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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parenting Tips: Tame the Worries...pt 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember... 

the bottom line we ALL

need to learn is....





Image crdits:
emotionalmachines.org,
looktothenorth.wordpress.com,
sodahead.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soapbox: Patch Adam's Magic 10


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


Here they are in his order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patch Adam's Ten Questions to Help Heal Society:
Take 10 and Call Me in the Morning!
website: http://www.patchadams.org/questions.htm

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Focus on Fostering: A Messy Process

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

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

Foster Parenting is messy.

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

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

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

Image credits and thanks to: simonmarsh.org, messycanvas.com

Monday, May 28, 2012

School Bell: Homework Bite Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Caring Heart: A shoebox and a paper bag

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

A Shoebox and a Paper Bag

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

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Quick Takes: Money Grows... in a bank!

Here are two illustrations re saving money that I photographed while watching a TODAY show segment over a year ago.  They are very impressive even though each has a "but."  I think they are still wonderful.

The first graphic:
This can be used to show kids the value of steady saving and the importance of not touching your savings.  In it a single $1000 investment put in the bank on the day of a child's birth has only grown to $1595.62 in the first five years and only to $6,487.04 by 20 years. BUT, when the child retires at 65 years old the account will have almost half a million dollars [$435,664.43 to be exact!]  The but?...The sad part about this image is that I don't know anyplace you can invest $1000 and get a 9.8% interest rate these days!



The second graphic:
This shows the concept or and power of compounding where money pratically explodes. By compounding the money goes from a simple penny [1¢] on the first day to over 5 million by day 30! [$5,368,709.12   to be exact].
It is a good teaching tool to warn of the dangers of compounding interest on doans and credit cards. At first most kids will not believe the second graphic so be prepared to hand them a calculator and let them try it themselves.

Image credits: photographed from a 2011 TODAY show segment with Jean Chatzky. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Quick Laugh

Just a quick shameful* chuckle for this Friday:

*After I laughed I felt a little guilty!

Image credit and thanks to: www.jokeroo.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Parenting Tips: Teaching Trust

Trust is so hard to teach.  It is so easily broken and so hard to regain.  Trust is the best example I know for teaching the difference between natural consequences and logical ones.  Natural consequences are what happen regardless, logical consequences are consequences that someone imposed deliberately [and hopefully connected in a logical way to the offense]. Regarless of the punishment a parent imposes for a child breaking trust the natural consequence that happens is that feeling inside the parent who no longer quite trusts as implicitly.

Here is my favorite way to teach kids about trust: 

Show a plain piece of paper all smooth and clean. This is how trust is when it has never been broken.  Bend it a bit then smooth it.  It is almost as smooth, but not quite. This is trust that has been pushed and tested a bit.  After a bit it will seem smooth, and if put under a weight [of more success] it will smooth even further.  But each time it is twisted or crumpled it becomes a bit more worn and takes a lot more work to smooth.  


Important note:
I DO  teach children that  unlike paper, children can be forgiven, children can experience grace. I think it is vitally important that children not feel that there is no returning from broken trust. That is my only quibble/warning with the quote and illustration.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soapbox: Cure Poverty?


Oh my gosh! We have finally come to the last of Dr. Patch Adams' ten questions for a better society. I took the questions out of order, but this one is also the last in his list. I can't put off tackling this one any longer. I think it is the hardest, but also one that would indeed transform the world.

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

I am a fan of environmental sustainability, and Earth Day is still in the rear view mirror, but personally I would like to edit this question of Adams'. If it were MY question I would change this to: 

Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to end poverty and homelessness? 

So, long story short, I decided to try this last year for Lent.  I began on Ash Wednesday. Wow!  I can't decide if it was the most important thing I have ever done, the stupidest thing, the hardest thing, the best thing, or what....

I discovered that I thought VERY carefully about whether I could afford X, Y, or Z when it meant taking double the amount out of my budget, half for the X, Y, or Z and half to donate. I also decided to exempt mortgage and utility payments, though in a true sense, those would be most appropriate to match to end homelessness.  After a lot of thought I decided that although it would be really tough, I would try to match my grocery shopping money with an equal donation to a local soup kitchen and/or food pantry. 

The conversations I had with my children about this were meaningful, and yes, sometimes a bit loud and a lot frustrated, and yes sometimes inspiring. I confess that we did not make it all the way through Lent. BUT, we did learn a lot about ourselves, our thinking, our choices, and the world.

