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

Monday, April 30, 2012

School Bell: Celebrate Struggles: Reason # 2

Last Monday I posted about one reason to celebrate the struggles of schoolwork, particularly in middle school years  [hitting that wall when struggle, even failure, matter less than it will later].

Today reason #2 why struggle can be good:

2- Students who struggle learn strategies for overcoming challenges.

Struggle is good in the middle and high school years.  The child who has difficulty acquiring knowledge is forced to learn [or at least try] a wide variety of strategies for learning... flash cards, outlines, anagrams, rhymes, silly mental pictures, etc etc.  Compare that to the child who breezes through class, who seems to absorb the material the first time exposed. Some seem so lucky that they could pass [and do well] on the unit tests even without doing the homework. But is this lucky?  The parents get off easier, that is certain. But do the children?   

Children who never struggled in K-12  are often the kids at greater risk of doing poorly in college not knowing how to solve the problem.  Used to breezing through tests, or goofing around and only studying when it was time for the test, they may discover that it suddenly no longer works.  Or they may have been able to postpone a project or paper till the last minute and still pull it off and now they can't.  Or the information itself may not "stick" just by listening in class, or by reading the material quickly.  Suddenly nothing is working and they may have trouble even recognizing the train wreck coming, much less dealing with it.

The students who struggled at some point or through high school are not surprised or taken aback when things are hard. They have been there. They return to some of the strategies that got them through earlier learning challenges. These strategies are familiar, and many students even know exactly which approaches work best for them. They have tried multiple strategies for memory, for organizing, for breaking down deadlines, for seeking help, and for assessing their progress. 

when you are about to pull your hair at one more flash card drill, one more Venn diagram, etc., DON'T.  Hold onto the thought that you are helping them develop systems for dealing with learning that will be in their personal learning baskets for the rest of their lives.

Next week... Of course, there is a "but" to celebrating school struggles. If you shouldn't panic when your child struggles, what should you do?  And what are the inevitable exceptions?

Image credits and thanks to:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Caring Heart: Stealing [police involvement]

One of the most common parenting challenges is a child who steals. While common in parenting children not your own, it is also common in parenting biological children.  This is a long standing concern that crosses all social and economic lines.


They caught her stealing today.  Not just stealing from us.  Not stealing from a classmate.  Stealing as in "call the police" stealing.  I am tumbling from feeling to feeling tonight like a surfer tossed from his board and dragged under the pounding wave.  Anger that she would do this.  Frustration that she has not learned the honest values I have worked so hard to teach her.  Embarassment that a child in my home has done this.  Even humiliated that people I know will see the police car at my house and ask all kinds of uncomfortable questions.  Hopelessness that if she can still make this choice after all we've been through together, and all I have done to teach good moral values, then what am I doing?  But what about her God?  What is going to happen to her? Will they press charges?  Is it possible that she might go to jail?  She is too old for them to brush it off ad this is too serious a theft.  Why Lord, Why? Did I miss some warning sign?  Is it drugs? Is it defiance? Gangs? Guide us through this new uncharted territory.  Help me to trust You.  Help me be there for her.  Help her find a way through this mess to a better place.  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 28, 2012

Quick Takes: Inspire!

Last Saturday I shared my favorite movie [fictional] to get kids thinking about changes they can make.  I mentioned a book of true stories to follow up. Here are two more books that should be part of your home library or community library.  Borrow one and choose chapters that fit your particular child or children. Don't wait for them to read it.  Read a chapter to them.  Talk about it the next night at dinner. Maybe make it a weekly tradition this summer! Find things around your own community that your child can DO.  Help them see they can make a difference!

1. Real Stories, Real Kids, Real Change:
   Courageous Actions Around the World
   by Garth Sundem
  pub: Free Spirit Publishing,  2010

  Thirty true stories of teens and kids as young as 6 years old who through heart, stubbornness, and courage achieved significant change. Very current [including a story from the tsunami and other events the kids may recognize from the news] This is a GREAT book to own and to recommend.  Inspire your kids to believe that change and courage come in all sizes, all ages, all nationalities, all genders... and how might it be living in each of them?

