February 28, 2007

My Soapbox: The Madness of Mandatory Minimums

“Republicans have incarcerated millions of nonviolent drug law offenders and wasted tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, yet drugs are readily available and the harms associated with them continue to mount,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Democrats need to step up to the plate and prove to Americans that they can do what Republicans couldn’t do: reduce the harms associated with both drug abuse and the war on drugs.”

I never thought I would be quoting a Democrat and rallying behind them so staunchly in a bipartisan cause… but here I am to tell you that on Mandatory Minimum Sentencing… I draw the line in the sand FAR from where most Republicans do. I don’t believe sentencing a man to 55 years behind bars for illegal drug use (OR distribution) on a first time offense is humane or benefits society in any way. While I believe that second and third offenses should levy hefty sentencing, first time offenders are usually the most “correctable” prisoners in the system. Giving them harsh sentences only breaks them and makes them more like the people who deserve to be in prison. Unlike most conservatives, I think the most progress we can make with the “War on Drugs” is to make them legal and regulate them. No more sentencing nightmares. No more meth labs in people’s basements and little kids overdosing because the thug down the street got them hooked. No more drug Lords trucking cocaine across the borders. Drugs are awful and I don’t agree with taking them unless you HAVE to for medical reasons… but all our “best” efforts to keep them off the streets and keep drug pushers behind bars have NOT succeeded.

Once upon a time, before I partook of the “knowledge of good and evil” in our country, I thought just like you do. Criminals are awful – lock them up and throw away the key. Those were the days before I knew anything about our justice system first hand… and before I ever set foot in the visitor’s center of a state or federal prison. My blissful ignorance was shattered in the early 2000’s when a family member that I cared for was taken to jail and sentenced to more than a decade of prison time for a drug-related crime. The only problem was that this family member never did drugs… and never sold drugs… but was caught up at the wrong place, in the wrong time (and taken apart by an evil assistant DA who wanted a plug for her resume). Suddenly the black and white of criminal intent and fair punishment became a hazy grey. Where justice should have prevailed and common sense should have guided… there were only harsh cookie-cutter sentencing guidelines (including Mandatory Minimums). The judge was forced (despite hesitation and questions as to the validity of the case) to issue a lengthy sentence for my relative. The fact that this person was an upstanding member of society, a Christian, directly involved with community services that helped children STAY OFF DRUGS, and otherwise supported by hundreds of friends and family who WROTE to the judge and came to the trial was disregarded entirely.

My faith in our justice system faded like a mist as the judge read off the sentence. It was as if time stood still. I couldn’t imagine more than a decade in prison. I was about to learn as much about our “correctional” institutions as I had learned about our “justice” system. I have witnessed first hand the blight of the current prison system. I know now that much of the punishment that is dolled out at sentencing is left unspoken. It is the family of the prisoner who is the real looser. Not only has one of the main bread-winners been taken from the family, but the father or mother figure has been removed from the children and the financial punishment phase has only just begun. Families are forced to travel long distances, fork out money for hotels and commissary (contrary to popular belief, prisoners still pay for their personal belongings in prison… underwear, stamps, snacks and bathroom goods are not paid for by tax dollars). Phone calls are available at a high long-distance rates (payable to FBP) for those who have family that are still willing to support them. Country club prisons do not exist (at least not that I have ever seen). Prisoners must work (even if they only make .26 cents an hour working for prison industries). They are not allowed to lie around and “Bass Fish” as some ignorant journalists insist. In fact, many of the lovely “ponds” or “lakes” on prison property are actually sewage reservoirs. I know more than I ever wanted to know about prison just from reading letters and visiting with my relative when I can go. I know that many of the prisoners are forgotten and abandoned by their family and without any visitors or money to buy necessities. While it is hard for me to see my relative suffering this long and cruel mandatory punishment, I can’t imagine how it would be for those who do not have any support at all.

What I have learned through this personal experience is something I don’t wish any American to learn the hard way. In no way do I want you to believe that my passion and empathy for prisoners and their families makes me soft on crime. You don’t have to be a proponent of harsh sentencing to believe that crime is wrong. I just understand now that there is more to the case than meets the press-release. A judge should be allowed to use his God-given intellect to craft a sentence that will be fitting for each individual crime. Sentencing guidelines should be just that – GUIDELINES. Our judicial branch should be the ones who judge… not our legislators. Mandatory Minimums are just all-around BAD for society.

I never really thought about criminals before… other than making sure my doors were locked at night, keeping away from the bad parts of town, and shaking my head in dismay during the evening news. I was oblivious to the realities of the justice system and had never heard of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. I can honestly say that I have compassion for those in prison now. I don’t think I ever did before. Maybe the whole experience with my family member has been used of God to serve a greater purpose for His kingdom on earth. I know that my relative is a stronger Christian today than before incarceration – even though there is every reason for that person and their family to feel slighted. The same criminals that I would have locked up forever (before I had given them any serious thought) are now people I have had the chance to meet. I have met a few of their families. I have met a few of their children. I have participated in Angel Tree (which seeks to serve prisoner’s families for summer camps and at Christmas). These people have faces and names. They are not just numbers, statistics, and ideas.