I don't routinely buy extras, I am not a clothes horse or shoe collector, and I spent so many many years struggling desperately that I don't spend a lot of money.  But I do know that "just" doing it for those weeks has transformed my awareness of what I do spend on "necessities" and how much that amount can do for others, even a year later. Without question, this was been the toughest for me of all Patch's questions, and the one that probably would change the world the fastest. I believe that if somehow this challenge was met by all of us, poverty could indeed be ended, and we would find ourselves richer than we can imagine. 
        Knowing is so so much harder than doing...    
                        ......sigh......

Image credits:  free-stockphotos.com, examiner.com, jdp3.webnode.com

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Kids who are Hurt

I found this quote and posted it on my Pinterest board for foster/adoptive/kinship parents.  I think this is an unusual perspective that could be really helpful for kids who have been abused or mistreated over and over.
If the end seems a little too harsh for the particular children in your care, lighten it by saying "they are of little use" or " they are put aside" or something else.

For my kiddos I've tried "You are polished and ready to move forward."
and "You are polished and they are not needed"


AND.. In truth I think it would be helpful for kids who's hurts are more ordinary too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

School Bell: Paint Chips for Reading

Here is a cool, colorful idea for helping your child with early reading. If you are like me you have tons of old paint chip strips lying around in drawers from when you last dreamed of redoing that bedroom or den. Dig them out and convert them into a great learning tool.

Use complete strips and label them with beginning consonants or consonant blends or with common endings.  See the examples at the right of the photo below.


Now take the larger ones and cut out a window at the beginning [for initial sounds] or the end [for ending combinations] and write the base words as shown with the cards on the left in the photo above .

For more info and details on this idea check out this blog I found on line while exploring recently:  The Snail'sTrail   I made this link for the May 27, 2011 entry where she gives all the info for this reading idea. Check out more of her blog because she is FULL of great ideas!

Image credit and thanks to:  thesnailstrail.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Caring Heart: Heartbreak of a Serious Crime



I hope none of you ever need this meditation. But, if you or someone you know does, I hope it will help. It was not designed for last week's situation [see my Tuesday May 15 blog]. I wrote it when I found it so difficult to find the words to console a friend whose  foster/adoptive child had committed a terrible murderous attack.

When they commit a severe crime...

Oh merciful God, I cannot believe he did this.  I cannot wrap my head around it, much less my heart. I feel so broken inside. This child-man that I have loved and sheltered and cared for these years.  Should I have known he was capable of such violence?  Was there something I could have done to prevent this awful crime?  How do I face his victims?  How do I face him?  What can I say? What can I do?  I have cried until there are no more tears.  I don't know where to turn, except to You.  I need Your help so desperately to get through this.  I need to get through this for the rest of my family. They are looking to me for explanations and comfort that I do not have. Be with him Lord.  He is so very lost. Comfort his victims. They are in such pain. Help me Lord.  Help all of us.  Help me put this burden down, Lord.  Help me find a way through this awful wilderness. Take this pain away.  Be with me through the pain. Help me find the words, the path, the faith to help myself, to help him, and all of us. Help us to find peace beside the pain.  Help us one day rediscover a bud of hope amidst the despair. Be with us all.

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, May 19, 2012

Quick Takes: Loving Books

I love books!  One of my children once good in trouble at school for exaggeration about the number of bookcases we had in the house. She had not exaggerated... we did have 27. I probably have more now.A friend emailed me this photo of an usual bookcase.

Wouldn't this be a great idea for school or library wall to house a free book swap ? !

Friday, May 18, 2012

Anything Can Happen.... Mother's Day Reality

I think this kind of says it all....
Keep your feet firmly planted in reality when you measure your life against Hallmark!
Hope your Mother's Day was happy!


Image from my Pinterest "Gotta Laugh" board.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Parenting Tips: Neater Clothes pt 2

OK, so last week I blogged about ideas for helping kids keep their folded clothes folded.  Today, how can they get them folded  in the first place.  NO, not by you folding them.  By them folding their own shirts. Shirts seem scary to fold, but their are two really simple ways to fold shirts that you can teach children easily.

#1- Buy a Flip and Fold.
I know, most "As seen on TV" things are pretty useless, but this is actually really helpful.  Even developmentally challenged kids can learn by using a flip n fold.  After a while they will no longer need the tool, but can do it on their own in just a few simple steps.  Yes, it's $19 but wouldn't you pay $19 to get your kids to fold their own shirts????


#2- Make Your Own Folding Machine!
If you want to save the $19 and get the kids involved, check out this kids' video for how to make your own Flip n Fold! It's easy and kid-doable as demonstrated by these students and set to the Mission Impossible theme music! [There are also other youTube videos for making your own. ]


#2- Learn the Japanese system for folding t-shirts. 
In just three quick and easy steps a shirt becomes neatly folded.  I don't find it any better than my system BUT...My kiddos are usually awestruck when they first see it done.  "How did you DO that?" etc. Teach them so they can amaze their friends at camp of sleepovers.  They will be a hit! Best of all, they will be so intrigued that, like practicing a "magic" trick, they will soon be able to fold [or Re-fold] their own clothes!

#3- Teach them your favorite way.
I have my own 3 step system that I find just as easy as either of the above, but that's because I have had so much practice! [:-)   The advantage of the two systems above is that neither is "Mom's system" and... anyone with adolescents or teens knows that any system will be preferred to "Mom's" system!

Video thanks and credits to youTube

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soapbox: Shared Housing?


This week's question from Patch Adams takes the concept of foster care in a different direction and seems to be particularly timely given the economic challenges so many people are experiencing. But I warn you, this one is really tough. On the other hand... it can offer wonderful blessings too! I know this because I have lived a version of this. 

6. If you have rooms at your home, why not take in single parents as a gift?

I have a unique perspective on this because of an unexpected turn my household took over two years ago. Readers Digest version: There was a young couple in our church who for a variety of circumstances, not their fault, were unable to continue living in their home. It began quite simply...my recently deceased father's house was empty and furnished as we prepared to get it ready to rent out in the summer. The couple and their 8-month-old baby had no place to live, my sibs and I had this house that was empty.  We offered them the use of the house until the summer rentals began. Everyone expected them to be able to move home within a few months.  Circumstances got worse and that was not possible, yet we had renters arriving starting in May and we needed the rentals to pay the house's cost. By then we had gotten to know the couple well, and after a discussion with my kiddos, I offered them the use of our downstairs family room and the downstairs bathroom as long as they needed it.

Thus, for 10 months we shared our home with this young family. That now seems long ago.  The daughter is now over 3 and has an almost 1yr old brother. The friendship that began while sharing space has continued, grown and deepened. My foster kiddos [now 14, 17, and 20] became adept diaper changers, tantrum calmers, and much much more.  They are worshipped by those two small children.  The boys have had a male role model. All of them have now seen [and lived with] a father who loves his wife and cares for his children, as compared with the unhappy memories of their own fathers. I had support through an unexpected health crisis. They had moral support through a really tough time. Was it all perfect, no. Of course not.  Sometimes the close quarters were a bit too close.  Many people do not understand. Differences in attitudes and habits create ripples. But the overall experience was a blessing to everyone concerned.  They have now been back in their own home for long enough to almost forget the time they weren't. They are so happy to be back.  We are happy for them.  We will always have a friendship very different than most.

Living with us with all the challenges of my kiddos was a real eye-opener and education for them.  Having them live with us was a reminder and education for us as well.  And, as a 60-something single woman, I now see wider choices for my later years than a small apartment or living with one of my children.  I now look at Adams' question and wonder who he thought was getting the gift.  I think both the single parent [or in our case, married parents] get a gift, but so does the hosting family or person.  

Not everyone has room, but so many of us have more space than we really really need when you come right down to it. And so many people are in desperate need.  Could you have a new kind of "open house" for someone?  Co-housing arrangements require open minds, and flexible spirits.  But the gift you can give and the gift you can receive is like no other.

Image credits:  finkorswim.com, zazzle.com, acespickens.org

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Senseless Deaths

For the last week it has been very hard to be a foster parent in Maine. This is May... National Foster Parent Month... a day to celebrate the work we do, working to give children a safer childhood and better future. And then the news.  First there was news of a 10-week-old baby who had been thrown by his frustrated dad into a chair and was on life support.  By the time baby Ethan died, his twin brother and 3-yr-old half-sister had already been taken into custody by the state. The 23-year old dad's slumped shoulders were on every news channel as he was arraigned and charged with depraved indifference, etc. etc. That was bad enough.

Then the news revealed that the dad had himself been a abused as a young boy and had been in the foster care system through several homes before his final home at 8 where he was adopted at 9 years old. His foster then adoptive parents are heartbroken.  They have lost a grandchild and now also face the immeasurable pain I wrote about for my book [in a meditation I will share in this Sunday's Caring Heart post].

They also grieve for the young boy they adopted and raised, dreaming and planning a much different future for him. Ironically this same man, now in shackles, had been the focus of a news story 14 years ago when his adoption at 9 and grinning face signaled and celebrated a "happy ending" for a child who had struggled in foster care. [ Read Bill Nemitz's recollections and article. ]  It would be easy to despair.

But my point today that is that we must not despair! There is no way to make sense of a senseless death. Sadly, senseless deaths happen all the time.  Sometimes they come at the hands of noteworthy disaster such as a tornado or a hurricane or a tsunami. Sometimes they come randomly, as when a tree branch falls without warning on a playing child. Sometimes they come through careless, impulsive, human behavior, as in drunken driving, or substance mixing, or lashing out. Sometimes they come from that split second loss of control or rational thought  as in many suicides, murders, and child abuse deaths. We can [and should] study them. We can [and must] do our best to prevent them.  But I think we delude ourselves if we think that we can even control all the factors that come into play.

In a way, how arrogant to think we can.  As parents, we would never take all the credit for what our children accomplish or for all of their good traits. But we are quick to feel to blame for their mistakes, big or small. To feel we should have been able to predict or to prevent.  To feel that what we did was not enough. That we should have done more.  That doing more might have made a difference.  Sometimes we are faced with the pain of senseless death.


Image credits and thanks to: mindful construct.com,  my photos re the Portland Sunday Telegram and Bill Nemitz's wonderful article  and Edward Murphy's background article.

Monday, May 14, 2012

School Bell: Organize School Projects

About now in households across the country kids are struggling with that last "big" project for history or science.  Whether it is a model of the solar system, a whale report, a policy paper or other research project,  many kids and parents are pulling their hair out.  Sadly, I have no magic cure.  But here is a strategy to try.

Remember that the goals usually are:
1-- to teach your child how to break big projects and tasks into smaller component parts,
2-- to help them learn to work piece by piece rather than to leave it all to the last minute,
3-- to explore or summarize a topic, idea, or concept.
The goal is NOT to frustrate your child or discourage them!

So...
1-Sit with your child and help them break the project into parts. Take a freebie giveaway calendar or make a calendar between now and the due date.  Schedule in the in-vetween deadline goals to be finished two days ahead [to allow for emergencies or for the fun of handing it in early!].

2- Challenge your child to work XX number of minutes each day to get to that week's goal. [If you can do it with 10-15 min per day it works best.  If it takes more [ex 30 minutes a day] break the 30 minutes into 10-15 minute chunks so the frustration level stays under control yet progress is visible and steady.

3. Choose a reward [I'll use an ice cream sundae party as my example.]

4. Each day they reach the goal put a piece of the reward in place. [sprinkles in a basket or on the shelf, ice ream cones, choc sauce, etc.] This helps them see progress and motivates them to finish.

OR

4. Draw a picture or make a "ticket" for the reward and hole punch it each time they reach a mini-goal. So for example after 5 punches they get a dish of ice cream at home, after 10 they get an ice cream cone at a local spot, after 15 [when the final project is handed in] they can invite a friend [or two]  over for a make-you-own sundaes buffet celebration

Alternative to ice cream: movie night, dinner out, trip to a fun park, etc.... choose it to match your child and the difficulty of the project. .

Image thanks and credits to: telegraph.co.uk, loving your child.com, oregonlive.com,

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Caring Heart: Why can't I live with my parents?

A different kind of Mother's Day meditation today.... one I suspect is familiar to all those who parent someone else's children.

Why can't I live with my real parents?

She asked the question today.  I knew it would come.  It always does.  Sooner or later, when they can't take thinking about it inside and the words finally spill out loud, it comes. Each one words it a bit differently, but the root is almost always the same. "Why can't I live with my parents?"It must be so difficult for her.  Everywhere she looks she sees "regular" families.  Even the friends whose parents are divorced still live with one of their parents.  Storybooks don't help.  Even when they do include foster children, the picture is usually so vague or so rosy that it is useless. Television goes the opposite route with its persistently negative portrayals.

Help me to answer her question without unhelpful judgment.  Help my answer validate her feelings and concerns, yet support her.  Help me to leave space in her thinking for them to have been good at something. No matter what else, they created this unique, individual girl.  Help me to emphasize that, while accepting they were not able to take care of her properly. If appropriate, help me remind her that sometimes people can change and grow and get better at things.  If not, help me teach her that sometimes no matter how much people want to be good at something they just can't be.  Give me the words that leave room for her to believe that she was loved, and to know that she was worth loving, that none of the failure rests on her. And Lord, please help me not to feel hurt, or rejected, but to understand that her dreaming and wishing is no reflection on me, but a reflection of what she has lost, and what she can only imagine. Please, dear God, let me help her understand that this is not her fault, and that she can grow up to be a wonderful, loving young woman.  Help me.  Help her. Help me to help her.

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, May 12, 2012

Quick Takes: The Inner Child



When I win the lottery.....

Im going to release my inner child with a staircase shortcut like this---



P.S. And for my aging soul... an elevator for the ride back up!    :-)  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Anything Can Happen: Fridge Locks

Ok, admit it. How many of you have wished for an easily lockable refrigerator?  I can think of two reasons that have echoed through my experiences:

1- When my munchkins were younger I was often especially desperate.  Children in foster care often have food issues and will graze at any time of night or day.  Even when they know that fresh raspberries have a season roughly two nanoseconds long and that I will knock down old ladies that get between me and a box of freshly picked raspberries.... they still will reach in, snitch all but three berries [left to taunt me I am convinced!] and then profess no knowledge of whoooo could posssssibly have done it!

2- When the numbers on the scales become rude and obnoxious, I sometimes think that having to open a combination lock might help me resist that temptation to snack on something evil.  Research says that if you can delay acting on a food impulse/temptation for 60 seconds, the impulse passes.  [I am not at all sure that I believe it, but someone no doubt spent thousands of dollars researching it.]

Soooo ... the idea below caught my eye online. It is from an interesting website that often has funny, also often vaguely rude, ideas.  So I am not going to link to it but will credit it below if you want to see it for yourself.  But here is their idea.... ready for some inventor out there to make money creating and marketing!  If you can't read it click here for a larger more text readable view.

Better yet..... make a real one and let me know... I will be your first customer!!



Image credit and thanks to: stealourideas.tumblr.com,
                        [light bulb image from newscientist.com]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Parenting Tips: Neater Clothes pt 1

Here's an idea [actually two!] to try to help your kids keep their drawers looking and functioning better.

Stacking things horizontally in the drawer [the traditional way] inevitably means the kids will paw through the pile repeatedly until it looks like a sorting pile in the back of a Goodwill store.  Avoid that by stacking the clothes items vertically so they can see at a glance the item they are looking for. They may still paw, but usually only the adjacent clothes may be displaced, not the whole drawer!

My Alternative:
For several key years I went one step farther.  I removed the dressers from the rooms and replaced them with bookcase shelves. When we folded clothes we stacked them into like-item piles. When they put them away, the whole stack went to the photo-labeled spot on the shelves. One step process, no baskets of folded clothes waiting to be hung up or put in drawers.  [Underwear and socks went on the shelf into see-thru plastic baskets.] Wasn't a perfect system, but it sure beat others we tried. When they were able to keep the shelves straight I was pretty sure we could "graduate" to the vertical drawer system.

NEXT THURSDAY:  Two amazing ways to teach kids to fold their t-shirts!

Image thanks and credit to: dailybuzz.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Soapbox: Universal Friendliness?


I started with questions I felt fairly comfortable with and clear about.  Now we're on what to me are the tougher ones. 

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

Ok, so is he talking about ending bullying by universal friendliness?  i suspect he would say that is a start, but only a start. I think maybe he is talking about forgiveness and openness as a route to ending an atmosphere prone to violence.

I try to live a faith-based life, but have always struggled with the concept of forgiveness.  Well, not actually the concept. The practice.  I do not hate.  But to say that I have forgiven everyone who has done me wrong would not be true.  I do well with the little stuff.  I suspect most of us do.

How many people in your life have you not forgiven?  I have given this a great deal of thought and realize that in my life there are only four people that I know I have not forgiven.  One of those has died, but even before he died, I had put his offense behind me.  But in truth that is different from forgiveness.

And friendliness? That is a step well beyond forgiveness. Is that what it would take?  I think he realizes this is tough, because in the others he uses words like "would you" and "could you."  In this he says "Do you dare."  Because it is a risk to be sure.  For me to see those I have not forgiven and not just forgive. Could I see or meet them and be friendly? 
That would indeed take inner daring.
                                                 What do you think?
Image credits:  rodneymullins.wordpress.com, womenscenter.uconn.edu,toppun.com, 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Raise Your Voice

May is Foster Care Month. Chances are that sometime this month the agency you work with will send you a card or sponsor a dinner or do something to thank you for the work you are doing as a foster parent.  Some agencies do it well.  Some not so well.  I am fortunate to be with an agency that does it very well indeed.

