eenie, meenie, miney, moe

I stood next to a little girl in the stuffed animal aisle at the Goodwill Store.  She had a problem – a hard decision to make.  She laid both stuffies on the floor, side by side, closed her eyes, and ceremoniously began to chant –  “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe, catch a tiger by the toe.  If he hollers let him go.  My mother said to pick the very best one and you are not it.”

Even with such an ernest attempt to fairly decide which one to buy and take home with her, it was difficult.  She started over again several times, perhaps to see if she could make it come out differently.  Her mom came around the corner as I moved along, and I believe the decision was hastened, “one or the other – let’s go!”

There are so many choices out there for all of us in every aspect of our life, from the everyday supermarket variety to the really hard meaningful family and lifetime choices we might face over time.  Letting our children experience making their own limited choices about simple everyday things is empowering and often a good way to avoid power struggles.

Choices are a big part of the master plan for The Parenting Place’s  Children’s Festival 2014 - where play happens.  Children have the opportunity to freely choose whichever activity it is that attracts their interest.  And within each activity, we attempt to keep options open so children have the chance and the freedom to select from many  different materials and to do it all in their own personal way.

For me it is always so revealing to observe children engaged and “working” at what they have chosen with such focus and purpose.  Over the years, parents have recognized and shared their enthusiasm for the types of simple play options we carefully select for our Festival.

I hope you will all make the first big choice and get your buttons for this year’s Children’s Festival 2014 , August 23rd, 9 AM to 12 PM at Myrick Park. Buttons are $4 each, 3 for $10; $5 the day of the Festival; children under one year are free.  Please keep in mind that all proceeds will help us continue to fund our free parent education and support programs. Buttons can be purchased at all Parenting Place sites. For more information, call The Parenting Place, 784-8125.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe,

Off to the Children’s Festival we go!


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anticipation in the air

It feels every breath I take these days is full of anticipation.

With August disappearing faster than a cat can wink its eye, The Parenting Place Children’s Festival is practically upon us – August 23rd, a few days shy of two weeks.  That’s always an alert – the final countdown, the rush to make sure everything is ready and accounted for – everything is special – everything good to go.

And there’s my family’s own personal August countdown and expectation – 1st Grand-baby Watch for us – which brings me such great pleasure and joy just in thinking about this new arrival.

I imagine all of you have your own anticipations – it’s that time of year for sure.  New beginnings – perhaps a move, children going off to preschool or kindergarten or middle school for the very first time – grand milestones of their own.

And as we face these anticipations, these events and big steps, human nature has us programed it seems,  to pretty much try and plan them to the nth degree, to over-think them in some cases, to try to control the way things will play out.  We are all so busy with our to-do lists to check off while our deadlines loom,   (The Children’s Festival on August 23rd  – school starting for most on September 2nd) as we rush and worry and flurry about.

But not the baby.   For the baby will come when the baby comes, and no matter how busy, no matter how we try to guess and put a date for the arrival on our calendar, the arrival is when the baby arrives.

And, miracle of miracles, that will be exactly  the right day!

So…  perhaps there’s a life lesson here.  Take each day as it comes, enjoy the process that is happening day by day – focus on what’s in front of us right now – let it unfold -breathe in the present as we patiently accept and relish the anticipation of new and lovely things to come.

And be grateful for every minute – even the messy ones.

I’ll keep you posted!


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Share a laugh

Who doesn’t experience moments and times of anxiety and frustration?  Children are no different.  Laurence Cohen, Ph.D, author of Playful Parenting and The Opposite of Worry refers to these feelings of distress as a “knot of tension” linked to some particular emotionally charged experience like separation, sibling rivalry, transitions, meals, bedtime, rules, demands …  you can add your own.

When children are reacting to their own knot of tension, parents tend to experience an emotional reaction too.  Dr. Cohen says, in fact, it usually takes at least two people to “pull on the knot”.  The child’s knot tightens when we yell, punish, label, threaten and rely on negative and punitive means to solve the problem.

Dr. Cohen encourages us to loosen this knot of tension through laughter, surprising and unexpected responses, increased closeness, playfulness,  empathy, allowing a child to release feelings, and reconnection.

A mom told me recently of a moment one morning when she found herself at an impasse with her young daughter.  They were definitely both pulling the knot tight and something had to give.  This mom realized that they were stuck, decided to try a different tactic – an unexpected, playful one, and rephrased her comment to her child to be - ” What I should have said ….” and then continued on with a funny and surprising remark  – and ta dah – they both laughed, the knot was gone, and all was good on both sides.

It’s not always easy to be able to try humor and playfulness to make our points but it seems like it’s sure worth a try.

“Now go pick up your socks from the floor but try not to tickle them when you do!”.

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a gift

“Reading aloud stamps the seal of the extraordinary on a day rushing by like any other.”  Educator/author Pam Allyn

I so love that thought … I just have to repeat it - “Reading aloud stamps the seal of the extraordinary on a day rushing by like any other.”

What more can we ask for?  How simple can it get?  Isn’t that so positively hopeful?

For even though we may find ourselves rushing and separated and anxious and consumed by the business and demands of everyday life, we have this gift to reclaim the connection, the ‘being with’ our child –  through reading aloud together.

And it doesn’t have to end when a child begins to read independently.  For a child’s reading level and his listening level are quite different.   And when we read together, what happens?  The child who seldom sits in your lap anymore begins to lean on in to you as you read.  And there’s an exchange that opens up, an insight, an understanding between you – even if unspoken.

Reading as part of a family’s nightly routine saves an ordinary day, filled with perhaps too much clutter, and slows everyone down, benefits all, with the wisdom and the wonder of words read aloud.


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the little red hen

During circle time at Friday’s Play Shop, we read the book, The Little Red Hen.  Many of you are probably familiar with this old story of the red hen who shares her little house with a cat, a dog and a mouse.

As the story goes … the cat likes to sleep all day on the couch, the dog likes to sleep all day on the sunny  back porch, and the mouse likes to snooze all day in the warm chair by the fire.

So …the little red hen had to do all the housework.  She cooked the meals and washed the dishes and made the beds.  She swept the floor and washed the windows and mended the clothes.

It was at this point in the story when 3-year-old Wren piped up, “She must be the mom.”

So should we, as women, cringe at this little girl’s perception that whoever is doing the housework must be the mom (even though she has a very hands-on dad in her own home}, or should we celebrate the intrinsic trust that it holds for her that of course,  moms can always be counted on to take care of us and do  things for us.

At three years old, I believe it’s a beautiful thought to have.

And, of course, there is the end of the story, you know.

When the cat, the dog and the mouse refuse to help the little red hen with planting the wheat seeds she finds, caring for the wheat, cutting the wheat, taking the wheat to the mill to be ground, making a cake …

… this spunky little red hen makes her point by eating the whole cake all by herself.

No door mat – this little red hen – just like a very wise mom.



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No thank you …

I never doubt how much parents love their child even when they are struggling with constant battles and sharing tales of misbehavior, tantrums, hitting and throwing.

When parents find themselves at this point, they are desperately searching for an answer – for some help.  Consequently I believe their child, at this point, is looking for the very same thing – an answer – even in the middle of an all-out tantrum, is looking for some help.

As parents we are encouraged to provide a relationship with our child that is warm and trusting and secure.  But a relationship that has that security and trust and love also needs to have honesty and respect for and with each other.  So from an early age, we need to be able to say “no thank you” when a child is throwing his food around, even while we empathize “I know you’re tired, but I won’t let you throw your food around”.

A limit is often what a child is looking for.  “Stop me because I can’t stop myself.

If we can keep the fear we have as parents, that our child is becoming a tyrant, a monster, an incorrigible brat, at bay, we can be the loving caregiver, the adult, the stronger of the two.  And by stronger it doesn’t mean more forceful or more punitive, it means being able to say “I won’t let you…” , “No thank you”, “Not now”, while trusting in the loving relationship you both have.

Will your child still go into a melt-down, lie on the floor and scream?  He probably might, but now you can be in a place where you are able to lovingly address his real need.  Is he tired, overwhelmed, hungry, hot, frustrated?

And so the day continues – your little one knowing he can count on you- to sometimes stop him when he can’t stop himself –  and say a firm but loving  “no thank you”.

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blueberry muffins

Some of you who are long time Parent Pulse readers will remember my dear older neighbor, Mrs. Duffy. (}.  Well, she not only tended me as a parent of a 2-year-old, in her unassuming, gentle way, but she also had time-honored recipes to share.

In our yard that was across the street from Mrs. Duffy’s in Rhode Island, we had huge blueberry bushes.  It was one of the highlights of that summer for us to go out in the back yard to pick blueberries.  Even after eating quite a few right on the spot, there were always plenty left in the bucket.  Mrs. Duffy shared just what to do with the rest – her blueberry muffin recipe.

We baked many batches of blueberry muffins that summer, Henry and I, and that time and that memory has stayed strong in my heart.

We don’t have any blueberry bushes in our yard here in La Crosse  (although we have had several failed attempts) but every summer when I decide to bake some blueberry muffins, it’s Mrs. Duffy’s recipe that I reach for, and it’s the connection with Mrs. Duffy that I celebrate.

I love the way that the legacy that Mrs. Duffy gave to me continues to resonate in me and in my family after so many years. You never really know at the time, perhaps, when someone’s involvement in your life will continue to be a touchstone  for you many years after.

I guess that’s the beauty and the gift of it.

So…if you have a hankering for blueberry muffins this July, here’s a beloved recipe from a special lady - Mrs. Duffy’s Blueberry Muffins.

Ingredients:  1/2 cup butter, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 1/2 cups blueberries, 1tsp vanilla, 2Tbsp sugar (for top)

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk.  Add vanilla. Mash 1/2 cup blueberries and stir in.  Add rest of berries whole.

Grease top of muffin tin and then put in paper muffin cups.  Pile batter high in tins and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. 


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