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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Soapbox: Preparation Never Wasted

A lot of folks around where I live have been complaining that there was too much hype about preparing and "worst-of-the-century" language etc. Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Irene did not hit us directly, and lots of generators were purchased/rented, plywood nailed, furniture moved inside, etc. etc. .... "for nothing."


1-Those people should be rejoicing that they escaped being ravaged by Irene, hurricane or storm.  Any one of our many Vermont neighbors would happily trade for the opportunity to have "wasted" their time of preparation.  Any of the thousands still without electricity would rather have "wasted" their time. Any of the people cut off and trapped by roads or bridges destroyed envy those whose time was "wasted."

2- Preparation reminds us to celebrate the ever improving art of forecasting and prediction... even if it isn't perfect.  Imagine how different it was when the only warning was the ever-increasing winds or never-stopping rains!  When people thought it was over when the eye arrived only to be caught by the returning storm!  Teach us patience when the day before the predicted track is over one area and the next day a storm veers more to the east or more to the west.

3-I do not believe that preparation is EVER wasted effort.  Each time we prepare, we get better and faster and more clear-headed and calm about the preparation.

4- Sadly another benefit of practice at preparing is learning how to do it right, how not to lose our lives unnecessarily in a storm by... driving across washed out roads, or using generators too close to the house, or coming too close to downed electrical wires, or washed out while watching waves, or , or, or...

5- Even just thinking about preparation gives us the opportunity to consider what we value, what is worth the effort of protecting, what is expendable. 

6. Preparation lets us model safety for those we love and those we know.

Preparation is practice for survival, for enduring. Preparation offers neither a guarantee of being needed, nor a guarantee of being successful. But, preparation is one of our only means of improving our odds in the battles with nature and the world. 

Whether a seat belt, a helmet, or storm preparation... preparation is not a guarantee, but a bit of insuance against disaster. Like insurance it may not cover everything and may never be needed... but it is truly good to have. And, like insurance, preparation can offset, mitigate or protect against tragedy.

Image credits:,,,,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Ghosts of Past Lives

I was reminded recently of the amazing power, and fluidity, of a child's memories.  Think back to some of your favorite childhood memories.  For me one memory is picnics on a place we called "Buttercup Hill" because it was blanketed in waving yellow buttercups.  I remember all the times my family would go there for Saturday or Sunday picnics.  It was only when I was in my 50s and mentioned the memory to my parents that I discovered we had only gone there two times!  The memory is so vivid and complete in my mind, that I almost argued with them. Surely we had gone more often, frequently even? No, only twice. Yet in my mind it happened all the time. Even now, knowing the reality, in my mind it is a favorite childhood pastime.

Unfortunately unhappy childhood memories can be just as vivid... and sometimes just as fluid.  I remember a 6-year old foster child who bolted, screaming down the hall of the elementary school, finally hiding and cowering in a janitor's closet, behind a mop.  When all was settled and over we realized that the assistant principal [who he had been trying to escape after a casual "Hello there"] was a quazi-lookalike for the social services worked who had three years earlier taken him screaming out of his mother's arms and taken him in the department's "care."  Anyone who has seen someone with PTSD flashbacks can understand the child's reaction.

More recently a teenage foster child had an unyielding negative attitude toward a well-intentioned, kind individual. Complaints about bossiness, yelling, etc. etc. etc. were a constant flood from the child.  When we discovered that the individual bore a resemblance to the child's abusive parent, we had no solution, but we did have the answer to why.

Remember the illustrations of "mother" and "father" in baby books and toys?  Think how basic the image is.  Small wonder that a child who was abused at a very young age might have memories of earlier abuse triggered by someone with only mild similarities to the actual abuser.

As foster parents, be on the lookout for warning signs of these emotional flashbacks. Don't suggest them to the child, but don't shut them down if it comes up. Be prepared.

