Thursday, July 31, 2008

Traffic school... GRRRR

In June, coming back from our camping trip, I got a speeding ticket in some backwoods little town. Apparently, the cop who was following me averaged my speed at 62.8 mph in a 50 mph zone. I wonder why it was safe for him to follow me all the way through town and then another mile or two down the road at the same speed if going that fast was such a hazard? I wasn't even aware of any town because there were no houses (that I noticed, anyway). I am not saying I wasn't going above the posted speed limit. I am simply saying that every driver is bound to make a harmless mistake like that and that the goal of the police was not to keep anyone safe but to bring in revenue. Why any society would pay someone to police them ("Here, can I pay you to make sure I obey all the laws, please?") is absurd. The guy was a rude jerk, too. He gave me 2 weeks to appear at court (or send in $130 for the ticket) and did not give me the sheet about traffic school he was supposed to give me. I found out that I had the option to attend traffic school in lieu of paying the ticket or going to court when I called the court. I guess the cop was hoping I would just pay the ticket (after all, he has to make his mortgage payment and pay for his daughter's braces) since there is no way to even complete traffic school in the short amount of time he gave me.

Anyway, the court was so gracious as to extend my deadline by another month, and also gave me information on an online traffic course I could complete so the ticket wouldn't go on my driving record. Which, by the way, is clean because my last ticket was from 6 years ago.

This online traffic school is driving me crazy. For one, the pages are timed and I cannot move on to the next page until I have "done my time". It must be based on the reading level of a 1st grader because it takes me about 1/4 of the time that they allot to read the page. Just to make sure I don't leave the computer and go do something worthwhile with my time, a window pops up every minute asking if I am still reading. If I don't click "yes" within a few seconds I automatically get logged off and have to start that section over again. So here I am, blogging away while clicking "yes" every minute.

The second reason why I hate this course is because it is written in the most condescending and obnoxious tone. Because let's face it, having gone 12.8 mph over the speed limit puts me in the same category as a sex offender. And so, because I have nothing better to do (other than clicking "yes" every minute) let me share some of their idiocies:

Immature people treat laws as if they were created for other people, not them. They act as if legislation was designed to prevent them from having fun. Like children, they do not understand that laws are made by people for people.

Aw, thanks for clarifying that. All mature people obey all laws all of the time. Or at least that's what the government wishes.

Without the guidance of rules, even the universe could not function.

How true! But I wonder - who made those rules? Of course they are not giving God any credit for establishing the laws of nature.

Fortunately, most people are mature enough to recognize the value of rules. They are self-regulators. [...] Unfortunately, not all drivers are self- regulating. Not all drivers self-enforce the driving laws. That is why others must enforce the laws. [...] A long with city, county, state, and federal governments, there are special interest groups who influence which laws are passed. Insurance companies and environmental groups are among those who influence traffic legislation. [...] Think of traffic laws as the government's contribution toward keeping you and your loved ones alive.

Thank you, thank you dear government for keeping us alive and protecting us from non-self-regulators like myself. But here's an idea for cut down on about 50% of the approximately 45,000 traffic fatalities each year - outlaw alcohol and drugs, which are the cause behind many of these accidents.

In 2005, there were 43,443 people killed on our roads. 16,885 of the deaths were related to alcohol intoxication, which is 39 percent of all the deaths. In 2005 in Arizona alone, of the 1,179 people killed on our roads, 508 or 43% were related to alcohol intoxication. Nationwide, there is a alcohol-related fatality every 31 minutes!

See, just like I said.

Big rig drivers are among the safest and most courteous drivers on the road.

Yeah, I wish. I'm sure there are SOME nice, safe, and courteous drivers but I would say that's the exception and not the rule.

How would you like to be traveling right next to a big guy when one of those massive tires explodes? No, I wouldn't think you would.

Cute joke. I seriously think that whoever wrote this course was gay.

As many drivers are coming to learn in Arizona, you do not necessarily need to be physically pulled over by an officer in order to receive a traffic ticket. The new traffic safety wave in Arizona is photo radar. With the support of drivers and residents in the communities Arizona currently has cameras in Chandler, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe.

They didn't have my support. In fact, I don't recall any public votes on installing these cameras. Whenever a city needs more money, they just put up more cameras.

Speed kills. If you don't believe that, answer this question. Would you rather have a collision in a vehicle traveling 5 miles per hour or one traveling 75 miles per hour? Right � me too.

Let's all just walk or ride bikes and horses from now on, because we'd all rather travel at 5 mph.

Railroad crossings are intersections. This is one confrontation you cannot win.

See what I mean about the gay jokes?

In an ideal world, you would never need to pass. Everyone would travel at the basic speed limit (the safest legal speed for the situation), and no one would ever need to pass.

In an ideal world, we would all be manufactured clones of the government who eat, sleep, and go to work to support the politicians' licentious lifestyles.

One important step is to find out if the vehicle you are driving has a split-system master brake cylinder. This type of master cylinder is on all vehicles manufactured since 1968.

Another stupid thing about this course is that it is totally outdated. There are entire sections dedicated to teaching me how to pump my brakes if I have to stop suddenly, only to end the paragraph by saying "If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you MUST NOT pump them." Wouldn't that be the majority of cars on the road today? And how many people drive a car that was manufactured before 1968, and if they do, wouldn't they know enough about it to know how to brake safely?

Anyway, I have had enough for tonight. There's still about 20% of the course left to complete but unfortunately, you'll have to miss out on that part.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our new school schedule

We are officially starting homeschooling again on Monday. This year, I will have three kids in three different grade levels, so I needed to adjust our old daily schedule to "fit in" time for John. He will be starting K4 (kindergarten for 4-year olds). Isaac is going into 1st and Solomon into 3rd grade.

Using a schedule last year helped me tremendously with staying on track. It is both useful when I am tempted to make the kids work longer to finish up a subject (which makes them frustrated and resentful) and when I am tempted to skip a subject because of a million things that inevitably come up every day. Our schedule leaves enough time to finish each subject in plenty of time on most days, which makes for lots of short brakes throughout the school day. In the rare event that time is up and the child is not done, they still get to move on to a different subject and try again the next day instead.

Since I have never yet taught three different grades at the same time, I will probably have to "tweak" this schedule here and there. This is just what I came up with based on my old schedule, this year's subjects, and guessing how long each subject will take each of the kids.

The subjects highlighted in yellow are the ones I will be teaching/working on with each particular child, while the other two are working independently during that time.

Other than having a strict schedule during school hours, I am more laid back the rest of the day. The only major change in my day with this schedule will be that I have to be in bed by 10 PM every night (about 2 hours earlier than I go to bed right now) because I am tired from being so pregnant and will also have to get up early again every morning rather than sleeping in (which is what we did all summer). I am able to devote the entire morning and early afternoon to pretty much school only by tidying up and cleaning the house the night before. For lunch, we have leftovers from the previous night's dinner that I just have to quickly heat up. Unless it cannot be avoided at all, I schedule appointments for the afternoon and keep our mornings striclty reserved for school work.

All three boys can't wait to get started with school again, something I am very happy about because they can be tough to motivate sometime. Solomon even told me he is looking forward to penmanship the most, a subject he really struggled with last year. We'll see how long his enthusiasm lasts... :)

On a side note, I do not advocate putting babies (12 months and younger) on any particular schedule at all. I will write more about my opinions on scheduling babies in another post soon.


John (K4)

Isaac (1st Grade)

Solomon (3rd Grade)


get up, get dressed, put PJs away,

make beds, tidy up bedroom



eat breakfast, put dishes in sink

brush teeth, wash face + hands



empty dishwasher


switch laundry


listen to Bible reading

work on memory verses










Letters + Sounds































Phonics Review




eat lunch

put dishes in sink

wash hands + face




get ready for nap

switch laundry




History reading


Science workbook




History workbook


History workbook

Science reading






Silent playing/reading while Mom naps



Other (German, P.E., Music, Poetry, Art)






errands, chores

dinner, cleanup

free time


wash up/shower, brush teeth

put on PJs, put laundry in hampers




P.S. "HSM" stands for Health, Safety & Manners, one of the kids' very favorite subjects.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Last week's recap

This coming week is our last week of summer break. Usually, we don't start school until early September but this year we are starting a month early because the kids will have the whole month of October off for the birth of the new baby. There are lots of projects I still need to wrap up so the next few days are certain to be very busy.

I would definitely say that I have been having the "nesting instinct". This past week, I cleaned out and reorganized every nook and cranny in the boys' bedroom and in our bedroom. The last room in the house that still needs to be de-cluttered and reorganized is the kitchen, but I did get started on that last week, too. My most dreaded part about that job is having to clean out our 2 huge refrigerators.

The results from my blood work came back and were relieving in that I did not have a condition known as "cholestasis", which is what I was most worried about. There were some minor issues with my kidneys but I was expecting that since I tend to get kidney infections during pregnancy (which is caused by a problem with my back). I also had a slightly elevated white blood cell count and a slightly low red blood cell count, meaning my body was fighting some kind of infection, but other than being tired and a little stuffed up I feel fine. My horrible, itchy rash went away after my friend Leslie and I went swimming at a creek up north last week. She said the water there contained travertine and that it was pretty much a miracle cure for insect bites, rashes, and other skin issues, and she was definitely right.

We went there last Tuesday with all the kids. It was well over 100 miles away, so the drive was long. On the way, we stopped at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which was breathtakingly beautiful. The pictures really don't do it justice.

This hole at the top of the natural bridge (which is under the cement walkway) goes all the way to the creek at the bottom of the bridge, a good 100 feet below. Miriam loved looking down there but you can't really tell from the picture how far down it goes.

We had just gotten to the point where we had to leave the main road and head 9 miles down a very steep grade on a dirt road to get to the creek when my "low tire pressure" light came on. Some of you may remember my previous adventure and near miss when off-roading in my van, so I was a little more cautious this time. We pulled over at a gas station and decided that the front passenger tire (that I had just hit the curb with a couple of days before) looked a little low. We added some air but there was no gauge and we just went by feeling and inflated the tire until it "looked right". We got back on the road and less than a mile later, the light came back on. We pulled over again, and at this point Leslie realized that my back passenger tire had a nail in it. Since we were just across the street from a mechanic we pulled in and he patched up the tire for us in 20 minutes, something the kids very much enjoyed watching. We got back on the road and, of course, the low tire light came on a couple of miles later just as we started down the mountain. We looked at the tires one more time and since they all looked fine I figured that the vent on the tire that had just been fixed was acting up and setting the light off for no reason (I've had that happen before). We made it down to the creek just fine, which was good because there is no cell phone reception once you leave the main road. There were other people nearby, though, so it's not like we were really taking any serious risks.

Fossil Creek was absolutely awesome. It was a little scary because in some parts, the water was moving a lot faster, while in other parts it was in standing pools and very calm. Us two adults were caring for 4 little kids, only one of which knew how to swim - in a backyard pool and not a raging creek! I didn't take my camera with me, but below are some pictures that Leslie sent me to give you an idea of how beautiful it was. We were a little farther down the creek where the water was not nearly as wild as in these photos.

We drove back up the mountain a couple of hours later, the tire pressure light still on. I did hit a few serious rocks and holes on the bumpy road but wasn't too worried because I thought everything was fine with the tires. On the way home, much to the kids' delight, we stopped at a goat farm and at the oldest standing school house in Arizona. We got back home very late, very tired, and very happy. By this point, my rash was almost completely gone. I know it was from the water because my upper arms, which got exposed to the water the least, were itching more than the rest of my body.

Just to be safe, I took my van to Sam's Club a couple of days later for them to check and make sure the tires were fine, and to replace the valve if it was faulty. They guy took one look at my tires and said that my front passenger tire (the one we had inflated "by feeling") was totally over-inflated. He measured it at over 70 lbs, when it should have been 32 lbs! He said I was lucky it didn't blow out, especially considering how many rocks I was hitting on the dirt road and how hot the tire got driving all the way back home to Phoenix at night. He let air out of the tire and the light has never come back on again. Mental note: buy a tire gauge this week. Not sure what happened to the one that used to be in my glove compartment.

On Thursday, my husband turned 27, but he was on a business trip in California until Saturday. The kids and I made cookies and a birthday cake for him to have when he got back.

I am definitely not planning on any more adventures this week!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How big is big?

"Total fertility rate" (TFR) is the expected number of children born per woman in her child-bearing years. At the ripe old age of 29, I am currently somewhere between Djibouti and Guatemala. Hopefully, in just a few months I will move up several ranks to the levels of Eritrea. Niger tops the list with a TFR of 7.19, which does not seem that far off for me. I love to be #1 and have every intention of making it there!

The U.S. Census Bureau's latest figures, for 2002, reveal that 0.3 percent of women ages 15 to 44 have given birth to seven or more children. Moreover, the number of U.S. women birthing seven or more children has declined steadily since the government began tracking the demographic in 1976. I read an interesting statistic today that families who pick Biblical names for their children have more children than families who pick non-Bible names.

It is interesting to note that in the UN figures below, the TFR for the world in general is only 2.55. Not that I believe the "the world is overpopulated" talk in the first place, but even just to maintain the current level we would need a worldwide replacement fertility rate of 2.33 children per woman (the replacement fertility rate is
roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries but ranges from 2.5 to 3.3 in developing countries because of higher mortality rates). At this rate, global population growth would trend towards zero. So all these doom and gloom predictions on how we will soon be standing shoulder to shoulder don't add up even with the UN figures, which if anything would be skewed in favor of their agenda (reduction of population).

I understand that, unfortunately, there are many women who wish they could have children, or who wish they could have more. It is not my intention to make them feel bad or inferior. Being infertile is a physical disability and I feel bad for anyone affected. But I cannot for the life of me understand why a perfectly healthy, married woman would act as if adding another child would just be such a burden. I have yet to hear a reason not to have kids that is not motivated by selfish reasons. Is having a baby really that much worse than getting to spend more money at the mall, more time playing and vacationing, more hours in front of the TV, and less time working and cleaning?

Table 2
UN Ranking
Country Fertility rate
Fertility rate
1 Niger 7.45 7.19
2 Guinea-Bissau 7.10 7.07
3 Afghanistan 7.48 7.07
4 Burundi 6.80 6.80
5 Liberia 6.80 6.77
6 Democratic Republic of the Congo 6.70 6.70
7 East Timor 6.96 6.53
8 Mali 6.70 6.52
9 Sierra Leone 6.50 6.47
10 Uganda 6.75 6.46
11 Angola 6.75 6.43
12 Chad 6.54 6.20
13 Somalia 6.43 6.04
14 Burkina Faso 6.36 6.00
15 Rwanda 6.01 5.92
16 Malawi 6.03 5.59
17 Yemen 6.02 5.50
18 Guinea 5.84 5.44
19 Benin 5.87 5.42
20 Equatorial Guinea 5.64 5.36
21 Nigeria 5.85 5.32
22 Ethiopia 5.78 5.29
23 Zambia 5.65 5.18
24 Tanzania 5.66 5.16
25 Mozambique 5.52 5.11
26 Palestinian territories 5.63 5.09
27 Eritrea 5.53 5.05
28 Kenya 5.00 4.96
29 Togo 5.37 4.80
30 Madagascar 5.28 4.78
31 Gambia 5.16 4.70
32 Senegal 5.22 4.69
33 Central African Republic 4.96 4.58
34 Republic of the Congo 4.78 4.49
35 Côte d'Ivoire 5.06 4.46
36 Mauritania 4.83 4.37
37 Cameroon 4.92 4.31
38 Comoros 4.89 4.30
39 Iraq 4.86 4.26
40 Sudan 4.82 4.23
41 Guatemala 4.60 4.15
42 Djibouti 4.52 3.95
43 Samoa 4.42 3.93
44 Solomon Islands 4.36 3.87
45 Sao Tome and Principe 4.34 3.85
46 Ghana 4.39 3.84
47 Tonga 3.73 3.83
48 Papua New Guinea 4.32 3.78
49 Vanuatu 4.15 3.74
50 Federated States of Micronesia 4.23 3.71
51 Haiti 4.00 3.54
52 Pakistan 3.99 3.52
53 Bolivia 3.96 3.50
54 Swaziland 3.91 3.45
55 Lesotho 3.79 3.37
56 Cape Verde 3.77 3.37
57 Saudi Arabia 3.81 3.35
58 Tajikistan 3.81 3.35
59 Honduras 3.72 3.31
60 Nepal 3.68 3.28
61 French Guiana (France) 3.67 3.27
62 Philippines 3.54 3.23
63 Laos 3.59 3.21
64 Namibia 3.58 3.19
65 Zimbabwe 3.56 3.19
66 Cambodia 3.64 3.18
67 Jordan 3.53 3.13
68 Paraguay 3.48 3.08
69 Syria 3.48 3.08
70 Gabon 3.39 3.06
71 Oman 3.70 3.00
72 Belize 3.35 2.93
73 Botswana 3.18 2.90
74 Egypt 3.17 2.89
75 Bangladesh 3.22 2.83
76 Dominican Republic 2.95 2.81
77 India 3.11 2.81
78 Nicaragua 3.00 2.76
79 Fiji 2.98 2.75
80 Israel 2.91 2.75
81 Libya 3.03 2.72
82 Western Sahara 3.01 2.70
83 El Salvador 2.88 2.68
84 Qatar 2.93 2.66
85 South Africa 2.80 2.64
86 Maldives 2.81 2.63
87 Malaysia 2.87 2.60
88 Ecuador 2.82 2.58
89 Panama 2.70 2.56