2. Kids with Courage: 
    True Stories about Young People Making a Difference
   by Barbara A. Lewis
   pub: Free Spirit Publishing 1992 [but still cool!]

This is an older book, but its stories are still moving. It includes 18 individual stories of courage broken down into the areas of crime, social action, heroism, and the environment.

Image credits and thanks to:,

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Crazy Vegetables!

Often on Friday I find some crazy photo or silly caper to post.  This Friday I chose something that some might consider crazy, but others might think brilliant.

Do you have trouble getting your child to eat peas or some other vegetable?  In keeping with our Friday theme I offer you something different than the usual techniques. If you can let go for a little bit and be a little crazy, this trick is almost guaranteed to get your kids to try them once in a while. This idea comes from a fellow foster parent friend of mine who also has years of experience in early childhood schools and day care.  With thanks and kudos to "Mr. Bobby" here it is:

Some Friday "Anything Can Happen Night" prepare the green peas as a side vegetable for dinner.  Act really excited about it!  Tell them you remember hearing that  "x" [peas, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, whatever] is one of the really cool vegetables that you get to eat a special way. Explain that most vegetables kids have to start right out easting with a spoon or fork. But with "x" the first four [or five or six, you choose] times that you eat it you have to eat it a special way.  They will probably look at you like your are crazy, but when they ask "How?" go into demonstration mode [Remember it's Anything Can Happen night!]. Put just a few "X"s on your plate.

Make a show of putting down your fork and putting your hands behind your back.  Then...lean over your plate [with hands still behind your back] and eat yours off the plate using just your mouth, lips, and tongue to catch the veggies in your mouth!   Now they will REALLY look like you are crazy, but chances are as they see you do it, they won't be able to resist trying themselves.  Be sure you have only given them a few, as its really fun when you hear them ask for a few more so they can try again to "catch" them with no hands!

Usually once a child tries a new vegetable several times, nature takes over and they get to like the  vegetable.  Then you can explain that they are now old enough to eat them the grownup way and move on. 

I don't have any kiddos young enough for this trick right now, but dozens of parents have found this trick to work and swear by it as a "Never Fail" strategy.  Works great on peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

Image credits and thanks to:,,,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parenting Tips: No More Interruptions!

I hate interruptions. Phone interruptions. [You know... if you are listening to the person on the other end, you are not talking, and if you are not talking then your children's minds... you can listen to them!]  Walk-in Interruptions  [Children walking into a conversation between me and someone sitting right next to me and breaking into the conversation full steam ahead,]
Arrrgggghhhh!  It used to drive me crazy!

Did you notice the "used to" in that sentence? I rarely have those interruptions anymore in my house and haven't for several years. I have an almost magical solution.  A truly "hands-on" approach. Remember the old secret handshakes? This is our family's "Secret Hand Signal." Here is the totally simple, two-step, instantly usable solution to teach your kids:

1- When my children come in and hear or see me talking [OR listening] they are to come in and gently put a hand on my forearm.  [That is their silent signal that they need to talk to me.]

2. When I feel a hand on my forearm, I quietly and gently cover it with one of my hands, while continuing with my conversation.  [That is my silent signal that I know they want to talk to me.]

The two hands stay that way until I am able to pause in the conversation and give a moment to attend to what my child them my full attention when I remove my hand and look at them.

This has worked a virtual miracle in my home that has lasted for years. They even sometimes use it when they come in and I am busily typing this blog.  With these two steps your home can become almost interruption free... Try the Secret Hand Signals in your house!!

Image credit and thanks to:  canadian

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Soapbox: Charlie Sheen, George Clooney and Patch Adams

I am continuing to work my way through Dr. Patch Adams'  Prescription for the World... his ten questions that could change society. It has proved an interesting, challenging ride. Today's is his #3:

If compassion and generosity were the measure of success that money and power are now, how would your life change?