I understand that there are many people deserving of prison. I am a full believer in allowing a person to suffer a penalty for their crime. But shouldn’t the punishment FIT the crime? I am extremely hard-nosed when it comes to violent crimes and even support giving the death penalty in some cases. Yet… in all actuality, I do not feel that our current system is addressing violence effectively, either. Our “War on Drugs” has chocked our prisons full of non-violent offenders and there is no longer room to house the criminals who truly deserve to be there. A murderer or rapist should serve much longer sentences than first time drug offenders. That isn’t the case, sadly. Rapists and murderers are released to roam the streets after maddeningly short periods of incarceration. Over 80% of the people today in prisons are there for non-violent drug-related crimes. An increasing majority of them are first-time offenders. Mandatory Minimum sentencing has taken the justice out of the justice system. Judges have resigned, spoken out, and tried to fight against this crisis for the past few decades. The few who are left in the American public who have not yet been influenced by the TRUTH of what goes on in our courts and prisons are too busy with their own lives to worry about the unlucky or guilty ones. I have to admit that it was true for me.

Today, I read about this issue because it is close to my heart. I read stories like these:

Tammi Bloom
Alva Mae Groves
Greg Steven Cooke
Douglas Lindsay
Sharvonne McKinnon
Daisy Diaz
Sabrina Giles

… and I come away with a completely different view of our justice system than the ones they teach about in Government classes at school. The reality of this issue is that the people who are sentenced are not the only ones who are suffering because of this. The punishment is being given also to the families of those sentenced, and to society as a whole. I just do not see how this failing system is justified in any sense. I do not see how we can stick our head in the sand and allow these injustices to continue any longer. I want to really BE a COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE. That is what Jesus was. It would do us all well to remember to temper our justice with MERCY.

Psalm 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psalm 146:7 - He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free

Psalm 79:11 - May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die.

Hebrews 13:3 - Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Isaiah 42:6-8

6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

There are a number of sites and articles that can help you figure out what you can do to help. I hope you won’t just pass this blog post up and do nothing about it. The only way things will ever change for our nation is if we make our voices heard.

Here are a few resources and articles that may help you research this if you are just starting out:
Prisons Bursting at the Seams: the Effects of Mandatory Sentences
Congressman Sensenbrenner Making Name as Drug War Extremist
Righting a Wrong by Hillbilly White Trash

Here are a few blogs/websites to keep an eye on:
FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) ~ be sure to check out the legislative alert area of their website!
Rose Lear
A Dusty Frame
Sentencing Project
Corrections Sentencing
Stop the Drug War

* I have been intentionally vague as to the personal information about my incarcerated family member per their family’s request.

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Compounders of P&M Dermasalve Give Away Otoscope

What's an Otoscope????

An Otoscope is a medical instrument used for "viewing all 4 quadrants of the tympanic membrane with clarity". It is what your ear doctor uses when you visit his/her office and get your ears checked out. For those of you (like me) who taught the KONOS Ears/Sound/Music unit (or are planning to do it soon), this instrument is a WAY COOL toy. If you have any science-loving little ones, it can be fun for them, too. For parents... it is a way to check your kids ears in the comfort of your own homes.

I know that is a funky title for a blog post... but I think it would be neat to win an otoscope, so I figured I would enter APMFormulators contest. Here's what they want you to write to enter:

Compounders of P&M Dermasalve are giving away a Dr.MomOtoscope . Click Here for details.

Now, how easy is that?! Want to see it? Click the title of this post for a close-up look at the ear-doctor's tool... and then go post your own entry!

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February 26, 2007

The Birds and the Bees: Talking with Your Kids About Sex


Studies say that talking with your kids early on about the “birds and the bees” makes them less likely to be promiscuous. I had read this; but like most parents, I was dreading the “talk”.  I knew it was an important part of their early childhood education yet I probably would have put it off another few years… but my brainiacs kept asking questions like “What are those white pad things under the bathroom cabinet?” and “Why do you have to get a male kitten fixed at the vet if he can’t have babies?” I am sure they could tell when my face flushed that something was up. I started getting 'the panic attacks' when we read books about animals and mating was mentioned. I either skipped over the content or read it like a commercial (where the announcer lists all the side-effects to taking a pill or the fine-print when you lease a car). Even the Bible provides much material for skipping over when you are nearing the age of inquisitiveness.

  Recently, I resorted to renting the 1975 version of Animals are Beautiful People rather than show them another modern day National Geographic documentary (we found out the hard way that NG sometimes goes a little overboard in the mating arena)... I was just sure another ‘Kangaroo incident’ was going to come on the screen and start up another discussion I couldn’t finish.

Somewhere in the past few months I had a brilliant idea: Get help! I started reading all I could on the subject of talking with my kids about sex. Somehow I sensed that it was going to happen soon – even if I had my feet stuffed in my mouth and a horrid case of the hives. I might as well be prepared. I discussed it with friends, also. A few of my friends have already let the “dirty little secret” out of the box with their own children. I wanted to know what to expect. It seemed as if things were moving into place without my help… as if God was guiding me to give this attention because He knew that I was going to chicken out unless I was pushed into talking.

