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© Gail Underwood Parker

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Caring Heart: Best Part of My Day

For us, it was this tradition. You will have your own traditions.  But there will be something that is special for you that leads to a celebration like this.

Best Part of My Day

She said it first today.  Day after day as I walked with her I would take her small hand in mine.  Day after day I would hold her hand as we walked and tell her, "This is the best part of my day."  Sometimes she would just ignore it.  Some days she would pull her hand away and say, "Not mine!" Then last week she slipped her hand into mine before I took hers. Trying to be casual while jumping for joy inside, I just continued our pattern.  Then today she said it.  Careful to keep looking ahead, not at me, she said it.  "Best part of my day."  Then that shy smile, watching me out of the corner of her eyes.  Thank you Lord! A good beginning indeed.  The best part of my day.

Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker   Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Bugs and Spiders

Speaking yesterday of worries.... It is all over the news that due to our warmer than usual winter we are in for a record bug-season.  Oh goodie.  Stop my feet from dancing.  Arrrggghhh.

Now, I am not afraid of spiders. They don't intimidate me [at least not like miller moths do]. But neither am I excited about finding them everywhere and in more frequency or numbers than usual.  I am not by nature a violent person.  If I see a spider outside, I figure I am in their world and I go my merry way.  BUT, inside is MY world and I tend to take a different tact.

That is why I found the poster below amusing. . . .
Spiders... consider yourself warned!

Image credit and thanks to:, [via Ruxandra Soare]

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parenting Tips: Tame the 1

All kids worry.  Sometimes though, the worries of kids in care are stockpiled on top of regular kid worries and the pile becomes overwhelming. The worry thoughts crowd their heads and can seem to squeeze out all the good things, the good times, the calm. Try this little trick to tame the worry monster and cut him down to a more manageable size.

1. Get two different color sticky notes.  One color to stand for worries, one to stand for solutions.

2. With your child pick a spot on their bedroom wall. This will become their worry wall.

3. When your child mentions a worry [or you see one] write it on a worry sticky note and put it on their "Worry Wall."

4. Talk to the child about the problem.  When you come up with a plan for dealing with the worry [or even a solution] write it on a solution sticky note and place that sticky note next to and partially over the worry note.

Checking in on the Worry Wall can become part of bedtime tucking in, to kind of review the solutions and strategies so that the child can go to sleep focused on solutions not worries.  Using a Worry Wall also builds a habit of sharing concerns and working together to find solutions.... a habit that will pay off BIG time when your child is a teenager!


the bottom line we ALL

need to learn is....

Image crdits:,,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soapbox: Patch Adam's Magic 10

For ten weeks of "Soapbox" Wednesdays we have looked at Dr. Patch Adams prescription to heal society and make a better world. 
I took one of his question's each Soapbox and today I am recapping by listing all of them together in his order, with the dates I blogged about each.  
Did you try any? Which?
Which looks toughest?   
Which would you like to try? 
Which are achievable? 
What things are stopping us? 

Here they are in his order:

1. If no one wants to end up in a nursing home, what kind of community can celebrate all ages together and honor elders?  [April 4]

2. Could you choose at least one child you're not related to and give them the time and care they need? [May 2]

3. If compassion and generosity were the measure of success that money and power are now, how would your life change? [April 25]

4. In order to bond your neighborhood in healthy interdependence you would need to host weekly potlucks. Would you?  [April 11]

5. If being publicly joyful, even silly, were beneficial for our society, would you participate? [March 21]

Patch Adams, M.D. and his Gesundheit! Institute team ( were Losang Jinpa's most recent healing arts teachers at UCSF’s 4-day conference on Humor in Healing - entitled "Practical Outrageousness: Bringing Joy into your Clinical Practice".        This graphic is either reprinted with permission or is made available under the "fair use" provision (17 USC §107) of the U.S. Copyright Act for research and non-profit educational and religious purposes only.  Picture source: http://www.PatchAdams.org6. If you have rooms at your home, why not take in single parents as a gift? [May 16]

7. How can we move to an economics of friendship? [March 28]

8. Could you do ten or more volunteer hours each week to make a healthier world? [April 18]

9. Do you dare to be universally friendly to end violence? [May 9]

10. Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to an environmental sustainability project? [May23]

Patch Adam's Ten Questions to Help Heal Society:
Take 10 and Call Me in the Morning!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Focus on Fostering: A Messy Process

I recently was inspired to a different perspective on foster parenting.  It arose from a conversation about whether person x should act on their impulse to try foster parenting.  Person x was asking me and some others for advice about what it is like etc. etc.Usually I say something that focuses on the importance of foster parenting to the lives of children in need of care.  Often I talk about the skills that are helpful in fostering, the challenges one should be ready for, and other such ideas.