Image credits:,

Monday, August 29, 2011

School Bell: Hurricane Day

Good morning---
No school today as we clean up after Hurricane Irene. No School Bell post right now either.  We are all fine and VERY grateful to be fine and to have escaped a direct hit.  But, there is a ton of cleanup to do both at my house and my dad's so I will not be doing my regular post this morning.  Maybe later today if I get things put back in time. Fortunately we have power so maybe this afternoon I can get back and blog.
Hope you are all safe and sound where you are.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Caring Heart: Defiance

Parents of teenagers are accostomed to defiance as their children enter the natural stage of tretching limits and independence.  But for many parents it comes much earlier and with a force, strength of will, and almost desperation at such an early age that the issue is as clear as the solution is obscured. 


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 goto school.  They are too big to pick up and manhandle.  Even if they weren't to big, brute force is neither allowed nor useful and none of that 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 proved they are that bad?  I will not use the kind of physical or emotional force that put them here.  I won't even come close!  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 them 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, August 27, 2011

Quick Takes: Favorite Quotes #1-3

Today I am starting a new thread for my Quick Takes days.  I call quick takes a mix of books, recipes, and more, but a few other continuing threads have evolved.  Creative Rewards is one.  Kids List is another. This new one will be quotes that I have found over the years that have struck a chord with me.  I love quotes.  The ones I love put a particularly vivid image to an idea, sum up an attitude or advice with a clarity I admire, or reflect something that is of great value to me.  When I know it, I will provide the author. Please chime in an add some of your own favorite quotes.  No one quote will fit every day or mood, but may be perfect or a needed blessing on another day.  To start... three of my favorites... all very different, all on my wall.

#1--"There is never enough time to say or do all the things we would wish.  The thing is to try to do as much as you can with the time that you have."   
         Charles Dickens, writer 
         [as Ghost of Christmas Past from A Christmas Carol]

#2--"If you think you're too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito."
             ascribed variously [Michelle Walker, an African proverb, etc.]

#3-- "This too shall pass."    A mantra for days that are high and days that are low.
             ascribed variously [ancient proverb, Solomon, Abraham Lincoln, etc.]

Watch for more favorite quotes about once a month... if you like the idea.  Let me know!

Image credits:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Kids vs Parents

Do you remember the first time you beat your parents in a game? Do you remember the thrill of knowing they didn't "let" you win...that you won fair and sqaure?  Give that thrill to your kids... Turn the tables of power to give them the edge that you usually have in games.  Hold a topsy-turvy game night! Here are three ideas for a generational challenge.

1--Rent a video game and stage a round robin contest between kids and parents.

2--Play charades or name that tune with the kids songs, book, or movie titles.

3--[for older kids] Have them write question cards with questions about current culture for a 2011 version of trivia. Or to make it a LITTLE easier for parents, all questions have to be from the pop culture of the last 5 years.

Other ideas???

Image credits:,,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parenting Tips: One Last Hurrah

Now is the time for one last hurrah.  One last salute to summer fun.  Sit down with your kiddos and plan one last celebration of summer vacation.  If you live in a region where school has already begun, take a moment in the weekend to have one last fling anyway.

Your hurrah doesn't need to be away.  Nor does it need to be long.  It doesn't need party invitations or huge planning. It only needs the key ingredient:  a sense of the forbiddens granted... of getting away with something delightfully out of bounds. 

Who needs nutrition? 
Maybe plan a supper meal that is ridiculously decadent.  An all you can eat ice cream sundae buffet with all kinds of crazy fixings as supper is outrageous... but won't actually hurt anyone who isn't diabetic or on some special dietary restrictions. 

How about a movie marathon?  Take a weekend night and allow the kids to stay up to watch as many DVDs as they want, as a family affair with popcorn and fruit ka-bobs. Stretch out the blankets on the floor, everybody get in their pjs and last one awake turns off the lights and the TV. No harm, no foul.

Fort Hideaways?
Bring all the blankets and pillows you can find, move the dinner table furniture into the living room and turn the living room into a massive, multi-room castle with forts, hideaways, secret passages, and whatever else they can dream up.

Choose what fits your family and ages...  Be silly... Have  fun... Enjoy the unexpected!