This is the legacy we have been handed in Generation X: the mystifying and muddling of our sexuality. Because of the secrecy and the silence, a whole generation has grown up thinking of sex in a negative way - or just too much! Women are degraded on billboards, men are stopping off after work at the triple-x movie house down the street, and kids are having sex in the junior high lunch-rooms. Stringy clothing is less tacky than only the girls who are wearing it. Young kids are getting daily doses of sexuality and violence from prime-time television… while their parents are mute about values and the purpose of a WONDERFUL Christ-centered sexual relationship through marriage. We aren't telling kids the real reasons why God made us the way we are and giving GOD the credit for the wonderful thing that we call sex. I want my kids to have godly and fulfilling sex-lives one day when they are grown and married. I don’t want them to be afraid to talk about it with their own kids. I knew that if I wanted to prevent the cycle of silence from setting them off track in their own lives, I was going to have to speak up and GET REAL.

Soon after the questions started, a discussion came up on one of the email lists I am part of and another mom was asking for book suggestions for talking with her own kids about the “birds and the bees”. There were many great books suggested and much kind advice given by other moms. I began to think that my panic was really unnecessary. I decided to order a book that would relay the story to them better than I could; one that we could read together as a family. Many of the moms who had already been through this phase of child-rearing suggested “Before I Was Born” by Stan and Brenna Jones.

When the book arrived in the mail, the kids were excited and thought they were getting a gift. They always love getting mail since we live so far away from family. I opened it up and told them it was a book that I wanted to read with them. I figured the moment was lending itself to us… and “now was as good a time as any”. We curled up on my bed and began to read. I introduced the book to the kids. “I bought this book to explain to you about how Mommies and Daddies raise a family. You’ve been asking a lot of questions lately that I feel deserve answers. Do you remember the discussion we had about the Daddy cat going to get fixed at the vet? This book will explain why the Daddy cat has to get fixed.” That got their attention right away! They were all ears until the book started to get graphic. It wasn’t near as uncomfortable as I had imagined talking with them to be. I got such a kick out of their responses and our discussion that it made the whole experience rather humorous.

The book was wonderful. It began with God’s purposes for people, sex, and the love between man and wife. There were scriptures interwoven through the story and pretty illustrations. I was glad that I was having this conversation early on (at 10 and 8) rather than finding out that they were learning all about this from some other (and less biblical) source. We managed to make it through the book (with quite a few comments and smaller discussions along the way). “Gross!!!” and “Eeew!” were accompanied by some pretty ill-faced grimaces. I had to stop and laugh at their expressions and responses, but I kept reading. My favorite moment was when Kaden asked (as most little boys will), “So that is what you had to do with Daddy for us to be here?” He looked so grief-stricken that I had to smile. “Of course it is, Kaden. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have you!”

Daddy walked in from work around the time we were finishing up the discussion after the book. He knew that something was going on when everyone stared at him in a strange, knowing sort of way as he entered the bedroom. I’m sure he felt as if he were walking into a hornet’s nest. “What’s up?” he asked, quizzically. The kids acted as if they wanted to flee the room. Kaden sheepishly said, “I am never going to get married”. His face was beet red. I showed Daddy the book and he proceeded to blush, too. Morgan said to him in her most serious voice, “Well…, I’m glad that you and Mommy… did sex… so that we could be here.” It was as if she thought it must have been awful and we needed some kind of award for our service to them as procreators. The things kids say! I wish I had a video camera that would have recorded these moments. They were priceless. When she said this, though, I thought Kevin might pass out. He quickly scanned the book (managing to regain his composure) so we could continue our discussion.

Daddy and I began to tag-team a “birds and bees” talk with the kids. We talked about how precious it is and how it should be saved for a man and wife. We talked about the reasons why some women get pregnant before they are married. They asked interesting questions and had both of us there to answer them. We talked about how men should treat women. We talked about what “hookers” were (the kids had heard the word in a great gospel song by Randy Travis) and how sad and hard their lives are. We talked about how the body is beautiful and the people who dress “trashy” are God’s creations and their bodies are not trashy – it is how they dress and ACT that is trashy. We talked about how God created sex as a gift for a man and wife to show each other love. It really was a wonderful discussion.

Amazingly, I feel a lot closer to the kids. I feel like I’m not keeping any secrets now. I’ve never been one to lie or hide things from them. I didn’t know that waiting this long seemed that way from their point of view. It struck me when my son said, “I always thought you guys were keeping some kind of secret. Now I know what it was.” I told him, “Do you blame me? It is kind of a personal thing to talk about bodies in that way, hu? It is pretty embarrassing. If you had a kid, would you be afraid to talk with them about it?” He smiled, “Yeah. I would.”

So there you have it. The bee is out of the hive. The bird is out of its nest. I am left to wonder why I was so afraid of spring. It really isn’t so bad after all.

Got bees?If you have your own little hive of kiddos and are nearing the “talk” yourself, here are a few of the resources that I was referred to below. Be sure to let me know what you think of them in my comments section if you have read them!


ONLINEHow to Talk with Your Kids about Sex - Whitney Hopler (Live It Editor)

Sex Ed at Home - Conquering your own anxieties is the first step to teaching your kids healthy sexuality - by Debra Evans

Abstinence Advocate: Concerned Parents Are Talking With Kids About Sex

Talking With Kids About Sex and Relationships (secular site)

Kevin Leman: Talking Turkey About Sex - by The 700 Club

Abstinence-Only Sex Education - Religion & Ethics

Spiritual Sex-Ed - Talking about sex involves more than the birds and the bees. Make sure you include the Bible, too. - by Jim Burns

Teaching Teens: Homeschooling with Christ - The Best Defense Against Pre-marital Sex - by Mimi Rothschild

BOOKSQuestions Kids Ask About Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age
by Baker

God's Design for Sex (Pictured Above)
Revised – 4 Book Set
by: Stan and Brenna Jones

Talking to Your Kids About Sex
by: Mark Laaser

Life Before Birth
by: Gary Parker

Girls and Puberty:
God, Mom, Me and Tea
by Doorposts Ministries
PO Box U
Quincy, Calif. 95971

Beautiful Girlhood
revised by Karen Andreola

Dating Books:

Secret Keeper Girl: The Power of True Beauty and Modesty (Eight Great Dates for You and Your Daughter)
by: Dannah Gresh.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships (Upgraded)
by: Joshua Harris

Teaching True Love to a Sex-at-13 Generation
by: Eric Ludy, Leslie Ludy

The Princess and the Kiss or The Squire and the Scroll
by: Jennie Bishop

Update on 10/14/11 - Disclosure: Links in this post may or may not be advertising. I get a few pennies if you purchase Amazon books by linking through my site as well.

February 25, 2007

Best of the Week and More Excuses...

Here's a quick list of 'Heather's Hot Picks' for this past week on the blogosphere:

A Dollop of Sour Cream shares an excellent link to some articles about Global Warming! These are not to miss, folks.

Of course, we can't skip our weekly evolution vs. creation link. This week I popped in at Since Eve where I enjoyed Dana's humorous write-up and funny video clips in her post entitled, "On Evolution".

While we're talking Science, here's a link to this week's Answers in Genesis article about a clock found inside solid rock.

Wayne, the 'Homeschooling Father' shares some insight into a legislative homeschool threat in Oklahoma.

Nicole at Girl Talk shares “10 Ways to Do Good to Others”... what great ideas! She has inspired me to "pay it forward" this week!

Ever inspiring Amy at Amy's Humble Musings shares a touching post that looks at the heart of multiple motherhood and being a godly woman in a pop-culture world. You won't be able to resist the charm. She gives us permission to have baby number three (on purpose). Here's a snip:

But there is a resurgence of women (that I’ve never noticed before—maybe I had my eyes closed or maybe the internet made it possible for them to band together) who are now saying, “Yes, I want to raise a family. I’ll agree that babies are good and can glorify God….but how?”

After a few babies, reality sets in and the Christian mom begins to think that maybe everyone had a good point. This is really hard. She is knee-deep in Cheerios. The laundry has an unnatural smell to it. She’s knows the theme song to every show in the PBS morning lineup. Her husband gets to talk to people that are taller than his waist during the day and she feels jealous. The kids are crying, but when it’s quiet she is left with the thought, “How does doing THIS glorify God? And how in the world do I do this?!”

I was going to send you to a particular post by Dee at It Could Have Been Worse (Fiddle-Dee-Dee), but shucks... I couldn't pick! She's got some great material this past week to browse through. It is so hard to narrow it down to a favorite - even a favorite for the week!

Mary at Owl Haven has some Laundry Envy and boy, is she funny! Stop off at her place and she'll help put a grin on your face (nice way to start your Monday morning).

As for me... we spent today on the road and visited with family. I spent last night out of town and managed to escape the tornados that came through Arkansas the day before (my computer spent the day UNPLUGGED to prevent photo loss in case of power outage!). I have bags to unpack, a book to curl up with, and some KONOS planning to get done tonight after my loooong hot shower. I'm planning the next two days off with my honey since he's off from work Monday and Tuesday this week. I'm making cheese enchiladas, Spanish rice and refried beans tomorrow for dinner. Other than that, I'll try and get in here more regularly. It has been a little TOO nice playing blog hooky lately. The spring weather is not helping me want to be at my desk! How about you?

Have a super Sunday night, and Monday morning! God bless.

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February 23, 2007

Arkansas Homeschool Testing Update

I figured I'd interrupt our regularly scheduled program for some breaking news from the Natural State. Seems our homeschool testing office employees (all three of them) are up to their eyeballs in email, registration forms, and busy phone lines. Here's the news that I was emailed today regarding what parents need to know about the upcoming testing next month in Arkansas:

by - Education Alliance Director Jerry Cox
Tue, 20 Feb 2007

The State Home School Testing Office has been overwhelmed with calls and e-mails regarding testing. Here are some problems home schoolers have encountered. Since the State Home School Office has been unable to respond to the high volume of calls and e-mails, here are some suggestions from the Education Alliance regarding questions or problems you may have regarding the upcoming state mandated home school test.


1. No Registration Confirmation: Many of those who have registered for the test have not received confirmation of their registration. The State Home School Office has promised to send a card or e-mail confirming registration.

Suggestion: If you have registered for the test, report to the testing site prepared to have your child tested on the day you are scheduled. Even though you have not received confirmation of your registration, you are still required to have your child tested. If you receive an e-mail confirmation, be sure to make a copy of it for your records.

