Send anyone this way to read along, but for permission to reprint, please contact Gail.
© Gail Underwood Parker

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quick Takes: Worry management for kids

When My Worries Get Too Big ! 
by Kari Dunn Buron

This book is published by the Autism Aspergers Publishing Company but I highly recommend it for ANY child that struggles with anxiety.  No, I take that back.  I recommend it for any child period.

People whose children struggle with anxiety NEED this book.

But everyone will experience anxiety at various points in their lives, so wouldn't it be good if all children learned what to do with their worries?  Wouldn't it be good if all children had thought about and planned strategies for calming themselves??

Check it out!

PS:  For a story book that my kids used to read about worries, try  Is a Worry Worrying You?  by Ferida Wolff.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Mind-Boggling Compromise

I want to know the name of the person who presented this idea to some committee.  I want him or her to teach me how to present ideas.  Can you imagine for a moment trying to convince some board of appeals?

Point 1. Denmark and Sweden need a highway to allow speedier crossing between the two countries. 

Point 2. Shipping commerce must be maintained over this waterway.

Hey, I know!.... We'll build a highway partway across then dig a tunnel for the rest of the highway to go far enough underwater that ships can pass over the tunneled highway!  

Don't you wish that presenter worked for you? 

Better yet, let's find that team and put them to work on the world peace problem!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parenting Tips: Bedtime Comfort Songs

When I was a very young child I remember my grandmother singing Bye Baby Bunting to put me to sleep. Sometimes my grandfather would even rock me to sleep with it. Here are the old words they used:

 Bye baby bunting
 Daddy's gone a hunting
 To find a little rabbit skin
 To wrap his baby bunting in.

By the time I had children the thought of hunting, or wrapping a child in a rabbit skin was NOT appealing to me. But the tune had magical memories [and powers] for me-- so I changed the words for my children. Our family lyrics are:

Bye Baby bunting
Daddy's gone a hunting
To find a blanket soft and warm
To wrap you up all safe from harm.

I sing it's five or six simple notes over and over and over and over... each time inserting a different family member's name in the 2nd line.  [Yes, I even include pets and friends.] As kids get older [even into adolescence] they sometimes ask me to sing it for them as I tuck them in...sometimes saying that tonight we have time for 5 verses or 3 verses or 10 verses, etc.  If it is only a few, I let them choose whose names to use that night. This new version has now worked its magic for another whole generation of grandchildren and assorted munchkins, brining comfort, calm, and almost always peaceful sleep.

My slightly less frightening version of the original Rockabye Baby was "Rock a bye baby in the tree tops, When the wind blows the cradle will rock.  If the bough breaks, the cradle might fall, but Mummy/Nana will catch you, cradle and all."
[Not bad, definitely better than the baby falling "cradle and all" as in the original, but not great.]

But another foster mother named Wendy* rewrote  and gave me permission to share her MUCH better, wonderful affirmative, comforting words:

        Rock a bye baby,
              I love you so
        I'll keep you warm
              when any wind blows
        When the rain falls,
               I'll cover your head
        And softly I'll lay you
                 down in your bed.

What are your favorite bedtime comfort songs?
Share please!

* Wendy has a wonderful foster parent blog/podcast you should check out at

Image credits:,, mamalisa,com,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Soapbox: Royal Weddings vs The Paper Bag Princess

My mother was pregnant with me at the same time that Queen Elizabeth was pregnant with the future Prince Charles. [I remember her telling me years later how she envied the Queen's flattering maternity wardrobe.] Prince Charles was born Nov 14th.  I hung on for a later November arrival that year. As a young girl I was sort of vaguely intrigued by this non-connection between me and the bonny young prince.
I didn't dream of being a princess or anything like that. I merely noticed his life more than I might have otherwise because we were so close in age. It has been interesting to follow the ups and downs of his life, so different from mine.  I have always noticed the fact that his life as a real-life prince in a real castle did not resemble any fairy tale I remembered.  His castle did not protect him from the temptations, or the failings, or the grief of so-called ordinary folk.  I remember his highly touted royal romance and "storybook" wedding.
Now I watch as the world seems so eager to share in this next royal wedding, his son's. Is it because there is a small child within us that wants to be innocent and believe in fairy tale endings?  Is it because we can, perhaps only in that moment, convince ourselves that "happily ever after" is out there waiting for each of us? I think "happily ever after" IS waiting for each of us. BUT, I like to take a much wider our view of what "happily ever after" means.  I have tried to teach my children to be open to a wider view.  I too was divorced when I attended my first child's wedding. I wonder what Prince Charles has said to his son before the wedding as I struggled with what advice I could share with my child.