Image credits:,,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Soapbox: Preparing for Disaster

As I write this a hurricane seems headed for the Southeastern US coast and will be hitting the Bahamas even sooner.  Unlike tornados, we have warning about hurricanes today, at least in the U.S. What a blessing the gift of time to prepare is!  What would you do if you had a day to get ready for disaster. Think about it.  Because whether hurricane, forest fire, flood, or other, disaster can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Generally we have little control over a disaster.  Sadly, the part we can control we usually don't.  We CAN control how prepared we are.  Is it because preparing makes us think about the possibility of disaster?  Is it because starting to prepare shows how unprepared we catually are?  Whatever the reasoning... lack of preparedness is not a good plan.  Here are my three basic packets,

Water bottles for 3 days of water for the whole household.
Dry or canned food that can provide noursihment without being cooked or refrigerated.
MEDICINE for 3-5 days.

KEY INFO PACKET: plastic folder/envelope with a copy of all your credit cards [front and back], copy of SS card, driver's license, birthcertificates of kids, medical emergency info and contact info for family members. In addition to banking account info I try to keep a smallish amount of cash in this packet as well.

Think of the photos of people and places that you would be heartbroken to lose in a fire or flood.  Make one album with a picture of each of those people, places, or events. First home, grandparents, wedding, baby, whatever. Same for jewelry or other small posessions.  If they are too large to take, take photos of them and put the photos in the album. This will help preserve the emotional ties and memories, often the biggest loss in a disaster.

Make it fit YOU and your family.  Ex: I am a writer, so in my heartbreak packet is also a flash drive [ok, several] with a copy of my most crucial computer files and photos. I also have a flash drive with a video walk-through of my house inside and out for emergency insurance purposes.

These three packets aren't sufficient for true preparedness. But, the food and meds are in a specifc place and the info and heartbreak packets are together in one backpack with a couple of water bottles and nutrition bars that in a pinch I could grab and run with only two minutes warning.

What are your essentials?
                         What have I forgotten?
                                              What ideas can you share?

Image credits:,,,

[Note: As I was writing this in Maine, I felt queasy...later discovered what I was feeling was the earthquake tremor residue of the Virginia quake!..eerie given the topic I was writing about! GP]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Prepare the Unexpected... pt 1

[Running late this morning.. sorry 7 am readers.]

Surprises can be really tough for foster children for whom safety is only found in the predictable.  But surprises are a part of life and helping them learn to be comfortable with surprises is the first step to being able to enjoy them.

Today- Step One: Do something unexpected but that allows THEM control.

My kids favorite for this is our "Random Ride."  Remember the fun of driving your own amusement car? Take the fun out of the park. When we get in the car for a "Random Ride" the kids are in charge of two things: length and location.

Length: First we set a limit for the maximum time we can be gone, but they can control it by making it shorter anytime they want. That way if it becomes to much anxiety for them they can call Time and I immefiately have to drive home by the shortest route. [I explain ahead that how long that takes will depend on where we have driven and at any point along the ride they can ask me how long it would take to get home from there.]

Location:  The kids are in charge of where we go... not in destination [unless they are really good at the game!].  We decide ahead whether it is a LOOP drive [no stopping and getting out, just eventually home] or a STOP AND GO drive [each child has one "stop here" card good for a 5 minute stop anyplace they think looks interesting].  On really special occasions each child may also be given a "money card" good for $1-2 they can spend at a place they or a sibling choses to stop.  Money cards are NOT given on every Random Ride.

After we get in the car each child [in rotation between children] gets to choose which way the driver goes at each intersection..right, let, straight [within traffic restrictions of course].  Sometimes they try to make me drive in circles just for fun, sometimes they have a route in mind, and sometimes they begin to get adventurous and try to see if they can find someplace new... or even get me lost! [P.S. It's great pre-training for later driving!]

You can do this as simply as you choose.  These are just modifications that we develooped over the years to add a sense of safety and a sense of fun.  We've also modified it for family walks. Notice the balance of planning ahead for predictability and room for serendipity.  As your kids get more comfortable they will become more adventurous and you can do less and less preplanning and more and more surprises.  Try it!