Soooo, I have been thinking a lot this week about how much time has been spent by how many people, listening to stories of misbehaving celebrities. Last year it was Charlie Sheen.  Talking about Charlie Sheen.  Debating, Berating, or Accepting Charlie Sheen.  ALL of my kids know who he is and according to them, everyone at school was talking about Charlie Sheen. He still comes up a year later.  And Lindsay Lohan.  Or the millionaire polo player involved in a deadly hit and run accident and who "adopted" his girlfriend to protect his fortune!

Here is my thought.. Perhaps as parents we need to openly and consciously celebrate compassion and generosity out loud, in our conversations with our kids.  They say that child's body image is negatively affected if we always talk about trying to lose weight ourselves.  What if the same is true about compassion and generosity? 

There are celebrities who measure their compassion and generosity as part of their success.  There are people with money and power who see that as a tool for compassion and generosity. Consider how much time the news, the television, the water coolers, and maybe we have spent discussing Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen's choices and values.  

How much time have we spent discussing Bill Gate's, Bill Cosby's and George Clooney's use of their fame, wealth, and power. Famous people, powerful people, wealthy people CAN and DO measure their success also in compassion and generosity.  THEY are the celebrities we should be talking about. Do our kids even know who Patch Adams is or what his goals were? 

And why just celebrities?  Let's find the George Clooney's and Bill Gates' of our own communities. Let's celebrate and talk about their choices to our children.  Let's find people around us who DO measure their success by their compassion and generosity and surround our children [and ourselves] with those people.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Fostering Blogs I Love

I enjoy reading other blogs and particularly some of the ones by other foster parents.  Sunday I about fell off my chair laughing over her post about ways to know you are a foster parent.  I HAD to email her and ask if I could like to her site for you and share part of that post!

I think my two favorites were:

***You know every pediatrician and specialist in your area that takes Medicaid, whether or not they are accepting new patients, their estimated waiting time for appointments, and the first names of all of their nurses and front office staff.

***You know you're going to be in the restroom longer than 30 seconds, and you bring your monthly paperwork with you so you don't waste valuable time just sitting there.

And though I have never dared be this bold I had to laugh at this one:

***You're intentionally vague when questioned about your children by random strangers simply because you get a good chuckle out of watching them squirm.  "Is he your first?"  "No.  He's my 12th."  or  "Does she (your child of a very obviously different race) look like her father?"  "I don't really know.  I never saw him."  ;-)

You can see why I wanted to share  this blog post of hers with you!  We all need to laugh at some of the challenges once in a while. Check out much more of her blog at  "I Must Be Trippin'" especially if, like me and like her, you are a single foster parent. Poke around at some of her past posts and maybe, sign up to follow her blog too!

I am thinking of choosing one Tuesday a month to feature another foster parenting blog. What do you think?

Image credits and thanks to:,

Monday, April 23, 2012

School Bell: Celebrate Struggles: Reason #1

Tis the season for kids to be sick of school and parents to be tired of fighting over homework,. The season for final projects and cumulative tests. The end of the school years looms like both a deadline and a prize. Today and next Monday will hopefully give you and yours a more optimistic view of the homework struggles.

Struggle can be something to celebrate!

With very few exceptions everyone will struggle to learn something during their life. Sooner or later we come up against something that doesn't come easily.  Those students who breezed through middle or junior high school, who aced high school without breaking a sweat, will hit a wall sometime in college or on their job.  

Which brings us to reason #1 why we can celebrate struggles:

1- Students hit that wall they are in a time when the grades matter far less than later in school or life.  
In the 32 years I taught fifth grade, I never once had a Harvard admissions office care about that D on the marine mammal project, or that failed Civil War test. I have seen employers turned off by D's in someone's college major, or on their graduate school transcripts.

Parents have to let go at some point when their child is learning to walk.  They have to eventually let go of the bike if a child is to learn to ride. Knowing to occasionally NOT bail their child out of a school mess is also an essential if the child is to learn to learn.  Do it judiciously.  Do it compassionately.  Do it AFTER having taught the child the skills to be independent. But do it.

Few children are damaged permanently by falling on their face when learning to walk, or by a skinned knee in a bike fall.  They will also survive falling on their face at school.  But like a child learning to walk or ride, parents should be there to help dust them off, bandage the wounds, and help them see how to do better. And.. the bumps and bruises hurt less and heal faster when you are younger and more resilient.

Next week reason #2 and the following week... a "but."

Image credit and thanks to:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caring Heart: Siblings Rights

The world of child welfare has changed dramatically in the last few decades.  One area of change is in sibling rights.  While much has changed it continues to be an issue which can traumatize and emotionally cripple innocent children.

A little cooperation please

All that she wants is to keep in touch with her siblings.  That's not so much to ask is it Lord?  She has done nothing wrong and yet she has lost the chance to be with her parents. She has done nothing wrong and yet she has lost the chance to live with her siblings.  All she is asking is to be able to see them once in a while and to stay in touch in between visits.  Why can;t their new parents understand that?  Why can't her advocates make that happen? Why does it seem that every time we get something set up, it falls through on someone's end?  i am getting almost as frustrated as she is, although I know that is not possible.  I cannot even imagine what this must be like for her. Give us patience.  Give us understanding.  And, please, give them understanding of this girl's needs.  These children have lost so much.  They have accepted their separation.  They should not have to lose each other on top of everything else they have lost. Help the grownups to put ourselves and our needs aside and focus on the children's needs first.  Help us support these children whatever decisions are made.

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 21, 2012

Quick Takes: My Favorite Movie to Inspire

I recently had the chance to see one of my all time favorite movies and realized I had never posted a recommendation for it on this  blog.  The movie is a very little known story from 1987:

Amazing Grace and Chuck

 The two leads in the movie are played by a young boy [his only movie I think] and a pro basketball player, Alex English, which may have contributed to the movie being overlooked by many.  However the movie also boasts some serious star power.... Gregory Peck playing the President of the United States, Jamie Lee Curtis, a young [pre-CSI] William Peterson plays the boy's dad, and Frances Conroy plays his mother. Avid TV and movie viewers will also recognize other familiar lesser known faces in various supporting roles. Mike Newell directed the movie and later went on to direct hits such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Enchanted April."

This 1987 movie does not pretend to be a realistic way of ending the threat of war but deliberately and literally leaves viewers with the message... "but wouldn't it be nice."  Although the movie is fiction and takes place at a time when the fears and political enemies were different,  I have used this movie with my kiddos and my students to start the conversation about the impact that anyone, even a child, can have when they champion a cause.

To follow up with real-life examples I share chapters from a wonderful, award-winning book:
It's Our World ,Too!- Young People Who Are Making a Difference: How They Do It and You Can, Too!   by Philip Hoose. It won a Christopher Award for "artistic excellence in books affirming the highest values of the human spirit. Every chapter celebrates a child or teen who has made a significant difference through their effortsand every chapter is true!  [pub 1993 by Little, Brown and by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2012].

Check these out.... please!  Share them with kids you know.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Crazy Views

Quick way to have some fun with your kids:

Visit a novelty store and try these to liven things up, start the giggles, and give your kids a fun and funky different "view" of the world...

1- Simulate the view a fly gets of the world by donning a pair of fly-eye glasses. 
Take turns wearing them while you eat dinner.  Almost as much fun for the person looking at someone wearing them as for the person who is actually wearing them. [under $10[

2. Reverse binoculars. Take an inexpensive pair of binoculars and try looking through them backwards. It makes everything seem VERY far away and makes walking, co-ordinating, much harder.  Try these while playing bowling on a Wii or PlayStation to watch your scores plummet.

3. 3-D or Snowflake glasses.  These glasses mimic special effect photo lens. They can turn a spot of light into a snowflake, a prism, a repeated pattern and more. Available places like Cracker Barrel restaurant gift stores or other novelty stores, these are usually cardboard glasses with insets that make the world seem filled with rainbows, snowflakes etc. depending on the insert.  [under $2]

Use this as a teaching moment after the giggling stops...
 ---Talk about how hard it is to imagine another person's viewpoint.
 ---Talk about how hard it is to describe something if you see it so differently from the other person.

Image credits and thanks to: 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parenting Tips: Final Calm Spot Hints

I've posted about recommended creating a Calm Spot instead of Naughty Chair [March 22]
I've posted about  how to use a Calm Spot  [March 29]
Last Thursday was ideas of what to put in a Calm Spot to help your child regain calm. [April12]

Today some final thoughts 
Remember that the goal is to help your child understand, recognize, and manage their feelings in a way that helps your household maintain a more calm, less streessful, less emotional atmosphere.

Two Key Points: 
1- The child should help pick the Calm Spot and the items for the Calm Box. 
This is part of teaching the child to recognize their own style, what helps, etc. It also teaches the assumption that there are things that DO help. 
2- Do this when all is well with the child.  
That's when you explain that when s/he needs to calm down s/he can go to his spot and use the box until s/he feels calm or until thinks /she can come back and be ok. 

Three ways they might go to their Calm Spot:  
1.They can ask to use the calm spot if they think they need it.  
2. You might suggest the calm spot if something you see makes you think they need it. 
3. They may say no once.  But if in a few minutes you see that they still need it, you, as the grownup in charge, might insist that they spend at least some time in their calm spot.  
 [Some families make these into rules and post them for older kiddos.]

Miscellaneous extra ideas:
1- Consider having your older kids serch online for images or photos that are calming. Print them and make a calming notebook of those images, or post them in their calm spot.
2-Research calming techniques online for them OR for you. There are apps that help with relaxation [ex: breathe2relax] and online relaxation sites [ex:].

Go for it!     and     Good Luck!  
I hope this series has helped.

Image credit and thanks to:,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Soapbox: Volunteering

For the last several Wednesdays I've been tackling the ten challenges set forth by Dr. Patch Adams to change society. Last week was pretty do-able. Today is just one of the challenges I have to admit I have been avoiding. It is number 8 on Dr. Patch's list:

Could you do ten or more volunteer hours each week to make a healthier world?

Wow!  I admit I can't even imagine finding ten hours each week.  Do I think it could transform the world for the better.. absolutely.  But how?  Some days it seems all I can do to find clean clothes for everyone and be sure there is milk and toilet paper in the house. Where would I find time to volunteer much less ten hours?  

I think that for most people with jobs or families, ten hours is probably unrealistic and just makes people skip it all together.  So, I decided to stop getting stuck on the number ten and just think in terms of sneaking snippets of volunteering into my life.I started talking out loud to the kids using the word volunteering. I started labeling the work I do in the church and for the school. I want the children to grow up with a sense of responsibility to be involved in the community, to volunteer their skills and their time.   

I have the kids shovel out the nearby fire hydrants and help me stop in to check on some older folks I know. I find ways for them to pitch in at church to welcome kids, to help set up the snacks, even to help in Sunday School classes for younger kids. I usually did, but now it is more purposeful as my daughters would say. 

So, Dr. Patch... I don't think I will make it to your standard goal on this one, at least not for a while, but I am glad to be challenged by it.  

Image credits:,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Grandparent Parents

Today's post is directed at those who are foster parenting or adoptive parenting children the age of their grandchildren.  Parent down a skipped generation is full of challenges.  I know because I am doing it.  I often laugh when I see news stories about women in their 50s who are excited to be pregnant and extol the virtues of older parenting.  I agree that their are some plusses to parenting at an age when most are grandparenting. BUT, I sometimes want to phone those women and say w-a-i-t ! ! 
 Take a moment to imagine . . .

...why menopause is not intended to coexist with pre-teen or teen angst.

... why school open houses and parent conferences do not hold the same appeal in your 60s as in your 20s, 30s, or even 40s.

... what you will encounter when you try to make friends with the parents of the school friends of your child... parents who are 20-30 years younger than you, often with verrry different values than you.

Despite all of that and far more, I recognize that the decision to parent grandchildren is often a non-decision. It so often is a choice between two difficult options, each with predictable prices to be paid financially, emotionally, and practically.

My best advice?.... recognize and learn to accept that you cannot parent the same way you did or would have in your 20s and 30s.  You will be more tired.  Your body will be less flexible.  Your relationship with your children and other grandchildren will be affected. Your energy will have smaller reserves.  Your emotions may be less resilient.  Accept all this.  Plan for it.

Take naps when you can.
Don't beat yourself up emotionally for needing extra time or space to regroup.
Build in recovery time after energy-sapping plans.
Cut yourself some slack.... maybe even a lot of slack.

And.......Celebrate when the wisdom of your years/experience make something easier or smoother or more effective!

Image credit and thanks to:,,

Monday, April 16, 2012

School Bell: Celebrating School!

I don't know about your kids, but the last thing my kiddos want to do during vacations is school work.  So what do you do to use your spring vacation most effectively? Whether they are doing well in school so far or they are struggling, try this idea to inspire them to a good finish to the school year"

       Name and celebrate their successes, efforts, and hard work!  

Every single night of vacation as the family gathers around the table find a way to celebrate and name what they have done or are doing that contributes to school success.  They will not only see that you notice what they are doing, they will hear exactly what it is that you are honoring and valuing. Best of all they will be receiving positive attention for the good, rather than more typical disappointment or frustration with their challenges. Ideas:

--Celebrate a memory of the school year that demonstrates their efforts and their progress. Make up little trophies [or get from novelty store], or a certificate etc. to make the honor concrete.

--Share an assignment that they worked hard on and talk about how proud you were to see their effort.  If you remember what strategies they used, talk about them. [Ex: flashcards, drill, doing a bit at a time, etc.]

--Decorate a big mirror or door or fridge front with an array of positive papers and comments from the school year.

If your child is really struggling.... if none of the above seem feasible, try one or more of these:

--Buy a medal or blue ribbon from a party/novelty store [or make one!] and award it during dinner one night to celebrate a risk your child made or something new they tried, focusing on the courage it took to try regardless of the level of success.

--Celebrate the fact that your child is_______ [getting to school on time each morning, being polite in class, participating in chorus/band/sports/whatever, telling you the truth about how school is going, coming to you for help on homework or prepping for tests, etc.]  As long as your child is still in school they have not given up completely and you CAN find something to honor!

--Think about what previous struggles have been conquered. Bring them up and point out how easy they are now, celebrate! Ex: Talk about how long it took to learn to [tie shoes, or name colors, tell time, or write their name, etc.]  yet how simple the task is now. Compare that to things that you once struggled with, but keep the emphasis on what they have already worked through and conquered.

Image credits and thanks to:,,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Caring Heart: Moving Out and Moving On

Some are still praying for this day to come, others have gotten through it, still others are just now confronting this amazing transition. Whether a child who is so-called average, gifted, or a child with special needs... this transition is a terrifying one for both 'child' and parent.

Moving Out and Moving On

He is moving out tomrrow, God.  He is moving on. Is he ready?  Oh Lord, I pray he is.  Have I given him the skills and beliefs he will need? I hope so.  Let him see my pride and my faith in him, not my fears or my doubts.  If there are tears in my eyes that embarrass him, let him know they are tears of joy, not sadness.  We have worked together, helping to build this fledgling wings.  Feather by feather. Skill by skill. Now it is time for him to use those wings and attempt to fly.  He is moving out and moving on.  The choices from now on will be his.  Let him still feel out guidance and let him still feel yours. Give him currents of joy to combat the downdrafts he will encounter, as everyone does.  Give him winds of luck, for everyone needs that as well.  We have tried to build the best wings possible, but he will still need your help.  Help him fly. You have helped me teach him how to fly. Now help me let him fly. Help him fly. Keep him safe when he bumps into temporary or even permanent obstacles.  Help him fly.

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 14, 2012

Quick Takes: Operation Beautiful..Great News!

I have great news for anyone who has a girl between 8 and 14 on their gift list this Christmas or Hannukah!
One of my favorite books to share is coming out with a followup for adolescent girls! It will be titled:

Operation Beautiful for Best Friends  by Caitlin Boyle.
While it is not yet published, it is scheduled for release December 20, 2012 and I can barely wait! I have already pre-ordered one for each of the girls on my gift list! Consider it as a wonderful gift  for a girl you know and care about.

Caitlyn Boyle has compiled the story of an amazing campaign to transform the way we look at ourselves using nothing more complicated than a simple post-it note.  To get just a glimpse of this quiet revolution in the making---

P-l-e-a-s-e........Check out her website:

Boyle's first book was:
Operation Beautiful:  Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time

Order the book online, or used, or through your local library for free. But check it out!  Especially if you have daughters, but even if you don't.  All children today are bombarded with images of what they "should" look like, be like, feel, think, etc.  Reading [even browsing] this book will fill you with ideas for showing your children [and maybe anonymous people in your world] with more positive messages.

How long does it take to jot a post-it note?  Try it.... we can change lives!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Laundry Tip

Have you ever had a clothes washer repairman scold you about using too much soap in your wash?  While it looks funny on a sitcom I learned my lesson years ago after a costly repair.  It looks funny on a sitcom but I was taught some tips over the years since and have never had the problem again:

1- You should not see more than a few bubbles through the washer window of a front loader or on the top of a top loader. [Rich, bubbly suds like the picture at left may look impressive, but it is much too much soap for the rinse cycle to manage. It will eventually result in a picture more like Bobby Brady's above or the new version at right.]

2- Take whatever the manufacturer suggests, divide it by TWO and try it on an average load.  If it does well, stick with it.  If not, add a little more and try again.  Continue till you find what works in your washer. [Remember that it is to the manufacturer's sales totals advantage for you to use more than necessary! Rarely will half the suggested amount be enough.]

Here is my favorite new product... especially helpful if you are smart enough to have your kids doing their own laundry...  Purex laundry sheets [soap and softener all together imbedded into sheets].  I cut each sheet in two so that I can be absolutely sure my wonderful kiddos aren't over-sudsing my machine and the clothes.

You don't want this Friday the 13th to live up to the image of its name!
Remember the lesson of Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch!.....

Image thanks and credits to:,,,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parenting Tips: Supporting Calm

[This was supposed to be the post last Thursday but last Thursday I missed posting, so here it is today The other two in the series were on March 22 and 29th.]

How do you stock a Calm Spot?

For a Calm Spot to work best, equip the spot with things that help your particular child calm down.  Think about two questions:
      1- What does your child tend to do when they are upset? 
      2- What helps your child settle down when they are upset? 
Knowing those two things will help you figure out what might work best for your child.  Then you can work together to set up the ideal spot for each child to keep them safe while angry and help them calm down and turn it around. 

Some examples and ideas:
1- What does your child naturally tend to do when they are upset? 
Try to thinks of safe ways for them to do that activity and expend that energy in their Calm Spot. Examples...
Hit things?  Try clay or Play-Dough for Pounding.
Yell or Scream?   A thick pillow for punching or screaming into. 
Ripping Things Up?  Put a bunch of scrap paper and a zip lock bag for ripping and stuffing.
Burst into tears?  Add a box of Kleenex.
Cover their ears?  Put in old-style ear-covering headphones
Fall asleep? Add a pillow and lap blanket.

2- What helps your child start settling down when they are upset? 
Think about what your childusually does when the storm begins to pass.Providing materials to do that will help them transition from the anger to calm.
 Listen to Music?  A player and CD or their favorite calming music. 
      [Be sure it has working batteries!] 
Draw?  Coloring Book and crayons or pencils
Quiet Activities?  Maze or puzzle book, Legos, etc. 
Being left alone?  Headphones help here to block out the world.
Lie down or Take a nap?   Add a pillow and lap blanket.
Some kids have a special cuddle toy or blanket. Does yours? 

Note....Some of my kiddos as they got older kept a well-stocked Calm Box in their room or in their Calm Spot and I no longer needed to  manage it. The Calm Spot/Box technique became part of their personal management habits. [Maybe their spouses will thank me someday? Hee-Hee]

Next Thursday:  Final Reminders and Calm Spot rules.  

