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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read Across America... Day 3- Acceptance

Continuing my preparation and celebration of March 2nd Read Across America. Remember each day I will recommend a few favorites for different ages, stages, and situations.  If any of them fit your needs, try them... check your library, interlibrary loan programs, online used books, and local bookstores.  Enjoy!!

Today:  Books about Acceptance

Accepting Others--

Splish, Splash!
by Sarah Weeks, Ill  Ashley Wolff
pub: HarperTrophy  [A My First I Can Read Book]
ISBN 0- 06-444282-9

This great little kids book about a bathtub that gets much too full, is a delightful way to start letting kids learn about accepting all kinds of people without judgment.

Accepting Life: 

Some Things are Scary
by Florence Parry Heide, Ill Jules Feiffer
pub: Candlewick Press
ISBN 0-7636-1222-7

This book takes the sting out of scary by showing all the ordinary reasons to be scared... like brushing your teeth with something you thought was toothpaste, but isn't  and the more serious fears.. like having your best friend move away. By the end readers realize that everyone feels scared, that it is an occasional but real part of life, and accepting that it is normal.

Tomorrow-- Special Issue Books  [running away, interrupting, misbehaving in school]

P.S.  You can also search previous blog entries for favorites I have already written about.  Some of my all time favorites I have already bogged about. Check them out too! Search using "Recommended" and "Suggested Reading."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Read Across America... Day 2 -- Feeling Different Books

Continuing my preparation and celebration of March 2nd Read Across America. Remember each day I will recommend a few favorites for different ages, stages, and situations.  If any of them fit your needs, try them... check your library, interlibrary loan programs, online used books, and local bookstores.  Enjoy!!

Today:  Being Happy with Who You Are

Good Thing You're Not An Octopus
by Julie Markes, Ill  Maggie Smith
pub: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN 0- 06-028465-X

With great humor Markes leads children to be grateful they are themselves by letting them see the potential challenges of being something else, learning that everyone and even every creature has its own challenges. 

It's Okay to be Different
by Todd Parr
pub: Little, Brown and Co.
ISBN 0-316-66603-3

This book with Parr's typical style and illustrations make it okay for all the ordinary differences in life from missing teeth to moods and feelings to saying no and many more.

P.S. For how different FAMILIES can be, check out Parr's The Family Book which is phenomenal on this topic!

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal  Ill Scott Magoon
pub: Disney, Hyperion Books
ISBN 978-1-4231-0685-2

Spoon envies the life of fork and knife and chopsticks, thinking their lives better than his dull life.  But Spoons family helps him see the advantages of being a spoon, and leads to spoon being happy being who he is.

Tomorrow-- Books About Acceptance

P.S.  You can also search previous blog entries for favorites I have already written about.  Some of my all time favorites I have already bogged about. Check them out too! Search using "Recommended" and "Suggested Reading."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Read Across America... Day 1--Bedtime Books

For several years Read Across America has been held on March 2nd, the birthday of author Dr. Seuss. I am going to be away from Feb 29th to March 6th visiting my daughter on the West Coast. So, I decided to do my posts ahead and to piggyback with Read Across America as the excuse to recommend some of my personal favorite books for children that deal with situations that are common for readers of this blog.  Let the teachers and schools highlight "typical" reading.  I will highlight some special books for special situations.  They may not have won awards [though some have] but they have proved helpful for me and for mine.

So each day I will recommend a few favorites for different ages, stages, and situations.  If any of them fit your needs, try them... check your library, interlibrary loan programs, online used books, and local bookstores.  Enjoy!!

Today-- Books for Bedtime Challenges

I Don't Want to go to Bed!  
by Julie Sykes and Time Warnes
pub: Scholastic
ISBN 0-590-76345-8

A picture book about Little Tiger, who never wants to go to bed when Mommy Tiger says it is time for bed.

What's Under My Bed?

by James Stevenson
pub: Mulberry Books [William Morrow Co.]
ISBN 0-688-09350-7

Especially great for grandparents raising children because the heroes of the story, that reassure and comfort the child are the child's grandparents who have a unique way of dealing with and normalizing nightmares.

I Had a Bad Dream: A Book about Nightmares

by Linda Hayward, Ill by Eugenie
pub: Golden Books  [About Living Series]

ISBN 0-307-10397-5

Jason has nightmares but is comforted and reassured by his father and learns to feel safe.

Tomorrow-- Feeling different  [books about being happy with who you are]

P.S.  You can also search previous blog entries for favorites I have already written about.  Search using "Recommended" and "Suggested Reading."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caring Heart: Separation Anxiety

Many children go through stages of separation anxiety.  Children who have lost family before [through court order, tragedy, adoption, whatever] are particularly prone to long struggles with any kind of separation.

Separation Anxiety

She gets so worried when I leave.  It sometimes seems as if she wants to Velcro herself to me.  I don't leave the house that often.  Much less leave it for long.  But I do need to buy groceries and she can't always come to every doctor and dentist appointment.  She just can;t trust that she can count on me being there.  I don't think she still worries about me deliberately leaving her.  I think she knows and truly believes that I won't, despite the Velcro attacks.  But now she worries about everything else.  Will I be hit by a car?  Will I get sick? Will there be a bank robbery while I'm making a deposit?  Will my plane crash? Quiet her fears, God.  Help her see the world as full of opportunities, not full of threats.  Help her feel safe.  Help her learn that not everyone who loves her will leave her or be taken away.  

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, February 25, 2012

Quick Takes: Quilting Bees

I am spending 12 hours today at a Quilting Bee as a mission project at my church.  We are all making the "Quilt in a Day" style quilts so [in theory] we will have as many quilts finished by 8 pm tonight as there are people attending.  We will see.  We are using a simple design similar to the picture at right. 

But it brings me to today's Quick Take.

Pick a day.... any day... and teach your children some appreciation for the days before going to stores to buy blankets [or clothes, or anything.]  Take a scrap of cloth or a bunch of old wash cloths and some thread and a needle.  Give each child four wash cloths to sew together into a "towel"  Have them stitch their name on one corner [or at least their initial if they are younger]. Have them lay out washcloths on their beds to see how many wash cloths it would take to sew a "blanket" for their bed.  Talk about what a difference the invention of the sewing machine made!

Then go online, or go to a museum and show them the amazing hand sewn quilts of today or days gone by.  As a final amazement... have them check out the stitching samplers hand stitched by young children of early days.

Depending on your children's interests:
--add two more wash cloths and with six sewn together they will have a very usable  doll blanket.
--four wash cloths make a good dryer or window washer when helping clean the car.

Who knows?.... you may inspire a future quilter! A logical next step could be the knot-together squares of fleece type of blankets.  If you have a sewing machine, you can help them make simple blankets with just straight stitching, which allow kids to accomplish something big, with small skills.   [If you need more info, let me know!]

Image credits and thanks:,,

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Way Cool!

Okay, any of you with kids who love fireworks or explosions, get your kids to the computer and check this out!  It was on the news on Tuesday and is visually amazingly precise!  The bridge at left is NOT lit by beautiful shining lights.... it is being imploded in a planned demolition.  The Ft. Steubenville Bridge was over 80 years old and had already been replaced in 1990 by a new bridge over the Ohio River and had been closed to traffic for safety reasons since 2009.  The controlled, nearly simultaneous explosions brought the bridge down in barely more than the blink of an eye... literally seconds!

Even as the bridge quickly disappeared, the demolition was so precise that for a moment it almost looked like a series of pillars and supports spanning the water....

Click here for a news video that shows it at normal speed two times [Sorry, there's an ad for a hospital before the bridge clip.]

You can see it on YouTube without commercials but the actual explosion/implosion doesn't happen until about 1 minute 37 seconds into the video.

Click HERE for the MSNBC clip to see it in slow motion and discover that the explosions were not simultaneous, just consecutive and timed so closely that it appeared nearly simultaneous.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parenting Tips: Going Away

In just a few days I will be leaving to go visit a daughter in Oregon.  Going cross-country is a bit intimidating when you are leaving children behind, especially if you are a single parent. Although I know that going 5 miles away by car is statistically more dangerous, flying from one coast to the other just feels riskier.  The same was true for my kids so we learned a few tricks for making such separations a bit smoother.

So if you are heading out sometime, here are three of the ideas that worked for us:

1. Leave a note for each to open each day that you are gone. Maybe just a couple stickers inside, or a new pencil, or whatever. The point is something positive to enjoy each day.

2. Leave some little surprise symbols for them to find unexpectedly...[I used to used a bright yellow smiley face sticker or drawing on an index card, and then one day I ran across happy face whatnots!] stick one under their backpack, or in their underwear drawer, or on the inside of the refrigerator door.

3. Plan a specific activity to do with them when you return.... breakfast in bed, a trip to the park, a movie DVD and popcorn, whatever, but something you can remind them of and they can anticipate.

What has worked for your crew???

Image credits and thanks to:,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Soapbox: Happiness is Contagious!

Did you know that if a friend of your's who lives two miles away from you is happy, you too are 22% more likely to be happy.  If your friend lives less than half a mile away, you are 42% more likely to be happy! Happiness is contagious and now there is indication of proof! Two scientists [one from Harvard and one from UCSD] collected data from almost 5,000 people over a 20-year study of the spread of happiness.

Remember the Six Degrees of Separation game? Well, the Fowler and Christakis study found that the happiness contagion holds up for three degrees of separation! The slide at left is their diagram of a Framingham, MA social network.  The individuals are color coded in gradations from blue for sadness to yellow for happiness.

Check out this website to read a 2008 professional article by the two scientists describing the study and its results. ["Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network: A longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study" published December 4, 2008 in the British Medical Journal/BMJ]

Check out this website to see a short blogpost describing and reacting to the research study.

Remember when your parents told you to stay away from negative people, cause they would bring you down; to play with happy, cheerful people?  Turns out, they were wise once again.  So, now we have scientific evidence that tells us that by being happy [especially being openly happy] WILL make other people happy too! Happiness IS contagious!! Go "infect" the world!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Welcoming New Children-- pt 1

When new children arrive in your home, ithey come full of loss and often trauma.  Helping them feel safe and comfortable in your home, especially school age children, requires extra work. [And if you have friends who are adopting a new child share this tip with them too!]

Try this way to welcome and reassure a new child. Prepare a Welcome Book about your home, family, and community.  

When your new placement arrives have the Welcome Book waiting on their bed or 
beside their bed.  Use a three-ring binder and include some of the following items:

--Pictures of family members with their names printed clearly.--Photo and description of the elementary, middle, and high school your foster kids would  attend. Include pics of playground and/or sports fields.

--Pages with pictures of some of the fun places to go in your area.... bowling alleys, roller rinks, parks, playgrounds, beaches, movie theaters... anyplace fun you may take the kids

--Simple map of the immediate neighborhood labeling your and nearest neighbor houses with your address and phone#,  plus the closest neighbors' names, phone #s --Picture of the church you attend [maybe including the pastor, priest, rabbi]

--Pictures of  frequent visitor friends, neighbors [with names printed]

--Page with channel numbers for local television stations, including common kids channels

Note: The three ring binder lets you choose which pages to include in your Welcome Book depending on the child who is arriving.  [age, gender, interests, concerns, etc.]This is especially helpful and important for those of you out there who take temporary foster care kids, short term, or emergency placements.

Two weeks from today I will post part two with more welcoming tricks and tips ! 

image credits and thanks:, 

Monday, February 20, 2012

School Bell: Television Teaching... characters

In many places this is the start of the school vacation week.  In many homes there will be more television viewing than usual. But, this doesn't mean you can't continue to use television as a teaching tool. On February xx I talked about using television to teach the skill of summarizing and even note-taking.  Today I want to talk about using it to teach the literature concept of characters and description to boost your child's reading skills. If you have a child with learning disabilities that make reading a struggle, this will let them work with literature concepts beyond their reading level abilities but well within their understanding. 

TV Hint Two:  Characters and Description

1. Identifying the main character/s and their purpose in the story:
--Talk during commercial breaks about which actors/characters are the "main" characters.  --Who is the hero, good person  [for older kids... the protagonist]? 
--Who is the villain, problem person [antagonist]? 

2. Identifying supporting characters and minor characters:
--Talk about characters that were not the most important, but who helped make things happen, improve, or get worse? [ex: the best friend, the annoying person, the silly person, the family, etc.] These are supporting characters that the story needed.
--What actors were just minor characters to fill out the story scene [ex: students in a school scene, diners in a restaurant, etc.] These characters usually don't make much difference to the story except to make it seem real.

3. Analyzing and describing characters:
--Ask them to pick a character and describe that character as many ways as possible... first physically, then by their behavior, their moods, their actions, etc. 
--Talk about which characters would be good friends, people who could help, people who should be avoided in real life.

Image credits and thanks:,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caring Heart: Focus?

Foster and adoptive children are far from the only children who struggle to focus for longer than a nano second, but it is certainly common among them.  


I am so proud of them today.  When they first arrived they could not even sit still and watch a cartoon short on the television without jumping up every thirty seconds to move, or talk, or just wander off.  I couldn't find ANYthing that would hold their interest for even three minutes, literally. Yet, after working with them all this time today I sat with them and we watched a DVD that was almost an hour and a half long! True, I paused it ever thirty minutes to give them a chance to refill their water, go to the bathroom, get more grapes and apple slices. But it worked!  They sat through it, followed along with the story, and actually enjoyed it.  What an accomplishment.  Real progress. It was worth waiting and working toward for so long.  What a difference this will make for them academically, socially, and will make my life easier too!  Chalk one up on the success side!  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, February 18, 2012

Quick Takes: Red Plate Special!

Three days ago I promised to explain how to use the extra red plates [or mugs or bowls] that you picked up on sale after Valentine's Day.  Here is one way to brighten an enliven a meal with the use of one of those red plates:

1. Keep a red plate in the cupboard.

2. Any time you choose, serve a specific member at the table with the red plate.

3. The person  with the red plate is granted special privileges:
     [gets to be served first, first choice on seconds, may pass on any part of the meal, doesn't have to clear their place, .... what ever privileges you choose to give the plate.]

4. After dinner, put the red plate back in the cupboard until the next time you feel like pulling it out.

Pull out the red plate for someone who has earned a reward, for someone who is discouraged and needs cheering up, for a guest, etc.  Be creative!   Have fun with it!

Image credit:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Winter?

Here in southern Maine this has been the year that winter overlooked.  Personally, I have relished the ability to walk without fear of falling on ice and snow, and the sweep snow dustings rather than hours of shoveling. [I have only had to shovel three times all winter!!]

 But.... to remind us of the other side:

According to the Guiness World Records  the largest snowflake recorded was

in  Fort Keough, Montana, in 1887

It measured 15 inches wide  by  8 inches thick ! !

At that size instead of shoveling you could pick them up and carrying them them a couple at a time!

Image credits:,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Parenting Tips: Buy now and save!

With Valentine's Day two days behind, most stores have now marked down their leftover merchandise.  This is a great chance for parents to dash out and pick up some goodies to parcel out on any number of occasions all year long.  [Of course you can also buy valentine sets and save them for next year's giving to elementary classrooms, but I mean more than that.]

Buy heart shaped boxes:  These can be used to fill with cheery, uplifting love messages to a child who is struggling or discouraged or feeling left out.

Buy heart stickers:  Use these to add at the bottom of anything from "I'll be home soon" messages to even chore lists!

Buy Red plates or bowls or cups  [I'll tell you about using those on Saturday.]

Buy heart shaped stencils: For decorating [and taking up space!] on thank you notes, letters, etc.

Buy heart shaped molds: for making everything from soaps to floating ice cubes.

Heart-Themed Candles/Mugs/Gifts:  Buy a bunch to keep on hand for unexpected hostess gifts, friendship tokens, etc. Mother's Day, Father's Day.. all kinds of occaionsYou can often also find hangings, mottos, etc. that speak of friendship and caring  to sotkc up on for unexpected occasions.

Heart or Love-themed craft projects/materials:  Same uses as the gifts already mentioned. One of my particular favorites is the collections of different size, shape and color foam hearts or wooden hearts!

So, what are you doing still sitting here reading?? Get going.... Take advantage of the markdown sales!   Valentine's Day is over, but the season for love-themed gifts is year round!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Soapbox: World Love

So, today is the day after Valentine's Day.

What has changed?  .....Nothing?   .....Something? 

In theory, we spent yesterday letting people know they are loved.
Are we through?
Are we all set until next February?
Or will we keep the spirit going?
Will we be sure they know it and are told it every day?
Will we stop with the people we know or push the feeling beyond our inner circle?

How would that world look?
Why can't it happen?
On October 31, 2011 the world population reached 7 billion people. Too many to reach? It is if you try to do it alone.  According to the Huffington Post it you tried to greet each person one at a time, one per second it would take you 222 years non-stop!
But, if one person told two people per day, who each told two the next day,  who each told two the next day and so on.... thanks to the power of exponential growth, the messsage of love could thoreticallly reach every living person on earth in less than 33 days!

Wouldn't that change the world ? !

Image credit:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day.. I already posted a meditation on Sunday about the natural and surprising connections of foster care and Valentine's Day. For the last week I have shared all kinds of ways to tell the people around you how much you care.

So today I just want to say... I love you...

--to each and every person who stops by to read this little blog. each and every person who takes the leap and chooses to give love to a child who was not loved enough.