Image credits:,,

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Bell: Before School Starts- pt 4..Paper Piles

Today is the next last School Bell before my gremlins start a new school year.  You may be beginning this week or in may regions may have already begun.  So, the topic today is clearing the debris and safeguarding the celebrations of last school year and preparing a space for this year's celebrations, accomplishments, and..yes... even debris. If at all possible do it in tandem with each child, using the opportunity for reflection on the past year, dreaming and goal setting for this year, and hopdfully start some self-fulfilling prophecies of a good kind. 

You don't have to do it my way, but it does help keep clutter down, and preserve at the same time. [In my Nov 2, 09 and Sept 2, 2010 blogs I wrote about my filing system for school work.] If you have a different system fine... in fact please share your system.. we can all use new ideas! But whatever system you use, try to accomplish these four steps during this week.

1. Gather and sort through all the random papers, projects, reports, and evaluations from the last school year.  Choose what to save and what to let go.  Don't just save the best work, but also some that will show progress in a later year.  Be sure to save something as a handwriting sample. Be sure to save at least one report card from the year. If you already did this, just check through it as you do step two.

2. Label every sheet that you keep with the child's name and the school year.  You will NOT remember years later which year, or even which child, unless you do it as each year passes, believe me!

3. Preserve..Put all the "saves" into a single folder or container and add key info such as grade level, teacher's name, and school attended at the very least.  Adding extra info about activities, best friends, etc. will also be something enjoyed later if you can do it.

4. Anticipate the coming year.  Label an empty folder or container with this school year and place it where it can be easily used throughout the coming year. If possible, have each child put on their back to school outfit and take a picture if them.  Trust me, it is much easier to do the week before school than in the first day rush! Maybe even have each child hold a sign with the coming school year or grade level. Add this as the start to their new folder [or cover decoration].

You're almost there.... Next Monday .... introductions

Image credits:,,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Caring Heart: Success at Camp

Those of us lucky enough to be able to find a camp that fits our kids and is affordable then face the fears of how that week will go at camp.  Here is a celebration when the week goes well.

Success at Camp 

I picked him up from camp this morning.  Who was this child who bounded out to greet me?  Full of hugs.  Grinning from ear to ear.  Rushing off to say goodbye to all his new friends.  Actually introducing me to one of them?  And the ride home?  I don't think he stopped chattering for a moent until he finally admitted he was tired, closed his eyes and was asleep almost immediately.  Then I was the one grinning from ear to ear.  Checking him in the rear view mirror.  Thinking howo amazing the transformationw as.  This child who is afraid of the dark, who hears animal noises outside his bedroom in the middle of a city, who has trouble making friends, and rarely acknowledges my existence unless forced. What wonders might this week at sleep-away camp produced.  Will it lst? Please let this new excitement, this new connection continue.  Let him gain confidence from the new experience.  Help him see the positive reaction of those around him to this new attitude.  Let him continue to grow and to transform, and move forward.  And, if it is only temporary help me remember this time, and know that it IS possible.  To know that it can and will come again. Help him know that it is possible and that he CAN feel this way.  Either way, for both of us...Thank you. 

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, August 20, 2011

Quick Takes: Safe Sibling Wars

A couple of weeks ago I offered a tip for fun-provoking solutions to sibling squabbles [Orange Wars...July 30, 2011].  Here is another one:

Balloon Wars--
Use a yardstick to mark goal line for each child if inside. [If outside draw the lines in the grass or dirt or on the sidewalk]. 
The two children stand about 5 feet apart, each behind "their" line. Both kids have to keep their hands behind their backs.  Inflate a large balloon and have a "judge" stand in the center holding the balloon at shoulder height. On a 1-2-3-Go mark the judge releases the balloon  the two children can come out from behind their lines and start blowing.  The first two get the balloon across the other child's line "wins." If the balloon touches the ground it is a time out and the judge restarts the challenge. 

Like the orange war, the point is to defuse the anger by changing the children's focus. 

Less confrontational version... Outside draw a start line and about 25 feet away a finish line.  Each child has their own balloon.  Each tries to blow their balloon all the way to cross the finish line.  They still start over if the balloon touches the ground. They still have to keep hands behind their backs. First to blow their balloon across the finish line wins.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anything Can Happen: 10,000 blog views!!

Hey, guess what?