In 1992 I feel in love with a story called "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch.  According to Munsch's official website, the story was born in response to his wife asking why the princess couldn't just once rescue the prince. Some people accused me of liking the story because it was "feminist." It tells the story of a princess with very different values, expectations, and aspirations than the traditional fairy tale princess.  THAT is why I love it.  Because it raises wider possibilities. I try to teach myself and my children and my miscellaneous munchkins and gremlins that it is up to each of us to discover what OUR "happily ever after" looks like. Then, to recognize our individual responsibility to work to make that happen, not just passively wait for "happily ever after" to simply arrive at our door.

Image credits:,,,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Saying Goodbye

 I am giving a foster parenting workshop next week on Hellos and Goodbyes and realized that I had not shared goodbye ideas with you folks. Anyone who has ever fostered a child and then had to say goodbye to that child, knows the pain, the fear, and the loss that are only a small part of the emotional tidal wave of letting the child go.  One of the things I have done in that situation is to give a child a blessings box to take with them.  Inside it are folded pieces of paper each of which bears a blessing that I wish for them in the days and years ahead.

The picture at right is from one of my favorite, most inspiring blogs/bloggers: the kindness girl [].  I usually google about for images to go with my blog entries, but when I saw this on her post last week, I knew it would be perfect for today's blog.  She does these blessings for her children's birthdays. Check out her blog and you will see what amazing kindness she gifts to her children and models with them... what lucky, blessed children!

Image credits:,

Monday, April 25, 2011

School Bell: Pesky Multiplication Facts

Do you have a child still struggling to learn those blasted multiplication tables before the end of the year?  Maybe your child is just  beginning to learn the tables. Maybe they are stuck on one or two of the sets, like the 7s or the 6s. Here is a tip that is not a cure, but IS a good way to sneak in some extra practice AND some extra togetherness in a fun, enjoyable way.

For beginners or to make it easier start with just the facts tables for 1-3. Go to a local craft store and buy two small wooden cubes [about 25¢ each]. Number each of the six sides with 1, 2, or 3, making a pair of 1-3 dice. 

Pick out your child's favorite board game.  Pick one with a long trail [like Parcheesi, Sorry, etc.]. Announce that this time when you roll the dice you won't move the total of the two dice, but the product of the two dice. 

So what would have been a move of 6 spaces can change into a move of 8 [2x4], 9 [3x3] or only 5 [5x1]. At first it may slow down the turns a bit while the child figures the math, they will move around the board faster too.  For real beginners you can make the move in sets [2x4 means moving 4 twice] to discover the total move [in that case 8], or allow a multiplication table or calculator. If you have only a bit of time, choose any trail game, disregard all other rules, and just see who is first to get one playing piece all the way around the board and back to the start. 

For intermediates use facts tables for 1-6. Use a pair of regular 1-6 dot dice and multiply the two numbers of each roll. Skip all the other rules and sidetracks and just make it a race once or twice around the board.  The range of random dice rolls that cam mean moving anywhere from 1 space [1x1] to 36 [6x6] will keep it moving and exciting. And, when a roll that might have been 12 [6+6] becomes a whopping 36 [6x6] it is always anyone's game to "win." 

To make it harder use one 1-6 die and one of your 1-3 dice so that the game will review the facts tables from 1-9. 

If you have a real math whiz, you can even challenge them to use both 1-6 dice and roll them twice for each turn [one for the first number and one for the second] so that they learn the mental math for 1-12 multiplication! For the not-so-whiz maybe you allow a calculator for the 11s and 12s. 

If you are targeting a specific table [like the 7s or 9s or whatever the child is stuck on] focus on just that table. Roll the dice only once and multiply that by the number you are practicing.

Remember, these are not magic cures, but they usually offer more practice, and happier shared time than flashcard drills.  