World 2.65 2.55
90 Venezuela 2.72 2.55
91 Guam (US) 2.74 2.54
92 Peru 2.70 2.51
93 Turkmenistan 2.76 2.50
94 Uzbekistan 2.74 2.49
95 Kyrgyzstan 2.50 2.48
96 Jamaica 2.63 2.43
97 Suriname 2.60 2.42
98 Algeria 2.53 2.38
99 Morocco 2.52 2.38
100 Réunion (France) 2.46 2.36
101 Guyana 2.43 2.33
102 Kazakhstan 2.01 2.31
103 United Arab Emirates 2.52 2.31
104 Grenada 2.43 2.30
105 Brunei 2.50 2.29
106 Bahrain 2.51 2.29
107 French Polynesia (France) 2.39 2.26
108 Argentina 2.35 2.25
109 Brazil 2.35 2.25
110 Colombia 2.47 2.22
111 Mexico 2.40 2.21
112 Lebanon 2.32 2.21
113 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2.30 2.19
114 Bhutan 2.91 2.19
115 Kuwait 2.30 2.18
116 Saint Lucia 2.24 2.18
117 Indonesia 2.38 2.18
118 United States Virgin Islands (US) 2.23 2.15
119 Turkey 2.23 2.14
120 Vietnam 2.32 2.14
121 Uruguay 2.20 2.12
122 Guadeloupe (France) 2.06 2.11
123 Costa Rica 2.28 2.10
124 New Caledonia (France) 2.23 2.08
125 Myanmar 2.25 2.07
126 Albania 2.25 2.06
127 United States 2.04 2.05
128 Iceland 1.99 2.05
129 Aruba (Netherlands) 2.12 2.04
130 Iran 2.12 2.04
131 Bahamas 2.11 2.02
132 New Zealand 1.96 1.99
133 Ireland 1.97 1.96
134 Chile 2.00 1.94
135 Tunisia 2.04 1.93
136 Martinique (France) 1.98 1.91
137 France 1.88 1.89
138 Sri Lanka 2.02 1.88
139 Mongolia 2.07 1.87
140 Mauritius 1.91 1.86
141 Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands) 2.06 1.85
142 North Korea 1.92 1.85
143 Thailand 1.83 1.85
144 Norway 1.80 1.85
145 Montenegro 1.83 1.83
146 Puerto Rico (US) 1.84 1.83
147 Finland 1.75 1.83
148 United Kingdom 1.70 1.82
149 Azerbaijan 1.67 1.82
150 Denmark 1.76 1.80
151 Sweden 1.67 1.80
152 Serbia 1.75 1.79
153 Australia 1.76 1.79
154 People's Republic of China (mainland only) 1.70 1.73
155 Netherlands 1.73 1.72
156 Luxembourg 1.67 1.66
157 Belgium 1.64 1.65
158 Trinidad and Tobago 1.61 1.64
159 Cyprus 1.63 1.61
160 Canada 1.52 1.53
161 Barbados 1.50 1.50
162 Cuba 1.63 1.49
163 Estonia 1.39 1.49
164 Portugal 1.45 1.46
165 Macedonia 1.56 1.43
166 Switzerland 1.42 1.42
167 Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) (UK) 1.41 1.42
168 Austria 1.38 1.42
169 Spain 1.29 1.41
170 Georgia 1.48 1.41
171 Moldova 1.50 1.40
172 Armenia 1.35 1.39
173 Italy 1.29 1.38
174 Malta 1.46 1.37
175 Germany 1.35 1.36
176 Croatia 1.35 1.35
177 Russia 1.30 1.34
178 Greece 1.38 1.33
179 Bulgaria 1.26 1.31
180 Romania 1.29 1.30
181 Latvia 1.25 1.29
182 Hungary 1.30 1.28
183 Slovenia 1.23 1.28
184 Japan 1.29 1.27
185 Lithuania 1.28 1.26
186 Singapore 1.35 1.26
187 Slovakia 1.22 1.25
188 Czech Republic 1.18 1.24
189 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.28 1.23
190 Poland 1.25 1.23
191 Ukraine 1.15 1.22
192 South Korea 1.24 1.21
193 Belarus 1.24 1.20
194 Hong Kong (PRC) 0.94 0.97
195 Macau (PRC) 0.84 0.91