While I was running around like crazy this week with chaffeuring kids and visiting family and sick family, I hit a milestone.

My little blog, this little blog, passed the 10,000 view mark!

Now, I know that this is just a teeny blog in the blog world, and it has grown very slowly.  But I am within a month of the year-iversary of the scheduled topic, daily format, and I am beginning to find a few followers.I remember when no one but my family read my blog [and them not often!]

I wish I had the time to do the things all the books say to do to grow a blog.  I try to follow other blogs and occasionally comment on other people's blogs but most of my blog time is spent writing my entries. And my blog is more information focused than daily events.

I sometimes [ok, often] feel guilty working on my blog when housework is behind [always] and kids are calling [always] and my latest writing job is coming closer to deadline [often]. But I confess to liking my blog.  I LOVE it when I hear by email from someone maybe too shy to leave a post.  I get excited whenever I see a return comment posted. I love the way it reminds me to try an old trick again, to search my brain for a new tip or strategy, to focus my words, and much more.

Yes, ... I wish I had more followers.
Yes, ... I wish my followers were more interactive.
Yes, ... I sometimes am tempted to gain exposure by including ads.
Yes, ... I dream about my blog being "discovered."

But 10,000 views is a lot of eyes of my writing

10,000 moments that people were listening..

10,000 reasons to be excited

Quite a milestone

Today I am celebrating!!

Image credits:,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Parenting Tips: Charity Yard Sale

As the summer winds down is often a great time to plan a special kids event that [hint, hint] helps get them motivated to clean up and clean out their bedrooms.

Talk to your kids and let them pick a charity that means something to them... 
      If they love animals, maybe a local animal rescue league or shelter.
      If the horrifying images from the Horn of Africa have moved them maybe they could raise money for water or famine relief.
      Local homelessness, shelters for abused women, victims of fires or floods, there is no end to the list of places struggling and needing help. 

Use 3 labeled boxes to sort things. 
Sort through their toys, books, outgrown clothes etc.  Most of us have far more than we truly need.  This is an opportunity to talk with kids about the difference between need and want. Make a box labeled "No Good" for broken or ruined items.  Label another box "Sell/Give Away" for items they are willing to give away and that still have life in them.  Here is my secret box: Label the 3rd box: "Probation" or "Wait List."  This is the box for things they haven't used in ages, but "I was just thinking of using that!" Don't argue with them that you've heard that before, or that no they won't. Just put the item on probation... The deal is that if they use the item more than twice in the next month it moves out of the box and into a regular place.  If not, it gets given away at the end of the month.  Through out the first box quickly.

Use the sell/give boxes from each child for the yard sale. Divide into cheap boxes of similar prices and individually priced items. If you don't have enough invited other kids to join in on the project.  Make posters to draw attention to the different categories of items. Agree that ALL things left at the sale's end go directly to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

For a really great set of guidelines  and hints for actually holding the yard sale check out this website. They have good ideas and some particular hints on making a kids' yard sale a success.

Image credits:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Soapbox: Rescue Dogs

Tonight I took the leap and filled in an application for a rescue dog.  Perhaps this is a sign of early dementia.  Perhaps I a losing my complete sense of judgment.  Goodness knows I have enough to be responsible for without taking in a rescue dog.  But after years without a dog, I am at least considering adding a dog to our household. 

I have friends and relatives who have taken rescue dogs, some many times.  Most of my pets have been animal shelter pets of debatable origins and mixtures.  But it is has been years since I took in a new four legged critter.  BOY have things changed!

I clicked on the "looking to adopt" page and seeing several available dogs that were of interest to me. What appeared next was an application form almost as long as the foster parent application I filled out to foster children!  There were the endless questions about my personal history, my theories of raising the prospective family member, how I would care for it, provide medical and dental care, how I would discipline, etc. etc. There were required references, a home visit, and trial period and more. What happened to the days when you went into the local shelter, walked from cage to cage looking for the dog or cat that touched your heart? If you found one, you likely walked out with it that day or very shortly afterward.