Image credits:,,,,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Caring Heart: Take Me Away!

 As my kiddos head back to school tomorrow, as I prepare to hear all the whining about the exciting things other families did during the vacation that we, of course, stayed home... this meditation seemed timely.

Take me away...anywhere!

Oh Lord, I need to get away.  I don't care where.  I don't care how.  I just need to get away.  My patience is dwindling, my fuse is shrinking, and my emotional and physical fatigue is growing like yeast.  I don't know how I can keep doing this if I can't get a break, a respite, a moment to breathe.  A chance to go to the bathroom alone. To go to the bathroom without a fight erupting in the living room.  A chance to take a bath or to sleep at night without wondering who is going online without supervision and going where they should not.  I don't need a month, two weeks, or even one whole week.. [although I certainly would take it!].  But I need to go away long enough to recharge.  To be ready to go back and dig into this work with eagerness and gresh energy.  I know it is important, and I do love this work.  But I need to breathe.  I need to regroup and recharge my batteries.  Help me hold on until I can.  Help me to need it less. But, soon.  Soon, please.  

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. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Quick Takes: Coming soon.... near you???

I have a couple of announcements to share. I will be presenting workshops at three upcoming conferences. In the hopes that maybe I will meet some blog-friends at one or more of the conferences I am listing them here.  If you live in the area of one of the conferences [especially if you are going to one of the conferences!] shoot me an email and maybe we can connect at the conference or while I am in the area.  I would LOVE to meet some of you!!

 May 6 - 7, 2011:
FOSTERING HOPE: Connecticut Foster and Adoptive Parents 16th Annual Conference, Groton, CT      FMI:
  May 6th  2:00-3:30      
 "Hellos and Goodbyes:  Tips for Healthy Transitions"
   May 7th   9:00-10:45      
 "Calming the Hotspots: Tips and Tools for a Happier Home"

May 18-20, 2011: FOOTSTEPS TO THE FUTURE:  18th Annual
Daniel Kids Foster Parenting Conference, Daytona Beach Florida

May 20:  10-11:30 am
"Hellos and Goodbyes:  Tips for Healthy Transitions"

 June 25-27, 2011: The National Foster Parents Association
               41st Annual National Education Conference
               Mobile, AL      FMI:
June 25: 11:00-12:30   "Hellos and Goodbyes:  Tips for Healthy Transitions"
               2:25 - 3:45 "Simple Strategies for Mini-Miracles"
June 26: 8:00 - 9:30  "Simple Strategies for Mini-Miracles"

Also at that conference, my colleague and co-author Pat Miller will be leading three workshops:
June 26:  1:30 - 3:00  Dishonesty: Lying  [Part 1]
               4:45 - 6:15  Dishonesty: Lying  [Part 2]
June 27   9:00 - 10:30  Dishonesty: Stealing

Image credits:,,,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Face in the Sand

Do you see the face?  It appears to be a profile [head and shoulders] of a man in some form of native-looking headdress. Actually the appearance is formed by eroded clay in a valley in Alberta, Canada seen from the air.  People who have see this aerial shot have nicknamed what you see the "Badlands Guardian." Far clearer than those 'hidden picture' designs or the faces in pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches, even I can spot this one!  Pretty cool I think!

PS  If you think the guardian is wearing earphones, he is not.  The ear bud is actually an oil well, and the cord is a road. But wouldn't it make a great new commercial for iPods!

Image credit:, zmescience

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parenting Tips: Kids' Garden Boxes

I know that some of you are well into spring and beyond already, but here in Maine it is still too early to plant outdoors.  So this is a good time for us to start kids with planting seeds for future outdoor gardens.  If you don't have room for a garden, how about a container garden or a window box or deck container garden?  Kids often are more excited by planting this that they can harvest to eat, rather than cut for flower arrangements.  So... with a little help from some friends... below is a list of a few kid-friendly possibilities with their time frames, pros, and cons.  Try it!  Even the responsibility for a single window box with some lettuce or radishes is a great way to start kids and give them some ownership in the process of daily watering, weeding, tending etc. The pride of harvest is huge!
Germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days.
Another fast crop that gives kids fast results, and it’s also a good way to interest kids in salads.
Snow peas
They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. They are also fun for kids to eat right off the vine.
Cherry tomatoes These may be the most fun crop for kids, aside from strawberries. Great for nibbling and for salads.
These flowers are easy to grow and they bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add color to a fresh garden salad. Kids sometimes think it is a fun kind of wild and crazy that certain flowers are edible.  
Bush beans
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days.

Image credits:,,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Soapbox: Not our usual vacation

This week is school vacation for my gremlins.  Some of their friends are going to Disney World.  Some of their friends went to Washington D.C., or New York City.  Clearly all of their friends have parents who are way - way - cooler than me!  It would be easier to compete if the weather were warm and cooperative so that I could wow them with outdoor adventures close to home.  But it is cold and dank. The most exciting thing [to them!] that I have done for the week is to cancel their counseling appointments this week, even though we are going to be home. Our usual routine during vacation is to pick a home or yard project and jump into it full throttle, working to get it finished by the end of the week. The kids sleep in a bit, but only an hour or so to avoid getting their bodies out of the hard-won routine.


This week we are not.  Not what you may ask?  Just not.  Not making a to do list.  Not making a rise and shine deadline.  Not observing usual bedtimes.  Not following usual routines.  My three remaining gremlins are now 13,15, and 19 and hopefully more able to manage the lack of a routine than when they were younger.  [We will see.] One thing is sure.... they are tired of routines. Tired of patterns. Tired of lists. Truth be told, so am I.


Here is our experiment. We are just going to BE this vacation.  Our only goal is to get along without fighting and to do things that will give us joy without causing anyone else misery or pain. We are giving our selves a "time-out" in the sports sense, not the discipline sense. We are "vacating" the rules, routines, and lists. We are on vacation.             [except for the blog of course]

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Half Empty or Hall Full Life?

Children who have lost their birth families through tragedy, abuse, neglect or other circumstance have a lot that is negative in their lives.  I've talked about strategies for this before [1/18/11 and 3/22/11] but here is a mini-activity for even young kids that only takes a few minutes and can help them learn a key life lesson.  Choose a time when they are in the mood to listen and tell them you have a 5 minute challenge for them.

Tell them you are all going for a special walk.

Give them each 1 or 2  pebbles to put inside one or both of their shoes while they walk.

Give each a long lasting lollypop, hotball, or hard candy to suck on while they walk. [I've also used an ice cream cone.]

Walk for 5-10 minutes. Walk with them... outside, at a picnic area, or even around the inside of the house several times.  Judge the length of time, sweet treat, and pebble size based on the child or teen's age.

Sit down together after the walk and ask them to tell you about the walk. Talk about how they felt.  Talk about what they remember?  What did they see?  How did they like it?  What were they thinking while they were walking.   Chances are they will talk more about the stones in their shoes than the sweet candy taste in their mouth.

Talk to them about how this can show the choices we make about our lives. Everyone has hard things. Every has sweet things.  How do we choose to look at the events of our lives each day.   Do we focus on the bad things or the good things, the tough or the sweet.  Which do we spend more time thinking about? talking about? Remembering?    

Continue to remind them every once in a while about this walk experience when they hit some challenge, or get stuck on their past.  Let me know what tricks you have tried with success!

Image credits:,

Monday, April 18, 2011

School Bell: Travel Tips

This time of year many families are on the move... whether gathering for family occasions like Passover or Easter or vacation trips.  If you are on the move you can work in some fun activities to help keep the kids from being bored during travel and still reinforce skills. These work best for the kids who are too old to sleep through the trip and too young to be satisfied with sitting back with their mp3 player or ipod.

Driving by car?.... Give them a map.  Have them track your route with a highlighter.  Have them estimate the time to the next major city and then track to see how close they were. This helps them with number skills, time skills, rounding off, and subtracting time. For younger kids give them a list of towns they will see on signs and have them check them off as you pass each.  This will help them focus and see progress toward the destination.

Going by Train?... You can do any of the car ideas.  PLUS: you can have them do some math. Subtract how many passengers in your car from how many seats in the car.  Find out how many cars are in the train, count the people in their car, multiply to estimate how many passengers are on the train.  Older kids can use maps to compare the train route and speed with the route and time if you had chosen to go by car.

Flying?... Almost all airlines have amazing catalogs in the seat pockets.  For kids who can read, have them choose what they would get if the had a $200 coupon from the company.  Or make it a different total and require that they find something for each member of the family. The airlines also have magazines with route maps.  They can alphabetize 10 cities the airline flies into or the states the airline services.

These are just a few ways to challenge kids' brains while "stuck" traveling. And don't forget all the traditional [I-Spy, 20 questions, and others] travel games!

Image credits:,,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Caring Heart: Independent Play

As many schools head into their April vacations, I wish for all of you readers the celebration of this foster parent.

Playing Alone

She did it! This afternoon she played for an hour in her room, all be herself. She didn't say, "I'm bored," even once.  She didn't come and ask me to play with her.  She didn't whine or ask for something to do.  She played by herself.  She entertained herself.  She controlled herself.  She stayed focused.  AND she didn't mess up anything or destroy anything.  She simply played by herself.  What a wonderful thing for her finally to discover.  What an important life lesson.  To learn that she can amuse herself.  That she is okay all by herself.  That her happiness doesn't depend on others making her happy.  Help her absorb these lessons unconsciously and help me bit by bit label these triumphs for her. She played by herself.  She was happy. She wasn't bored.  She had fun. She did it!

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. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quick Takes: Kids List #61-70

This is the seventh installment of "Kids List." My "Kids List" is things I wish all kids could get to experience before they are grown up and independent.   

Kids List #61-70

61. Go through a car wash inside the car 
62. Write a poem 
63. Attend a Catholic mass 
64. Go “backstage” at a movie theater
65. Paint a picture with acrylic or oil paints  
66. See a live monkey in person 
67. Have or care for a fish for two weeks at least 
68. Hold a newborn animal 
69. See a meteor shower 
50. Write a fan letter and send it 

I try to do one Quick Takes entry each month with 10 more ideas from my Kids List. Hope you try some of these with your kiddos.  Search for "Kids List" to find #1-60 in earlier posts.

Photo Credit:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Tax Day?... Naaaaaa

This year shows that anything can in fact happen.
For all of you who are frantically trying to finish your taxes for the April 15th midnight deadline....
Relax.... this year you have two extra days!!

This is because Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia falls on April 16th.  Since that is a Saturday, the district celebrates it on Friday, the day before. That means all the federal offices in Washington, D.C. are closed on April 15th.... including the IRS.  Woo hoooooooo!

For more details see the IRS site's explanation.

[Important Note: Not all states go by this practice, so you might still be on the hook for your state tax returns!]

Image credit:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Parenting Tips: Setting the Table

Helping to set and clear the table is often one of the first family responsibilities parents teach. [Notice I did not use the C word. If you call it a chore it implies something very different than if you call it a family responsibility.] Here are two tricks I have found helpful and that my children and grandchildren have actually enjoyed. 

Starter Placemat:  For the younger set, try this trick. Buy a cheap plain color plastic place mat. Use permanent markers trace the circle of a small size plate in the center.  Now put a dinner plate on that so the spacing is right.  Next place trace a knife and spoon to the right of the plate.  Trace a fork to the left of the plate.  If you regularly use napkins, trace a napkin to the left of the fork.  Trace a circle for a glass or cup above the knife and fork to the right of the plate.  PRESTO.  You have a pattern guide that a young child can use to perfectly set the table. You may not use a bread and butter plate, as this image does but you can leave it out easily.

If you have more than one child... Make a pattern placemat for each and put each child's name inside the circle for the plate to mark their table place.  Perhaps the child can help.  It doesn't have to be perfect to serve its purpose.

Which side?  For kids who have trouble remembering on which side the utensils go... one of many tricks is to use the number... LEFT has 4 letters, so does FORK, forks go on the left. KNIFE has 5 letters, so does RIGHT.  Knife goes on the right.  SPOON has 5 letters so spoon goes on the RIGHT.  It seems cumbersome, but by the time they go through the process several times, it helps the placement become automatic. If you call your drinking item a GLASS, that makes it also fit on the RIGHT, but if you call it a cup or mug you are stuck! :-)

Image credits:,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Soapbox: Comfort Food Revisited

Is the comfort that food provides something that is hard-wired into our brains from earliest times, when a full stomach meant survival? Ask anyone what their family's comfort food was and the only time they hesitate is if they're trying to decide which family comfort food was the most used. What did mom fix when it was exam week? the first night home from college? when it had been a really rough week?  They even have whole cookbooks dedicated to comfort food recipes!

I'm overweight.  I'm working on it and I'm making progress, but I'm overweight. I don't think it's a coincidence that weight issues are exceedingly common among foster parents, and also among foster children.  Whether overweight or underweight, eating too much or eating the wrong stuff. It is sooo hard to treat food as fuel, not as the enemy, not as the friend, not as the feared, not as the comfort.  Fuel, just that, nothing more. They say that the nicotine in smoking is addictive.  I don't smoke,  but I think for some of us, food is every bit as addictive, and every bit as hard a habit to control. After all.. You can't quit eating. And you have years and years of being "trained" that eating x or y will make you "feel better."

Even now, I feel that baking a batch of cookies or brownies is doing something nice for my kids. I make an amazing peanut butter/chocolate homemade fudge. People's eyes light up when I bring it to the church fair, or to a sick friend, or mail it to a child at college.  My kiddos literally jump for joy when they see me gathering the ingredients for fudge. I know when I make fudge they will be excited and happy.  I admit sitting down to a family board game or going for a walk together doesn't give me that same feeling. I don't think it gives them the same feeling either. Maybe it does.  I hope it does.  It would be nice to break the cycle of using food for comfort. 

Image credits:,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Mama Mania

I'm part of Mama Mania!  Now, I know, those of you who know me are probably saying... "Hey, we've known that about you for years!" But now it is official.  oops.... I am getting ahead of myself.

To my delight, tiny step by slow teeny step a few people are finding my quiet little blog.  Recently the host of another blog  asked if I was willing to be part of a regular panel of foster moms for her blog.  I enthusiastically said yes and jumped into the group. Mama Lark poses a question for us, we each answer from our own personal experience as foster parents and she shares our responses on her blog.  She introduced the members of the panel on March 21st , posted our first responses on March 28 [about what made us decide to foster]  and yesterday [April 11] the second post [about our experience with the initial licensing process]. Her plan is to do a Mama Mania blog every 2nd Monday.

So check out her blog on Mama Mania day to get a cross section of views, and also on any-ol' day to read Mama Lark's posts.  And while you are at it, how about inviting any of your blog friends to come bisit me??? I would love to have my numbers grow some more!  Happy I'm back to working on my taxes. [aarrgggghhhh]

Image credit:  jointhelarksnest,

Monday, April 11, 2011

School Bell: Nearing the Home Stretch

About a month ago, I recommended a mid-March check in with your child's teachers and setting of goals for the next month.  Well, the month is up, so guess what.... time to check in again and see how he or she did with their goals.  Did you see a difference at home with the homework time?  Did you see more papers coming home?, fewer assignments "left" at school?, better grades?, less stress?, less drama?  How did it go? In Maine we are rapidly approaching Spring break. Then comes the last 6-8 weeks of school. The home stretch.

NOW is the time to be sure your child is not in jeopardy of failing any subjects.  If they are you need to come up with a specific plan with the child and the teacher that includes frequent updates for you.It may not be a happy conference for your child, but chances are the child is already anxious about the situation. No one likes an F on a June report, especially if it comes as a surprise.  And if you wait until mid-May there might not be time to bring the grade up.  Most teachers will be more than willing to help you and your child work with them to come up with a plan.

Help your child by always focusing on this as a way OUT of a problem, rather than focusing on the fact that they are IN a problem. Same facts, different focus. Make a paper chain with a giant start at the end. Each link represents a step toward their goal. [Label them with assignments to be done, or 15-minute chunks spent studying, etc.]  Every few task links, put in a celebration link.  The celebrations can start out small and get bigger, the important thing is that you are celebrating every step toward progress that your child makes.  Every fifteen minutes of extra work, every makeup assignment completed.

NOTE: If you have a spring break coming up, meeting beforehand will give you a chance to jump start the catching up process during vacation by using mini-school sessions to work on back assignments with your child. If so: I recommend scheduling them for early in the day and having the completion earn afternoon privilege activities!

Image credits:,,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Caring Heart: Defiance

 This meditation came from countless stories of foster parents I know.


I can take it when one of them grumbles.  I can take it when they talk back or drag their feet.  I can take all that and more and still manage.  But this flat-out defiance is a real problem.  I can't force him to eat.  I can't make her go to school.  They are too big to pick up and manhandle.  And even if they weren't brute force is neither allowed nor is it useful, and none of that even matters because I won't use it.  Is brute force the only means of control they have experienced?  Are they trying to push me to that point to either prove everyone does it, or to prove they are that bad and deserve it?  I will not use the kind of physical or emotional force that put them here.  I won't even come close!  I will not use any kind of physical of emotional force! So... how am I going to get them to do the things they must do?  They don't care enough about me to be motivated by wanting to please me.  They have lived without so much that there is nothing I can take away or give to motivate them.  So how do I get them to do what they must?  Help me figure this out.  Help them figure it out.  Help us.    

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. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quick Takes: Creative Rewards # 31-35

Today's quick take is five more creative rewards for your kids.  Examples are for a mix of ages and genders. [Creative Rewards #1-30 can be found if you search "Rewards."]

31. Go to a morning yard sale. 

32. Plant a window box.

33. Go bowling. [Take advantage of bumpers for the little ones.]

34. Go for a walk alone with mom or dad. [Let them take the lead on conversation.]

35. In honor of April Showers......

Give them a ride to school. [Or, maybe a ride to school pass they can save for a rainy day.] 

Don't forget that I'd love to hear what your kids find rewarding!

Watch for the next installment of creative reward ideas a month from now.

Image credit:,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Vinyl Records Revisioned

If you are my age you remember the days of LP vinyl records.  Maybe you even remember when they came in three speeds, 45 rpm, 78 rpm. and 33 1/3 rpm.  [My dad even had some commercial recordings on 16 rpm but we only had one record player that had that speed!]

Years ago I learned a way to turn the old vinyl records into baskets and vases in a low oven. I have long since forgotten how and was wandering around the internet looking for the directions. What I found instead was this idea.

Any crafty people out there?
I have plenty of vinyl you could use!
For even more creative examples of this fun and funky wall art check out the website.

Image credits:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Parenting Tips: Queen Bees and Wanna-bees

Tis the season of outdoor recess at schools all across the country. This signals not only the coming of the spring season, but a much trickier season. If you have a daughter anywhere near adolescence you need to be prepared for the social challenges of... bee-season.  

If you've ever dealt with the social swamp of teen and adolescent girls, you know that it can be a mind-bogglingly cruel time.  Queen Bees and WannaBees. Those on the inside and those on the outside.  Forewarned is forearmed.  If you deal with adolescent girls run, don't walk, to the nearest library or bookstore. Find THE GIRLS by Amy Goldman Koss [copyright 2000, Dial Books for Young Readers.. a division of Penguin Books]. It has been around for awhile so you can probably find it used. Like many of Koss' books it has won numerous awards!

THE GIRLS opens with one member of a girl's clique discovering that she is suddenly out of favor and is being shut out by the group. Loyalties and friendships are tested as each girl decides what to do. The book is a quick read with short chapters, each from a different girl's viewpoint. Read it.  Have your daughter read it. Read it together.  Anything that will let you open a conversation about social circles, cliques, and loyalties. By discussing the choices that each "fictional" girl makes, your daughter can safely talk about those choices without feeling that you are personally confronting or questioning her life. Make it clear you are not interested in names, but talk about whether any of the girls in the book remind her of girls in her school. Let the conversation open up now and then as her mood and inclination allows.  It is a wonderful chance for you to talk about the effects of what the book's characters choose to do. You can also suggest or discuss strategies the characters in the book could have tried that might have worked out better.

Check out the book THE GIRLS and get a realistic view of the social jungle that is quite likely your daughters' social jungle.  It makes Survivor look like  Mr. Roger's Neighborhood!

P.S. Koss also wrote one about bullying, that I have ordered, but not yet received.  I'll let you know when I've read it, but it, too, has won awards and high praise.

Image credits: