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Help your children learn about our wonderful world!

Many articles in our popular magazines bemoan the loss of "family communication" and time spent together - whether it be "quality time" or just "down" time. If you, the parent, try to think back to your own childhood, you may remember that some of the best conversations or touching moments occurred when you least expected them.

What you may not realize, even now, is the impact that your family life had on you. All of the little conversations, the quiet moments, the time spent watching TV together - when most of us only had one or two TVs - were times when mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, or even your siblings and you spoke, whispered, yelled, or just gave one another knowing looks - all of this added to your life - emotionally and educationally.

For most of us - back then - we didn't have to fight for "down time", we were the captive audience in the backseat of the car, and when we saw signs we were somehow required to "read" them. And, if we didn't understand what Tony's Tax Service was, well, mom or dad, or another trusted adult might tell us a bit about taxes, April 15, and/or the IRS.

But, about a decade ago, the entirely mobile video player infiltrated the back of many of our family mini-vans, so that opportunity vanished. Too bad. In the backseat of our family station wagon, I learned what a taxidermist does (even though I thought YUCK and still do,) what a notary does, and wondered with my siblings about which of the 31 advertised ice cream flavors was the best at Baskin Robbins. Running errands with my mother, I became a bit disturbed when I saw the distressed housing on "the other side of town" but was inspired by the large stylish homes and lush landscaping of wealthier neighborhoods. Viewing both extremes made for some short but effective commentary. My mother would say that we should try to help those that are not as fortunate as we are, and pointed out that, with the proper education and employment, we, her children, could aspire to live in a wealthy community if we so chose.

So, what's the message here? Last week, many of us, hopefully, MOST of us voted or had a good reason that we didn't. Voting is a great chance for you to speak to your children about a myriad of topics. Maybe you could explain the two-party system. Perhaps you are comfortable talking about why you voted for Perry or for Farouk Shami or White or Hutchison or any of the the candidates. Maybe you could talk about the process and how it works. Voting is a privilege that allows the poorest citizen to have as much say in our country's leadership as our richest citizen. Remember, our government is only as strong as the people we elect. As citizens, it is our duty to become informed and to make a thoughtful choice each time we vote.

Not comfortable with politics? Try talking up the census. Do you know that our U.S. Constitution calls for a census every 10 years? The census keeps us up there with the "developed" countries of the world, lets us know how to allocate resources, and helps to identify trends - where people are moving, what areas are forecast for growth, and lets us know what states and communities are experiencing a downturn in population.

And, summer's coming. Why not head up to our state capital in Austin? Or, take a trip to see LBJ's boyhood home? Maybe that's the best opportunity for your children to have some "quality time" mixed with some "down time" with you. Just leave the videos at home.