . . . you name it.

If you have a grandchild or favorite neighbor child, or know someone who teaches preschool and might appreciate having one or more, you can arrange to donate the purse.

You don’t really have to decorate it, but just for fun:

Fabric paint in a squeeze bottle can spell out the child’s name or make polka dots and stripes in bright colors

Coordinating strips of fabric can be double-knotted along the purse handle and scrunched together

Use 3-D fabric paint to draw a picture, say of a child, on the purse, and then super-glue on buttons to fill in color of the child’s shirt and pants, for example, as long as the child is old enough to know not to put one that falls off into his or her mouth

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Multiculturalism makes life interesting, every day in some new way. The election of Austrian farm boy Arnold Schwarzenegger as California’s governor, for example, is an adjustment. People have to shift from his movie and bodybuilding images to his new, unfamiliar, unforeseen image as California’s top politico.

His accent and manner of speech, for example, just do not fit with the popular image of a beach boy.

Imagine the new governor singing:

“Call-ee-for-nee-a, here I come!”

Oh, Ah-nolt! Is this a great country, or what?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

When Sex Ed Gets Too Sexy

Things are getting really steamy over sex education. Steamy, as in “hot under the collar.” That’s what’s happening to a lot of parents in a lot of districts where the sex education curriculum or delivery has gone far, far, far beyond G-rated.

It may be time to teach the schools “the facts of life” — starting with the fact that parents and taxpayers are paying the freight for everything that goes on in schools and demand accountability and quality for those dollars. If it were clear that a reading curriculum was failing to teach reading, or a math curriculum was failing to teach math, parents and taxpayers would be in the faces of school officials demanding a change to a more effective curriculum.

That’s what has to happen to get G-rated sex education back in the schools so that the epidemic of teen promiscuity, sexually-transmitted diseases, pregnancy, abortion and all the other ills caused by teenage sexual behavior can be corrected.

Right now, if only one or a handful of parents complain every year, schools can get away with calling them “crackpots” and ignoring their concerns.

But if many parents, or preferably EVERY parent would object – and it’s the rare school district that isn’t doing at least SOME objectionable things in this controversial area – then violations of children’s innocence, purity and privacy could be stopped, or at least toned down.

So if you hear of episodes in your district where kids are told that homosexuality is A-OK . . . that they “practice” how to put on a condom by stretching one over a banana . . . that grade-school kids are shown diagrams of the sex organs so explicit they could be in a porn magazine . . . if your high-school newspaper carries ads for abortion providers or birth-control providers . . . if there is talk about grown-ups putting their hands down a child’s pajama bottoms or similar perversions . . . if teachers suggest that “everybody” is sexually active and that it’s “OK” as long as you use birth control . . . you need to act, and act now.

Start with the teacher, then school officials, then the school board, then your local letters to the editor column . . . work the system, work the media, but just be sure to work, because that’s what it takes to change things.

Be sure to read the Oct. 6, 2003, article on by Mary Jo Anderson, “Suffer the Children: Sex ed programs designed by prostitution advocates” for alarming and disgusting evidence of the kinds of bad sex ed that are prevalent in both public and private schools today.

Suggestion: at the start of each school year, send a letter to your principal stating that you want your child opted out of any and all sex education classes, AIDS education classes, group discussions, assemblies and any and all other activities that have to do with sex throughout the school year. Your child must be offered an educational activity during that time instead of just warehoused.

If the school won’t offer an acceptable alternative activity, arrange transportation for your child to a tutor or other educational setting and send the bill for the transportation and the tutoring to the school.

Be sure to equip yourself with good sex ed materials to do this job the old-fashioned way – the right way – yourself. Parents are the ones who should be teaching children about sex, after all. You can find good materials several places, including on:

Monday, October 06, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. I’ve heard it said that most districts drastically overspend on special education just to get a few extra federal tax dollars in the till. But that extra attention for a few special-needs kids drains away resources from the vast majority of students who are not “special needs.” True?

It depends on how you define your terms. Very few citizens would argue that special-education teachers and materials are needed in order for some students with special challenges to learn to the best of their ability. A few of these children have needs that are very, very costly, that’s true. But the general rule is that they aren’t the ones causing the spike in special-education costs.

In most public-school districts today, the vast majority of the students labeled as “special education” (SPED) do not have a medically-diagnosable condition that affects their learning, such as a mental or physical handicap.

Instead, the majority of SPED kids --perhaps 70 percent to 80 percent in some districts -- are labeled as “learning disabled.” Yet they have average to above-average intelligence, good eyesight and hearing, and no tangible impediments to being able to learn. They just can’t read and learn well.