2. Late Testing Notice from the Arkansas Home School Testing Office: Many home schoolers received their testing information so late that they have almost missed the testing deadline even before opening their material.

Suggestion: No matter how late you receive your testing notification material or if you receive it after deadline to register for the test, you need to register anyway. Don’t attempt to mail in your registration forms. Call and register over the phone, FAX your forms, or register online. The phone number is (501) 354-3136. The FAX number is (501) 354-0167. You may be able to register online if you have a current version of Adobe Reader.

3. No Testing Notice from the Arkansas Home School Testing Office: A few families will not receive a testing packet notifying them where and when to test. They may believe that this exempts them from testing.

Solution: Just because you weren’t notified doesn’t mean you are exempt from testing. State law requires home schoolers in grades 3-9 to take the state mandated test. If your child is in these grades, it is your responsibility to have your child tested even if you did not receive notification in the mail. This is why you need to contact the State Home School Testing Office and register your child to take the test.

4. Failure to Register for the Test: For whatever reasons some home schoolers will not have registered for the test by the day testing begins at your local test site.

Solution: If you have not registered for the test by the day of the test, bring your child to the test site and offer to have your child tested. In some cases, extra tests will be available, but don’t count on it. Refusing to take the test is a crime. Failure to test is not a crime. By attempting to test, you are not refusing to test. Be certain to ask the test site coordinator for written confirmation that you attempted to have your child tested.

5. No Test for Your Child on Testing Day: Some parents who have registered for the test will arrive at the test site and find that no test is available for their child.

Solution: Be certain to ask the test site coordinator for written confirmation that you attempted to have your child tested. Document what happened by sending notification to the Education Alliance office in Little Rock.

6. Other Problems or Concerns: What should parents do if they encounter other problems regarding testing notification, registration, or test administration?

Solution: You may not receive an answer if you call the Home School Testing Office. They have been overwhelmed with telephone calls. The Home School Office of the Department of Education may not be able to help you. They are not in charge of testing. Call or e-mail the Education Alliance and we can advise you. Our number is (501) 978-5503.

7. How to Avoid These Problems in the Future: What can be done to avoid these problems next time?

Solution: The Education Alliance is meeting with a group of legislators on the House and Senate Education Committees to discuss ways to encourage all home schoolers to obey the state testing laws. These issues will almost certainly be discussed. Document your concerns and we will share them with the legislators. It works best if you can e-mail them to info@arkansashomeshcool.org

Other Considerations: If you attempt to have your child tested and you are unable to do so, be certain that you receive written confirmation from the test site coordinator that you obeyed the testing law by presenting your child for testing. If your child is ill or if there is a family emergency that prevents your child from testing, be certain to notify the test site coordinator or contact the State Home School Testing Office.


I'm amazed at the testing situation up here. It is no wonder Texas doesn't take on standardized testing procedures for homeschoolers. It is a nightmare. I truly feel for these people. Since we haven't gotten our email confirmation for registration or our parent handbook with test site info... once again I had to do all the research online. I'll be there to test in March, even if the state looses my son's test scores again.

These problems are not new. Last year there was much of the same craziness going on here in Razorback-land. Sounds to me like the Education Alliance needs to focus on discussing the problems with the state's system and not homeschooler attendance. Looks like most of the problems rest squarely on the shoulders of the state.

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February 22, 2007

The Not So Interesting Reason for My Blog Neglect

I was so glad that someone noticed I had taken a short blogging break… however, as I sat down to type out this blog post, I couldn’t help but reflect on how pathetic it was that I didn’t have some grandiose reason for taking a short hiatus. I had to laugh when I realized I didn’t have much more interesting to say than I got a new set of dishes at a five-and-dime store and took the kids to the park to ride their bikes. It is boring blog material when you are domestic and family-oriented, let’s face it. I certainly don't mean to apologize for the time I spent with my husband and my children, though. What a blessing and time of refreshing it is to find joy in the simple things and wonderful people in your life!

While I am a slacker of a blogger (here's where I'll offer the apology - sorry!), at least I did have the blog on my mind a little yesterday. My husband’s schedule changed again (no more weekends off) and he was home Wednesday and Thursday this week. Wednesday (yesterday), we did school and then used the rest of the day to hang out with Daddy (and go eat out). Yesterday, I wrote up a post about talking to your kids about sex (yes, I know that sounds strange!)… but I figured I would review it a few times and add some links and books before I posted it.

Today, I found better ways than blogging to spend my time as well (not that I don’t love you invisible friends and my computer very much). The sun shining outside today won out over proof-reading, spell-checking and re-drafting yesterday’s post. Our family took a trip with the kids to Little Rock, ate lunch at River Market (I had the best falafel I've ever had in my life), went to see Central High (black history month), and took the children and their bikes to a park near the Arkansas River. On the way home, honey and I stopped in to get some dishes and were so happy to finally pack up all the plastic Tupperware plates and cups we’ve been eating on for the past 18 months! We settled on a 24 piece set of white, fake Majolica. Not bad for 15$. But I digress…

I’ll admit that this post is more of a personal “Thanks for missing me!” and “Sorry for neglecting you!” than anything else. I don’t have a wonderful educational tip, fabulous link, or exciting story to relay. I’ve just been enjoying my family for a couple of days… and have not had the heart (or the time) to give my blog proper attention for a “professional” post (as you can tell by reading THIS one).