Image credit and thanks to:,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soapbox: Potluck, Anyone?

Today I continue looking at the Patch's Prescriptions for a Better Society. This week I challenge us to try another, perhaps easier one of Dr. Adam's questions:

In order to bond your neighborhood in healthy interdependence you would need to host weekly potlucks. Would you?

I suspect that, although this is more complicated, it is probably more comfortable than the first week's challenge to demonstrate public joy. It is not more expensive, since the intent is a pot-luck, you are not expected to feed everyone. You just host, invite, take the chance.  Oh yes, you also probably lay out the paper plates and the food as it comes in. The simpler you keep it, the more likely people are to 1-feel comfortable, 2- be willing to come again, and 3- be willing to host one themselves sometime!

If you live in an about your floor or building mates?  If you live out in the wilds, try three friends who have not been over lately.  If Dr. Adams' challenge of weekly potlucks seems daunting, how about once a month?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Share this Book!

I recently was part of a conversation about the book:
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew
This book generally gets [and deserves] good reviews and I know many adoptive parents who have found the book helpful. However, in this conversation it came out that some parents find it discouraging.  The book is full of the fears and concerns experienced by adopted children and in the process includes many ways that parents unintentionally may make things more difficult or send unintended messages. One person I talked to said it almost dsicouraged them from choosing to adopt a child they had been considering, for fear they would not be able to make the child happy. NOT what the author intended!

Sadly, far less well known is Sherrie Eldridge's wonderful second book:

THIS book is far more PROactive than reactive. In it Eldridge focuses on the parents and provides lots of practical ideas for success.  This book is far more encouraging AND far more useful. 

While it focuses on adoptive children, I recommend it to foster parents and kinship parents as well.  ANYone who is attempting to raise children not born to them can learn specific ideas to help their challenges in this second book. 

So, readers.....

Spread the word. Get a copy.  Give it to a friend who is adopting. Give one to your local library or association.  Give it to a social worker or your child welfare department. Write the author with your feedback.  Best of all... write the publisher!! As a published writer myself I know how hard it is to get publishers interested in a book proposal, especially one that is targeted to a minority market. THANK the publisher for recognizing this segment of the parenting market. Thank them for the positive rather than exploitive nature of this book. Ask them for more books for this market!

And if you know someone who is considering this special kind of parenting......
Reach out....Share your successes. Share your expertise.  Share your stories!

Image credits and thanks to:,

Monday, April 9, 2012

School Bell: Special Education?

Is your child constantly frustrated by school work?  

Now is the time of year to kind of step back and consider whether it is typical temporary frustration or whether the frustration reflects a significant struggle to learn and to demonstrate learning. Schools are required to provide instructional support for children who are struggling to learn and who are shown [by special testing] to have a qualifying learning disability, processing problem, emotional disability or other qualifying condition.

If your child is working hard but making little progress, or is steadily falling behind his/her peers this is a good time of year to consider request your child be tested to see if they need special support to succeed. This problem can emerge at any grade level, but is often noticed between 3rd and 5th grade.

Testing is done within the school day and does not cost parents anything.  The school is required to get your permission before they initiate testing and you will be asked to sign permission for each type of test they plan to conduct.

Schools are required to respond within a specific time frame if you make a written request for an evaluation. When testing is done they will schedule a meeting to review the testing, determine if your child qualifies, and [if so] make a support plan.

If your child has struggled this year, despite reaasonable efforts, it is better to get the evaluation done this year for several reasons. 1- If the child qualifies, information and support plans will be in place when they begin next year rather than if you wait for the evaluation to see how next year goes.  2- The evaluations and questionnaires will receive input from teachers who have worked with your child and know your child this year, rather than if you wait until the fall when the teachers won't yet know your child.

Act sooner rather than later, because the evaluation process takes time and scheduling the followups can sometimes be challenging as well.  If you wait until the last month of school there will not be time to complete the process.

Note: If you have any specific questions, feel free to send them in a comment and I will do my best to answer. After 32 years as a teachert I can probably either answer your question or point you where to find an answer.

Image credits and thanks to:,,