There are growing numbers of experts who say that there actually is very little wrong with those students’ brains – but that they have been “instructionally disabled” by the wrong curriculum and teaching methods. Back-to-the-basics in reading and math “cures” most “learning disabilities” and saves countless millions, they say.

That’s quite an indictment, but apparently, it’s an argument that is gaining stature. In a district such as Baltimore, special education costs $125 million, or 20% of the total school budget, and 18,000 students are identified as disabled. But TIME Magazine reported that at least one-third of those children “aren’t disabled at all — or wouldn’t be if the school system had done its job properly in the first place.”

See? Preventing “special ed” WOULD be special.

Homework: TIME Magazine, Oct. 27, 1997, p. 88

Sunday, October 05, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
— Romans 10:14

A friend of ours went to Europe soon after last year's sad, strange, 7-7 season for the usually top-notch University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team. He was attending an international business meeting in a banquet hall in Prague. There were thousands of people speaking all kinds of languages.

At one point, our friend had to visit the one place that is common ground for the whole human race: the necessary room.

He was shocked at the squalor. There was an ''aiming wall,'' and a trench below. That was it.

The next man over said, ''Gee, we have better facilities than this, back home in Wyoming.''

Our friend beamed. ''You're from Wyoming? I'm from Nebraska!''

From around the corner came a guy who looked like an Arab oil sheik, with a heavy Middle Eastern accent: ''You're from Nebraska? I went to school there.


The tale can be told now that Coach Frank Solich is back in the state's good graces with an undefeated team, on a roll.

My friend says it's a double example of how we take things for granted, including indoor plumbing and the Huskers, not necessarily in that order.

Which brings me to another friend who's in Iraq right now, learning some lessons of his own – chiefly, as he puts it, ''how good we've got it.'' He's an architect from Omaha, assisting in what's called the ''non-military reconstruction'' of that country, for which President Bush is asking more than $20 billion from the American people.

The funding is controversial; the need is indisputable; the investment of our money and knowhow – to show Iraq how good we really do have it, and how they can, too – is absolutely incalculable.

His emails home are striking. Just going out to lunch in Iraq is an adventure. Once his work team was invited to an important official's restaurant where there were more flies than people. The bathroom served as a shower and impromptu laundry for the patrons; they washed their shirts in the sinks and let them dry out while they ate.

Our friend used his left hand to swat flies and his right hand to nibble sparingly, knowing that the food had been prepared with untreated river water. A waiter tripped and dropped an entire tray of food; he picked it up off the floor and served it, anyway. Our friend was pretty sure any food left on your plate would be scraped off and served again to someone else.

Now, compare that to your typical restaurant outing in the USA.

How good we've got it!

More excerpts:

-- ''When we do leave the compound, we put on our 'game faces' and our protective vests. We go everywhere with a minimum of two vehicles and at least one shooter per vehicle.''

-- ''Yesterday, approximately two blocks from our residence, there was a four-story fire. They burned or rocketed some building.''

-- ''They basically haven’t had any spare parts here for 17 years.''

-- ''The toilets are just holes in the ground and they are NASTY. The cities don’t have sanitary sewer lines so the toilets just empty into the gutters and drain down the streets.''

-- ''You wouldn't believe what people are drinking here. I would be dying of thirst, with no other choice, before I would consider drinking any of their water. Mostly you have doubts about whether you even want to wash in it.''

-- ''Sometimes locals will shoot a hole in the pipe to establish their own point for gathering water.''

-- ''Try packing five gallons of water in an open-top can on top of your shoulder or head for a half-mile or more. It will give you an appreciation of what these women are going through on a regular basis in temperatures well over 100 degrees.''

-- ''There is a lot of unemployment – probably 50 percent of the men. And the men who are employed are only working 25 percent of the day. When you see the big 'anti-American' rallies and other demonstrations, these are people with nothing else to do.''

-- ''The moon is down and that's when these guys like to do their assaults. Unfortunately, yesterday, one soldier was killed, one lost his legs and seven others were wounded near the entrance to our place.''

This, in a country with billions of dollars of oil resources . . . the world's leader in ammunition per capita . . . a place starving for democracy and freedom.

Our friend was saddened by what he saw, especially when he toured one of Saddam's palaces and compared the dictator's lifestyle with the people's.

There's a weird but funny picture of our 6'4'' friend in helmet and flak jacket, riding a carousel horse in the amusement park Saddam kept for his children.

He slept in the palace overnight in a GI cot. Next morning, he was sickened by the opulence in a certain necessary room – Saddam's. Our friend reported that Saddam's ''big chair'' had gold-plated fixtures.