I keep making promises about what will be “up next”… and I do have a few things I really would like to get posted… but I hate to say just when I will be done with all of them. In case you were wondering what is up my blogging sleeve, here’s a glimpse of future posts to be looking forward to:

Book review of “The Mislabeled Child” ('excellent book' would shorten my review to two words… but stay tuned and I’ll get a little more in depth than that!)

More of my Homeschool Series ~ 2005-2006 School Year records (field trips, photos, curriculums, book list, favorite KONOS units and memories from when my kids were in 2nd and 3rd Grade)

The Birds and the Bees (my short story about how talking with your kids about sex is not as scary as it may seem)

My School-List, Chore-List and School-Box Schedule Method (discussing my new homeschool organization methods that have been helping us stay on task and get more done)

KONOS Wrap-Ups and Kick-Offs (the pros of adding excitement, parties, field trips, and fun to your unit studies)

I’m sure there are a number of other drafts brewing in my blogger files, but I am not making any promises as to when I can get these all cranked out. I have just a couple of weeks to prepare for house guests and standardized tests… and I’m also considering doing a little freelance writing on the side. Time is a precious commodity for a homeschool mama. If you can put up with my short picture posts long enough to give me time to finish these projects in the works, I promise that they will eventually appear in here!

Don’t give up on me yet!

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February 20, 2007

Catblogging: Minga and Maps


I figured since I didn't have a lot of blogging time I could at least post a photo of my kitty cat. This one was taken shortly after we moved into the apartment here. Can you believe that we're coming up on almost 18 months here? Wow.

Giving up our big house in Texas was difficult, but we have found ways to improvise... and have gotten creative with our (lack of) space. The maps you see in the background are ones that would have gone in my school room at my old house. Here, our bedroom doubles as:

* the "office"
(Mom & Dad's make-shift desks are set up in one part of the room)

* the "computer room"
(for typing lessons, research, online games, etc.)

* the "geography center"
(where we do current events online and look up places as we read on the King Size bed)

It has been really nice to have the maps "living with us" in this way (even though it surely wouldn't get us on the cover of a home-improvement magazine). You can't tell that I love decorating and design from the way my "house" looks right now... but at least my cat is posh!

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February 19, 2007

Too Busy to Blog...

Sorry for leaving you hanging out there in cyberland. I took Sunday off to be with my family, and today we are doing school and I have a ton of other to-do items to get checked off. Just wanted you to know that I'm alive... just buried under a pile of receipts, paperwork, schoolwork, laundry, etc. While I check my list off, why don't you stop over and read this great article by Linda Dobson: Top 10 Gems - "What I wish someone would have told me during my first year of homeschooling."

Have a super rest of your Monday!

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February 17, 2007

New Site Sets out to Debunk Darwin


Won't you stop over at Kirk Cameron's site entitled "Intelligent Design vs. Evolution"?! It is so great to see one of my favorite sitcom actors from back in 'the junior high days' using his fame and fortune to promote Christianity and truth in Science. On his website, he has some videos and new Creation Science products that he and Ray Comfort have put together.
Ken Ham, founder of the 50,000 sq. ft. Creation Museum that opens this year near Cincinnati and president of the Australian-born ministry to the United States Answers in Genesis, has endorsed these products.

Ken states:

"Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are doing much more than revealing the bankruptcy of molecules-to-man evolution. They have a greater purpose: proclaiming biblical authority and reaching the lost with the precious gospel message. Enjoy this wonderful family game as you also become better equipped to defend our precious Christian faith."

I absolutely HAVE to have their board game! The DVDs they are offering look equally worthy of purchase. It is nice to see new quality-made products for Creation Science for those of us who hate DK/Usborne philosophy but love DK/Usborne photography and graphics.

I love what Kirk himself says about the new board game:

“This game didn’t happen by accident. It was intelligently designed with a specific purpose in mind, and we hope it creates a big bang in the Christian and secular world.”
Be looking for 'Intelligent Design vs. Evolution' at a Christian bookstore near you... or buy it online through http://www.wayofthemaster.com/ or at the link under the title to this post.

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February 16, 2007

Late Thursday Challenge: (Mountain) PINK


Here's a pastel gem from the Texas hill-country for your viewing pleasure in honor of Valentines week. I shot this fading beauty just as the stems began to turn from green to pale brown. When you pull these lovely flowers up from the roots, they make a single bouquet and stay pretty for quite a few days in water. Mountain Pink is one of my very favorite wild-flowers that grow on the rocky Texas limestone hills. To learn more about this pretty, pink plant, click the link under the title of this post for access to a printable PDF file from Texas A&M University.

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February 15, 2007

* FREE Language, Grammar & Writing Curriculum... and Standardized Tests *

Someone tipped me off to the Scott Foresman Online Grammar and Writing Handbook (a FREE curriculum) this week. We started using it yesterday and I really like it! My 8 year old wrote a report yesterday on her own after our first lesson (pages 7-11)... and typed it up in MS Word! She spent half a day on the project, never loosing interest or steam. I really love the writing instruction in the beginning of the third grade curriculum (the one with the otter on the cover). The worksheets are quality PDF files and you can print them by section from a neatly organized table of contents.