I began thinking about all the similarities between fostering children and fostering rescue dogs. Pain, trauma, neglect, abandonment all leave emotional and sometimes physical scars regarless of how many legs you have.  You need time to adjust to a new home, often act out, are slow to bond, test limits, and more whether you have a tail or not. Every one needs safety, needs love, and needs security before they can learn to trust again.  Everyone deserves a home that allows them to grow, to experience joy. So here is a salute to all the wonderful, caring people who foster and rescue any of God's creatures, regardless of species.

Image credits:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Questions, Questions

How many times has your foster child been asked "How come you don't live with your own parents?" by a friend, by a child, or even by an unthinking adult? It is just one of many tough, personal questions that kids in care get asked over and over.  As a new school year approaches part of the dread and anxiety is often tied to meeting new kids with new questions. I think it is our responsibility as their foster parents to help them with how to handle personal questions that invade their memories, and their privacy.  In the language of texting, we need a polite way that they can say MYOB [Mind your own business].

How to answer depends on the age/maturity of the child being asked and on who is asking.  But the first thing that I think we owe our kiddos is the right to privacy.

We need to teach our children that just because someone asks a question, doesn't mean they have to answer it.

Children have a right to keeping personal information personal.  In this day of tweeting and facebook and my yearbook, and skpe, more and more personal information seems to be out in the world, and once information is out there, it is hard [if not impossible] to call back.

Teach children that it is okay to say, "I'm sorry, but that is very personal to me." or "I really don't want to talk about that." Even "Our family's business is our family's business."

There are may, many ways to answer questions about foster care that can educate their friends, or give enough information to satisfy their curiosity without revealing personal secrets. But, all too often we forget the possibility of NOT answering the question.  Children who have had traumatic or painful childhood's have a right and a need for privacy.  All children deserve privacy. Let's teach them that privacy is okay. Privacy is good.

Image credit:

Monday, August 15, 2011

School Bell: Before School Starts- pt 3

No pictures today because it is 5:10 a.m. as I start to type and I must leave in a5 minutes to drive my kiddo  to his big summer adventure.... which happens to be an almost 8 hour round trip for me today. Sorry bout that but I can barely keep my eyes open, let alone type, and not enough time to google search for images. [The catch of going to bed early instead of writing this morning's blog ahead!] Today's project is building a Homework Box for your kids [and for your sanity later].

Homework Box

Think back to last year's homework battle. Make a list of ALL the things they would use as an excuse to get up from their homework tasks and wander. Add anything helpful to homework tasks that your list might be missing.  This becomes you shopping list or your "scavenger hunt" list for a home scavenger hunt with a small prize or reward for whoever findds the most items from their list.

Hold a scavenger hunt and Assemble all the found items in one spot and then scan once more to see if anything crucial is missing.

Find a cardboard box that will hold everything. Have the kids work their artistic talents or flair on it.  Paint with poster paints, cover with colored paper or contaact paper, decorate with saying or pictures cut from flyers, whatever they like.  [If you insist you can buy a fancy plastic tub to use I suppose.]

Once school starts this box is kept wherever your kids do homework.  [My house it is the dinner table.]
If you have properly stocked your homework box, all you need to do is add a healthy snack nibble each study session and you are ready... Hint: The more involved they have been in the process the more willing they are to use the Homework Box.

Ideas of what to include:  [choose what fits the homework ages of your children and your family rules]
Kleenes, cough drops, habd wipes, chewing gum, timer, sticky notes, Pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, markers, glue sticks, ruler, compass, protractor, calculator, dictionary, paper, scrap paper, stapler, bookmarks, paper clips, atlas, times table, 100's square, and modeling clay.

I have also found these helpful to keep on hand if not in the box: bag of pennies, small bag of change, bag of counting tokens, an old magazine with lots of pictures, an old advertising flyer with prices and pictures, a sheet or two of poster board, and a sheet or piece of foam core. This has saved many a last minute need for a trip to the local drug store to avoid a crisis.

Well, my minutes are up, my eyes are finally open, and we are off to his adventure! Maybe I'll add some pictures when I get back home.   Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Caring Heart: Turning down a Placement

One of the most painful parts of being a foster parent is when a caseworker calls about a child who needs to be placed and for some reason your instincts tell you to say no, while the heart within you is focused on how badly the child needs someone to say yes.  

Turning down a Placement

I said "No" today.  I believe it was the right decision, but I still feel guilty.  When they called and said she needed a home, I was tempted.  But as I listened to their description of her and her needs it just didn't feel right.  I can't even put my finger on a simple issue.  It wasn't just her age, or her history.  It wasn't just her academic and emotional profile.  The whole package just didn't seem like a good fit.  She needs a home so desperately.  Bit I just am not sure that this is the right home to meet her needs, to help her grow and heal.  These children have been through so much, Lord.  They need stability.  Starting here and discovering the match was bad would have been just one more broken relationship, one more blow to her self-esteem, one more sign that grownups can't be trusted, won't stay.  I just couldn't bear to be that or do that to her.  Be with me and give me wisdom and judgment as young lives like hers are brought before me. Guide her to a family that IS a good fit.  Be with her until that day comes, and be with her forever after.  

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, August 13, 2011

Quick Takes: Creative Rewards #46-50

Today's quick take is five more creative rewards for your kids.This generally is a once a month feature to come up with alternatives to stickers and food and purchases for treats and rewards.  Examples are for a mix of ages and genders and locations. Adjust for your own kids and your own region. 

46. Have a marshmallow fight!

47. Catch bugs [and release!]

48. Learn to play horsehoes with a friend.

49. Have some water balloon fun

50. Have a friend's sleepover.

E N J O Y !  !

[Creative Rewards #1-45 can be found if you search "Rewards."]

Images credits:,,,,,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Anything Can Happen: Shopping for Weddings

My youngest daughter is getting married this fall and so I have been doing some dress shopping for the event.  Actually the events because it is a weekend of activities that she and her fiance have planned.  Having shopped for the weddings of 5 daughters you would think I would be accustomed to it, but I still find it frustrating, depressing, and overwhelming.  This is well known by my family who have recently taken to escorting me on shopping trips to provide moral support [and fashion direction???].  They are actually very helpful and make the trips far more pleasant.

Anyway.... after seeing this on line I realize that it could be much much worse.

Consider this bride and groom.
Not only did they dress in Alice and Wonderland garb...

Their wedding party and many of the guests did as well....

Imagine trying to find a Queen of Hearts costume or Cheshire Cat costume in the size you want?

Or how about Shrek??

So, I guess I won't be complaining!!!!!

Image credits:,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Parenting Tips: Healthy, Kid-fixable Snacks

Summer is a great time to teach you kids how to work some snack magic in the kitchen.  Start by working closely with them if they are young. [You may always need to do some of the cutting prep ahead if they are very young.] But at a very young age they can participate and research shows that children eat more happily what they help prepare.

Little by little give them more and more independence.  With luck and practice by the time school starts they will be able to share or even take over responsibility for preparing school snacks that are healthy and that make them happy.  You still have time... go for it!

Veggie Coins...
Slice summer squash, zucchini, etc. and lay out on pan.  Top with shedded cheese and roast to melt cheese.  Add pepper or seasoning if desired.  Add pine nuts if desired.  Eat as is or put on a cracker. This is a recipe you can do a bunch at a time for several snacks, or just a few in a toaster oven. You can also make them for appetizers, family movie night healthy snacks, or even a dinner side.

Fruit Salad...Frozen or fresh
Gather an assortment of your child's favorite fruits, cut to bite size, mix, and put in container for cooler bag. 
Depending on the fruit I like to help the kids make up a bunch of these in freezable containers, freeze and grab one each day for snack.  The fruit thaws but is generally still cold by snack time.  P.S.  Also a great way to sneak in new fruits a few nibbles mixed in. 
Ants on a Log.... the sequel
With peanut butter banned from more and more schools due to severe allergies, try changing up the traditional ants on a log by using flavored or plain cream cheese in place of the peanut butter. If weight is an issue, try subsituting low fat cottage cheese that is drained a bit.

Note:  I am having trouble with my internet access for some reason which is making some of my posts late in posting online.  I am trying to get it fixed. Hang in there with me. Thanks!

Image credits:,,, f