This was the guy who had wreaked all this havoc, cost us billions, and brought our friend and so many other Americans over there at the risk of their lives to try to fix up his messes.

All of a sudden, the architect from Omaha smiled.

In the spirit of the World War II airmen who painted slogans on bombs . . . in honor of those who have died . . . on behalf of all those who wait for him and the others to come home . . . he stood in that room, and he did what was necessary.

It's a new twist on an old battle cry: I regret that I have but one whiz to take for my country.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


If you don’t have a funny wig collection or have a friend with the taste and foresight to acquire one, you are truly out of luck in the hilarity department.

Wigs are just plain fun for all kinds of occasions:

-- A birthday party for a blonde person. All other guests put on blonde wigs and pose for a group picture. Scrapbook pages distributed in advance of the party ask guests to record the honoree’s “blondest” moment for all time, complete with pictures, if available.

-- A mullet party. Admission: you must be in a mullet wig, or have fixed your hair into this all-American, wacky ‘do. Full skunk mullets are top notch for the guys. Pose everyone for one-hour photos, front and side, that are rushed to be developed and back before the end of the party. Favors: T-shirts with a really crazy mullet and the legend: “Mullets: business in back, party in front.”

-- Borrow or buy the craziest wigs you can find, and go bowling.

Friday, October 03, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Have you taught your child how to cook? Even preschoolers enjoy a little hands-on fun with the culinary arts. Cooking is an important life skill that every young person needs. It’s a great way to give your child practice in reading, following directions, planning ahead, eye-hand coordination, the mathematics of measurement, the chemistry of mixing, and much more. Besides, it’s fun to work together with such delicious results.

You might purchase a children’s cookbook and schedule the dishes on a calendar with your child, so that whoever does the grocery shopping in your family will make sure to have the ingredients on hand. You may decide to make just one dish per “kid chef night,” or a balanced meal with several dishes.

It’s a good idea to select one night a week – perhaps Friday or Sunday – for this activity.

If you can sew, matching aprons would be special for you and your child. You could even have chef’s hats for everyone, although they’re awfully floppy on the little ones.

You might make a list of cooking skills you would like your child to learn within a set amount of time. Write it on a recipe card and tape it to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door. Check off the skills as they are practiced. Here are some ideas:

Hand-washing and cleanliness
Measuring liquids and solids
Beating egg whites
Food processing
Waffle iron
Nutritional planning
The food groups
Balancing color, flavor and texture in a meal
Table setting
Food safety
Cleaning and caring for pots and pans



You can make an outdoor decoration to put by your entryway that will bring passers-by a smile. Or make a smaller version for your kitchen table or to bring to someone who could use a lift. This is a really fun one to do with kids.

Know how a snowman often is made of three snowballs, large on the bottom, medium in the middle, and small for the head? Copy those proportions. For the outdoor variety, buy the largest pumpkin you can find; then add one that is in medium proportion to it, and then small. For an indoor “pumpkin snowman,” scale them ‘way down to tabletop size.

Also buy colorful vegetables such as gourds, zucchini, radishes, sweet potatoes, and whatever else you see that might make a likely facial feature. A long, curling gourd makes a hilarious nose, and you can cut rounded ones in half with a saw, if necessary, to make exaggerated, rounded eyeballs. You can cut small “sticks” of vegetables to use as 3-D eyelashes or eyebrows, or collect small amounts of grapevine or other autumnal foliage for this purpose.

Cut and use less hardy vegetables, too, if necessary, such as carrots and potatoes, but be prepared to replace them after a week or so, because they probably won’t hold up well.

Attach these vegetables as eyes, nose, mouth, ears, buttons or whatever else you’d like, on the pumpkins, using a hammer and nail, tacks or straight pins.

Dress the pumpkin snowman with a hat, raffia for hair, a shawl or shirt, perhaps a wig, or other costume accessories. Be sure to duct-tape down or securely attach with nails or pins any parts that will be outside in the wind.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Three female cousins reunited at a family funeral. They had grown up together but hadn’t seen each other for years. They were respectfully somber and silent during the service. But then they boarded the same car for the long trip to the cemetery over in the next town.

The father of one of them and the husbands of the two others followed them in another car.

Apparently, the view from the carload of men was that of a carload of women talking animatedly, without stopping, interminably, with lots of head-bobbing and hands thrown up in the air and apparent screams of laughter and talking, talking, talking . . . for 45 minutes.

When they arrived, the men walked up and asked with concern:

“Is there any oxygen left in that car?”