Yesterday we also took the 2006 Texas TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills) online for FREE. My son took the writing and math portion yesterday, and my daughter took only the math. Today, they are both taking the reading portion. Here where we live in Arkansas, we will have to test with the state in March. Since we don't "teach-to-the-test" or even go by the same scope or sequence as the curriculum at public schools, I like to get an idea of what we need to work on before standardized test time by doing these practice tests. Last year we didn't do this; but my son (then in 3rd) did great anyway.

Taking the TAKS helped us to get brushed up on our Math terms: perpendicular, parallel, acute, congruent, product, sum, difference, quotient. I'm thinking of doing some flash cards for them and helping them memorize the terms. I also discovered that Morgan has a tendency to swap her numbers (she missed one problem using 58 rather than 85 - something her mom does quite often in my checkbook!).

I like the way that the Texas site has added clickable online multiple choice items and an automatic scorer. I go ahead and give them a percentage grade (such as 93% or 85%) for my records, but it is nice to be able to see where they stand on a chart provided by the Texas school district. What a great free resource!

If you happen to be in Arkansas and need to get registered to take the IOWA Basic Skills in just a few weeks, check out the Arkansas Homeschool Testing Website. You need to pick out a test site and get your kids registered to test within the next 10 days or so! They also have an online parent handbook in PDF form that will give you helpful information about what has changed this year.

We were busy all day yesterday with testing, writing, and reading. Mommy had a lot of time to get caught up on grading. I'm looking forward to even more time for catching up today while the kids take their reading tests online.

We're moving on to a new KONOS unit next week - TRUST: Ships and Floating. We're a bit behind our schedule, but looking forward to catching up. Maybe if I get all my grading and recording caught up, I can start on that 2005-6 spreadsheet and finally get my Homeschool Series updated for you guys in cyberland?! That would be nice.

Have a super Thursday!

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February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!


My Valentines Days became happy 14 years ago after meeting and marrying my sweetheart. I was barely 20, and he was barely 22. We only dated for 8 months! My Valentines Days became even happier 10 and 8 years ago after helping to add two sweet kiddos to the mix. I love my little munchkins. Last year, I shared Valentines graphics with you, so I had to share some this year, too. Above is Morgan's Valentine to me (made all on her own without any instruction or guiding) in 2005. I also have added it to my Cafe Press store (at the Gear link in my sidebar). I wonder what her little heart bee would look like on a hoodie?

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A GOOD VALENTINES UNIT STUDY, Look no further! I plan to do a few of her links (Science: Cocoa Bean/History: St. Valentine story) tomorrow. As for sending out Valentines cards this year... we had good intentions (and actually even made some)... but again, they are not going to make it into the mail box (at least not on time!). Hope our friends and family know we love them anyway!!!

I hope you all will have a super day and that you make time to pamper yourself and your honey-bees.

Love in Christ (the biggest Lover of all),


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February 13, 2007

Elementary Art Lesson Plans

I've updated my template to include this great link (also clickable under the title of this post) that has a large amount of art lesson plans for school-aged kids. Some of the interesting art projects are as follows:

Art of the Inca
Scratch Art
Textured Animal Sculptures
Bottle People Dollmaking
Ceramic Portrait Pots
Storybook Art
Blind Contour Drawing
Recycled Material Fish Sculpture
Matisse Mixed Media Portrait
Egyptian Mummy Drawing
Digital Self Portraits
Watercolor Lessons
Edible Color Wheel
Hawaiian Art and Culture
Art of Japan
Aboriginal Art
Picasso Faces with Oil Pastels

And much, much more!

I was delighted to find this link, so I have added it as a permanent addition to my sidebar for easy re-visiting. Happy drawing and painting everyone!

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February 11, 2007

Postcards From Texas: East Texas, Hwy 59

I promised another postcard from our Texas trip, so here it is. Shhhh! Just don't tell anyone I'm really not in Texas anymore. I was yesterday, however... and I jotted down a little note here and there along our scenic drive up Highway 59 to share with you when I got back to Arkansas. On the surface, the stretch of highway between Houston and Texarkana seems like one huge expanse of pine forest. It is hard to tell when one state ends and the other begins. Without a "Welcome to Arkansas" freeway sign, the only indication that you've crossed out of Texas is the lack of billboard road signs (something Texas should imitate). Texarkana, the border town of the northeast, is busy building up and seems to be adding new retail stores and restaurants every few months (there are quite a few good restaurants there and a Starbucks for those who have trouble staying awake at the wheel). Most of the smaller towns along 59, however, remain unchanged by time. I thought I would bring you a few highlights of my Highway 59 road trip and share some interesting facts about Texas' little known (and under-appreciated) eastern freeway.

I was surprised to see something new on the drive this trip... that I had never seen before. Somewhere near the tiny town of Leggett was an old house with painted fake flames protruding from the windows. I nearly ran out of my lane trying to get a good look at it when I drove by, and promised myself to look it up on the internet when I got home. [What would we do without the internet?!] Anyway... here's what I found out about the eye-catching sculpture/building:

Motorists traveling along U.S. Highway 59 in Polk County are often startled to see what appears to be flames pouring from the windows of old sawmill house.

