Ceremony – when it happens,  you can feel it – sense it- breathe it.

But ceremony doesn’t happen all that often in our busy day-to-day lives.

But it could.

Actually, you can create a sense of ceremony just by simply lighting a candle at dinner once a week – holding hands around the table for a moment of silence – end with a squeeze gently passed hand to hand.

Believe it or not, your children will be responsive to this quiet pause in their lives.

A few weeks ago we went to a reunion of a school that our family was involved in in the Seventies.  Ceremony was present.

It was there in the memories and gratefulness shared as our large group stood in a circle, and one by one revealed what Riverhaven School in Winona, Mn meant to them – as children, as now-grown adults, as teachers, as former parents.

Speaking with a dear friend from Connecticut recently whom I taught with years ago, we got on this subject of ceremony.

My friend has been a nursery school teacher for 40 years – seasoned and passionate still.

She shared that when the children in her class are moving on at the end of the year, she gathers them in a circle.  She has a velvet box – and in the box is a firm rock.

The rock is carefully passed from child to child as their teacher shares something about that particular child – unique to each.

She told me that there is perfect silence in this group of 4’s and early 5’s as they sit , wide -eyed, listening attentively to what is being shared about each child – as they wait for their own turn.

My friend said a few other faculty who witnessed this power of ceremony were speechless.

I believe it.

That’s kind of how ceremony leaves you.




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I believe it …

“Nothing lights up a child’s brain like play.” Stuart Brown – National Institute for Play

I truly believe this –  and more true than ever when children are the ones leading the play – and what they are playing with are natural, open-ended items that stir the imagination.

This past weekend walking along the river at Riverside Park, I was fascinated by watching four young girls, about eight- or nine-years-old ,off on the grass playing with a hefty ten-foot branch that must have fallen to the ground during the most recent storm.

These girls had a plan that they were working ( i.e. playing), very hard to figure out – a way to balance all four of them on this branch.

But the branch was crooked and this was not easily accomplished.

However,  they didn’t give up – trying different ways and angles and taking turns holding down the branch so others could balance – figuring it out.

This playful determination went on for at least the 30 minutes or so that we were there. And it warmed my heart – to see this kind of fun – this kind of hands-on natural play “lighting up these young girls’ brains”.

And observing something like this is why I believe so passionately in The Parenting Place Children’s Festival coming up quickly on Saturday, August 24 from 9-12:00 at Myrick Park – rain or shine.

The festival offers children this very opportunity to “light up their brains” as they engage in pure child-led play.

There’s no prizes, no competition, no waiting in lines for a give-away.  It’s a child’s world – of choices, of creativity, of fun, of play.

It’s about “lighting up many children’s brains” all at once.

And it’s freejust the way play should be.

Hope to see you there – 9:00 AM sharp for the “Dumping of the Dirt”!

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a different tone

Back to school shopping – usually a highlight of August days for families – takes on a different tone after this past weekend’s devastating events.

And no this didn’t happen here in La Crosse or Onalaska or anywhere in Wisconsin, but when something so horrific happens in the lives of other families, our own security is weakened and our hearts are heavy for their losses and their grief.

So, once again, as parents what do we do?

Hopefully for young children under the age of  six or, if we’re lucky, eight years old, they will be shielded from this news completely by carefully guarding our own conversations in front of them, as well as any news and television sounds and coverage.

However, if there is any chance of them overhearing, tell them in as few sentences as possible, that something very sad happened by a person who used a gun to shoot people.

Then unplug, go out in nature, get together with friends, read together, stay close, pay attention to signs that children are worried, “gather the wagons” as I’ve said before by being connected physically and emotionally with those important to you.

Children will take their cues from the adults in their lives.

When children are older, ask first what they have heard, and still keep images and repetitive news coverage off. Answer their questions and perhaps find a way to reach out in some manner to offer support to those affected – if this is something you believe your child will want to do –  as well as share positive stories of people helping others.

For the rest of us, we can only hope that someday, somehow, these heart-breaking events stop happening – and we can help our children grow up secure in confidence, caring and concern for everyone.

Please remember to call The Parenting Place if you are looking for other ways to help your child deal with fears .

Be strong.


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A friend shared a story with me of his young 8-year-old grandson who asked him recently “where do our thoughts go?  I think about something and then it goes away – yet often the same thought comes back again later – I wonder where did it go while it was away?

Needless to say, my friend’s grandson is thoughtful and quite wise for his young age – for any age.

But … what do they say …“out of the mouth of babes” – we can often learn, often  realize, often ponder.

This morning I went to the last session of my 4-week group on Wisdom -through the Ages at The Franciscan Spirituality Center and I believe all of us there were very sorry to see it end.

It is a very special gift to meet ten other people whom you don’t know at all and then throughout the sessions talk, share, reveal, and connect with each other on such a very honest and personal level – about age, about trust, about gratitude, about experiences, about life.

And so we were all touched by each other’s sharing and, yes, their wisdom.

And I believe it reminded me once again of my friend’s young grandson’s question.

Where had the thoughts and sentiments, questions and reveals our group of “strangers” shared over our times together – where did they go during the days in between – when other thoughts and things to do occupied our minds.

Who knows.

But here’s what I think.  I think – perhaps – they’re resting- resting in our hearts – just waiting to be shared, just waiting to be understood.





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Why not?

We talk about it – hang posters – form committees- know better – yet bullying continues and more often than not, right in our own school cafeterias.

So when I saw recently this Capri Sun commercial on TV – I was totally ready to run right out and purchase some Capri Sun pouches just because.

Because …  they are addressing this problem of bullying and exclusion head-on  with a short, no-nonsense ad that delivers the point.  And the point is that it takes a simple dose of courage and power – “power” not unlike what their own Capri Sun pouch says it offers – to change the equation.

In the ad, when a young boy comes to join a group of others at a school cafeteria table, one of the boys at the table smacks his hand down hard at the empty space and sneers up at the boy –  who then retreats to a table by himself.

Now for the action … a young girl witnessing this incident, takes a sip of her Capri Sun – says to her friend “Hold my pouch” and jumps into motion rearranging the tables in the lunch room into one huge rectangular table so no one need sit alone.

A together table!

All are included – no one gets turned away.

I am not usually so enthusiastic about ads  – but every once in awhile -one delivers a message so poignantly that it deserves to be watched – to be talked about, to be given attention.

In today’s world where rudeness and bullying seem to appear within all ages and all levels of society, we need  to provide our children with opportunities to learn, feel, connect  and believe that kindness and civility matter.

Okay – so I haven’t actually run out yet to buy any Capri Suns – but when I do – I’ll think of the power that young girl displayed – as she noticed something that needed to be changed –  took a big sip – said “Hold my pouch” and did it!

A together table!

Why not?

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be cool

I don’t want to say this – but – it’s almost too hot to write!

Actually –  too hot to do much of anything.

But with children around, that’s not an option – as we all know.

So let’s declare a heat holiday!

Included in this heat holiday is definitely water!  Water to drink (for sure), water to get wet with (yes!), water to fill up the wading pool – water for children to wash trucks, bikes and ride’em toys, water from sprinklers to cool off and run under.

On a heat holiday – it’s good to find shade –  as much shade as possible!  Sitting on a blanket under the shade of a very leafy tree and reading books together, in my opinion,  is definitely a very cool thing to do!

A heat holiday should also be a vacation from cooking big meals – definitely!  How about sandwiches, yogurt, salads – fruit – easy foods that cool and refresh. Cold watermelon – perfect!  Popsicles a treat!

And did I mention a heat holiday often calls out for a long nap.

But the most important thing about a self-imposed heat holiday is that you get to do whatever it is that you know will make you and your family feel cool, happy, loved, grateful, and secure.

And that’s the coolest thing yet!





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try it

Praise publicly – Correct privately.

I found that on a sticky note recently in my scheduling book.

As I recall it was something I read in a flier about work-related behavior – but it resonated with me, because I thought it could be so applicable to parenting also.

How respectful – a tap on your child’s shoulder – “come with me for a second” and between the two of you – make this connection and say what needs to be said.

We’ve all experienced this  – out in public – or at a family and friends gathering, when we sense our child’s frustration, stress, needs, excitement escalating.

Perhaps it’s playing too roughly with younger children, or using outdoor voices indoors – or wildly chasing  past the adults in the room. Maybe you want to remind an older child to put his/her phone away and be present.

Your child will appreciate not being embarrassed in front of others. For young children, it will provide a few minutes to relax.

It’s modeling respectful behavior as we ask for respectful behavior from them.

So … come with me for a minute.

Try it!





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