... to each and every person who helps and supports those who take that leap.

and, of course, to all the wonderful, loving people in my own family and my own life.... 
I love you!

Pass it on!

Monday, February 13, 2012

School Bell: School Valentine Surprise

Dig out or pick up some simple sidewalk chalk, get together some parents or kids or both and give your children's teachers an unusual valentine surprise as they arrive at school tomorrow. 

After the parking lot empties this afternoon, when all the teachers have gone, talk the chalk and fill the walkway at the entrance to the school with messages of appreciation and joy.

What a simple, inexpensive, but pricelessly wonderful way to greet the teachers and staff as they arrive on Valentine's Day tomorrow!

Piggyback idea: Be sure to take some photos.  Come Teacher Appreciation Day or even the end of the school year you can use the photos to make cards for the teachers.

Note: If you are reading this too late for Valentine's Day... use the idea for Teacher Appreciation Day, the end of the school year, or the first day of school.  Start a community tradition!

Image credits:,,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Caring Heart: Maintaining Love

Maintaining Love

The kids need so much. How do I find time to be with those who need less?  with those who deserve as much or more? Husbands and wives need to spend time together, not just problem solving the needs of the wounded ones, but time talking about their own love, love for each other. They need to spend time supporting each other with that love. Those who are not married still need the love and support of others too.  This is such hard work, Lord. We need love too.  We need to say "I love you" and we need to hear "I love you." We need hugs. Hugs that are received as well as hugs that are given.  Help us maintain the love around us.  Help us nurture it, feed it, enjoy it, and help it grow.

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

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quick Takes: Instant Valentine Treats

I remember years of spending money on cheap valentine cards that came in classroom size packs and were decorated with the cartoon character du jour from Care Bears to Barney to the Wiggles to Disney to Justin B and teen vampires.

Try this quick and simple idea for older kids who still want to pass out a treat or to take to the office next week.
[I saw these special ordered for a wedding and thought how easy they would be to do at home for Valentine's Day.]

1. Buy a bag of candy kisses or hugs. and a package of round sticker dots [red or pink are particularly good for this].

2. Use a magic marker to write short sayings on the sticker dots.   [Love you, Be mine, Cool, Frends, Be Sweet, etc. etc.] Go traditional or be creative!

3. Peel off each sticker dot and place on the flat bottom of the wrapped candy kiss.

4. Fill a bowl or basket with the kiss and hugs with sticker bottoms

Pass them around and have some quick and easy valentine fun.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Valentine Food Foolishness

A cautionary tale.....

Years ago I decided in one crazy moment to do something especially silly for Valentine's Day to surprise my kids.  I decided to make an all red meal.  Red Velvet Cake was the obvious dessert choice.  
 Red jello salad in a heart shaped molds for a salad was equally easy. Here are plain ones... you can get fancier as you wish.

The main course proved more challenging. I chose ham.

I arranged the slices in heart shapes on each plate.

For veggies I cooked beets [which I knew my children might not eat] and sliced tomatoes [which I knew they liked]. Being particularly inspired I also cut both the beets and the tomatoes with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and arranged them on a plate.. truly heart-ful!

Unfortunately I went one step farther... one step too many.  I added red food coloring to make the mashed potatoes fit the red theme.  Do not try that... it plays tricks with the mind that are transmitted to the taste buds with less than wonderful results.  More than 25 years later, I still am occasionally mocked and berated for that valentine's dinner run amok.  So cut the tomatoes, or beets, make heart shaped salads or red velvet cakes to your heart's content.  Just don't mess with the mashed potatoes!

Image credits:,,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Parenting Tips: Valentine Scratch-Offs

Get your kids off the couch and get them involved making their own unique valentines with a fun twist....  scratch off messages!

You will need:
index cards [or something similar to use for your messages] or blank cards
dishwashing liquid
a watercolor brush or other small brush
metallic acryllic paint [I like silver or pewter best]*
pieces of clear adhesive paper [such as laminate or Contact® paper] 

Make the card and write the secret message that will be covered by the scratch-off paint.

Cover the scratch-off message with small piece of clear adhesive paper to protect it.

Mix the scratch-off paint   [2 parts metallic paint, 2 part dishwashing soap]

Apply one or two coats of paint as needed to cover message, but  be sure to let paint dry between each coat.

Have Fun With This ! !

* You can use red paint for valentine's but it doesn't cover as well or look as good as the metallic paint in my opinion.

Image credits:,