The flames are actually enameled canvas, but there's nothing make-believe about the house, which once stood at New Willard, a sawmill ghost town a few miles away. "The Burning House" is an eye-popping piece of artwork conceived by artists Clint and Emily Sloan Alexander, both with deep roots in East Texas. Clint grew up in Leggett and Emily is a native of Diboll.

...Pooling their artistry--Clint is a painter and Emily produces sculptures--the Alexanders wanted to develop a form of art that said something about East Texas, particularly about the hundreds of vanished sawmill towns.
One traveler who stopped to examine the artwork observed that "it evokes images of a sawmill town that might have gone up in flames," which was the case in more than a few lumber towns.

I am a sucker for roadside attractions. It makes the driving so much more interesting to see quaint little shops, cozy hole-in-the-wall restaurants with flickering neon signs, antique stores brimming with rusting memories of the "good 'ol days", and strange sculptures or creative art to spark interesting conversation. A few of the neat things along 59 that I thought I would share are below (going South to North, since that's how I was traveling!):

  • Leggett: The Burning House (art/sculpture), mentioned above

  • Moscow: Tiny post office (now falling apart), see photo below

  • Burke: Awesome praying cowboy metal sculpture on the East side of the highway

  • Lufkin: Oil Derrick Reindeer (Christmas time only), parking lot of the Lufkin mall

  • Redland: Rusted old Redland Drive Thru Theater

  • Tenaha: Whistle Stop (cute restaurant I plan to eat at next time I pass by)

  • Marshall: Clean and well-decorated McDonalds, Jalapeno Tree (good Mexican food), and a pottery man sculpture (N. of town)

  • Linden-Kildare: Cute little shack on the East side of the road with road signs all over it

I seem to remember seeing an army Tank somewhere along the way, too... and an awesome panorama painting on the side of someone's barn of a cowboy and cowgirl at sunset (not sure if that was Highway 6, but I certainly didn't see it on this last drive). After a while, the long highway trips seem to blend together and after you see an attraction a few times, you tend to not gawk quite so much the next time you pass it. Pretty soon, you aren't sure which highway it was on... as is the case with the mystery cowboy barn.


There are so many interesting things along the Texas roadways. If you happen to be passing through and get a nice photo of any of these items I've mentioned, please forward me a copy on my email and I'll post it here on the blog! One day when I'm not in a hurry, I will try and detour long enough to get some pictures of all these interesting attractions. Until then, enjoy your driving and be sure to share some "postcards" of cool places you love on your blogs! If you do a write-up on an interesting roadside attraction or favorite town, please send me an email. I love reading about and seeing such things. We are a pretty nomadic family and have always been on the go. Although it is hard to get my husband to stop on these trips, I usually will hit the breaks at least once on each long drive to snap a photo or two. I hope you do, too! Nature has her ways of erasing roadside attractions little-by-little. A few of the things that have always captured my attention on different highways in Texas are barely there any more... peeling paint, crumbling brick, rusting metals and blowing winds have begun to make them disappear. My advice: Take your pictures while you can! Stop at those little diners along the way to keep them in business for future generations of roadside travelers!
If you plan to take a trip through East Texas, I would highly suggest reading a few of the articles by Bob Bowman at Texasscapes.com. He's got a handle on the piney-woods and has a lot of great info to share. Some things I learned while researching this post were:

1. The National Scientific Balloon Facility's launching site is five miles west of Palestine, TX on 287.

2. There are civil war ghost towns (Plenitude and Mound Prairie) on Farm Road 321 and 155.

3. The town of Elkhart, TX was named after a friendly Indian who helped early settlers.

4. In 1860, Marshall was the 4th largest Texas city.

5. The Confederate governor of Missouri moved his state's capitol to Marshall, TX after being run out of town by Union troops.

6. There's a cotton gin still in operation in Jonesville, TX that dates back to the 1840's.

7. The hamburger was invented in Athens, TX in the 1880's by Fletcher Davis.

8. The Edom Arts Festival is one of the most popular rural events in East Texas.

9. Around 3,000 Union civil war prisoners were housed near Rusk, TX and there is still a confederate gun factory site on U.S. 84 west of town.

10. The Texas State Railroad was built with prison labor to furnish fuel for the prison smelter and operates today for scenic tours on vintage steam-trains.

11. The East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore tells the story of the Oil Boom in Texas after oil was discovered in Rusk County... and oil derricks there are decorated with lights and topped with stars in December.

12. You can see "all the way to Louisiana" from 'Love's Lookout' beside Highway 69 (north of Jacksonville) on a clear day.

You can also get some fabulous color brochures about interesting sites and Texas history at the Texas Historical Commission website. If you are a real trip planner and don't mind loading your mailbox down with the HUGE Texas travel brochure packet from Travel Texas, I would highly recommend it. Even if you are just a homeschool mama wanting to teach about other states... this is one free state brochure you do NOT want to miss. People say that EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas... I don't know about everything, but I can guarantee that our travel brochure is a whopper. They also have a bunch of great links on that site (including panoramic photos of the different regions of the state).

Yeehaw, y'all.
East Texas Burning House article clip by Bob BowmanEast Texas Burning House photo by Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches

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