What are you doing for foster care month?  Yes, yes, I know that taking care of your kiddos should be enough, but think about it.  Are you doing anything to change some of the ongoing administrative and policy challenges of foster care?  One of the biggest problems with that is that just doing the care demands so much time and energy that there is little left for activism. Enrollment in the National Foster Parent Association is only a tiny fraction of the number of foster parents nationwide.

Usually my Tuesday post is a strategy or tip for helping with the day to day business of fostering the children in our care.  Today I urge each of you to find any way possible, large or small, to find your voice and raise it.  There are literally millions of us... We need to be heard if foster care is to change.

We need to be vocal and active.  If we don't speak up ourselves, how can we expect others to speak up for us.  Remember... we are not speaking for ourselves, but for the children.  We deserve a better system so that we can be and do better for them.  They deserve a better system and better outcomes.  We all deserve a better image and public perception.  Let's raise our voices at least this one month a year. [ If you are too busy.... perhaps you can wear a blue ribbon and use that opportunity to answer questions about foster care.]

And, if your agency does a good job for you... Tell them!  Better yet, tell the people who fund your agency exactly what things they do that work, that make life better for you and your kiddos. Tell them!

Image credits and thanks to: lifetimesentence.tumblr.com, dfps.state.tx.us, aecf.org, fost-adopt.adoptionblogs.com, chicagonow.com

Monday, May 7, 2012

School Bell: Celebrate Struggles: But...

The last two Mondays I explained two reasons to celebrate the struggles of schoolwork, particularly in middle school years :
1- Students hit that wall they are in a time when the grades matter far less than later in school or life.  [April 23]
2- Students who struggle learn strategies for overcoming challenges.  [April 30]

Today... the "but." Yes, celebrate Struggles BUT:
Be your child's best learning coach.

If you are a parent who does NOT have to help their child with homework:
It is essential that you find ways to challenge your children intellectually during these growth years. It is healthy for a child, while still surrounded by supportive parents, to experience challenge, frustration, even the occasional panic.  Those are opportunities to teach them ways to respond that will help them respond to other challenges, frustrations and panicked moments long beyond their academic years.

If you are a parent who DOES  have to help their child with homework:
When you are about to pull your hair at one more flash card drill, one more Venn diagram, etc., 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.  BUT: Touch base with your child's teacher about exploring learning assessments if you feel your child may have underlying challenges to learning or may need extra interventions to succeed.

Everyone: 
Gather up all the tips, tricks, and strategies you can and pass them on to your children through your teaching and through your example.  If they don't need them now, they will someday.

Parents play a pivotal role in their children's attitudes toward school and learning, their awareness of learning, and their opportunities to learn and grow. Coach your child every day!

Image credit and thanks to: inclusiveeducationpdresources.ca




Sunday, May 6, 2012

Caring Heart: Backsliding

I hope none of you are in the middle of this, but if you are I hope this helps.

Backsliding

Oh God, how can it be that whenever I just am beginning to feel like things are getter better and maybe, just maybe I am making headway with him, he just turns around and goes back to the old ways?  I have worked so hard, prayed so often, given so much.  Shouldn't it show results?  Shouldn't they last longer? Why can't what I am doing be enough to help him change?
Give me the energy to reach down and find somewhere within me another scrap of patience to hold onto, to work some more, pray some more, and give some more.  Help him to change.  Help me lead him to desire to change. Help me give him the tools that will enable him to change.   Help me enable him to see the differences, to feel the pride.  Through your will and your strength. And, despite the backsliding that brings such waves of discouragement, help me remember to celebrate the times that he DOES succeed, that he DOES change, DOES try... however short, to celebrate and honor those times.

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, May 5, 2012

Quick Takes: Super Moon Tonight

Don't forget to go outside tonight at moonrise with your kids and wonder at the moon. Make some memories... make an adventure of it!

Tonight is a once a year "Super Moon" when the moon comes closest to the earth. It will be 14% larger and 30% brighter according to scientists. This is particularly noticeable when the moon is near the horizon.

I've been told that it is an optical illusion that the moon seems so much larger when it is near the horizon than when it is full up and high in the sky.  My logical mind understands, but my eyes are still fooled!


For a video about tonight's Super Moon check out science.com You have to wait through a commercial first, but it has some beautiful photographs of previous super moons and explanation of super moons.



Images credit and thanks to: space.com, stefanoderosa.com, americandigest.org