But how to prepare someone in simple terms for foster parenting? In simple, clear language?  Foster parenting is messy.  It often lacks clarity. No simple "do x and do y and z will happen".  No "this child will be with you for x months." No definitive answers regarding bio parents.  No promises of "successful" outcomes [however you define success]. It is not neat... it is messy.  It is not neat physically, emotionally, psychologically, or in any way shape or form.

Foster Parenting is messy.

ANY kid of parenting is messy some of the time, but in traditional parenting there are some pretty dependable absolutes.  Not so in foster parenting.  Pretty much everything is up for grabs.  If you need absolute order, foster parenting is not for you.  If you need clear answers and dependable outcomes, foster parenting is not for you.  Foster parents need to be able to accept messy situations without being shaken. Parenting as a work of art is more graffiti-covered than Michelangelo.

On the other hand, much of what is of value in the world is messy for at least part of the process. I doubt even Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel was always clear, always neat, always according to the schedule or the plan. Pottery that is gorgeous requires getting dirty literally up to your elbows as the wheel spins. A garden that bears delicious bounty involves a lot of mess in the process. I don't need to keep going.

Foster parents learn to accept the mess, heck sometimes to even embrace the mess. From foster parenting can come wondrous events, amazing people, inspiring lives..... and yes.... a lot of mess along the way.  Foster parenting is messy.  You will need to get your hands dirty. Know it.  Accept it.  Dive in!

Image credits and thanks to:,

Monday, May 28, 2012

School Bell: Homework Bite Times

Unless you live someplace with an unusual school year schedule your children are not yet out of school.... at least physically!  Mentally and emotionally, they may have checked out already. As you try to keep them on top of their work during these last few weeks, try doing it in bite-size chunks.

Break homework time into 15 or 20 minute segments and alternate work time with reward activities.

Rewards can be anything more lighthearted: 
Mix it up to keep your child interested. Indoor, Outdoor, active, calm, you know your child best.  [Ideas:  snack, outdoor chalk drawing or jumping rope for the younger set, shooting basketballs, or game time.] Reward activities should also be done in 15 or 20 minute segments.

Timer ideas:
For speed and ease, nothing much beats a simple timer set to 10, 15 or 20 minutes. But if you have time, money, or inclination go for something more fun: Try ooze tubes or glitter jars or sand timers instead of being hung up on the actual minutes.  They turn over the tube or jar when they start working or playing and stop when the tube or jar is completely settled.  They shift activity with each flip of the tube or jar.

Ooze tubes take between 10-15 minutes to empty from one compartment to the other. They cost about $5. They come in a variety of colors. You can also find versions that are the same time but cost more and are larger. These are the favorites of my kiddos.  [We also use them for calming down.]

Glitter jars you can make yourself.... maybe even have your child help to get them involved. The time length and costs vary depending on how you make it. You can fin a link to directions on my Pinterest site or google for the directions of your choice, there are many different versions.

Sand timers come in all time lengths and designs.... from  My favorite site for finding fun sand timers is [which also has a wide variety of stress toys].

Note: You can also use the "bite-size" approach to help your child shift between efforts on different subjects, making sure that math, science, history, and grammar all get a turn at the homework energy.
Image credits and thanks to:,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Caring Heart: A shoebox and a paper bag

This is the last Sunday of Foster Care Awareness Month so I share this meditation from the first time I welcomed a foster child into my home so many years ago.

A Shoebox and a Paper Bag

The worker brought her things today.  A shoe box and a small paper bag. That's it. How can a child have so little to represent her life so far?  So little to show for six and a half years of days and events?  Does she realize how pathetically small her pile of things is? Thank goodness she has no idea how yet this will follow her through life. No photos of her as a newborn, or in a playpen, toddling toward a camera, grinning over a birthday cake, first day of school.  No baby book marking developmental milestones.  Did she walk early? Talk late? Was she premature or overdue?  Did she thrive or struggle? Sleep well or up nights with croup or colic?  Healthy? Recurring colds or ear infections?  No health records of labor and delivery, childhood chickenpox, measles, or even immunizations.  She is still in emotional survival mode and has no idea how large this hole in her life gapes.  Help me recreate as much of her past as I can.  Help me find what records there are.  Guide me to create a narrative that will fill in the blanks as much as is possible for her.  Help me fill her heart and her life with memories and markers, but most of all, Lord, help me to fill this small, broken heart with love. Love so abundant that it can sometime overflow and fill in all those empty spaces. Your love and my love.

Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker   Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover.